I’m Switching to CO2

So while we’re on the subject of flats, I have to tell you about a 180-degree change in my attitude toward pumps. This is apparently a topic of never-ending interest among bike noobs, because a previous post about pumps and CO2 cartridges is the all-time most popular post ever put up on this blog.

Road Morph

As most readers know, I adopted a frame-mounted mini pump — the Topeak Road Morph — three years ago as my preferred way to get the tires up to pressure after a flat. I had just fumbled and bumbled too many times with CO2 cartridges and decided I needed something more reliable. The Road Morph proved to be the answer. At least, for the several flats I had in the next year or so, I was able to get the tire pumped back up to the low end of its range, and ride home easily on it. At home, I could use my more powerful floor pump to top it off. The pump has bailed out fellow riders in group rides more than once, as they misfired their cartridges and needed something to fill their tires or be forced to call for a ride home. The picture at the top of this blog is of me and my friend David using the Road Morph to pump up one of his tires during a ride.

But during my three flats in two weeks run last month, I had help from riding partners in two of those cases. Each time, they suggested filling the tire with CO2 to get moving faster. As skeptical as I was, I agreed.

My friend David uses the little nozzle that attaches directly to the cartridge. Get it on the valve, turn it a bit, and pfffffft! — the tire fills without incident. Two weeks before, when I had my first flat, a fellow rider lent me his CO2 inflator. It’s the plastic housing that you slide the cartridge into, then use a small trigger to shoot the CO2 into the tire. I’ve got one of those, and I had consistently misfired the thing, wasting CO2, not filling the tire, and eventually switching to the pump. Maybe I’m older and wiser (no, not wiser, says my wife) but this time I filled it with no problem at all.

The weekend between those two incidents, I flatted while on a solo ride, which prompted the previous post about fixing them faster. This time I used the pump. The Road Morph is terrific for the first 60 pounds of pressure. Then you have to work harder. It’s got a built-in pressure gauge down by the valve, so you can see how well you’re doing. By the time you get to 90 pounds, you’re pushing with all your strength and the pump is barely moving. I know I’ve gotten tires up to 100 pounds in the past with the Road Morph, but it’s a struggle. And given how easily the CO2 cartridges work when used correctly, I decided to change my ways.

Inflator and cartridge.

So now I’ve got my inflator with the trigger and two cartridges in the seat bag. But in true belt-and-suspenders style, I continue to keep the pump mounted to my frame. One way or another, I’m going to leave the scene of future flats with properly inflated tires.


  1. Matt says

    Funny, I just made the reverse switch – have carried C02 for years but decided to get a pump instead. The reason? My C02 inflator cracked when I was using it – one of the plastic pieces practically exploded off it! The next day (hadn’t gotten a replacement or pump yet, and I was just going my 6 miles to work, 6 miles back) I got another flat… and had to get a ride home. I decided I wanted a pump that would hopefully be more reliable – I’ve never had a pump fall apart on me, including some pretty darn cheap ones.

  2. says

    I personally don’t like the idea of creating more throw-away items (i.e., empty CO2 cartridges) but that’s me. I’m also kind of a retrogrouch though. :/

  3. Joel says

    The Topeak RoadMorph is the pump that sets the standard. I have no problem getting to 120 psi with the right leverage.

    • says

      I’m with Joel. The RoadMorph is a perfect solution. I also have to trouble getting it well over 100 pounds. Sad to say, that I have had to much practice lately though.

  4. Rick says

    Used to carry the CO2 mechanism and never had a problem with the cartridges or the trigger Then I realized every flat was costing me one inner tube plus one CO2 cartridge. There were a few rides when the cause of the flat was so microscopic that it was hard to locate, in which case I found myself using two inner tubes and two cartridges. While not quite greens fees, those little charges made for an expensive outing. So I watched the Bike Noob’s experience with the Road Morph. Was fortunate to borrow it one time on Austin’s dam(n) loop ride and soon got one myself. Still have cartridges. Still have the inflator. But now I carry that handy little Road Morph in the back of my jersey next to an inner tube. I still get flats, but that road morph hasn’t failed me yet.

  5. says

    When I bought my road bike I also bought a floor pump and co2 set up to go along with my mini pump. I’m glad I did because I recently discovered that the valve stems are too short for the mini pump to “bite” on. After using the co2 for the first time I had to question why I hadn’t done it sooner. I’ll continue to carry the pump, but nothing beats the convenience of co2.

  6. James says

    @scott–yeah but that’s still resources and energy used to make a one-and-done item. even when they’re recycled, a good frame pump trumps CO2 for the environmentally conscience.

    additionally, accidentally discharging a CO2 cartridge can really foul up your day. just ask chrissy wellington circa october 2008.

    i’ll be sticking to my topeak road master blaster.

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