If you’ve ridden much in the desert at all, chances are you’ve been confronted with a flat tire. For us, a tire inflator is something we wouldn’t consider hitting the trail without. If you’re like we were, you probably have never given much thought as to what kind of inflator to get. Yes, some are nicer than others, but who cares? Well, it does make a difference. It makes a big difference. We’ve discovered that there are three basic types of inflators and at least one of them you should certainly avoid.
The first type is typically sold as a “patch kit.” These have been sold under several name brands such as MSR, Moose, and Progressive Suspension for anywhere from $15 to $20. Usually they include a patch kit, three threaded cartridges, and a “convenient carrying bag.” They have also been given away as part of Dual Sport Rides such as the Barstow to Vegas. The main part of this kit is the “adapter” hose. One end of the hose screws onto a “threaded” type of C02 cartridge. The other end of the hose screws onto the valve stem on the tube. To use this, one end is screwed on to the tube, then the other end is screwed onto the cartridge. There is a small pin in the connector that punches a small hole in the cartridge as it’s screwed onto the hose. This is a one-shot deal, meaning that there’s nothing to hold the air back. Once the hole is punched, that’s it, one-shot per cartridge. The problem with this is that many times you’ll want to put some air in the tube to find the hole, so you can patch it. That’s one cartridge. You’ll also want to put a small amount of air in the tube before putting it back in the tire, to avoid pinching it. That’s another cartridge. Then, of course, you need to fill the tube. That makes a total of three cartridges for one flat. What a pain . . . There’s one extra tidbit you should be aware of. On three occasions the All-OffRoad crew have found ourselves in need of these little devices. On all three occasions they have failed. The first time was in Baja when Bryce had a fight with a barbed-wire fence. His hose leaked at the connector, not letting enough air in the tube to fill it, wasting two cartridges. He then tried mine. The little pin broke before it could puncture the top of the cartridge. The other two occasions had similar failures. I say STAY AWAY from these things. They are a waste of money and give you false confidence that you can handle a flat.
The second type is commonly found under the name of Superflate or Moto Pump Ultra (also known as Ultraflate). It’s made in the USA by Innovations in Cycling. While this is much bulkier to carry, it’s much more reliable. These have never failed us. They can usually be found for under $20, but do not include a patch kit and only comes with one cartridge. However, for $3.95 you can usually pick up a patch kit from your local auto parts store. With this unit, the cartridge fits inside the handle. The Superflate uses the cheaper non-threaded cartridges like those used for BB guns and Paint Ball guns. The Moto Pump Ultra will use either the threaded or non-threaded. This is my choice, just in case you find yourself helping some poor sap that’s stuck with the hose type you don’t have to waste one of your cartridges. One of the nicest things about this, other than it works, is the fact that it’s “reusable”. This means that it’s trigger actuated and you can use a single cartridge multiple times, until it’s empty. The only downside to this is that it can be a little awkward to use. It must be threaded onto the valve stem and the package has a warning that it must be used in an upright position, not sideways or upside down. This can be a pain. Regardless, if I’m headed for a weeklong ride through Baja. I won’t be leaving with out it!
The third type I had not previously seen before a couple of weeks ago. Moose OffRoad is now selling an inflator similar to the first “hose type”. For about $25 you get three threaded cartridges, a “convenient carrying bag,” and a small, angled adapter. One side of the adapter screws onto the valve stem and the other onto the cartridge. There are no instructions in the package, but the way that it appears to work (I’ve tried it three times in the garage) is as follows:
1) Screw adapter onto valve stem.
2) Screw cartridge tight into adapter, to puncture cartridge.
3) Back out the cartridge slightly to fill tube.
It appears that you can tighten the cartridge to restrict the airflow. This helps eliminate the need to waste the cartridges that you waste with the hose type. However, you should still consider this a one-shot deal and not try to store partially used cartridges. In fact, I don’t even know if it’s intended to be used this way, but it worked for me. On the whole, I’d say this is slightly better than the hose type. I probably wouldn’t bother with it unless my Moto Pump wasn’t available…
And now, just a final word on cost. Up front the Moto Pump looks to be more expensive. However, the non-threaded cartridges can be had for about 50 cents a piece as opposed to the threaded type that are usually about $4.00 a piece. So the Moto Pump with a total of three cartridges and a patch kit will end up costing:
$18.95 Moto Pump Ultra
$ 1.00 2 additional cartridges
$ 3.95 Patch Kit
That’s about $1.00 less than the Moose kit, which doesn’t include patches. It’s about $9.00 more than the cheapest “hose type” set, which is just a little more than the cost of only two threaded cartridges. Believe me folks, in the long run it’s REALLY worth it…