Getting into the habit of checking tire pressure before every ride is a great idea. To function optimally, tires require a certain amount of air, and reaching that air pressure efficiently requires some skill.
In addition to improving your riding enjoyment, pumping up your tires is a quick and straightforward task. Your bike’s performance will be negatively impacted, and your chances of developing punctures will increase if you run the wrong tire pressure on it.
In this guide, you’ll get in-depth information on different bike pumps and how to use a bike pump.
Table of Contents
- 1 Types of Bike Pumps
- 2 Step-By-Step Guide on How to Use a Bike Pump
- 2.1 Select the Right Pump for Your Bike Tires
- 2.2 Determine the Recommended Tire Pressure for Your Bike
- 2.3 Look For a Dust Cap on Your Tire Valve
- 2.4 Open Your Valve
- 2.5 Attach the Pump Head Securely To the Valve
- 2.6 Leverage Your Weight or Hands to Pump Tires
- 2.7 Maintain Optimal Tire Inflation Pressure
- 2.8 Remove the Pump Nozzle Carefully To Avoid Losing Air
- 3 How Does A Bike Pump Work?
- 4 Conclusion
Types of Bike Pumps
You won’t want to be out of the saddle if you get a tire puncture, especially when you don’t have a good bike pump to make sure you won’t end up stranded in the middle of the wilderness. You should get a bicycle pump today (if you haven’t already) so that you can deal with punctures on the go.
To explain how to use a bike pump, here are some descriptions of the types of available pumps today.
These pumps are one of the most popular types of pumps for inflating tires at home. Tires inflated with these appliances can be pumped up to higher pressures quickly and easily.
Pumps with this design are designed for pumping tires with low air pressure.
Hand pumps of small size are convenient to travel with and ideal for use in emergencies. Although they can be helpful for small spaces, they are ill-suited for regular use in the home because of the considerable effort required to inflate the tires fully.
With their long and slender design, these pumps can deliver high-pressure air, ideal for road bikes. Pumps with these features usually mount along the top tube of a bicycle for pumping up the tires, and they require fewer strokes.
Using mini pumps is much more frustrating than using larger ones. There are several options available in this category, including small pumps that can fit your jersey’s pocket. In general, mini pumps with hoses are preferred since they reduce the valve’s stress (and potential damage).
The portable nature of slim mini pumps makes them superior to frame pumps. Since the air chamber is small, they require considerable pumping.
An alternative for your pressure requirements is to use a CO2 inflator. Inflating or topping up a tire with these works quickly due to the compressed CO2 in a small cartridge. Typically, it would be best if you did not use something like this regularly, but it’s great for emergency repairs.
Rapid tire inflation with these pumps is achieved by using carbon dioxide cartridges that are single-use.
Now that we have that out of the way let’s learn how to use a bike pump to correctly pump your bike’s tires.
Step-By-Step Guide on How to Use a Bike Pump
Here are the steps on how to use a bike pump.
Select the Right Pump for Your Bike Tires
Typically, a bike pump works by attaching the pump’s nozzle to the tire valve so that air can be pumped into the tubes. Valve design in bicycle tires can be classified into two types: Presta and Schrader. Check the physical attributes of the valve on your cycle’s tire to identify the type of valve used.
Essentially, the valve is a Presta valve if it is tall, narrow, and fitted with a locking nut. In the case of a tire with a larger black valve that’s flat at the end and similar to a car tire valve, the valve is a Schrader valve.
Pumps that can fit both Presta and Schrader valves are not the same, so choosing the right pump is essential. The modern bike pumps for each valve feature dual heads (a bigger nozzle for Schrader valves and a smaller hole for Presta valves). However, a few models often require an adapter to function correctly with a particular type of valve.
Whenever you doubt the valve type of your tire, ask an expert at your local bike shop for guidance.
Determine the Recommended Tire Pressure for Your Bike
Maintaining the proper air pressure is essential when inflating the tires of your cycle. You should not over-inflate your tires, as this could lead to poor ride quality and, in worst-case scenarios, blow your tire off the rim.
