When it comes to owning a bike, it includes both riding and maintaining it. When you ride a bike, be ready to have it’s tires lose air and end up flat. My friendly advice to you is to learn how to inflate a bike tire — it will come in handy!
To inflate a bike tire, unscrew the Presta valve cap and the valve stem. Attach the pump head and inflate your tire with short bursts. When your tire is good to go, remove the pump head, unscrew the cap, and you’re done.
However, there are many more details that undergo how to inflate a bike tire.
To inflate your bike tire, there’s a bit of background information that you need to know beforehand. This will help you when you sit down to inflate the tire and get the job right.
If you haven’t guessed already, this article has a step-by-step guide for how to fill a bike tire, so buckle up and read everything you need to know about pumping air into your tires.
What Should Be the PSI of Your Bicycle Tires?
Here are a few estimated PSI for different types of bicycle tires:
- Road bike tire: 80-130 PSI
- Mountain bike tire: 25-35 PSI
- Hybrid bike tires: 40-70 PSI
Pound per square inch or better known as the PSI is the unit of measuring air pressure in your bicycle tires. This estimate is more commonly found on the sidewalls of your tires.
You’ll find the manufacturer’s recommendation which will ensure how much you need to pump in the air. Different bike tires have different ranges, so you must check your tires requirement accordingly.
Inflating too much or too less air can burst your tires, or they may not work properly.
Narrow bicycle tires need more air, and wider ones need less air.
Oftentimes, an experienced cyclist can determine when their tires need to be inflated simply by pressing the tire between their thumb and forefinger.
Note: I do not recommend this unless you’re a pro. The best method would be to use a pressure gauge and see if your tire needs some air.
Here are the steps you need to follow to inflate your bike tires.
Method # 01: Pumping a Tire With a Schrader Valve
I will start the guide of inflating tires with the easiest of valves first — a Schrader valve. It is commonly found in all vehicles with tires: cars, motorbikes, and bicycles.
The basic composition of a Schrader valve consists of a metal pin in the center of a threaded valve. To finish it off, it has a rubber cap screwed onto the valve.
You’re in luck when it comes to finding the right nozzle to fit the valve because modern bike pumps all contain both sorts of nozzles. All you have to do is find your pick and attach it!
Inflate your tire with a Schrader valve by following the steps below:
- Firstly, unscrew the rubber cap and place it in a safe place so you can attach it back later.
- Check your tire’s PSI by using a pressure gauge or any built-in pressure pump as well.
- When attaching the nozzle, the one for your Schrader valve will be the bigger of the two. For extra clarity, it’s also marked with an ‘S.’ Attach the nozzle to the valve opening, making sure there’s no gap left behind.
- Pumps have levers that you need to push up, left, or right. This closes off the Presta nozzle and opens only the Schrader opening.
- Pump your desired pressure by keeping an eye on the pressure gauge and stop whenever there’s sufficient air. As pressure increases, it’ll be harder to pump.
- Finally, remove the nozzle, remove the lever and screw the cap back on.
Method # 02: Pumping a Tire With a Presta Valve
Moving onto the Presta valve, the idea of inflating air is similar to the Schrader valve, but there are a few extra steps. Presta valves are mainly found in road bikes, mountain bikes, and generally a selected population of bikes.
A Presta valve is a slender valve with a nut on top, which is loosened and then tightened back again after inflation. Since both nozzles are available, just pick the smaller of the two to fit your valve opening.
To inflate your tire with a Presta valve, here are the steps you need to follow:
- First off, remove the dust cap and remove the valve cap, keeping the dust cap in a safe place.
- Next, loosen the brass nut at the top stem. Press down on the stem, and once you hear a short release of the air, know that it’s loose enough.
- Now, put the smaller of the two openings in the valve. Make sure it’s tight in its place.
- Like in the Schrader valve, flip the pump lever to close off the Schrader opening and only open the Presta valve.
- Pump while checking the pressure gauge to see that you have reached sufficient pressure.
- Flip the pump lever once more to detach it and remove the head from the valve.
- Screw the brass nut back on and make sure it’s sealed shut. Then place the dust cap back on.
Method # 03: Pumping Tires At the Petrol Station
The above steps are only possible if you’re at home. That’s where you’ll have your pump and a flat surface to work on. In case you’re on the road, you won’t carry a pump with you and therefore need to go to the nearest gas station.
If you do not own a pressure gauge, then you could ask your nearest gas station to lend you one. Check the PSI range of your tires and determine whether or not they need to be pumped up.
If they do require to be inflated, then put optimal pressure on your tires since gas station pumps carry high pressure.
Fill the air in a short burst, so you don’t risk bursting the tire.
However, petrol station pumps will only fit Schrader valves. If your bike has a Presta valve, then there still is a way to use it.
The way is as follows:
- Unscrew your Presta valve cap.
- Use scissors or any blade you have to cut off the pointed rim.
- Unscrew the valve stem.
- Now turn the cut valve cap upside down and put it on top of the valve stem.
- Screw this cap onto the stem.
- Put the pump head over the newly made valve and inflate your tire with short bursts.
- When your tire is good to go, remove the pump head, unscrew the cap, and you’re done.
Now that you know how to inflate a bike tire let’s discuss what things cause your tire to lose air.
What Causes Your Bike Tire to Lose Air?
