Just imagine, the weather is perfect outside, it’s close to sunset, and you’re ready to grab your mountain bike and go for a ride. However, you look a little closer and notice that one of your tires is almost entirely out of air. You’re instantly filled with regret because you never learned how to use a bike pump properly even though you had one lying around!
To avoid going through the scenario mentioned above, or anything similar, it’s essential to learn how to use a bike pump. They’re an essential piece of biking gear that’ll work for both casual and serious cyclists.
Why is Getting a Bike Pump Important?
The most obvious reason to get a bike pump is if you suffer from a flat tire. However, even if you don’t encounter a flat tire, your bike tires can slowly lose air pressure over time.
If the air pressure goes too low, then you’re going to need to get your hands on a bike pump. On top of that, it doesn’t just have to be when your tires don’t have enough air in them. Certain riding situations may require you to lower or increase the air pressure in your tires.
By keeping your bike’s tires at the recommended pressure level, you’ll experience a boost in your performance. Not only does it reduce the rolling resistance you encounter, but it also significantly reduces the risk of you suffering a puncture.
Now that you understand the importance of getting a bike pump, let’s look at some of the different types available.
Type of Bike Pump
Floor pumps are also known as track pumps. These are the fastest and most efficient ways of pumping up a bike’s tires. The pumps traditionally feature a long flexible hose, pressure gauge, and a large chamber for healthy air transfer.
As a result, you’ll get more air in your tire for fewer pumps. These floor pumps are an essential tool that every cyclist should fit in their garage.
Sometimes, you’re on the road, and unfortunately, you run into a flat tire. That’s where hand pumps come in and make things much more manageable. These are bike pumps designed for emergency use.
A typical hand pump is tiny in size, and it can take a significant amount of time to pump up the tire. It’s why so many people keep a floor pump at home and use a hand pump while they’re on the road.
While buying a road bike, you also need to consider the optimal amount of air pressure for your tire. If you’re a road bike rider, then a high-pressure inflation hand pump will suit your needs better. Alternatively, if you’re using a mountain bike, a pump with high volume inflation is the way to go!
An alternative to the portable hand pump is the CO2 inflator. As the name suggests, these pumps can inflate a tire within a few seconds using compressed carbon dioxide. A single basic canister can inflate a standard 700 x 23c road tire to around 100psi.
However, every canister is meant for single-use, so it can end up being a pretty costly fix. It’s also essential to wear gloves while using the CO2 inflator, as they can end up getting really cold.
Type of Valve
One of the most important things to consider before buying and learning how to use a bike pump is what kind of valves your tires’ inner tubes use. There are two standard valve types; Schrader and Presta.
Schrader valves are almost identical to the valves you find on car tires. They’re used on hybrid and kids’ bikes. Presta valves are much longer and thinner in comparison to Schrader valves. To access a Presta valve, you will need to open the threaded tip by turning counterclockwise.
Presta valves are commonly found on road and cyclocross bikes. Naturally, it would be best if you got a bike pump that matches with the valve on your tires. However, some bike pumps offer adapters or a double head.
Be sure to check your tires before making the final decision on a bike pump. If you’re going to encounter both valves regularly, it’s a good idea to get a bike pump that features a double or interchangeable head.
You can use this information to get your hands on a bike pump that most suits your needs. However, even if you get the best product on the market, if you don’t know how to use the bike pump, it will never do you any good.
Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to use the different types of bike pumps on the market.
How to use a Bike Pump – Floor Pump
Step 1: Remove the Dust Cap
Most bike tires have a dust cap that covers the top of the valve. Before you can start inflating, you need to unscrew the cap. Remember always to turn the cap counterclockwise if you want to take it off.
Make sure that you keep the cap in a safe place, so you can put it back on once you’re done inflating the tires.
Step 2: Open up the Valve (Skip for Schraeder Valve)
If your bike has a Schraeder valve, then you can skip this step entirely. However, if you have a Presta valve, you’re going to need to open the valve before you can start putting it in the air.
To open a Presta valve, you need to unscrew the threaded tip. Once again, you’ll need to turn the screw counterclockwise to open the valve. Once it’s open, you can move on to the next step in the process.
If you haven’t unscrewed the valve in a long time or if the dust cap is missing, then you’re going to have a challenging time unscrewing the valve. In these cases, your best bet is to go with a set of pliers to make it easier to open.
Once the valve is loose enough, you should press down on the top for a second to release it and get everything completely open.
Step 3: Attach the Pump Nozzle to the Valve
Most modern bike pumps feature two nozzle holes. One of the holes is for the Schraeder valve, while the other is for Presta valves. You can identify which nozzle fits were depending on the size. The larger nozzle is for Schraeder valves, and the smaller nozzle is for Presta valves.
After determining which nozzle is the one, you should use, press it down on the valve until it’s firmly in place. A little air can escape from the tire while you’re trying to fix the valve on top.
Step 4: Pull Up the Pump Level and Adjust it to a 90-Degree Angle
Generally, an air pump will have a lever that you need to adjust. You need to pull up the lever until you manage to rotate it to a full 90 degrees.
