How to Inflate Bike Tires: A Quick Guide for Beginners

Bikers need to learn different things, and one of the most important is to know how to inflate bike tires. It might seem like an intimidating task for anyone without experience, but once you know the steps, it is easy. No need to visit a mechanic to do it for you!

Before you head out every ride, especially for long-distance cycling, it is a good practice to check your tires. It must have the right pressure depending on what the manufacturer recommends. If not, then you need to put air in bike tires. The specific procedure can vary depending on the type of the valve that you have. If you are clueless about how to pump bicycle tire, read on and learn from the insights we’ll be sharing in this short guide.

The Importance of Proper Bike Tire Inflation

Before we talk about the specific steps for pumping bike tires, let’s discuss about why it is important in the first place. It might seem like tasking to check inflation and pump tires properly, but this is important for your overall experience in every ride.

Improve Traction

One of the best reasons to inflate your bike tires properly is to improve its traction. Whether you are on smooth or rough terrains, inflating the tires properly will help improve the frictional force. While tire pressure is important, this isn’t all that matters when it comes to traction. You also have to look at the tread patterns and make sure it is compatible with the surface conditions where you will be riding on.

Stay Safe

For a safer ride in different surface conditions, tire inflation is also a must. Your tire will not have the right resistance when it is poorly inflated. This can result not only in poor traction but also in difficulty in steering.

Enhance Comfort

Anyone who rides a bike is on the constant lookout for ways to become more comfortable. One of the simplest solutions is to inflate the tires properly. With the right tire pressure, your bike can ride more smoothly, and hence, you will stay as comfortable as possible.

Prevent Flats

It is frustrating to be in the middle of a long ride and you are confronted with a flat tire. The best way to prevent this from happening is to inflate the tires properly. Otherwise, it will easily lose air and you might end up having flat tires in the middle of nowhere.

Poor Performance

This is one thing that summarizes the drawbacks of driving a bike with poorly-inflated tires. Under-inflation will negatively impact the responsiveness of the bike, which results in underwhelming performance.

The Right Tire Pressure for Different Bikes

When you pump up a bike tire, an important consideration is the right pressure. This will depend on the type of the bike that you have. The best thing to do is to look at the sidewall. This is where the manufacturer indicates the recommended pressure, which you must follow religiously.

Below is a quick guide on the recommended tire pressure for different bikes:

  • Road Bike: 80 to 130 psi
  • Mountain Bike: 25 to 35 psi
  • Hybrid Bike: 40 to 70 psi

Aside from the type of bike that you are using, another important factor is the rider weight. The more you weigh, the higher the tire pressure should be.

A Step-by-Step Guide on How to Inflate Bike Tires

Ready to learn about how to put air in bike tire? Below is a guide on how you can do it like a pro.

1.      Know the Type of the Valve

As you inflate bike tire, the first thing that you need to look at is the valve. This is the part of the tire where you will be connecting the pump. This is also important because it dictates the type of pump that you should be using.

Schrader Valves

This is a fatter type of tire valve, making it more common in bikes with wide tires. This is similar to the valve that you will find in car tires. It is also known for being user-friendly because you can use most pumps, including those in gas stations.

It has a hollow tube and a spring valve. There is a pin that extends on the top of the valve. It has a dust cap without the need for manual removal. This also doubles as a protection against dust and dirt, among other external elements that can make the tire susceptible to damage.

Presta Valves

It is a more complicated and less common type of valve in tires. It is thinner and more common in racing bikes or 700cc wheels. One thing that makes it quite complicated to use is the need to unscrew the top before you start pumping air.

Instead of a spring, this type of bike valve has a nut that you have to remove to open the valve before pumping air into bike tires. Its valves are more delicate compared to Schrader, so be extra careful with its handling.

2.      Find the Right Pump

Aside from the valve, you also have to consider the type of the pump that you have to use.

Floor Pump

The most common choice amongst professionals, it is perfect for those who are looking for a quick way of pumping bike tires. Many of these pumps are equipped with a gauge, which makes it easy to monitor the tire pressure. Some people, however, would still prefer using an external gauge as it is believed to be more accurate.

Hand Pump

The best thing about this kind of tire pump is its portability. It is lightweight and compact, which means that you can easily bring it around. Many are small enough so you can bring it in your ride, making sure that you can pump your bike tire in case of an emergency.

