How to Use a Bike Pump

A bicycle pump or a bike pump is a type of positive-displacement air pump that is specifically designed for inflating bicycle tires. They seem easy to operate, however, not knowing how to use a bike pump properly is something that can cause confusion and frustration.

Thus, we have come up with this guide to teach you how to use a bike pump correctly and to tackle other relevant information regarding bicycle pumps.

Types of Bike Pump

Floor Pump

Floor pumps offer higher pressure air which is more portable and smaller pumps can’t.

It is known as a floor bike pump, track pump, or foot pump because, during its operation, the pump base is settled on the floor. It is a manually operated pump. Floor pumps have a small size, and you can easily shift them from one place to another. 

During operation, the pump base settles on the floor, the operator pulls and pushes the handle to move the piston up and down so that the pump can transfer air into the bicycle tire. They are well suited to provide high-quality, high-pressure air and can inflate tires according to requirements.

Hand Pump

A hand pump is also known as a mini bike pump. It has a small size and can easily shift from one location to another.

These pumps are used for occasional or emergency situations and because of their small size, they are preferable for traveling.

This pump puts a lot of pressure on the bike tire valve. Therefore, you should use a hand pump with a hose that reduces pressure on the valve to reduce the chances of air leaks.

Mini Pump

A mini pump or compact pump is usually a type of hand pump that is designed to be very small and light so that it can readily be carried on a bicycle for emergency use; they can fit in pockets, saddlebags, or even include a water bottle bracket. 

Due to its small size, the volume of air that this pump can provide is somewhat limited when compared to a floor pump, so quite a lot of pumping may be needed.

Stand Pump

A stand pump has multiple functions and is most widely used in cars.  These are best suitable for wide Schrader valves. And if you need to use it with the Presta valves, you will need to purchase a brass reducer.

This type of pump can’t deliver as high pressure as floor pumps. Therefore, they are best suited for pumping tires that require low air pressure. Additionally, they are not suitable for tires that require high air pressure.

Frame Pump

This is a slender portable pump that’s designed to fit within a frame and become a part of the bike’s front triangle, fits beside the top tube of your bike, so you can easily inflate your bike’s flat tire or when you have pinch flats while you’re on the road.

​The frame pump‘s advantage over the other types of bike pumps is that it only requires lesser strokes for tire inflation and are usually fitted along the bike’s top tube to pump up tires.

Co2 inflator

These types of pumps use liquefied gas that could not be replaced at home. A co2 inflator, also called a co2 cartridge, contains carbon dioxide and offers a sufficient amount of airflow in just a short period.

Modern gas pumps are often used by racers with road bikes and mountain bikes who need to save weight and save time if they puncture during a race.

Electric Pump

These are twelve-volt air compressors made for automobile tires or motorcycle tires but are also compatible with bicycle tires.

Even non-standard DIY 12-volt electric systems that are primarily for bicycle lighting are sometimes used to power these pumps when cigar lighter receptacles are installed.

The main advantage to electric pumps is that recent ones take up less space than hand or foot pumps, which makes them suitable for car tires or well-equipped bicycles with DIY 12-volt electric systems to use when basket space is of the essence.

Types of Bike Pump Valve

Schrader Valve

Schrader valves can be found on almost all automobiles and bicycles with wide tire rims. It has a valve stem that features a threaded valve core that is removable and attached via a spring.

The major advantages of this type of valve are, they are user-friendly and easy to use. When you eliminate the pump’s head, the center rod automatically springs back and the valve closes.

The major drawback of Schrader valves is that they require larger diameter holes inside the rim than Presta valves. This valve is used for almost all vehicles’ tires, bike tires, and bicycle tires with a wider rim.

Presta Valve

This type of valve is commonly found in high-pressure inner tubes of a road bike tire and mountain bike tires. It features an outer valve stem and an inner valve body, a lock nut to secure the stem at the wheel rim and it can also have a valve cap.

They can be easily operated and only require a fewer diameter holes inside the rim.

How to Use a Bike Pump

Step 1: Determine the type of pump you need

To be able to determine the type of pump you need you to have to check your bike tires’ valve.

