Properly inflated tires will help you take full advantage of your bike ride. Besides, maintaining proper tire pressure makes sure a safe, pleasant and smooth ride no matter what winding road or rocky trail you put yourself in.
Luckily, pumping a bike tire is very simple and manageable work as long as you know what you need to do. Next, we will talk about the different bike pumps, valves, and the skills for pumping up your bike tires.
If you think you have a flat tire or a slow leak, you will probably need to change the tube. If your tires simply need more air inside, you should seriously read the following steps to fix your issue with a quick and necessary method.
Before you want to pump up your bike tire, there are something you need to know.
Why do I need to pump up my bike tire?
The air inside acts as a spring, providing suspension for you and allowing the tire to conform to the terrain providing better traction and grip.
How does my tire hold air?
If you never repair a puncture before, you might not have considered how your tires hold air inside.
Most of the bikes will use inner tubes. The airtight tube, doughnut-shaped, sits inside the tire, with a valve for pumping it up. You can see the valve on the outside.
The tire, when inflated by the tube, is that grips the ground and provides protection from punctures.
You may hear of tubeless tires, which use a special rim and tire to seal air. This usually requires tubeless sealant inside.
Tubeless tires are more commonly found in mountain biking.
Tubeless tires can be run at a lower pressure than those with an inner tube setup.
At the very high end, you also get tubular tires. They are rarely seen or used outside of professional racing.
A step-by-step guide to pump your bike tires
First, pick the right bike pump for your bike's tire valve.
There are two popular tube valves: A Schrader valve is wider, flat, and more robust on the end, and have a spring mechanism on the inside to keep the valve closed, while a Presta valve is narrower and features a locking nut at the top, which can be loosened to add or release air. An easy way to remember the Presta valve is that you press to let air out. Presta valves are most commonly found on higher-end bikes and are easy to recognize. Schrader valves are most commonly found on recreational and kid’s bikes, they are also the same valves used on car tires.
As each valve is different, unique connections at the pump head are often required to pump up the corresponding tire. Schrader connections require a pin to push down the spring, whereas Presta valves are opened via the lock ring. Make sure your pump is compatible with the valve type you have. Some pumps can only be used with one type of valve, while other pumps can take both. It should be listed on the pump, or on the packaging that came with it.
New riders make common mistakes. It is when pumping their tires to use a Schrader bike pump with a Presta valve, which just won't work no matter how hard you try.
If you are not sure what kind of pump you need to buy, check our list of tested and reviewed bike pumps, or ask for suggestions and recommendations from your local bike store. You always get what you pay for. A little extra expense can give you a more accurate psi reading, a sturdier bike pump, and even more simple and convenient inflation than a cheaper one.
Types of pump
When it comes to pumping up to your tires, there are a few different types of pumps.
The first and most common bike pump is the track pump. Track pumps are one of those essentials that every cyclist should own.
The track pumps have a large capacity and are capable of inflating tires to high pressures. For example, my track pump can inflate to 160PSI which is far higher than I'd want my tires before.
The main bonus is that because of their high capacity, they make inflating tires to high pressure compared to easy.
There is another kind of mini pump. Mini pumps are ideal to put in your jersey pocket in case of a mid-ride puncture. Most are able to inflate tires to reasonably high pressure.
Mini pumps come in kinds of varieties. Most will have a tube that extends and pushes back into the end of the pump in order to add a bit of flexibility.
The third common option is a mini inflator. There is a small valve ending and inflate using disposable CO2 canisters.
There is one final option, and that is an air compressor. However, they are pretty expensive and almost exclusively used by pro team mechanics.
Second, you need yo know what pressure you pump your tire to.
Each tire manufacturer will specify different tire pressure. It is best to conform to the manufacturer’s specifications which are often found on the sidewall of the tire. Road bike tires will generally run at a higher pressure than mountain bike tires. A road tire can go between 80 and 130 PSI, while a mountain tire holds between 25 and 50 PSI. Hybrid tires usually take between 40 and 70 PSI. However, your personal PSI preference within the range of your tire will depend on your weight and riding style.
Not having enough pressure in your tire could lead to pinch flats, spongy feeling when riding. Pumping up your tires excess manufacture's maximum limit could result in an overall hard ride feeling with poor traction, or most worst, your tire could explode.
Third, Unscrew the cap from the valve
Both Presta valves and Schrader valves usually have plastic caps that you need to remove. Be sure to put the cap somewhere else you won't lose it. The purpose of the cap is to keep dirt or debris out of the valve opening.
