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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

REVIEW: Innovations CO2 inflators

Since I had a flat last weekend I thought that I would give a short review of a couple of CO2 inflators. On my old road bike I always carried a frae pump. My old road bike was aluminum and had a traditional geometry. The frame pump was spring loaded and would fit under the top tube. My current road bike is made of carbon and the geometry is compact. My frame pump does not fit on this road bike. Furthermore, the frame pump does not fit my triathlon bike either.

Ultraflate PRO

So I made the switch to using disposable CO2 cartridges. I like to think of myself as being very green. In addition, I do not like to use items that are disposable due to cost. Since I ride primarily on a rails to trails I do not encounter the road side hazards that I would if I were on regular streets. I am going to jinx myself but looking back I have had an average of three flats a year. Considering that I ride over well over 5000 miles a year that is an acceptable cost to me.
Ultraflate PRO with cylinder

The first inflator that I us is an Innovations Ultraflate PRO. I have had this inflator for several years (in fact I could not find this particular model on the Innovations website – it may be discontinued). I like this inflator for a couple of reasons.

PROS

1. It is small
2. It is light (55 grams)
3. It is easy to use

CONS

1. Will not fit HED3 carbon wheels
This inflator has a cylinder that you can put a CO2 cartridge in and then tighten the cylinder to puncture the cartridge. This allows for the use of threadless cartridges. Although the cylinder is designed for use with only 16 gram cartridges you can put paper in the bottom of the cylinder to take up excess space. This will allow you to use even cheaper 12 gram threadless cartridges. You can also ditch the cylinder and thread a cartridge onto the inflator head.

Ultraflate PRO- 55 grams

And as I have said, this inflator is easy to use. The inflator head acts much like a floor pump head. You screw the CO2 cartridge unto the inflator head. Next, you push the inflator on the tube stem and pull the metal lever out. The inflator is now locked on to the valve stem. There is a small red button under the metal lever. This is used to regulate the amount of CO2 injected into the tube. Once complete you simply push the metal lever back to the original position while pulling the inflator from the stem. This inflator has served me well. However, it will not fit my race wheels.

Microflate Nano

So now I carry an Innovations Microflate Nano CO2 inflator for my triathlon bike (well most of the time I carry it – last weekend was the exception). I selected this inflator for a number of reasons.

PROS

1. It is very small (this is one of very few inflators that can be used on HED3 wheels)
2. It is very light weight (23 grams – that is less than a gel)
3. It is easy to use (although not as easy as the Ultraflate PRO)

CONS

1. Must use threaded cartridges
Let me elaborate on each of these points. My race wheels are HED3 carbon wheels. These were designed before long valve stemmed tubes and have a molded cut out area. This area only allows a small pump head to fit. Many CO2 inflators, and floor pumps for that matter, will not fit into the recessed area of the wheel. My older inflator, the Ultraflate PRO, will just not work with my race wheels.

I also like the small physical size and weight of the Nano inflator. I have mounted this inflator a number of places on my race bike. I have used Velcro to attach the inflator and a CO2 cartridge under my aero bar pads, stuck them in the tiny back pocket of my unitard and stuck them in a small camera bag that I have zip tied to the back of my seat. A larger inflator just would not have worked in all of these situations.

Microflate Nano - on a normal wheel

Now onto the easy of use. The inflator does take two hands. Make sure that the valve is open on the tube stem. With this particular inflator you screw the CO2 cartridge all the way onto the inflator head. Then you have to press the inflator nozzle onto the valve stem. While press down hard, – I like to wrap my hand around the entire wheel and hold the inflator tight to the stem, slowly unscrew the CO2 cartridge. This will allow the CO2 to enter the tube. Do not let the nozzle lose contact with the valve stem. If you do lose contact with the stem then CO2 gas will be released into the atmosphere and not into the tube. You saw Chrissie at Kona right?

Microflate Nano - on a HED3

With the small size and design of the inflator there is one huge drawback. You must use threaded CO2 cartridges. This may not seem like a big deal but it is the reason that I do not carry this inflator on my road bike or most training rides. Threaded CO2 cartridges are many times more expensive than the threadless cartridges (like $4 or $5 each). You have to buy the threaded cartridges at bike stores while the threadless cartridges can be purchased in large discount stores in the air rifle section (sporting goods). Last year I bought several dozen 16 gram threadless cartridges on clearance at an office supple store. They were deeply discounted.

Microflate Nano - 23 grams

In conclusion both of these inflators get the job done. The Ultraflate PRO is easier and cheaper to operate. It is almost fool proof and if I am using 12 gram threadless cartridges then it cost about 30 cents per cartridge. The Microflate Nano is more versatile. I can use it on all of my wheels but at a much greater cost.

When it all comes down to it I really do not care how much I have to pay to keep me from walking miles in my cycling shoes!

5 comments:

  1. Good info here thanks for putting this together!

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  2. Nice report and well written. I have always had some questions about these and you have answered them. Thanks!

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  3. Thanks for writing such a detailed report. Always good to get an honest review on products you've really put to the test.

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  4. Helpful info... threadless is the way to go!

    ReplyDelete