Sunday, May 20, 2007

Product Review: Genuine Innovations Ultraflate CO2 Inflator

After trashing 2 valve stems with my mountain bike hand pump, I decided it was time to suck it up and go CO2. My hand pump isn't made to inflate high-pressure tires, and I didn't feel like buying another one, at least without a hose (such as a Road Morph). In the end, as I searched for roadside tire inflation options, I picked out the Genuine Innovations Ultraflate. I've used it three times already. Twice to air up a replacement inner tube after getting a puncture, and the third time to "top off" my tires, as I'd forgotten to air them up in the morning before departing on my commute. It's shown above with a 12 gram CO2 cartridge and a Schrader-to-Presta adapter. The Ultraflate does not ship with the adapter. I'll get to that in a moment.

The thing I liked about the Ultraflate was that it would accept inexpensive 12gr. CO2 cartridges, or larger capacity threaded cartridges. You can see that the valve tap is threaded. To use threadless cartridges, you insert the cartridge into the yellow body, and swiftly screw the body onto the valve, puncturing the cartridge and preparing it for use. To use threaded cartridges, simply thread the valve tap onto the cartridge, and set the yellow body aside.

As with all CO2 inflators, it's recommended that you do not puncture the cartridge until you need to inflate a tire. The Ultraflate has a dual-mode head. You screw it onto Schrader tire valves, or press it firmly onto a Presta tire valve. This is where one of my gripes comes into play. The Ultraflate seems to hang on the presta lock screw when you're done inflating the tire. On two occasions, I found that I had to fidget with the inflater to get it to "let go" of my tire valve. I didn't lose any pressure in my tires, nor did I damage the valve or stem, however I think it would be easy to have any of these problems. I started using the Schrader-to-Presta adapter, and I've had a lot better luck. Screw the adapter into the Inflater, then screw the inflater and adapter onto your presta valve after opening the lock screw. The end result is a more positive engagement, and graceful removal of the inflater and your presta valve.

The Ultraflate is surprisingly compact. In my run-of-the-mill Serfas-brand seat bag, I am able to fit two 700c x 25mm inner tubes, three CO2 Cartridges (one inside the yellow body of the Ultraflate), the Ultraflate itself, and my Patch kit.

A single 12gr. cartridge inflates one of my 700c x 25mm tires to about 105 PSI from being totally flat. The trigger valve on the Ultraflate allows the operator to easily control how much and how fast the CO2 goes into the tires. Overall, this is a good value at about $15. Bike shops sell CO2 cartridges for several dollars each. This is a rip-off. Go to a sporting goods store and buy CO2 cartridges made for pellet guns. In bulk, I bought a 15-pack of 12 gram cartridges for the bike shop price of 2 "name brand" 12 gram cartridges.

Overall, nothing beats a high-quality floor pump. For emergencies, though, this is one of the more compact and affordable ways to ensure you have a way to get your tires inflated.

Pros:
* Affordable
* Flexible options for CO2 cartridges
* Works as designed for Schrader or Presta
* Easy to use and control the flow of CO2

Cons:
* Larger and heavier than some competing systems
* Doesn't have a "hybrid" hand-pumping option... Once you're out of CO2, you're out
* Awkward to use on Presta valves
* Doesn't hold a CO2 cartridge while assembled without puncturing it

Tips:
* Use a Schrader-to-Presta adapter when filling tires with Presta valves
* Buy CO2 in bulk packages at sporting goods stores
* Always carry one or two more cartridges than you think you'll need
* Drill a 1/4" hole in the butt end of the yellow body so that a 12gr. cartridge can be inserted backwards for storage while the inflater is fully assembled.

4 comments:

A Midnight Rider said...

I carry both a morph and cartrige. Have not had to use either yet. But I'm ready.

I have heard many rave about them, but your complaint(disconnecting), is the first time I have heard one.

Jeff said...

about the ONLY time i'd ever use one of these things is when it's freezing outside. i always bring a pump. once it's out, you're f'd.

zekesbiken said...

Per Genuine Innovations rep C02 cartrages that you buy a the sporting goods store contian oils along with the gas where as GI's cartariges are all pure C02. The oil is made to lubricate guns etc that the cartiarges are for. Plus if you us a tire sealent (like Slime or Stan's for example) that oil will break them down making them useless.
I use the GI shooters with 16 gram cartirages and they work great. I have several of Blackburn's Airshot Pro. Similar to the GI but the "handle" of the shooter has a few common allen wrenches and a tire lever. Plus you can keep a 16 gram cartarige in it up side down there for not punchering the C02 until you need it.

Anonymous said...

Great review. I've heard the disconnect issue with other brands as well and you provide a good solution. Thanks.

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