When things don’t go as planned, you’ll be happy to know there’s a solid bike pump on hand. Here’s how to use a bike pump:
- Remove the dust cap from your valve
- Open the valve (if you have a Presta valve)
- Fit the nozzle tightly into the valve opening
- Pull on the pump lever
- Pump until final pressure has reached
- Push down the pump lever
- Take the nozzle out
- Close the screw valve (If you have a Presta valve)
A bike pump provides the easiest way to inflate your tires to their optimal level.
You most certainly can’t bike with flat tires, and it’s not common for repair shops to be nearby either. When it comes to this, it’s best to know how to fix a tire or, in many cases, simply pump air into it.
If the case is severe, you may have to replace the tire, but if it’s something that can be easily solved by pumping air, then you shouldn’t waste much time. The best way to pump air is by using a bike pump.
These can be both manual and electric ones, but in this article, I’ll mostly be talking about manual ones. A manual pump is a lifesaver, it is fairly easy to pump air into a tire.
Even if you think it’s a bit tricky, by the end of this article, you’ll also think otherwise. So, here’s a guide on how to use a bike pump.
The Two Types of Bike Valves
Before I get into the technical aspects, let’s get familiar with the terms first. There are a few complications to consider before sticking the pump in your valve.
Not every tire is the same. This is something I need to establish, but I don’t mean tube and tubeless tires. Bicycle tires have two different sorts of valves on the inner tubes.
One of these is a Presta valve, and the other is a Schrader valve.
Now you’re probably confused because your valve is plastic. Well, that’s just a protective casing. Once you remove it, you’ll be able to determine whether you have a Presta or Schrader valve.
But why are these valves even necessary in the first place? That’s because every valve has a different nozzle that fits. Most new pumps will have nozzle options, but it’s still better to know which ones fit your valve.
» Read my blog post: Coil Fork vs. Air Fork
Getting into a deeper description of what a Presta valve is, it is usually found on higher-end bikes. Meaning that it’s least likely to be a feature of your everyday road bike.
Aside from this, this structural appearance is a bit skinnier compared to the Schrader valve. In addition to this, it is also fairly long, which is a major difference.
You’ll have to unplug the valve and connect the nozzle to the opening to pump air into it. This is another region where there’s a difference with the Schrader valve.
In a Presta valve, the lock mechanism is a nut on the left that you screw open.
The more common of the two, a Schrader valve, is something you might have encountered before in your life. This is because it’s a part of both bike and car tires. Anything inflatable has a Schrader valve.
This serves as the main advantage it has over a Presta valve. Since it’s so commonly found, there are more chances of finding a pump with its nozzle.
Unlike the Presta valve, you do not need to open the nozzle on a Schrader valve.
Yes, there’s a plastic covering, but that’s about it. It has an internal spring which helps it keep close.
Determining the Appropriate Pressure for Your Tire
Another important thing you’ll want to do before getting the pump out is to know how much air pressure your tires need. The reason this is so crucial is, so you don’t exceed or stay beyond the limit on your tire pressure.
Bike tires usually have a scale used to measure the air pressure in them. This is referred to as the pounds per square inch or PSI for short.
The idea is to have enough pressure to ride fast but not too much that you have a hard time instead.
» Read my blog post: How-To: (Change a Bike Inner Tube) — Easy Guide
If this isn’t enough of a warning, then know this: over-filling your tire’s air can also cause it to blow off the rim. Now granted, this is not as common, but it’s still a possibility.
Therefore, the best estimate of your tires PSI is also given on the side rim of your tire. To find out, just check there, and you’ll have a reliable figure.
How to Use a Bike Pump: A Step By Step Guide
Without further adieu, here’s the final step-by-step guide on making sure your bike tires are fit for the ride and ready to roll!
#1 Remove the Dust Cap from Your Valve
As I mentioned before, there’s always a protective cap on top of your valve (Presta or Schrader). This mainly protects your valve from corroding and collecting dust.
