Every regular cyclist has to know how to put air in bicycle tires. The reasons are obvious; you could suffer an unexpected mid-trip flat tire, or you may need to inflate after a tire change. So, how do you do it?
You can put air in bicycle tires using a regular bicycle hand or floor pump. You can use carbon dioxide (CO2) cartridges or your breath in the absence of a bike pump. And if you can access a gas station, you can also inflate there.
I’ll explain each of these methods to help you understand them better. But before anything, it’s essential you know what kind of valve your bike tire has. That’ll help you pick the best tire inflation method.
It’s also important to know what tire pressure is best for your bike. That’ll help you understand when and how to inflate bike tires properly.
Presta Vs. Schrader: Which One Do I Have?
Presta valves (Also known as French valves) are found on mountain bikes and road bicycles. They tend to be narrower and feature stems of varying lengths.
Typically, a valve cap surrounds their stem and not a valve core (as’s the case with Schrader valves).
Generally, you need to unscrew the dust (plastic) cap and loosen the brass cap to open a Presta valve.
Schrader valves (also known as American valves) are mostly found in cars. On bikes, you’ll find them mainly on BMX. The valves are generally broader and shorter.
Usually, a threaded core surrounds the Presta valve stem. And because of their design, you’ll need an adapter (Schrader-to-Presta converter) to inflate a Schrader valve with a regular bike pump.
Generally, You have to unscrew the top rubber cap to open this valve.
What Is The Best Tire Pressure For My Bike?
The rule of thumb is that the bicycle tire should be firm instead of deflecting and should offer you enough suspension. That means you have to watch out for your bike tire pressure.
Overall, different bike types call for varying tire pressure. For example, given that road bikes have skinnier tires, they need more air pressure than mountain bike tires, which are broader.
Below is a guide table for inflating bike tire.
|Tire Pressure (in PSI)
How To Put Air In Bicycle Tires Using A Bike Pump
There is no more manageable and more comfortable way to inflate your bike tire than a bike pump. But before we can look at the process, let’s see the kind of bike pumps you can get.
Here they are:
- Floor Pump
Floor pumps are high-capacity pumps capable of inflating at a high pressure of up to 160 Psi. They are not just faster but also more accurate.
The only downside is that they are less portable, making them an option to leave behind in your garage.
My recommendation is the Pro Bike Foot Pump (View on Amazon). This floor pump pumps at a high pressure of 160 Psi and is compatible with both Schrader and Presta valves.
- Hand Pump
If you want a more portable bike pump, get a hand pump. You can take it with you on your road trips.
They are, however, not as fast or as high-capacity as floor pumps. But still, having a hand pump is better than not having any pump.
A top recommendation is the Pro Bike Tool Bike Pump that can pump at a high pressure of 100 Psi. This hand pump is compatible with both the Schrader and Presta valve and suit road bikes, BMX, and MTBs.
a) How To Pump A Presta Valve Tire Using A Bike Pump
Now that you know what a Presta valve looks like, here are the steps to follow to how to fill a bike tire with the valve:
- Remove the plastic cap on the Presta valve stem
- Twist the lock nut on the stem anticlockwise to loosen it and encourage airflow
- Take out your pump and flip the valve lever down to insert the Presta valve stem into the nozzle
- You can flip the pump’s lever up to firmly hold the Presta valve stem
- Now pump some air into the tire until you attain the right level
- Push the nozzle lever down and then pull up the pump to remove it from the Presta valve stem
- Twist the lock nut clockwise to seal it before replacing the cap
b) How To Put Air In Bike Tire With A Schrader Valve Using A Bike Pump
The process for pumping a Schrader valve tire is almost similar to that of a Presta valve tire but with just a few variations. Here’s how to go about it:
- Unscrew the dust cap (if present) anticlockwise to remove it
- Take your bike pump and fit its head on the Schrader valve
- Now pump up the tire and once you are done, detach the pump
How To Put Air In Bicycle Tires Without A Pump
Sometimes, you may be in a situation where you cannot access a bicycle pump. In such a case, consider either CO2 cartridges or your breath.
a) Using CO2 Cartridges
CO2 cartridges come gas-filled and are generally great for inflating tubeless tires at high pressure.
But before you can inject a CO2 cartridge, you’ll need a CO2 bike tire inflator that’s compatible with Schrader and Presta valves.
Back to the cartridges, they come as threaded or non-threaded. Threaded cartridges are screwed on the CO2 inflator head, while non-threaded options are pushed into the inflator head.