3.      Know the Recommended Tire Pressure

Aside from learning about the type of the valve that you have and the pump to use, the next thing to do is to look at the sidewall of the tire. This will help you identify the right pressure. You can also check the manual to see what the manufacturer recommends, but the best thing to do is to look at the side of the tire. Do not go below or above the pressure that the manufacturer recommends.

4.      Inflate the Tires

Now is the time to do the most important part of the procedure. The specific steps will vary depending on the type of the valve that your bike tire has.

Schrader Valve

The first thing that you will need to do is to remove the rubber cap that covers the valve. Make sure to keep it somewhere safe. Something as small as the cap is easy to lose, so store it properly. Open the lever of the pump and position it on the valve. Once the pump is in position, close the lever. Pump until there is enough air, unlock the lever, remove the pump, and return the screw cap.

Presta Valve

Start by opening the valve, which you can do by unscrewing the dust cap. Like with the Schrader valve, keep the cap somewhere safe. Once the cap is off, remove the brass cap on the stem. It will not come off completely, but it should be raised high enough from the stem.

Before pumping up bicycle tires with a Presta valve, you might need an adapter. This is the case if you are using a regular pump, such as one that you will find in a gas station. The adapter will essentially transform the end of the Presta valve to a Schrader valve so that you can use a conventional pump. Inflate the tire based on the pressure that the manufacturer recommends. Flip the lever and replace the dust cap once you are done inflating the tire.

How to Deflate a Bike Tire

It is not enough that you know how to pump a bike tire. There are many instances that you will also need to deflate the tire, especially when you have added more air than what is necessary. The good thing is that doing so is fairly easy.

If you have a Schrader valve, all that you have to do is to press the valve with your finger to release air. Keep on pressing the valve until you have released the air that you need out of the tire.

Meanwhile, if you need to deflate a Presta valve, remove the lock nut first and press the valve until releasing enough air.

Tire Pressure Mistakes You Must Avoid

To make this guide on how to pump bike tire more informative, let’s also talk about some of the mistakes that you should not commit. Especially if you are a novice, it is easy to be a victim of these blunders.

1.      Not Checking the Tire Pressure Regularly

Checking bicycle tire air pressure regularly might seem like a lot of work, but it is necessary. This is a good way to make sure that it is not under or over-inflated. A good quick way to do this is to simply pinch the tire. Nonetheless, if you don’t want to be left second-guessing, we recommend using a gauge instead. This will provide a more accurate look at the tire air pressure so that you will know whether you need to inflate or deflate.

2.      Having the Same Pressure at the Front and Back Tires

It is a common thing to do for most people to inflate the front and rear tires in the same PSI. However, this is one thing that you should avoid. Your weight is not distributed evenly when you are riding a bike. If you are riding a road bike, 60% of your weight is at the rear and 40% is at the back. Nonetheless, the best practice is to still check the sidewall of the tires and follow what the manufacturer recommends.

3.      Overinflating or Underinflating

This is a common mistake amongst people who do not use a gauge to check tire air pressure. When you overinflate, there is a risk that the tire will blow up as there is more air than what it can accommodate. During your ride, a sudden impact also increases the likelihood that the tire will burst.

On the other hand, when the bike tire is under-inflated, the tube will squeeze. This will result in the metal part of the rim almost touching the ground. It impacts traction and rolling resistance, affecting both your comfort and your safety.

4.      Ignoring Temperature

It is crucial to consider the external factors that will affect bike tire pressure, and one of the most important is temperature. The hotter it is, the quicker the bike loses air. All things equal, bike tires will lose one to two psi for every 10-degree drop in temperature. So, always consider the environment at which you will be cycling, especially if you are going on a long-distance ride, and adjust the tire pressure as needed. It is best to bring a mini-pump with you so that you can re-inflate when needed.

5.      Not Fastening the Pump Head

Before you start pumping air into tires, make sure that the pump head fits securely to the valve. Regardless of the type of the valve, there should be a tight fit. Otherwise, you will end up wasting air from pumping as it won’t go to the tire. You need to create a sealed system for the pump to deliver the necessary air.

Conclusion

If there is one performance improvement your bike needs, it would be pumping bicycle tires properly. With the discussions above, we hope that you already know the basics of how to put air in bicycle tires. It starts with figuring out the type of the valve that you have, with Schrader and Presta being the most common. Next, look for the right type of pump, figure out the recommended pressure, and inflate accordingly.