The first and foremost step is to remove the cap. Go ahead and unscrew the cap and remove it entirely. Don’t be scared to put a bit of effort into it; after all, it’ll be hard to remove if it’s your first time doing so.
Once you’ve officially removed the protective covering from your valve, make sure you keep it in a safe place. You do not want it to go missing after you’ve done filling the air in.
#2 Open the Valve
Now, this step only applies only if you have a Presta valve. As I have talked about this before, Schrader valves don’t have a lock mechanism, and therefore, there is no need to open or close them. They just come right off.
To pump air in, you’ll need to unscrew your Presta valve, do this by taking several turns to unscrew it.
Again, it might be difficult if your bike has been sitting for a while and even more so if it doesn’t have a cap. In this case, grab a pair of pliers and get to it.
Once you’re certain the valve is loose, go ahead and press it hard to release it.
» Maybe this also could be of interest to you: (Average Cost): How Much Is a Bike Tune-Up? – Bicycle
#3 Line Pump Nozzle on Valve
Most modern air pumps will always have two nozzles: one for the Schrader valve and one for Presta. The easiest way to figure out the difference between the two: the big nozzle is for the Schrader valve, and the small one is for the Presta valve.
With your valve now open, grab the right nozzle for your bike and try to fit it tightly into the valve opening. It may be a bit difficult since it’s supposed to be completely airtight, but you’ll get the hang of it.
Some air may get out while you fit it in, but that’s alright; you can make up for it later.
#4 Pull on the Pump Lever
Many floor air pumps will have a lever that you must rotate. This one should specifically be at a 90-degree angle. Making the perfect angle is an important task.
Of course, not every pump has a pump lever. Most of them contain it, but if yours doesn’t, don’t be afraid. Some pumps may even have levers that need to be pushed in. But, you will mostly face levers that need to be pulled out.
#5 Pump Until Final Pressure Has Reached
Keeping your tires’ PSI in mind, put both feet on the base of your floor pump and using both arms pull up and then down on the pump. This releases the air that will then fill up your tires.
You can continue to do this until the pressure gauge indicates you have reached the limit. This is your PSI which, as I have established earlier, varies from tire to tire.
#6 Push Down the Pump Lever
Once you’ve reached your desired PSI, you need to now pull the lever back down or up, depending on the type of your lever. Turn the lever back from its 90-degree angle and then take it out of the nozzle.
Again, don’t get frantic if some air escapes the opening — that’s normal and inevitable. With the pressure you’ve achieved, losing some air won’t hurt you much.
#7 Close the Screw Valve
You’re almost done! Now all that there is to do is screw back your valve top (if it’s a Presta). Tightly secure it in place, and don’t forget the dust cap, too. Screw that on as well, and viola!
You’ve successfully used an air pump to inflate your bike’s tire. Wasn’t so hard, now was it?
» I have also written this post about: How to Easily Change a Road Bike Tire!
Why Does My Bike Pump Not Work?
Most pumps stop working due to air leakages. When this happens, the pump will fail to pump air into the tire. How this happens is when the pump head gets improperly placed; the seal breaks, or the hose gets a crack. If either of these situations happens to your pump, chances are it won’t work at all. Some other causes can also be a dry gasket, a wrongly placed nozzle, or just a worn-out pump.
How Do You Use a Small Bike Pump?
Just screw open the Presta valve or Schrader valve and adjust the nozzle with the valve opening. Once that’s done make sure your pump is open and check the lever to make sure it’s unlocked and positioned to a 90-degree angle. Slide the pump inside with a little push. To apply even more pressure, you can also push it a bit harder. If your air is escaping, lock the pump and then continue until you reach the desired pressure for your tires. Once that’s done, just remove the pump from the opening and remove the nozzle. Close the opening to the valve and make sure it is secure.
» Read my blog post about: Chain vs Belt Drive Bicycles
So we’ve come to an end. Using a bike pump isn’t all that complicated. It might just be one of the few easy things about bike care. Everything else requires a lot of precision, here you just have to make sure there’s no leakage, and you’re good to go.
I hope this article helped erase your confusion.