Like in cars, bicycles’ tire pressure is measured in PSI (pounds per square inch). If your tire has a sidewall, you can check the PSI range recommended by the manufacturer – typically 80-130 psi for road bikes and 25-35 psi for mountain bikes. Psi is determined by a combination of weight and riding style within the recommended range.
Look For a Dust Cap on Your Tire Valve
Many valves have plastic cap coverings on top. To remove the dust cap from your tire valve, rotate it around the counterclockwise axis.
Open Your Valve
Because a Schrader valve comes pre-pumped, this step only applies to Presta valves. The top of Presta valves comprises locking nuts that need to be unscrewed for the valves to be opened before the air is pumped into the tires.
Usually, the locking nut can be unscrewed by rotating it to the left several times. However, if your bike has been lying unused for some time, you might be having difficulty loosening it. For those situations, you will need a pair of pliers to loosen the nut.
Attach the Pump Head Securely To the Valve
To fit the pump head onto the valve, press the pump’s nozzle down onto the valve and raise the pump’s lever to a 90-degree angle to hold the head securely firmly in place. By doing so, any unnecessary air loss will be prevented.
It is important to note that not all pumps feature levers that can be pulled. Bike pumps require you to flip a switch down or push a lever to secure the nozzle to the valve to operate.
Observing the tire when pumping is one way to determine whether the pump’s head has been connected to the valve correctly or not. When the tires don’t expand when pumped or air seems to escape instead of going through the valve, the pump head might not have been attached properly, and you have to reattach it.
Leverage Your Weight or Hands to Pump Tires
When you have correctly installed the nozzle head on the valve of your bike, you are ready to inflate it. With a hand pump, hold the valve tightly with one hand while using the other to pump. If you’re using a freestanding floor pump, keep it still by placing your feet on the base and using both arms to turn and push the handle.
Maintain Optimal Tire Inflation Pressure
Having the proper PSI on your bike’s tires can ensure that it rolls fast and smoothly. You can use a pressure gauge to determine how much air your tire still has and how much more you need.
Using your thumb, you can determine a tire’s hardness even if your pump does not come with a gauge. Additionally, you may squeeze the tire to check whether it feels firm enough by taking both sides in your hands. The degree of stiffness in the tire indicates how inflated it is.
Remove the Pump Nozzle Carefully To Avoid Losing Air
Once you have inflated the tires to the desired pressure on the gauge, turn the switch on the pump’s head to loosen the nozzle and remove it. To firmly close the valve, tighten the locking nut clockwise (applies to Presta valves only). To avoid substantial air loss, replace the dust cap as soon as possible.
How Does A Bike Pump Work?
Pumps are used to fill a tire with air. The operating principle involves raising the pump’s internal pressure till it surpasses the pressure within the tire. As a result of this air pressure, the tire also gains pressure.
Pumps are manually operated pistons. The piston chamber is sealed when a check valve (allows airflow in one direction) is opened on a pump’s downstroke; therefore, pressurized air is released whenever you compress the pump. The pump pressure surpasses the pressure inside the tire.
Upon entering the tire, air will be allowed to flow from the pressurized pump’s chamber by a second one-way valve. Repeat this process by extending the pump, opening the check valve, and refilling the chamber with air.
At the bottom of the pump, a second check valve is used to stop the tire pressure from escaping into the atmosphere. Valve attachments on Presta valves are automatic in closing; however, a pin in the pump valve is responsible for the opening of Schrader valves.
An airtight seal is formed at the valve’s top by the pump’s chuck, which attaches the pump to the valve. Several types of screws exist, including threaded and push-on with locking levers. Today, many bike pumps are also available with either a Presta or Schrader valve.
Often, large (and many mini-) pumps have a chuck attached to a hose, stopping the pumping force from ruining the valve.
Pressure gauges are often included in pumps for checking the tire’s pressure.
Over time, the air or tire pressure in the tires naturally depletes. You should keep this in mind if you want a smooth ride, rather than one where you have to inflate your tires for half an hour in the scorching sun. Using a bike pump is not complicated if you follow this guide. Be sure to follow each step carefully to avoid making errors.