The comparison between a hand pump and a CO2 inflator has always remained a topic of hot discussion for cyclists and bikers all over.
Both of these options have their respective pros and cons. To decide which one of the two types is better, it is important to go through all the positive and negative aspects of the pumps separately and compare them accordingly.
Hand pumps had remained the most popular option over decades for bikers to inflate a flat tyre, however CO2 pumps seem to be taking up more of a market share in recent years.
What are Hand Pumps?
Hand pumps are manually operated and are available in a varied range of sizes, shapes and prices. As the name points out you use the pump by compressing the pump with your hands. The size of the pump will affect the amount of air you will get out from each pump movement.
The two popular types of hand pump are a handheld version where you would hold the pump with one hand and use the other to move the pump up and down slowly inflating the tyre, whilst the second type is the floor track pump that sits on the floor and you can pump using both hands.
As mentioned earlier, hand pumps have been around the bike scene for a longer period of time than the newer kid on the block CO2 pumps so as and established method of inflating bike tyres they are widely popular amongst all kinds of riders from professionals to amateurs.
- When compared to their rival hand pumps never run out of air and that can be considered to be their biggest advantage. This ensures that a rider is never left without a reliable source of air if they are carrying a hand pump with them. Great if you get a couple of punctures on a long ride. (They rely on the physical exertion of the user)
- Hand pumps are also extremely simple to operate and they do not require a user to have any mechanical knowledge or aptitude to manually inflate a bike’s flat tyre.
- They do not require any cartridges to work so will last for years if correctly stored and maintained.
- If your in a hurry then using a hand pumps may not be the best solution since they will usually take a lot of time to inflate a tyre.
- These types of pumps also require a certain amount of physical effort that may not be possible if a rider develops or has an underlying health condition as you need to do the pumping manually.
- Certain bikes like the road bikes have tyres specially designed and engineered to be capable of holding high pressure with some of these road tyres holding upto 100 psi. You may struggle to get these road tyres upto there optimum PSI using a hand pumps. Instead road tyres require a steady gush of air and a quick fill that are not achievable by a manually operated hand pump. (However with modern manufacturing methods and using material like aluminum some mini pumps can inflate tyres beyond psi)
What are CO2 Pumps?
CO2 pumps are mechanically very simple consisting of two basic components or parts. A small cartridge that contains CO2 gas and the inflator head.
The inflator head attaches to the valve and give out the air to the flattened out tire. These inflator heads can come in various designs and sizes. The other important part of the CO2 inflator, the CO2 cartridge is also available in a wide range of sizes (12g, 16g, 20g & 25g). The cartridges also come in threaded and non -threaded versions.
When you operate the pump you will find that the parts of the unit get cold, this is because at the CO2 gas changes from being in a liquid state in the cartridge to become a gas to enter the tyre it uses up energy from its surrounds to complete the reaction. So as the pressure in the cartridge goes down so does the temperature.
- These units are compact the entire inflation system just comprises of two small parts; the inflator and the CO2 cartridge.
- Weight is another benefit of having these pumps as they are lighter when compared to the hand pumps and are therefore easier to carry even in long rides. Generally the CO2 units weigh in at under 100 grams with different sized cartridges available (12g, 16g, 20g & 25g).
- CO2 inflator pump will takes less time to fully inflate a tyre in comparison to a traditional hand pump. Generally it can take between 30 – 45 seconds. This is one of the reasons why this type of pumps is preferred over the hand pumps especially when it comes to bike races, or for commuting to work where every minute counts.
- Using CO2 pumps is easy to use and do not take require a rider to do much physical work unlike the hand pumps that needs to be operated manually. All you need to do is join the head of the inflator to the stem of the valve to trigger the CO2 discharge. It only takes about a minute or two from then on for the tire to get inflated completely.
- Air availability is based on how many cartridges you can carry, which can be considered as a very significant disadvantage in cases of emergencies. Since a single CO2 inflator offers a limited supply of air. Once a cartridge is empty you will need to buy a replacement. Though the cartridges do not cost much, the ongoing expense comes off as a major drawback. (Cartridges are constructed from steel so you should be able to recycle them without a problem)
- The air supply for CO2 pumps is limited. It is unusual to get many flat tyres in a single ride. However, if that somehow does happen, a CO2 pump can’t continue coming to a riders aid. In some cases especially when using small volume cartridges you will face a shortage of air.
- A CO2 pump does not allow you to see the psi you are on. Therefore you don’t know if you have reached the ideal limit or not. The air discharge force can’t be regulated for all CO2 pumps available in the market. Some CO2 inflators come with cartridges that do not allow you to control the flow of air and start the process of dispense even if you are not ready for it. (However some newer models include a regulator that allows for better control of air into a tyre.)
- Parts of the pump get cold as your inflating a tyre. As mentioned earlier this is due to the change the CO2 goes through from being in a liquid state to gas state. To combat this problem you can get a sleave or sheath that fits over the inflator to stop you getting frost bite.
If you do need to use any of these pumps then you will need to ensure that the cause of the tyre deflating is resolved first so you need to ensure you carry a suitable puncture repair kit that may include patches or a replacement inner tube.
With the detailed analysis of the two types of pumps, it gets easier to come to the conclusion which one is better. Since both types of pumps have certain flaws, neither one of the options can be considered better than the other unanimously. While the Hand pump is a one-time expenditure, the CO2 cartridges need to be bought repeatedly. So if saving money is your goal then hand pumps might be your choice if you want to cut off your overall expenses.
Hand pumps also offer the promise of unlimited pressurized air. Therefore the traditional hand pump can come off as a more suitable option for long rides where you want to be assured that there is enough air supply for more than one flat tire so as to sustain the entire ride.
The CO2 pumps on the other hand will help you to inflate your bikes tyre in a very negligible time, easily ensuring a tyre reaches it correct pressure quickly when compared to having to use a hand pump manually. This will benefit riders in races where you don’t want to waste your time by pumping air to a deflated tire.
If your worried about conserving your energy then you may opt got the a CO2 model since even for casual rides, the CO2 inflators reduce the amount of manual labor and thus are widely preferred among bikers.
If you are okay with carrying a slightly heavier bulk then it is best to carry both the type of pumps and use them according to your needs. Some manufacturers have developed units that are a hybrid. These hybrid pumps take the best features from hand and co2 units: they give you the promise of unlimited air and when needed the speed of CO2. However these units are generally bulkier and will cost you more.
Bicycle Pump -Wikipedia