Generally, here are the steps for putting air in bicycle tires using CO2 cartridges:
- Attach the cartridge to the inflator’s nozzle
- Fit the nozzle onto the valve stem and then open up the nozzle to let air in
- Once the tire fills up, close the nozzle
- Now inspect the bike tire to see if it sits correctly
- If not, adjust it using your hand
If you are looking for CO2 cartridges to buy, get the CyclingDeal CO2 Cartridges. They are great for inflating MTB and road bike tires.
b) Manually With Your Breath (How To Put Air In Bicycle Tires)
This might be the slowest way to inflate bike tire but could be your only way if you cannot access a pump or CO2 inflator.
Besides, it only cost you your God-given breath.
But given that tire valves get dirt quickly, first wipe the dirt off with a towel, paper or your t-shirt.
Once it’s less dirty, proceed with these steps for putting air in bike tires:
- Start blowing air into the valve in small amounts
- Keep the valve open by putting some pressure on it using your tongue
- Continue blowing air in until the tire gets firm
- Now stop and check the tire to see if it sits nicely on the rim
- If not, adjust it using your hand
How To Put Air In Bicycle Tires At The Gas Station
If you don’t have your bike pump or CO2 cartridges with you or are not comfortable breathing into the valve, look for the nearest gas station.
The process is slightly different for the Presta Valve and Schrader valves, as I discuss below.
a) Pumping A Bicycle Tire With A Presta Valve At The Gas Station
Note that the air hose at the gas station only fits the Schrader valve. So, it might be challenging to inflate your bike tire if it has a Presta valve.
The solution is getting a Presta-to-Schrader converter (what we call an adapter) to create a tight seal for comfortable tire inflating.
You can ask the gas attendant for the adapter, but it might be a good idea to buy yours. A top recommendation, in this case, is the Bike Bits Brass Presta Valve Adapter.
Once you have the adapter, here are the steps to follow in filling bike tires:
- Unscrew the plastic dust cap on the Presta valve
- Loosen up the lock nut before attaching the adapter to the Presta valve top
- Fit the air nozzle on the adapter’s other end
- Now inflate your bicycle tire and continue pumping until the tire becomes firm
- Remove the valve adapter before tightening the lock nut
- Return the dust cap
b) Pumping A Bicycle Tire With A Schrader Valve At The Gas Station
Since the gas station’s air hose is compatible with the Schrader valve, it should be easy if your bike has a Schrader valve.
Here are the steps to follow to put air in bike tires:
- Remove the plastic cap from the valve
- Fit the air nozzle onto the tire’s nozzle
- Now slowly inflate the tire using the gas pair pump
- Once the tire pressure is okay, remove the pump and cover the valve using the dust cap
Remember to exercise caution when inflating at the gas point, not to overinflate and burst up your tire. Since there’s no way to regulate the pressure, you have to keep checking the tire by feeling it as you pump.
Concluding Thoughts On How To Put Air In Bicycle Tires
There are many ways on how to put air in bicycle tires. While using a bike pump is the most advisable approach, it doesn’t mean that you cannot inflate your bike tires without it.
So, consider exploring the other options when you don’t have your bike pump nearby.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I put air in my bike tires?
First, you’ll need to make sure you have the right tools for the job. This includes a bike pump that matches your bike’s tire valves, which can be either a Schrader or a Presta valve.
Once you have the right pump, you'll remove any dirt or debris from the tire valve. You'll then need to remove the valve cap and connect the pump. Once the pump is connected securely to the valve, you can start pumping air into the tire.
As you're adding air to your tire, it's crucial to ensure you don't overinflate. Each type of bike tire will have a recommended PSI (pounds per square inch) range that indicates the appropriate amount of air pressure. You can usually find this number on the side of the tire.
Once you've inflated your tire to the desired PSI, you'll disconnect the pump and replace the valve cap. Remember, it's always a good idea to check the tire pressure before each ride. This way, you'll ensure optimal performance and safety.
How do you put air in a bike tire Presta valve?
A Presta valve type is thinner than a Schrader valve type and it also has a locking nut at its top. If your bike uses Presta valve tires, the process to inflate them is slightly different.
First, take off the locking nut on the Presta valve. Some Presta valves have a small brass cap on the end, which needs to be loosened before you can inflate the tire. Second, attach the pump head fully onto the open valve.
Then, inflate the tire with your pump slowly, checking the pressure frequently if your pump gauge allows that. The recommended PSI should be marked on the side of your tire.
When the appropriate pressure is reached, unlock the pump head and remove the pump from the valve. Do not forget to tighten the small brass cap as well as the locking nut at the top of the valve to prevent the air leaking out. Always ensure that the valve is sealed correctly when you complete the inflation process.