Ask a Mechanic | CO2 or Pumps?

Welcome to our Ask a Mechanic column where our expert mechanic Daniel Slusser answers your bike maintenance questions. If you have a question for Daniel, please post it on our Facebook Wall or e-mail Daniel directly at daniel.slusser@artscyclery.com. Today’s column will review how to choose which inflation solution is best for a road bike. CO2 or a mini pump?.

Question

When you get a flat on the road, do you like pumps or co2? Me and my friend have an ongoing debate about which one is better. Can you also explain your reasoning so that we can settle this once and for all? From: Loren

co2 inflations systems are nothing to be afraid of. They are controllable and easy to use. This versatile offering from Genuine Inflations will work with threaded and unthreaded cartridges.

Answer

For flats on a road bike co2 is really the pro way to go and is my personal choice. At the moment I am using the Lezyne Speed Drive co2 system which is very minimal, light, and easy to use.

I feel that most objections to co2 come from unfamiliarity with how they work. Some people think that the co2 shoots out all in one big blast like a rocket, but nothing could be further from the truth. Every system that I am aware of that is currently on the market allows flow control and can shut off mid stream.

The other objection that I hear a lot to co2 is the cost. If you get a flat every other ride, then it is something you should consider. However, if you only get 1 a month then you owe it to yourself to just use co2, as it is so much faster and easier. Ask yourself how much you make an hour followed by how long it takes to fix a flat. For most riders a flat fix takes 10-15 minutes. To make the math simple, let’s say you earn $20 an hour. So 15 minutes of work is worth $5. A threaded 16g co2 cartridge is $2.99. If using the co2 shaves 5-10 minutes off of the time it takes to change a flat, you end up getting your money’s worth for your time, not to mention the frustration that is avoided.

If cost is the main issue you should consider using unthreaded cartridges and an inflator that is compatible with them such as the Genuine Innovations Ultraflate Plus. Unthreaded cartridges are cheaper at only $1.99 each if bought individually. 16g threaded cartridges can be had at the same price if bought in a five pack that we sell from Genuine Innovations.

If you want peace of mind and speed, just go with a system like this from Lezyne that has both in one clean mounting bracket.

I have nothing against pumps because they have a lot going for them. Pumps never run out of air and they don’t cost money every time you use them. It you are really worried about running out of co2 cartridges just use a pump and don’t give a second thought to it. I prefer pumps on my mountain bike due to the higher volume of air required that can make co2 a bit impractical. A double flat on high volume 29er tires requires a total of four 16g co2 cartridges to fill properly. Even so, if I am doing a long group ride I bring co2 along in addition to a pump to help speed up a repair because holding up the ride with a slow flat fix is not cool.

May whichever solution you choose never leave you flat my friend.

Daniel Slusser is a professional bicycle mechanic with over ten years of experience. He holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from HSU and a master’s degree in history from Cal Poly University. When he is not riding, wrenching, or writing he enjoys spending time with his wife and two children.

2014-03-05T16:14:52-08:00