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SKS Airchamp Pro refreshes the parts other CO2 inflators cannot reach - or at least mine did when a cartridge accidentally engaged in the pocket of my shorts! That aside, it wins over similar inflators thanks to an ergonomic body and a clever thumb switch that allows controlled pressure release without jettisoning all the compressed gas in one hit. At £2.50 a cartridge, it best suits competitive riders who puncture infrequently. That said as commenters here have noticed, shop around and you can get threadless CO2 cartridges for a lot less than that.
Tipping the scales at 128g fully loaded, the Airchamp Pro has a lightweight composite body and reversible Presta/Schrader valve heads, complete with a dust cap to keep dirt out. It works with threaded and threadless valves (its sibling in the SKS CO2 inflator range is restricted to threaded cartridges. Designed for single-handed operation), it sits comfortably in your palm and is easy to use.
Obviously you need to load a cartridge before you can use it. Just unscrew the head, drop the cartridge inside and reassemble it snugly to complete the seal, making sure the piercing pin is correctly aligned. Slip the safety catch to prevent accidental triggering over rough roads or trails - and you're ready for action.
Come the dreaded hiss, you'll need to perform the time-honoured tyre and tube drills. Once the tyre and new or patched tube are back in place, fit the appropriate head to the valve, depress the switch (ensuring the safety catch is off), and rejoice as a 700x23 tyre inflates to 110psi in eight seconds.
Controllable gas release might not seem an obvious benefit to racers, but it's really useful for audax riders and weekend tourists wanting to top up tyres that even the most strenuous mini-pumping has left slightly soft.
While it works well with narrow road bike tyres, performance isn't nearly so good with bigger volumes. A single cartridge was completely spent inflating a 700x35 cross tyre to its recommended maximum of 75psi, taking 12 seconds. That's still pretty reasonable, although similarly stout touring tyres might want 90psi. On fatter off-road tyres it literally runs out of gas. A 26x1.9in mountain bike slick tyre consumed almost two cartridges - a fiver - to get it back to full pressure.
Dependable emergency inflator that works best with narrow section road tyres
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Make and model: SKS Airchamp Pro CO2 inflator
Size tested: n/a
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?
"A further development of a SKS classic. The AIRCHAMP PRO is a CO2 inflater offering easy single-hand operation." Primarily aimed at road racers, it will doubtless win friends among sections of the audax fraternity too.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The reversible valve insert allows use with Presta/Schrader/Dunlop valve connections. AIRCHAMP PRO is suitable for both 16g unthreaded and threaded cartridges. Includes mount for under bottle cage and a 16g CO2 cartridge.
■valve: AV, SV ,DV
■length: 150 mm
■weight: 120 g
128g with cartridge.
Expensive if used regularly and you are paying full retail for the cartridges - shop around and you can get the right cartridges for less than half that though.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Raising a falaccid 700x23 to 110psi in a matter of eight seconds is pretty good going and could mean the difference between pole position or hanging off the back. Controlled release is another nice touch, allowing quick top-ups on tour or as support to the hand pump following a puncture on the club run. However, peformance is so-so on bigger section tyres and our safety catch wasn't completly fool-proof either.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Nicely designed and pleasant to use.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Middling performance on wider section tyres.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Quite possibly since I don't flat too frequently
Would you recommend the product to a friend? If they raced and weren't overly puncture prone
Age: 37 Height: 1m 81 Weight: 70 kilos
I usually ride: Rough Stuff Tourer Based around 4130 Univega mtb Frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mtb,
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)