Many times there’s a defect in the tires which can cause an array of complications to come forth. There are plenty of reasons why your tire might lose air.
From something as simple as a defect to as complicated as rim damage, here are a few reasons why your tires may be giving you a hard time.
First off, the most basic reason is a puncture. An old-fashioned puncture can happen to the best of us and it doesn’t tell us it’s coming.
The most likely cause of your tire having a puncture is because it might’ve hit something or come under glass.
Aside from that, your tire can also get punctured due to the carbon rubber cycling track, such as the MTB and XC trail.
» You can also read my post: Tube Vs Tubeless Bicycle Tires
#2 Improper Installation
Another factor is improper installation. This can be while installing a new tire where there may be some air gaps left in between. These can then cause constant air to leak through and can be harmful to both the rider and the bike.
You can determine whether or not your bike is improperly installed by seeing the frequency of flats. If your tire constantly loses air, even if it’s stationary, then chances are it’s not properly installed.
Then the only solution is to remove the tire and reinstall it. If you did it the first time, then you can go to a professional and have them adjust it the next time. Remember, prevention is always better than cure.
Oftentimes, tires are made with defects or little air holes, which we don’t realize until we attach them to the bike. A defect can be anything as minor as a tear or as major as tube damage or faulty valves.
Regardless, these can be quite troubling to deal with and will eventually make you replace your tire. The best way would be to ensure your tires’ condition before purchasing them, but it’s not always the case.
#4 Rim Damage
Lastly, there’s the possibility of rim damage. If there’s damage to one part of the tire, then it can eventually lead to bad rim damage.
Since this is the closest part to the wheel, it’s also most likely to cause further damage and bend out of shape.
Plus, the wheel pokes could also come loose and thus poke holes in the inner tube.
So, as you can see, slight rim damage can lead up to a massive issue which then can only be solved by completely changing the entire tire.
» Read my blog post about 700c Vs. 26 Inch Bicycle Wheels
Why Is Inflating Your Bike Tire Necessary?
A common practice amongst cyclists is to make sure their tires have the right pressure. This saves them from unnecessary trouble and prevents their bikes from bigger harm.
So why is regularly filling a bike tire necessary, you ask? Well, here are a few reasons.
#1 Better Traction
First off, inflating your tires regularly is great for increased traction. Traction, in turn, makes sure you have a smooth ride with little bumps. This increases your tires’ range and can be used on various terrains.
Aside from this, you should also check the tread patterns for traction. If it’s worn out, then traction will also be compromised.
#2 Provides Comfort
Secondly, if you want to be comfortable during the ride (avoiding bumps), you should keep your tires full. If your bike tires are perfectly inflated, this can ensure a smooth riding process.
This is because the right pressure in your tires provides you with a comfortable ride. If you put way more than what your tires need, then it’ll result in a wobbly ride.
Therefore, just the perfect amount can be the best way for you to have maximum comfort. That way, you can ride your bike smoothly with zero complications.
#3 Ensures Safety
Lastly (and the most important bit), it ensures safety. A flat tire can cause serious accidents. If there’s not enough pressure in your tires, your performance and comfort will be majorly compromised.
On top of all of that, it can also cause road accidents. So the best option? Keep your tires inflated enough to avoid such mishaps. Another issue with flat tires is that they don’t work well on certain terrains.
Aside from this, it can harm your bike’s balance and not provide a stable ride.
You’ll also have difficulty steering the bike with a poorly inflated tire.
How to Prevent Your Bike Tire From Deflating?
After going through all the ‘hows and whys’ of flat tires, we finally come to the step of fixing them. Flat tires are something bike riders have to face one way or another. It’s the precautions you take that matter.
Therefore, here’s a tiny list of how to prevent your tires from frequently deflating.
#1 Fill the Tire With Nitrogen Instead of carbon dioxide
It’s common knowledge that tires are pumped with carbon dioxide. About 80% of tires are filled with only carbon dioxide. Only a few riders fill their tires with nitrogen and know the benefit that entails.
One of the main benefits is reduced pressure loss. This is due to the ability of nitrogen to stay in its place for longer durations of time while CO2 tends to spread throughout.
Plus, it also has better tire life making sure it’s visibly inflated as compared to others. Since nitrogen has the edge over normal air tires, it maintains pressures for longer times.
#2 Ensure the Valve Is Correctly Closed
Finally, ensuring the valve is properly closed can also be a good measure to prevent leaks as much as possible.
As you already know, Presta and Schrader valves both open and close after pumping in the air and therefore can sometimes have air leak out through them.
This usually happens when you’re closing the valve and screwing the nut back on.
Oftentimes the screw can become loose or simply not go back on as it should. When this happens, small leaks can be made through the valve, which will slowly have the air pouring out.
This is why you should make sure that the tire valves are securely shut with no leaks peeking through.
» Read my blog post: Chain vs Belt Drive Bicycles
And so we finally reach an end. I think it’s safe to say that by now, inflating a bike tire should be as easy as pie. But as you saw, that isn’t really how it is.
When it comes to bike care, tires are the most crucial bit, and specifically inflating them is what you’ll find yourself doing the most. Therefore, you must understand the mechanisms of inflating tires.
Since there’s so much account for detail, any wrong move can leave you with a faulty tire. Hence, next time you find yourself in a predicament, open up this article and solve your way through.