​As mentioned above, there are two types of tire valves, the Presta which is a skinny and tall valve that has a small nut on top, and Schrader a black valve that looks like a car tire valve.

Step 2: Choose the right type of pump

Using the wrong bike pump is one of the most common mistakes made by most bike owners.

To avoid the same mistake, you need to choose the right pump head that is compatible with the type of valve your bike has.

Some bike pumps feature a modifiable or dual pump head for both types of valve, whereas other models are valve explicit.

​However, if you are not sure, attach the pump to your valve and inflate the tire. If it does not work and you have done everything else right, it means that you have selected the wrong bike pump.

Step 3: Remove the Tire Valve’s Cap

Removing the tire valve’s cap or dust cap is very easy. But before doing so, you have to make sure that your bike frame is supported or stable.

For Presta valves, you can just rotate the nut counterclockwise.

​When you have successfully removed the cap, you have to make sure to put it in a safe place so that it will not roll anywhere and get lost.

Step 4: Attach the Tire Pump

Once you have taken off the valve cap and loosened the core, you have to ensure that the nozzle is firmly pressed down on the valve.

If you notice that your tire is not expanding when you pump or the air is dodging from the interior tube, it means the pump head is not attached properly.

For this situation, you simply have to remove and reattach to fix the seal.

Step 5: Pump

​Once you’ve attached the head properly, you have to pull and push the handle of the bike pump to be able to inflate the tires.

For floor pumps, place your feet on either side of the pump base and move the handle up and down with both hands to pump air into the tire.

For a hand pump, use one hand to pump and the other hand to attach the nozzle with the valve. All types of hand pumps don’t have a pressure gauge. So, it’s best to buy a hand pump with a pressure gauge.

Read the pump manual for more guidance about this step and start the pumping process.

Step 6: Bike Tire Pressure

An optimal PSI can ensure your bike’s tires have just the right amount of air to roll fast and smoothly. Leverage the pressure gauge on your pump to find out how much air is remaining in the tire and how much more is needed for full inflation.

​However, if your pump doesn’t have a gauge, you can touch and feel the tire to determine if it’s properly inflated. 

Alternately, you can grip both sides of the tire and squeeze to check whether the tire feels firm enough. The level of stiffness will indicate whether the tire has been properly inflated or not.

Step 7: Detach

Pull the bicycle pump handle upward for the last time then push it down and detach the nozzle from the tire valve.

As you disconnect the pump nozzle, you may hear a small air leak. This leakage of air is completely normal and will not result in any significant change in tire pressure.

Step 8: Close

For a Schrader valve, just put the plastic protective cap again onto the valve. 

For a Presta valve, ensure that the lock nut has been screwed tightly and put the protective plastic cap back onto the valve.

Bike Pump Frequently Asked Questions

How often do you need to pump bike tires?

How often you need to pump your tires will depend on the size of the tire and how much pressure is required.

For road bikes or high-pressure road tires, they should be pumped up at least once a week, while hybrid tires should be pumped every two weeks, and mountain bike tires at least every two to three weeks.

Do you need a special pump for tubeless tires?

Tubeless tires need an instant high-volume shot of air, something regular floor pumps can’t deliver.

An air compressor is best used for tubeless tires, however, that’s not something you always have available, especially when away from home. 

Luckily, there are now options for standalone floor pumps that are designed to deliver that needed air shot for seating tubeless tires.

Do bike tires naturally lose air?

A normal, brand-new tire and tube can naturally lose air over time.

Air can migrate through the rubber and even tiny passages in the valve given enough time. For instance, a typical road bike tire, which is skinny or thinner than other types of tires, can lose half of its pressure in two days.

Conclusion

Knowing how to use a bike pump the right way is very important and beneficial especially when you’re out riding your bike and your tires suddenly deflate.

Not only that, you can also save money and time because you do not have to go to a repair shop, instead, you can just fix your tires on your own.

​ We hope our simple guide gives you a better understanding of what the different types of pumps and valves are, and most importantly, how to use a bike pump properly.

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By George