If you have a Presta valve, unscrew the lock ring besides removing the cap. Turn the Presta valve several rotations to open the valve before attaching the pump. If you have a Schrader valve, this additional step won't be necessary.
Forth, attach the pump correctly
Fit the pump head onto the valve. Pumps will have either a switch that flip down or up or an internally threaded screw top. Both systems' purpose is to keep the head in place as you start pumping, which ensures that air actually goes into the valve instead of leaking out while pumping.
If air seems to come out of the pump and not enter into your tire, you may need to readjust the pump head slightly. Just detach and reattach to reset the seal.
More often than not, both floor pumps and hand pumps have two nozzle holes to fit both Presta and Schrader valves. Place the pump on the valve by selecting the correct nozzle and pushing it on to the valve.
Fifth, pull up the pump lever
Now that the pump is on the valve, it is almost time to begin pumping. The majority of bike pumps have a lever that needs to be rotated 90 degrees. If the lever near to the nozzle, make sure it is in the open position(parallel to the nozzle) when you are putting it on the valve.
Instructions for this process is depending on the pump. So check your specific pump for instructions.
Sixth, inflate the tire
Now that the pump is securely attached to the bike tire’s valve. It is time to pump. For a floor pump, put your feet on the sides and begin pumping with both hands.
For a hand pump, use one hand to hold the nozzle onto the valve and use the other hand to pump.
Not all the bike pump have the pressure gauges, but we recommend getting one with a pressure gauge. Because you can keep your eyes on the PSI from the gauge when you are pumping. Eyeing the tire is not the best way to determine the pressure.
Pump until you have reached the desired pressure.
Seventh, remove the pump from the valve
Push the lever back down and pull the nozzle off the valve. Screw the valve nut back in to keep all the air in. Then quickly return the rubber cap to the valve. There is usually an audible hiss of air being lost. This is completely normal and should not make a substantial change to the tire pressure.
Eighth, if you overinflated, remove some air to reach the correct PSI.
For a Schrader valve, press on the valve with your finger until enough air comes out. For a Presta valve, with the lock nut open, press on the valve until enough air comes out.
Finally, close the valve
For a Schrader valve, simply put the plastic dust cap back on the valve. For a Presta valve, be sure to unscrew the lock ring closed and then put the plastic dust cap back on.
Now, back on road and enjoy the pleasant tour.
How often should I pump up my tires
All tires will slowly lose pressure which may happen faster depending on how often they are used, the condition of the tube and tire, and the temperature of the air around it. Recommend checking your tire pressure before you use, which for the recreational cyclist. It could be as simple as firm press of the tire to make sure it is not spongy or flat.
As a general rule, we recommend checking them every week-it should be your commute checks. However, if you ride a lot you will need to check them more, and if you ride less you may not check them as often.
How can I tell what type of tire valve my bicycle has?
A Presta valve has a lock nut at the top of the stem that allows you to open and close the valve. Depending on your bike pump, you may need a Presta valve adapter. Typically, Presta valves are found on road bikes and mountain bikes. Presta valves are, on average, more narrow and come in a variety of stem lengths.
A Schrader valve is typically found on BMX bikes. This valve is the same type of valve found on car tires. Most bike pumps will work on a Schrader valve without an adapter.
How do I know when I have pumped enough air into the tire?
The tire should feel firm - you shouldn't be able to pinch the sidewalls of the tire together very much. On a mountain bike tire, you should be able to push in by about a centimeter or so. Check the sidewall of the tire to find the minimum and maximum pressure values and use the gauge to get the pressure between these values.
What happens if I pump my tire up too much?
Should you pump the inner tube up too much, it will likely explode inside the tire. Check the sidewall of the tire to find the minimum and maximum pressure it can handle.
Why do my tires go down after pumping them up?
Assuming the tubes are not old, there is possibly a small hole in the tube, and possibly something in the tire itself made the pinhole. Older tubes, especially cheap ones, are porous and don't retain pressure well after several months.
What is the tire valve for a Mate bike?
Pretty sure it has Schrader valves. Presta valves are not as common and are mostly used on higher-end competitive road bikes.
I bought a hand pump, but where do I put the pin?
The wheel of the back tire has a small cap, like a toothpaste cap. Pull it off and put the pin there.
What is the best bicycle tire pump?
A floor pump is a great option to keep stored in the garage, ready to use whenever it is needed.
Hand pumps are portable pumps you take on bike ride or store in your car. They’re handy to have if you ever need to pump up your tires while out on a ride.