6 of the best: CO2 inflators

Don’t let punctures leave you feeling deflated

The CO2 inflator was originally a favourite among racers, but is now commonplace out on the trails. So if you're thinking about ditching the pump, or are looking for a quick and space saving way to inflate your tyres, we've tested six CO2 inflators to help you decide which to go for.

Lezyne Control Drive

BikeRadar score4.5/5

Lezyne Control Drive
Lezyne Control Drive

  • Price: £25 / $27
  • 16g cartridge

So Good... With a minimalist CNC’ed aluminium head, the Control Drive feels high quality. Despite its small size, attention to detail is high too. A rubber seal engages with the cartridge threads as soon as you begin loading the inflator, which means little gas is lost before the valve is opened. The head slips easily over both Schrader and Presta valves, and the control knob is knurled for grip and simple to operate.

No Good… The price is a little high considering that the inflator only comes with a single cartridge.

Fabric CO2 Lever Kit

BikeRadar score4/5

Fabric CO2 Lever Kit
Fabric CO2 Lever Kit

  • Price: £20 / $30
  • 2x16g cartridges, 2x tyre levers

So Good… There’s a big flow-control knob on the Fabric inflator’s plastic head and it accepts all sizes of threaded cartridge. It engages well with both Presta and Schrader valves, and resists being twisted off the valve. The foam sleeve is the thickest on test and saved our skin from freezing. It may not look as elegant as others here, but works well and you get a lot for your cash.

No Good… With no rubber seal (as found on the Lezyne inflator), you have to be quick screwing the head onto new cartridges to avoid leaking gas.

Specialized CPRO2 Trigger

BikeRadar score4/5

Specialized CPRO2 Trigger
Specialized CPRO2 Trigger

  • Price: £21 / $25 / AU$35
  • 16g cartridge

So Good… Despite being the smallest inflator on test, the metal CPRO2 has a reassuringly solid feel. It’s also the simplest design here, with a mechanism that releases gas as the head is compressed against the valve. A short plastic tube allows the canister to be partially screwed into the head without piercing the seal — a simple but effective solution for transporting a cartridge.

No Good… There’s no insulating sleeve, so wear gloves while using it. It also only accepts Presta valves.

Topeak CO2-Bra

BikeRadar score4/5

Topeak CO2-Bra
Topeak CO2-Bra

  • Price: £23 / $30
  • 16g cartridge

So Good… The snake-shaped plastic head of the CO2-Bra is easy to use with one hand and keeps your skin away from the cold surface of the cartridge. A gauge on the back turns red if the inflator is ‘armed’ and a thumb lever allows precise control of gas flow. It accepts Presta and Schrader valves, and the forked-tongue dust cap is a nice touch!

No Good… We inflated our 27.5x2.35in test tyre to 20psi using a 16g cartridge but you’ll need a different inflator if you run a firmer set-up, since the CO2-Bra won’t accept larger canisters.

Genuine Innovations Proflate Elite

BikeRadar score3.5/5

Genuine Innovations Proflate Elite
Genuine Innovations Proflate Elite

  • Price: £30
  • 2x16g cartridges

So Good… This plastic inflator has a trigger and a sprung ‘weather cover’, which must be activated simultaneously to inflate a tyre. A canister can be stored in the handle, which also prevents frozen hands. It accepts both valve types and threaded and unthreaded cartridges.

No Good... It’s the bulkiest unit here and the plastic casing doesn’t feel as high quality as others on test, despite the relatively high price. The handle wouldn’t accept our 25g cartridges, although these can be used with the head.

SKS Airbuster

BikeRadar score3/5

SKS Airbuster
SKS Airbuster

  • Price: £22
  • 16g cartridge

So Good… The alloy Airbuster has a large knob so you can regulate the flow of gas, a mechanical stop to prevent the cartridge being pierced in transit and a dust cap to keep the valve free of debris.

No Good… While it works with Presta and Schrader valves, switching between them requires a fiddly change of the valve head. The thin rubber sleeve doesn’t provide much protection from cold spent canisters. You can’t insert much of the valve into the inflator head, so you have to be careful to avoid leaks.

This article was originally published in Mountain Biking UK magazine, available on Apple Newsstand and Zinio.

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