The CO2 inflator was originally a favourite among mountain bike racers, but is now commonplace out on the trails, while also being popular with road riders in search of fast inflation.
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
Leyzne Control Drive CO2 inflator. Russell Burton
If it’s rapid inflation you’re after, Lezyne’s offering is easily the best on test. The Control Drive’s extremely high flow rate will have you back on the trail in no time, and gives you the best chance here to reseat a tubeless tyre on the rim too. You can control the rate of gas release with a simple knob. The most secure push-on inflator here, it works with both Presta and Schrader valves.
It’s the most expensive on test, and the biggest and heaviest too, which makes it more awkward to store on a bike or in a pocket – although we’re talking a matter of grams here.
Specialized SWAT Mini
Specialized SWAT Mini CO2 inflators. Russell Burton
Easily the smallest and lightest inflator on test, for its low weight and price, the SWAT Mini packs a big punch.
It fits securely onto Presta valves, and the gas is released via a simple unthread-the-canister process, with a good flow rate. A plastic spacer is supplied, which allows you to attach a canister to the inflator for convenient storage without piercing its seal.
We found it harder to screw canisters into the Specialized inflator than any other here – it has a tight fit – and it only works with Presta valves. The price is for the inflator head only – cartridges and sleeves cost extra.
Birzman Roar Control
Birzman Roar Control CO2 inflator. Russell Burton
This is another screw-on design, which attaches tightly and securely onto the valve. To control the flow of gas you simply unscrew or tighten the cartridge, and it dispenses the CO2 at a decent rate.
It’s not as intuitive to use as a push-on or tap-equipped inflator. Although small, it has one of the longest chucks on test, which can make it a slightly more awkward shape to carry in your pocket or stash on your bike.
But it’s compact and lightweight, and its simple design means there’s less to potentially go wrong. The price includes three 16g cartridges and a protective sleeve.
LifeLine CNC CO2 inflators. Russell Burton
On top of the wallet-friendly price, the CNC is one of the most secure inflator heads on test, thanks to its screw-on design, which keeps it firmly in place on the valve. You can control the flow of air by twisting the tap open or closed, and it provides a decent flow rate.
Because it has to be screwed on, the CNC is a little fiddlier to attach than some other inflators here, especially with cold hands. No canisters or protective sleeves are included, making it less good value than it appears at first.
Topeak Micro AirBooster
Topeak Micro AirBooster CO2 inflators. Russell Burton
The Micro AirBooster’s straight, in-line design makes it one of the more compact inflators on test. You control the flow of gas by depressing the inflator head, as on the AirChuck (below), but here the action is lighter.
Being a straight, push-on design, it was a little tricky to fit the Micro AirBooster between the spokes of our test wheel with the canister in place. It also took longer to empty the cartridge than any other inflator here.
It fits both Presta and Schrader valves, features a secure, no-leak fit and comes with both a sleeve and a 25g canister.
Genuine Innovations AirChuck Elite
Genuine Innovations AirChuck Elite CO2 inflator. Russell Burton
With its large, easy-to-fit head, the AirChuck Elite connects securely to both Presta and Schrader valves. It’s packaged with two canisters (one 20g, one 16g), which is a bonus.
Genuine Innovations’ Push-to-inflate technology means you don’t have to fiddle around with the cartridge once it’s installed.
The spring that you have to compress to initiate the flow of gas is firm and it takes quite a bit of strength to hold it down. Airflow isn’t the fastest either, and there’s no insulating sleeve.