Today’s post was going to be a list of things you can buy as presents for your cycling friends this holiday season. Believe it or not, it’s actually a pretty good batch of sensible stocking stuffers that I don’t think any cyclist would be disappointed to get.
As I was doing a little bit of background research last night, though, I discovered something. Something my mind is still doing flip-flops over. Something that could not wait. Something that made me no longer want to write a list of stuff I hope someone gives me, disguised as a list of things you can give someone else.
Oh, I’ll still do the list. In fact, I’ll do it tomorrow. But today, I must talk about Genuine Innovations’ Big Air!
Editor’s Note: Yes, the exclamation point is part of the name of the product. As an editor, I have a real problem with products that use punctuation as part of their name. I mean, what if I want to use the name of this product in the middle of a sentence? So usually, I remove the punctuation from product names when mentioning them, just out of spite. As you’ll read shortly, however, I think you’ll agree that in this case the exclamation-point-as-part-of-product-name is warranted. Thank you.
I don’t like using hand pumps to fix flats on my mountain bike. The volume of air in a mountain bike tire requires you to pump and pump and pump and pump if you want to bring it to a reasonable pressure. After five minutes or so of this, you begin to question whether mountain biking is even worth the effort.
But with the advent of pressurized cartridges, inflating a tire on the trail is the fastest, easiest thing in the world. Especially if you have the right setup.
For more than five years, I’ve been using the same setup for inflating tires:
- Genuine Innovations’ Microflate valve: This is probably the simplest CO2 valve on the market, and I think it’s pure genius. It has no moving parts. You just thread the tiny valve onto the canister, push the valve onto the tube stem, and then partially unscrew the canister. The more you unscrew it, the faster your tube inflates. Screw it back in to slow or stop inflating.
- Genuine Innovations’ Big Air! 40g Canisters: These are much bigger than the CO2 cylinders you’re used to seeing. They hold a much greater volume of gas, and so can easily fill a mountain bike tire. (Genuine Innovations claims a single canister can fill two mountain bike tires, but my experience is that you need to plan on one canister per flat or you’ll underfill the tire and get a pinch flat.)
Let me state for the record: I am perfectly happy with this setup, and do not in any way want Genuine Innovations to further innovate it. I’m a fan.
So as you can expect, I fully intended to recommend a Microflate valve and a six-pack of Big Air! canisters as a terrific stocking stuffer for cyclists (in fact, I still do). In fact, I thought I’d provide a handy link right to Genuine Innovations’ website, so you could learn more about their fine products and order them from the comfort of your own home (I am an extremely service-oriented blogger).
This is the information/purchase window Genuine Innovations has for the Big Air! canister:
And this was my reaction:
You mean, I’ve been riding with a couple of little pressurized propane tanks in my seatbag for the past five years? I’ve been filling my tires with propane?
Cuz, well, propane, well, you know, burns.
And by "burns," I mean "explodes."
Unable to believe what I saw on the web page, I reached down to the lower bookshelf on my left, where — conveniently — I have several Big Air! canisters. Nowhere on the canister does it say something like, “Ingredients: Propane.” Although, now I finally understand what that “Warning: Extremely Flammable” is about, not to mention the admonition to not expose the container to heat above 120F (49C), or to not use near any ignition sources.
You’ve got to give the marketing folk at Genuine Innovations credit: “Big Air!” sounds much better than “Little Propane!”
I Have a Question
Being the intrepid journalist I am, I quickly went to the “Contact Us” page on the Genuine Innovations website, and sent them the following message:
Is it true that your Big Air cartridges really contain propane? If so, after I fill my tubes from a Big Air cartridge, are my tires in any kind of danger of exploding or bursting into flame when I ride my bike and the rims become very hot from constant hard braking on a long, steep descent?
To Genuine Innovations’ enormous credit, Tony Hollars, Founder and Director of Technology replied within twelve hours (eight of which I spent sleeping) of my sending this question. Here’s what he said:
There is no danger unless you have an open flame. Propane propellant is used in products like shaving cream and kids’ bathtub soap. That’s where we got the idea for the Big Air. Most propellants in aerosols are flammable, so use the same precautions.
