How to Use a Bicycle Pump

How to Use a Bicycle Pump
Using a bicycle pump can be a frustrating affair. Whether you have a flat tire or just pulled your bike out for a ride only to find the tires soft and deflated, you'd rather be out riding than fiddling around with a pump. Luckily, pumping up your tires shoulld take only a few minutes. While many bicycle pumps feature valves that can inflate both tire valve designs, some only work with a single type. Check to make sure your pump will inflate whichever valve you use on your bike. Learn how to use your pump properly, and inflating your tires will be a quick, convenient process.


Difficulty: Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Bicycle pump
  • Tire gauge
Step 1
Figure out what pump you need. Check the valves on your bike tires to see which kind you have. The two main bike-tire valves are Schrader, which is black and looks just like the valve on a car tire, and Presta, a tall, skinny valve with a little nut on top.
Step 2
Get the right pump. Using the wrong pump is one of the few ways you can go wrong when inflating a tire. You'll need to have a pump head that is compatible with valve type you determined in step 1, as each requires a different head. Some pumps feature an adjustable, or dual, head for both types of valve, while some are valve specific. If you're not sure, try affixing the pump to the valve and pumping up the tire; if it doesn't work, and you've done everything else right, you have the wrong pump.
Step 3
Pull the cap off your tire valve. Keep it in your pocket or other safe place where it doesn't roll away or get lost.
Step 4
Make sure the pump head is in the unlocked position if it has a lock. In most cases, the little lever should be pressed down so it's parallel with the hose.
Step 5
For a Presta valve, turn the nut on top counterclockwise until you can't turn it any more.
Step 6
Press the pump head straight onto the tire valve. Lock it into place by pulling up the lever. If there's no lock, press down and hold it steady to keep it firmly attached.
Step 7
Pull and push the pump handle up and down to inflate the tire. With a floor pump, you can stand on the base to keep it steady. If you cannot push down, or if you hear or feel air spitting out of the pump and not into the tire, pull the pump off the valve and refit it. Otherwise, continue to pump.
Step 8
Read the tire gauge to determine how much air is in the tire. Check the wall of your tire for suggested tire pressure and inflate to that number. If you don't have a gauge, use touch to determine if the tire is properly inflated--you'll want a mountain bike tire firm with just a little give on the sides.
Step 9
Once the tire is fully inflated, unlock the pump head and pull it off quickly. Secure the Presta nut by turning clockwise and screw the cap back on the valve.

Tips & Warnings

Pumps vary in design, get to know the features and function of your pump and it will be easy to use the next time. Refer to the manufacturer's instructions if you have any problems.
Don't overinflate the tire.
Don't pull the pump off the valve too hard. If it is stuck, finesse it off because pulling it forcefully could rip the tube.

Article Written By Joe Fletcher

Joe Fletcher has been a writer since 2002, starting his career in politics and legislation. He has written travel and outdoor recreation articles for a variety of print and online publications, including "Rocky Mountain Magazine" and "Bomb Snow." He received a Bachelor of Arts in political science from Rutgers College.

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