It’s essential to remember that not every bike pump requires a 90-degree adjustment. There are a few professional pumps that require you to push the lever in to activate the pump. However, a majority of commercial pumps need you to pull up the lever and then rotate 90-degrees.
Step 5: Reach the Appropriate Air Pressure
You need to keep pumping air into the tires until you reach the recommended air pressure for your tire size and bike type. To blow air into the bike, put both feet on the pump’s base and use both arms to pull up the level and then push down.
The air pressure gauge on the pump will indicate when you’re close to reaching the appropriate tire pressure.
Step 6: Push Down Lever and Remove Nozzle
After you reach the recommended tire pressure, push down on the nozzle and adjust it by 90-degrees. Then pull the nozzle off the valve. You might let a little bit of air escape again between this step and the next one.
Step 7: Screw Valve Shut and Replace the Dust Cap
If your bike has a Presta valve, screw it close and put the dust cap back on again. Now you’re ready to go with freshly inflated tires!
How to use a Bike Pump – Hand pump
A hand pump is slightly more challenging to use than a floor pump. It’s more complex because there are so many different kinds of hand pumps in the market, and they aren’t as powerful as floor pumps. It’ll take quite a lot of pumping to reach your desired tire pressure.
Step 1: Remove Dust Cap
To get access to the valve, you’ll need to remove the dust cap. Screw counterclockwise to loosen the dust cap and take it off. Make sure you keep it somewhere safe because you’ll need to screw it on again later.
Step 2: Open Valve (Presta)
If you have Schraeder valves on your tires, then you can skip the step. However, those with Presta valves need to unscrew the valve before they can start pumping air. Turn it counterclockwise a few times and then press down on the valve with your finger.
If there’s a short burst of air, then you’ve managed to open the valve successfully, and you can move on to the next step.
Step 3: Get the Nozzle in Position
As is the case with floor pumps, modern hand pumps also feature two nozzles. One will cater to Schraeder valves, while the other will work for Presta valves.
After selecting the appropriate nozzle, get it in position over the valve. Depending on the type of hand pump you buy, you’ll either have to press the nozzle to fix it in place, or you’ll have to screw it on the valve.
Either way, you might end up losing a bit of air when trying to get the nozzle in place.
Step 4: Get Pumping
Once you’re sure the nozzle is in place, use one hand to ensure it stays in position on the valve. Use your other hand to pump up the tire. Due to the fact that hand pumps don’t have a lot of volume, it’ll take a lot of pumps to inflate the tire fully.
It’s a good idea to rest when you feel like your arms are starting to tire. A few hand pumps feature some bells and whistles like different settings. The most common settings that come with a bike pump are “high volume” and “high pressure.”
If you start to feel too tired, you can switch to high pressure mode to make it slightly easier to pump. Most hand pumps also come with an air pressure gauge. Use the gauge to see when you’re close to reaching the recommended pressure level.
In the case that your hand pump doesn’t have a pressure gauge, you can check to see if there’s enough pressure by gripping the tire. If it doesn’t feel too firm or squishy, then the pressure is appropriate.
Step 5: Disconnect Pump Nozzle from Valve
Depending on your hand pump, you’ll have to pull the nozzle off or unscrew it first and then take it off. There’s no need to panic if there’s a little air release during this process.
Step 6: Screw the Valve Closed and Replace the Dust Cap
For those with Presta valves on their tires, they’ll need to screw the valve shut. To shut it down, they’ll need to screw clockwise until it’s firmly closed.
Once the valve is closed, you can put on the dust cap, and you’re done. If you follow all these steps, then you’ll successfully learn how to use a bike pump!
If there’s one piece of cycling kit you should invest in, it’s a decent pump. Start by getting a decent floor pump, and then eventually buy a hand pump that you can use in an emergency.
Learning how to use a bike pump is a valuable skill and can save you a lot of potential trouble. You never know when you might need to adjust the air pressure in the tires, so it’s always a good idea to be ready beforehand. The next step in the process is learning how to fix a flat bike tire!
How to use a Bike Pump – FAQs
Q1. Can I use the same nozzle for both Schraeder and Presta valves?
No, most modern bike pumps will feature separate nozzles for each respective valves. The size difference between the two means that it’s not possible to use the same nozzle for both
Q2. How will I know the tire has enough air pressure without an air pressure gauge?
While using an air pressure gauge is the most accurate way of telling if you’ve managed to reach the optimal pressure level, you can check without one as well. Use both your hands to grip the tire, it shouldn’t feel too soft or too firm.
Q3. Do I really need to get a floor pump, isn’t a hand pump enough?
You can get the job done with a hand pump but, it’s going to be a lot more hard work. A floor pump is much more capable at transferring air, and can help fill at a higher pressure as well.
Q4. Why should I wear gloves while using a CO2 inflator
Gloves are very important while using a CO2 inflator because the tank can get very cold. You can save yourself a lot of trouble by wearing protective gloves!