Recently I had the opportunity to try out the Air Shot rapid tire inflator to see if it made setting up tubeless tires easier.
Who is the Air Shot for? The target market for this contraption are people who have tubeless setups for cycling and that may not always, or ever, have access to a compressor.
In a nutshell, the air shot is a fancy bottle to hold compressed air. It utilizes your basic floor style bicycle tire pump and a presta valve threaded into the top of the tank. The floor pump is connected to the tank and used to build more pressure than what would be possible with a simple floor pump alone. Once full, you can then rapidly release the built up pressure into your tires to seat the bead onto a tubeless compatible wheel (I don’t really recommend tubeless on the cheap with tires or wheels not designed to be set up tubeless).
It is a nice bit of kit. It looks nice and comes with some nice finishes like a metal presta cap, knurled valve attachment fittings, a valve that’s very easy to open and control air flow and a decent length of air hose (it could be a bit longer and more flexible if I’m honest).
The big question is does it work? Yes it does, and it works very well. I have set up around 14 or so tires in total with this device and it has worked perfectly every time, without issue. Elbow grease is required to raise the pressure to the noted limits of the bottle, but it is definitely possible to hit 160psi with a regular floor pump. It took me around 45 pumps of a Specialized Air Tool floor pump to get the pressure to 140psi, which is plenty to seat the tire. At 160psi you should be able to easily seat two tires onto the wheel’s tubeless channel. From the first time setting up a wheel/tire tubeless to the last, I have had zero issues.
Another benefit is noise. If you’re getting ready for a ride early in the morning, the Air Shot is a much quieter alternative to a compressor. Your wife and/or neighbors will thank you for not cranking up the compressor at 5:30AM.
Is there a catch? Yes, I believe there is. The first thing I noticed when picking it up is that it was much lighter than I thought it would be. As mentioned, the components feel like they are of decent quality, however, the tank itself feels very, very thin. It’s so thin that it almost feels like you could squeeze and dent it . It isn’t pop can thin, but it also isn’t CO2 canister thin like I was expecting, or would like.
All over the box it came in, as well as on the bottle itself, it warns the user to discontinue use if the bottle is dented in any way. They did not specify how big the dent needs to be in order to be detrimental to the strength of the tank, but when you’re holding a thin walled tank/bottle with 160psi in it, those warnings made me a bit hesitant when handling the Air Shot.
The reason I bring this shortfall up is because of my original thought on the best use for this device. I am fortunate to have a compressor at home, but at a cycling event or race, I wouldn’t count on access to one. This scenario was where the Air Shot would come in. If I happened to roll a bead at a cyclocross event or cut a sidewall at a gravel event and I needed to re-seat it, the tiny hand pump in my jersey pocket wouldn’t be up to the task and I’d have to resort to the messy process of installing a inner tube. I was hoping I could throw this in the back of the car to be used as a backup tool, but with how thin it feels, I found myself handling it very gingerly even when I was relaxed in the backyard and basement so as to not ding it in any way. On event day, the mood is rarely relaxed, especially when things aren’t going right and I admit, when I’m rushing, I have been known to drop things (nice sunglasses, food, bike computers, etc. etc.). I don’t want to put a compromised pressurized vessel in the back of a hot car for any length of time.
Am I being overly cautious? Most likely, but my kids sit in the back seat, just in front of the cargo area. Could I just depressurize the tank before stowing it in the car? Sure, but that takes away one of the time saving benefits of filling it beforehand, and I still wouldn’t want to fill it up again if it did become dented.
With that, I’ll end this short and simple review with a quick summary.
Does it work?
Yes it does. It works quite well.
Would I make it part of my regular packing list?
I would not.
What would make it better?
If the manufacturer provided a more stout tank, similar to a CO2 style of tank, I’d be likely to keep it in the back of the car.
I’ve been told you can make something similar from bits and pieces found at Home Depot or more likely a small hardware store, but I would be careful with what type of vessel you use when pressurization is involved. Be sure to check with the tank manufacturer to determine what PSI the tank is rated for.
You could also buy a small pancake compressor from a place like Harbor Freight. No, it won’t be passed down from generation to generation and you will probably wake up the neighborhood with the noise, but with fairly light use, I’m sure it’ll last at least a couple of seasons for not much more than the Air Shot costs. During Harbor Freight sales, you may even find a cheaper price on a compressor.
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