Quick and easy to use, the Genuine Innovations Hammerhead takes a wide range of cartridge sizes, but it's a shade expensize compared to its competition.
Putting my cards on the table from the outset, I've not used one of these here CO2 inflators before. I've always been ideologically opposed to the notion of paying for single-use cartridges when I could pump a tyre for free myself, albeit a bit slower.
I've been through a plethora of mini pumps, though, in the impossible quest for what physics dictates I can't have - small, light, fast and easy. They're all attributes that could be found right here. Maybe if I can get over my tight-fisted dislike of having to buy and then throw away a gas cartridge every time I get a flat, then me and the Hammerhead might be friends.
Genuine Innovations were the originators of the CO2 inflator and today they have a range of them. The Hammerhead is a compact device that weighs very little; it's certainly less cumbersome than even quite a small mini-pump.
It's really a very simple little thing: you screw the canister in one end, thereby piercing the seal, and then you stick the other end on your tyre valve. Push the green button and your tyre is inflated. A lot faster than you could do it by pumping, even with a track pump (and you don't want to be carrying one of those around with you).
There was no leakage of CO2 once the canister was in place, something which apparently sometimes happens with other inflators. You can only use threaded canisters. Typically they're a couple of quid or so in the shops, but if you shop around online and buy in bulk you can get them for about a pound a throw. Some other (bulkier) CO2 inflators can be used with threaded or non-threaded canisters (the latter tend to be cheaper) but here the thread is the only thing keeping the canister in place.
The Hammerhead comes with one 16g cartridge, enough to get a 700x23 up to around 100psi. You probably want to carry a couple on a longer ride in case you suffer the misfortune of more than one puncture. For large volume tyres (such as on a mountain bike) you may need to use a bigger cartridges - they're available in various sizes. You might be able to get away with using half a large cartridge and saving the rest for next time, but I'd be wary of this - it might gradually seep away and I think the button could get accidentally knocked in your pocket anyway, dumping the rest of the pressure.
In use it was all very straightforward. It comes with simple instructions which you don't really need. I did notice that the picture showed a hand firmly grasping the cartridge while inflating the tyre, which probably isn't a good idea. Sudden expansion of compressed gas results in sharp temperature drops; you can see the cartridge frost up immediately. Some other inflators have a container for the cartridge to provide some temperature isolation and avoid freezing your hands; they're also necessarily heavier and bulkier. As the inflator itself is made of plastic, it wasn't a problem to simply hold this in use, and avoid touching the cartridge. It would also be a simple job to cut a length of old inner tube to slide over the cartridge if you were worried about it. The advantage of not having a container for the cartridge is that you can use different sizes.
The Hammerhead works with Presta and Schraeder valves, using a rubber push-fit connection. The CO2 is only released when you push the green button, which is very simple and intuitive. Other inflators start inflation as soon as you push onto the tyre valve, which can be hard to control, and some use a screw valve. I'd probably choose the latter simply because I'd have higher confidence that it wouldn't open accidentally in a pocket or bag.
Retailing at £19.99, this inflator has quite a lot of competition, including some ostensibly similar devices which are as little as half the price. This is a good quality unit, however, which worked reliably whenever I needed it, vital given that otherwise you may have a long walk home.
I've not yet come up with a means of knowing the right number of cartridges to carry for any given ride, and really this is the downside of a CO2 inflator when compared to a pump - once you've used up the gas you're carrying, you'd better not ride over any more glass. In reality, though, I've carried a pump thousands of miles on rides without getting a puncture (and your choice of tyres plays a role here too) so for most of my rides I'd be fine.
Simple and reliable CO2 inflator - not the cheapest but works well.
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Genuine Innovations Compact CO2 Inflator: HammerHead
Size tested: 12, 16, 20, 25g and BigAir CO2 refils
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Our newest Compact CO2 Tire Inflator. Instant CO2 tire inflation has never been so easy with just a simple push of a button. Super easy to use. Simply screw on any size threaded CO2 cartridge then push the thumb trigger on back to inflate. Small, lightweight and our most intuitive compact CO2 inflator ever. Fully controllable with just a push of the button. Will inflate any size tire in just seconds.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Cartridge compatibility: 12, 16, 20, 25 gram threaded CO2 cartridges &
* Construction: high strength plastic with metal internals
* Weight: 27 grams
There are shiny metal alternatives but arguably the tough plastic used here is actually a better option as it insulates you from the cold. The internals are metal, so there shouldn't be an issue with threads wearing out and so on.
Very fast inflation of tyres, totally reliable during our testing.
There are cheaper alternatives, and pretty ones like the Shiny Object from Portland Design Works (£10-13) make this seem perhaps a little overpriced.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Worked well - I am nearly convinced enough to leave my pump at home.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Very small and lightweight - great for when your pockets are stuffed with other things.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The fear of getting another puncture after I used the last of the CO2.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
About the tester
Age: 35 Height: 190cm Weight: 78kg
I usually ride: Boardman CX team for the daily commute My best bike is: Rose Xeon CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.