Advantages and disadvantages of using CO2 cylinders

Posted at: May 16, 2022

The CO2 cylinder is the preferred puncture repair inflator for expert road bike users. This section summarizes the advantages and disadvantages of using CO2 cylinders for inflating, and the differences from portable pumps.

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What is a CO2 cylinder?

A CO2 cylinder is a portable, mini-sized cylinder used to inflate a bicycle. It is a tool that can be used in combination with an “inflator,” which connects the cylinder to the valve of the bicycle, to inflate the tires.

What are the advantages of using CO2 cylinders?

First, let’s look at the advantages of using CO2 cylinders.

  1. compact size
  2. high pressure air supply
  3. no pumping required
  4. even tubeless tires can be used

The main reason for carrying a CO2 cylinder is that it is compact and easy to inflate. Most of the time when you need to inflate on the road, you are dealing with a flat tire, so the advantage of being able to “pop some air in and get back to riding right away” is significant.

Especially in the middle of summer under the blazing sun (sweating and pumping) or in the middle of winter in the cold (freezing and pumping), fixing a flat tire is nothing but a pain, so being able to deal with a stressful flat tire immediately is more than just a cost advantage.

Another advantage is the ability to handle “tubeless and tubeless-ready” tires, which require high-pressure inflation to prevent air leaks.

What are the disadvantages of using CO2 cylinders?

On the other hand, CO2 cylinders have some disadvantages.

  1. disposable and not cost-effective (1) Difficult to adjust the air pressure
  2. they do not reduce luggage that much

The first disadvantage is that they are disposable. Recently, CO2 cylinders can be purchased for about $2 per cylinder, so the cost is not that high, but compared to portable pumps that can be used forever until they break, the cost performance is not so good.

Also, as for the amount of luggage, portable pumps are getting smaller and smaller these days, so the size is not that much different compared to the size of two CO2 cylinders and an inflator in the front and back.

What is the difference from a portable pump?

Now let’s compare what is different from a typical portable pump.

Item CO2 cylinder portable pump
Fastness to inflate
How easy it is to inflate
High pressure
Fine-tune the air pressure
Luggage volume
Cost performance

The biggest advantage of CO2 cylinders is that they are fast, easy, and high-pressure. A road bike or hybrid bike tire running at high pressure requires about 100 pushes with a portable pump, whereas a CO2 cylinder can be filled in “just a few dozen seconds by pressing down on it. It is very easy.

However, there is one point where it is inferior to a portable pump: a CO2 cylinder is basically “one tube for one cylinder,” so if you fail to change a tube, you will waste a CO2 cylinder. This is not a problem at home, but if you fail to change a tube and use up all the cylinders when repairing a flat tire on the road, you will be stuck.

Recently, there are “hybrid pumps,” which are portable pumps equipped with an inflator function, so if you have a hybrid pump, you can hedge the risk of failure.

In terms of cost performance, it is not much better than a portable pump, but if you have the skills to avoid obstacles on the road while properly managing air pressure and tires, you will not get a flat tire unexpectedly, so in that sense, CO2 cylinders are not cosmetically bad.

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