The Airshot inflator is the flagship product of a small British startup of the same name. It promises to deliver “the greatest sound in the world,” that satisfying “POP” as your tire bead snaps against the rim and your work is done. Does it work? Here’s my experience with the Airshot.
If you’ve ever tried to mount tubeless tires on your bike with a floor pump, you know the struggle is real. Maybe you want to try setting up your own tubeless tires but are too afraid of the hassle. Perhaps this fear is costing you money at the bike shop, or even holding you back from discovering the glorious puncture resistance of tubeless tires. That would be a darn shame.
I get it! In my early tubeless days I used to absolutely dread changing my tires. It was often a multi-hour ordeal with a 50/50 chance of a trip to the local bike shop, tail between my legs, begging for the use of their air compressor.
One day in a moment of desperation, with a big bikepacking trip looming large on the calendar and four tires to install before packing the bikes, I broke down and bought the Airshot Tubeless Tire Inflator on Amazon (Prime next-day shipping for the win). Since that day I have not had to slink down to the bike shop for help even once (at least not related to my tires). Yesterday I used the Airshot to install a pair of 29×2.4″ Maxxis Rekons in about 10 minutes, and both seated on the very first try. It was miraculous.
In this review of the Airshot Tubeless Inflator I’ll share how it works, why it’s a big upgrade to whatever you’re doing now, and how to get the best results from it. This is an unusually glowing review, so let me be clear: not sponsored, no payment, not even a free product sample. I chose and bought this thing with my own money. I just want to spread the word so more people can feel confident mounting their own tubeless tires without a knock-down-drag-out fight.
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Airshot Tubeless Tire Inflator
Valve type: Presta (ideally with removable core, but not required)
Volume: 1.15 liters
My Conclusion: The Airshot Tubeless Tire Inflator is a simple device that works impressively well. It’s compact, works with your existing floor pump, and doesn’t need power, so it’s perfect for the car or small home workshop. Since buying my Airshot I have not needed to borrow an air compressor and I no longer dread changing tires. That’s success in my book!
My rating: 5/5 stars, love it!
What I like:
- Takes the hassle and dread out of installing tubeless tires
- Works with my existing floor pump
- Small, portable, and requires no power – great for road trips or simple home workshops
- Simple and durable
What I dislike:
- Truly can’t think of anything. I guess the hose could be a little longer but that would reduce the air pressure at the tire, so probably not worth it.
How It Works
The Airshot is a simple aluminum bottle with a presta valve on top and a hose with presta pump head and flow valve on the side. You hook it up in series between a floor pump and your tire, pump it full of pressurized air while the flow valve is closed, then open the valve to release all the air into your tire at once.
The sudden rush of air pushes the tire bead out against the rim, hopefully producing that glorious “pop” sound we love so much. If it doesn’t quite get there you can finish it off by continuing to pump like mad until the bead is popped out all the way around.
Sometimes this type of tool is called a “tank” (as in a very small tank of compressed air) or an “inflator.” To me “inflator” sounds active, like a pump, but this is a passive device. The real work is done by you and your floor pump; the inflator just stores it up and releases it all at once.
Here are the steps to use the Airshot Inflator:
- Put tire on tubeless-ready rim.
- Pre-seat the bead partially with tire levers (see details here). The importance of this step varies with your tire and rim combo, but if the Airshot isn’t working for you, definitely focus on this.
- Attach your pump’s presta head to presta valve on top of Airshot.
- Remove the valve core from your wheel’s valve stem, if possible, and screw on the chuck at end of the Airshot’s hose. (The chuck is double-sided, so you might need to unscrew it from the hose and flip it around to expose the correct fitting.)
- Find the flow valve lever where the hose leaves the bottle. With it in closed position (perpendicular to hose) pump up the Airshot to desired pressure. The recommended max is 130 PSI, but the right amount depends on your setup. If unsure start lower and increase if it doesn’t work.
- Turn the flow valve lever 90 degrees (parallel to hose) to release the air from bottle to tire. If all goes well the bead will pop out fully against the rim. If it doesn’t quite get there you can keep pumping to finish it off.
