Learning how to pump a bike tire is one of the most important skills for cyclists. At face value, it might seem like pumping a bike tire is the easiest thing in the world. After all, if you can change a car tire, what’s so hard about dealing with commuter bike tires?
But, if you haven’t practiced it before, then it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re faced with a flat tire on the road, while everyone else is passing you by on the trail.
You have to consider the amount of pressure required, the different types of mini bicycle pumps and valves. All this can all prove to be too much in the moment.
How to Pump Air in Bike Tire
The good news is we have helpful tips on how to pump a bike tire that’ll prepare you just in case you face this situation.
1. Check Type of Valve
The valve is located in between the tire and rim and actually juts out from the rim’s opening. There are two types of valves – Schrader and Presta.
The most common type is the Presta valve which has a much thinner profile than the Schrader. It’s characterized by a tiny pin valve that protrudes from a wider tube and secured by a nut. To check the valve, simply unscrew the nut so the air can flow through the inner tube.
The Schrader valve, on the other hand, is quite similar to valves that you see on pram wheels, motorbike wheels, and car tires. It has a fatter profile, with a central pin valve that protrudes from the external tube. It doesn’t contain any nuts so there’s nothing to loosen as with the Presta valve.
Both valves contain a small plastic dust cap which allows you to screw it over the top. These caps are designed to protect the valve from dirt, damage, grime, and grit. It helps to keep it clean, basically. They’re not exactly indispensable so you can do without them, but they’re also nice to have.
2. See If Your Pump is Compatible with the Tires
It’s important to ensure that the pump and valve are compatible with one another. Certain pumps are exclusive to certain valves whereas some pumps can handle any type of valve. Check the packaging or the actual pump for instructions on which valve it’s compatible with.
Most hand pumps can be used with both types of valves, and all you have to do is unscrew the attached nozzle and change the adaptor.
You might also come across floor pumps or hand pumps that have a larger nozzle that’s compressed onto the valve using a lever. The opening is designed to be compatible with any type of lever.
The lever itself shuts the nozzle by tightening a rubber ring. You’ll find that most track pumps work similarly, with the only exception being that they’ll have a dual nozzle head designed to accommodate each type of valve.
Most cyclists carry a CO2 canister and adaptor combo in place of a pump. This might help you fix a flat tire in the shortest amount of time, but it’s by no means a long-term or sustainable solution. You must repair the tire to avoid future damage that might slow you down.
3. Put the Pump on the Valve
This is the easy part of the process, but you still must be careful. First you need to make sure that the core and dust cap have been removed, and that the nozzle is firmly pressed onto the valve.
If there’s still air flow coming from the inner tube then it won’t be able to inflate no matter how much you try to pump it. This is mostly caused by an improperly attached pump.
If you’re dealing with a Presta valve, then you should avoid damaging the core, which is the tiny fragile pin in the center. In most cases, you can’t replace this part, which means you’ll need to replace the entire tube of your fat-tire bike if you happen to break it.
4. Pump Up Your Bicycle Tires
This is when you start to pump your bike tire. To figure out how much pressure is required, check on the tire’s sidewall.
The amount should be written in PSI, which translates to pounds per square inch or it can also be listed in bars. Generally, a road bike or touring bicycles will require 80 to 130 PSI, while a mountain bike has a 30 to 50 PSI requirement. Hybrid tires are in the middle, at 50 to 70 PSI.
Use this recommended range as a guide to help you figure out the optimal pressure needed by your tires with a bicycle tire pressure gauge carefully. As you can see, you’re given a rather wide window so that you can determine the right number based on your unique situation.
For instance, if you’re a lightweight rider then you can get away with a lower pressure because you won’t cause the tires to compress against the surface as much as someone who weighs significantly more than you.
You need to also consider the weather conditions. For instance, a wet climate almost always requires a low-pressure tire that makes it easier for the tire to connect with the surface ground area.
Therefore, if you’re on the lighter side and decide to cycle on a wet day then you should definitely opt for a lower pressure. Whereas a heavier rider will need a higher pressure to suit his/her conditions.
For best results, keep a track pump in your garage to make sure your tires are always adequately pumped. You should also carry a hand pump when riding to take care of any punctures or quick top-ups that are needed.
The great news is that most bike shops provide customers with track pumps for customers to use at their own discretion.
5. Get the Pressure Level Right
Due to regular wear and tear, tires will eventually loosen up. That’s why it’s important to check them regularly to make sure they have the correct pressure level for a smooth ride.
For best results, be sure to check your tires once a week, or even more if you tend to ride your 10-speed bike regularly.
Before you get on your single-speed bike, you should check your tire each and every single time. All you have to do is squeeze them to check the pressure.
If you like, you might even use a pressure gauge to get a more accurate read on your tire pressure. This nifty gadget can be a lifesaver for mountain bikers, as tire pressure can significantly affect how smooth your ride is.