A flat bike tire can ruin your mood if you don’t know how to use a bike pump. Instead of letting that happen, you can get back on the trail in a few easy steps. But, there are a few things you need to know first.
What kind of bike pump is the best to use? Do the types of tires matter? The truth is, you’ll need to make sure you have the right bike pump for your tires before getting started.
DETERMINING WHICH BIKE PUMP TO USE
The best bike pump for you will depend on the valve on your tires. Two kinds are easily distinguishable.
The first is a Schrader valve, also known as an American valve. It consists of a threaded metal piece with a thin metal stem inside it. If you press on the stem, you can hear air escape the tire. These are common on car tires, mountain bikes, and some road bikes.
The other valve is a Presta valve. It’s skinnier and longer than a Schrader, and it doesn’t have an internal valve stem. Instead, it has a valve cap that you unscrew to expose the stem.
Presta valves are common on more sophisticated road bikes.
Different bike pumps accommodate various valves, so it’s essential to choose a pump that’s compatible with your bike tires. You can also purchase an adapter.
HOW TO USE A BIKE PUMP
Once you have the right pump, you can learn how to use a bike pump.
Whether you have a floor or a hand pump, the process is the same. You’ll need to prepare the bike valve, adjust the pump, and fill the tire with air. Once you have the right air pressure, you’ll be ready to ride again.
Prepare the bike
The first step on how to use a bike pump is to get your bike ready. Make sure your bike is standing and won’t fall over. Once you’ve done that, move on to the valve.
Both Schrader and Presta valves have a dust cap you’ll need to unscrew. Store the cap in your pocket or another safe place so you don’t lose it.
A Schrader valve is ready once the dust cap is off, but a Presta valve has one more step. You’ll need to unscrew the valve cap and expose the stem.
Adjust the pump
The next step is to get your pump ready. Be sure to read and follow any safety instructions that come with the pump so you can stay safe while you operate it. You can’t have fun riding your bike if you injure yourself while filling up the tires.
Press the nozzle to the tire valve. This is all you have to do for some pumps.
Others have a lever near the nozzle that locks the nozzle onto the valve. This requires you to move the lever both to lock it in place and remove the nozzle from the valve.
Fill the tire
Once you have everything ready, follow the instructions for your bike pump. It will tell you how to use a bike pump safely and effectively.
A floor pump requires you to stand on the bottom and use your arms to operate the pump. This kind of bike pump is popular in most households. It’s easy to use and doesn’t require much effort.
A hand pump is small and portable, so you can fill your bike tires with air on the go. Instead of using both arms to operate this pump, you only need one hand to steady the pump and the other to work it. However, it doesn’t fill tires nearly as fast as a floor pump.
Once you’ve filled the tires to the appropriate air pressure, you can remove the nozzle from the tire valve. Screw the valve and dust caps back on, and you’re ready to hit the road.
Check the air pressure
It’s difficult to know how to pump up bike tires if you don’t know what the air pressure needs to be. The best way to know your bike tire air pressure is to look at the tire itself. The side of the tire should give you a minimum and maximum pounds per square inch (PSI).
If your bike pump has an air pressure gauge attached to it, you can check the PSI as you pump. You can also purchase a separate tire pressure gauge that can check the pressure after you pump.
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If you don’t have an air pressure gauge, it’s possible to check the pressure with your hands. This is less accurate, but it can help you get back on your bike in the meantime.
Do this by pressing your thumbs against the tire’s side. On a road bike, you should barely be able to press into the tire. On a mountain bike, your thumbs should only move the tire by about a centimeter.
WHAT TO DO IF THE BIKE TIRE WON’T TAKE AIR
In some cases, you may find that your bike tire won’t take air as you pump. There are a few steps you can take to make sure everything is working correctly.
The first is to make sure the air pump’s nozzle is secure on the tire’s valve. It should go on straight, and there shouldn’t be any air seeping out. If the nozzle isn’t secure, you’ll likely pump some air before you realize the tire isn’t taking any of it in.
If the nozzle is secure, you may find that the pump won’t even go down to pump air. The best way to remedy this problem is to remove the nozzle from the valve. Then press down on the stem a couple of times. The valve stem may have gotten stuck, which would prevent air from going into the tire.
After this, you should be able to reattach the nozzle and fill the tire with air.
RIDE SAFELY BY KNOWING HOW TO USE A BIKE PUMP PROPERLY
If you know how to use a bike pump properly, you can get back on the road in no time. Be sure to check your bike’s tire pressure regularly so that you can keep them at the recommended PSI. Failure to do this can not only damage your bike, but it can also affect your riding experience.
The best bicycle pump for you will have a nozzle that matches the valves. Once you have the right pump, you’re ready to fill your tires and get back to riding.
Do you have additional tips and tricks on how to use a bike pump? Let us know in the comments section.
Featured image by: Freepik
Jonathan O’Ryan is what you might call a seasonal digital nomad. When he is not thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or finetuning his custom UL camping gear in the middle of nowhere, he comfortably sits at his home desk – yes, he still has a physical address, we don’t know for how long though – sharing his insights on all things outdoors with Wilderness Today’s audience. We know life is an adventure, Jon, but we’d still like to have that urgent work email answered by noon.