- Once the bead is fully seated, unscrew the Airshot chuck from your valve stem (the tire will deflate), add sealant through the valve stem, reinsert the valve core, and inflate as usual with your pump.
Note: The chuck on the end of the hose is double-ended. It can be used with a normal presta valve if your valve core isn’t removable, but it works much better (higher flow rate) if you remove the valve core.
Airshot Demo Video
I thought a video would be helpful for explaining how the Airshot works. Sorry, I’m not very good at making videos! I don’t do it often, but hopefully this one is still informative:
What if it doesn’t work?
The Airshot feels like magic when it works on the first try, but some rim and tire combos are tougher than others. If the air just leaks out the sides and the bead doesn’t seat, here’s what to try:
Pre-seat the bead: Working around the edge with a tire lever, push the bead outward against the rim. Go as far around as you can (it eventually gets too tight to continue) on both sides and then try the Airshot again.
Spray soapy water: If the tire is having trouble sliding outward on the rim, you can try a light spritz with soapy water along the rim channel to reduce friction.
Start with a tube: This is only for very stubborn tires, but I did once need to resort to it for an especially tight Vittoria Mezcal before the Airshot worked its magic. Install a tube as you normally would, let it sit for a few hours or overnight to help the tire get used to its new shape, then remove the tube and try the tubeless installation again.
My Experience with the Airshot
So far I’ve used the Airshot to mount at least six gravel and MTB tires, maybe more (I may have lost count). These tires ranged from 29 x 2″ to 29 x 2.4″. I had no problems at the wider end of the range; the Airshot holds plenty of air.
The Airshot always gets the job done, but as I mentioned above, not always on the first try. In at least three cases the bead popped out right away (I do always partially pre-seat with a tire lever). In a couple cases it needed a bit more coaxing with soapy water and multiple attempts. And in one particularly stubborn case I put in a tube for a couple hours before achieving success. In my experience a lot depends on your combo of tire and rim, as well as whether the tires are new or used.
I use the Airshot with a Topeak Joe Blow Sport III floor pump. Any decent floor pump should work, as long as it can reach a high enough pressure (I usually go to 100 – 120 PSI for larger tires). In other words, your portable mini-pump probably won’t cut it.
The Airshot is not quite as magical as a shop-quality compressor, but it’s cheaper, smaller, easier to maintain, and doesn’t need power. As for durability and quality, I’ve seen no issues with the Airshot so far. The parts all seem solid and work smoothly.
The Airshot is definitely an upgrade from the more basic methods of mounting tubeless tires: 12V cigarette lighter air compressor, basic floor pump, even disposable CO2 cartridges. But how does it compare to the better options on the market?
Schwalbe makes a strikingly similar product, the Tire Booster. The Amazon description says it was “developed in collaboration with the British start-up Airshot” and it seems be a rebrand of the same thing, but with a slightly lower star rating on Amazon.
A few companies offer a fancy pump + chamber combo that’s basically an integrated version of the Airshot plus floor pump. The main contenders are the JoeBlow Booster and Lezyne Pressure Overdrive. Both are fairly expensive as floor pumps go. The current Amazon sale price of $160 for the Booster is at least $40 more than the combo of my Joe Blow Sport floor pump and the Airshot. The full retail price is $220.
The JoeBlow Booster gets better reviews than the Lezyne, and it works better as a regular pump thanks to an option to bypass the pressurized chamber. If you don’t already have a floor pump, you might consider getting the JoeBlow Booster instead of an Airshot simply for the convenience of the integrated chamber (no futzing with hoses). Even then I’m not sure it’s worth the extra cash. And if you already have a floor pump, the Airshot is a much more affordable and flexible choice.
If you install tires on a weekly basis you may want to go for a full shop setup with powered air compressor and an inflator like this. For most people this is overkill and less convenient — you need a power source and it’s less portable — but it is the lowest-effort and most guaranteed way to mount tubeless tires.
More Bike Resources
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