Roadside punctures are always irritating. When riding a sports bike, which rolls best with the tyres pumped up to between 6 and 8 bar, a little pocket pump will probably wear your arms out before you’re even back on the bike. But fear no more! In these situations, a trusty carbon dioxide inflator can be of the best bicycle accessories to have on board — here are a few useful tips you need to know before hitting the road.
First things first: the CO2 pump doesn’t replace your mini-pump. You should take both with you. A CO2 inflator consists of a head that fits on to the tyre valve, and a one-use-only CO2 cartridge, with or without a holder.
If you get a flat, you should pump a little air into the fresh inner tube in order to position it correctly within the tyre. Also, with a small amount of air in the tyre, check all the way round the outer tyre beads to make sure the inner tube is not pinched.
This is especially important when the weather is wet, because you’re more likely to cut corners in an attempt to get on the road again faster. If the inner tube is pinched, the CO2 can blow the outer tyre right off the rim and burst the inner tube with a gunshot-like explosion that will leave you reeling. Quite spectacular, but not the idea.
If you’ve done everything correctly, the CO2 pump is magical — once you know how to handle it, that is. We advise having a go at home at least once before struggling on the roadside. If you go ahead and buy a CO2 pump, then it’s a good idea to also bulk buy a box of CO2 cartridges and keep them with your other bike gear. The sizes are standard, so no need to buy the manufacturers’ name brand cartridges.
Test at home
Unless you are really talented, the chance is high that at least one of the first tests will fail. You have to press the inflator head onto the valve carefully, forcefully and at the correct angle to seal the joint. Then you have to twist the CO2 cartridge, thereby piercing it to allow the gas to release into the tyre. As the CO2 releases, the canister gets super cold — even the Lezyne hand guard, pictured above, may not help you avoid the cartridge freezing to your hand. Be warned. Wrap the thing in a rag, or opt for a device like the Bontrager model below.
There is a reason for that plastic casing: it’s there to protect you from freeze burns. However, if you are minimalists like us, a small twist-on CO2 head, like the Lezyne, and a thin rag will do the job. If all is well sealed then, whoosh, your tyre is suddenly at between 6 and 8 bar, and quite a bit harder than you will ever manage to achieve with a mini-pump. And off you go back on the road. So much less heartache; so much less arm cramp; so much less bad language.
Plan to fail
Always take two cartridges — failure takes place in a split-second. Pffft! Canister empty… no gas in tyre… we’ve all been there. If you are going on a long, wet ride, four cartridges stashed about your person isn’t a totally crazy idea.
You only truly learn the great advantages of this when you’re out on the road with a puncture, and can get back on the road again really fast. What’s more, there’ll be a smile on your face, instead of blistered hands and aching arms. In our opinion, anything that gets you back on the bike faster and with less hassle has to be worth having on board.
Be careful carrying CO2 cartridges on airplanes; the regulations vary. A lot of airlines allow a small number of cartridges in hand luggage only.