CO2 cartridges have existed for a long time and are used in a variety of applications, from airsoft pistols to dragster cars to carbonating soda. But it wasn’t until 1989, when Genuine Innovations invented the first CO2 inflator head, that CO2 cartridges were able to be used to inflate flat bicycle tires.
These little CO2 cartridges, just slightly larger than your thumb, can be serious life-savers. They’re easy to use, small enough to stow away in your bike or your pack, and inflate a tire in seconds. Of course, like all user-friendly gear, CO2 cartridges come in a variety of form factors, allowing you to find what suits you best. A major variation to consider is whether you need threaded or non-threaded cartridges. Let’s explore the various specifics and differences between these two categories of cartridges.
The difference in design
As the name suggests, threaded cartridges need to be screwed into the inflator. Non-threaded cartridges, on the other hand, have a plain body that simply needs to be pushed or pressed into the inflator head.
The difference in ease of use
If you make a quick search online, you’ll probably discover that most people find non-threaded cartridges easier to use. This is partly because their design and form-factor is simpler (just literally ‘plug and play’ – pierce the container and let the gas shoot into the tire), and also because they are more easily available when compared to their threaded counterparts.
The difference in price
Typically, threaded cartridges cost a bit more than non-threaded cartridges, but threaded cartridges have been known to come with a little more carbon dioxide than non-threaded cartridges.
The essential thing to remember is that your CO2 cartridge needs to match your inflator. Some inflators, like the Ultraflate, are best suited for non-threaded cartridges, while others, like the AirChuck, work best with threaded units.
Threaded cartridges are generally preferred by cyclists who want a minimalist, head-only inflator that takes up far less space that the cupped non-threaded versions. So, if space is a constraint for you, opt for the compact threaded CO2 inflator heads.
Both cartridge options are good for different types of rider, but if you’re still unsure, do a side-by-side test. Get a few of both, take them out on some rides, and practice with each type until you figure out whether threaded or non-threaded CO2 cartridges are best for you.