Knowing how to pump up a bike tyre is basic knowledge that will benefit all cyclists and bike riders at some point. Pumping up bike tyres can seem a bit daunting to a novice due to the different valve types and all of the different pumps available, but this guide will aim to simplify these to help you perform some of your own maintenance.
The Schrader valve (or car-type valve as it is often known) is the most commonly seen valve type day-to-day as it is used in a huge variety of vehicles such as cars, motor bikes, and scooters, as well as bicycles. The Schrader valve is visibly wider than the Presta type, and has a spring-loaded centre pin check valve which allows air in and out. To adjust tyre pressures, use a pump to inflate the tyre and use a fingernail or small tool to depress the centre pin to let air out.
The Presta valve is most commonly found on bicycles and is replacing the Schrader valves on more and more models as standard now. They are slimmer than the Schrader valves and are usually threaded all the way down the valve stem to allow a nut to be fastened down to keep the valve in place more firmly in the wheel rim. The Presta valves feature a removable core and air is put into the tyre by first unscrewing the valve head and pushing the head down. Once the tyre is inflated, he pressure can be adjusted either with a pump to add more air, or by depressing the valve head to let air out.
Although there are many different types of bike pumps available, most can be split into three different categories; Floor or Track pumps, Foot pumps, and Mini pumps. All of these pumps do exactly the same job, but floor pumps and foot pumps are more suited to a garage or workshop due to their size and mini pumps are aimed at being more portable to carry out and about on the bike.
These pumps are often split into two further categories; High Volume (HV) and High Pressure (HP). High Volume pumps are designed to excel at inflating wider tyres quickly which usually don't require as much pressure. Mountain bike tyres and some wider Hybrid bike tyres are examples of High Volume tyres. High pressure pumps are used where the volume of the tyre isn't as great, but the tyre pressures are usually a lot higher, mainly on road bikes. The pumps will usually indicate in their name or the product description whether they are a HV or a HP pump and you should think about which type better suits your needs.
Another consideration for pumps are the valve types, mentioned above. A lot of modern floor and mini pumps will now allow you to pump up a tyre with either a Presta or a Schrader valve without the need to change anything, but some pumps may require a small change to be made in the head of the pump to suit the valve you are inflating. Most Foot pumps are intended for use with a motor vehicle, and so they usually only work with Schrader valves, however adapters can be purchased to allow you to inflate Presta valves as well.
The last kind of pump that you are likely to encounter for use with bicycle tyres is a CO2 inflator. These are very compact, lightweight pumps that rely on compressed CO2 gas being released very quickly out of a canister into the tyre. They are mainly used by racers and cyclists who want to quickly inflate tyres and are not recommended for inexperienced users as they can fail to inflate the tyre if used incorrectly, potentially leaving you stranded when out and about. Care should also be taken not to touch the canister itself while inflating the tyre as it will get very cold and can freeze your hand or glove to its surface. Most CO2 inflators come with a sleeve or cover to wrap around the canister to try and prohibit this from happening.
Hopefully this guide has taught you how to pump a bike tyre, and if you need any more help please call us on (+44)1642 710232 or get in contact here and a member of our staff will be happy to help you.