And of course, the appropriate journalistic follow-up question to this is, “How come I’ve never heard of propane-powered bathtub soap?” ‘Cuz that sounds like fun.
A World of Possibilities
I confess: I was surprised and alarmed to discover that for the past several years I have been filling my tires with the same gas many people barbecue with (I’m a charcoal briquets man, myself — nothing beats the smell of charcoal-cooked burgers). I mean, one little spark and — BOOM! — Flaming Wheels of Death.
But am I really worried that those Big Air! canisters I keep in a seatbag directly beneath my butt are actually a highly-pressurized explosive? Nah. Lotsa people — including me and practically everyone I ride with — have used these canisters for years and years and years; I’ve never heard of any flame-related incidents happening to anyone. In fact, the only Big Air! injury I’m aware of went in the opposite direction. Once, as I finished inflating a tube, Rick told me I should inhale the rest of the gas and see if it made me talk funny. Always up for a gag, I lifted the canister up to my mouth.
This was an error.
Let’s just say that while I knew the canister would be cold, I didn’t expect it to raise a blister.
Now that I know that Big Air! is propane, though, I’m intrigued. Suddenly, I see many genuinely innovative uses for Genuine Innovation’s Big Air! canister. None of which you should actually try.
- Hunger Scenario #1: You’re on an all-day mountain bike ride with friends. It’s lunchtime; everybody’s starved. While everyone else unpacks sandwiches, energy bars, nuts and other trail food, however, you get out a Big Air!, some surgical tubing, and a very small grill. You then pull out a kabob — I’m partial to a stack of shrimp, peppers, chicken, mushrooms and pineapple — you’ve had marinating in Teriyaki sauce in a waterbottle for the morning, grill, and enjoy. Massive envy ensues.
- Hunger Scenario #2: You’re out biking in the desert and start feeling a little peckish. You’ve seen numerous rabbits during the day, and must admit to yourself that a nice braised rabbit sounds mighty tasty. You get out a Big Air! and, the next time you see a rabbit, puncture the top and ignite it, pointing it in the direction of the rabbit. The jet-propelled canister rockets toward the rabbit with extraordinary precision, killing it instantly. You gut the rabbit using the blade in your multi-tool, get out another Big Air! and the rest of the grilling apparatus you always carry with you (see Hunger Scenario #1), and get cooking. From that moment on, you are regarded by all your riding friends as the alpha male. Even if you’re a female.
- Catastrophic Bike Failure Scenario: You’re riding your trusty, steel-framed mountain bike — just riding along — when the darn thing cracks. For most people, that would be the end of the ride. But that’s because, unlike you, most people don’t carry the Big Air! welding torch attachment. Since you also carry multiple lenses for your glasses, you put the darkest ones on, turn the torch up nice and hot, and weld the sucker back together. Good as new.
- Catastrophic Injury Scenario: You’re doing extremely dangerous, technical moves deep in wilderness territory. A friend of yours tries a move he should never have attempted and breaks off his thumb. Yep, just breaks it clean off. Whoops. He’s bleeding all over the place; the band aids in your seat pack clearly aren’t going to do the trick. Luckily, you’ve got a Big Air! canister. First, you whack your screaming friend on the head with it to give him some blessed relief from conciousness, then put on the regular ol’ Microflate valve. Twist it out a half turn to start the gas flowing, flick a match, and cauterize the wound. Quick thinking, cowboy.
- Lost in the Wilderness Scenario: You’ve missed a turn a while back, and now you’ve been lost for two weeks. You’ve been having a good time, really, thanks to your Big Air! canisters, but now it’s time to go home. So, you take a spare tube out of your seat pack and over-inflate it with two Big Air! canisters. The next time a plane flies overhead, you take this tube and light it on fire. The resulting fireball catches the eye of the pilot, who alerts the authorities. The search and rescue team has no difficulty in finding you; they just follow the scent of singed hair.
In summary, I used to like Big Air! canisters. Now I think they’re the coolest thing in the world.
Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Giveaway Question
As your entry in today’s Banjo Brothers Seat Bag contest (their new website is now online, so you can pick between mini, small, medium and large), tell me your thoughts on filling your mountain biking tires with propane. For bonus points, tell me a cool new application you can think of for Big Air! cartridges.