Knowing how to pump up road bike tires is a key component of being a rider.
One of the simplest methods of ensuring your bike is functioning smoothly is checking the tire pressure before each trip.
Doing this during your ride is not only a waste of your time but can also be very stressful.
What’s more, it may be a bit intimidating for beginners because of the many valves, tires, and pressures to take note of.
- Reasons Your Tires Are Flat
- Types of Valves
- Identifying the Pressure for Your Tire
- How to Pump up Road Bike Tires
Reasons Your Tires Are Flat
The first step to learning how to pump tires is understanding what caused it to become deflated in the first place.
Not many beginner riders really understand the reasons behind why bike tires get deflated.
There are two primary reasons: punctures and wear and tear.
The first reason is as self-explanatory as it gets. If not, then just imagine what happens to a balloon when pierced with a sharp object
Fortunately, unlike balloons, you can do repairs to your road bike tires to make them functional again.
Wear and Tear
Because the tubes aren’t completely airtight, as they should be, all tires will eventually and slowly leak air.
This is inevitable and will happen regardless of the brand or type of bike tire you own.
Even the popular tubeless tires will slowly leak air; there is just no exception to this.
Obviously, older tubes are more prone to leaks than newer ones.
As such, if you haven’t replaced your bike tires for a long time, you may want to check them out to see if they are still completely functional.
Material integrity will fade over time, so it’s no surprise that regularly-used tires will eventually become less effective.
Although less likely to happen, it is also possible that the valve is no longer sealing properly.
Types of Valves
If you intend to be well-versed in bike maintenance, it would be beneficial to be aware of the two types of valves: the Presta and Schrader.
These valves have distinct qualities, and they each require specific connections on the pump head.
You will often see Presta valves premium road bikes, and identifying them is easy because they are smaller than Schrader valves.
It also features a lock ring at the top that seals the valve into place.
You need a special adapter if you intend to use a regular air pump to a Presta valve.
Presta valves are opened with the help of the lock ring.
Schrader valves are most often used on casual and children’s bikes. You can also see this type of valve on the tires of vehicles.
This type is broader than Presta, with a circular opening on its top.
A spring mechanism is located at the center that regulates the flow of the air channel.
The Schrader valve makes itself connected to the pump head when the pin is pushed down.
Identifying the Pressure for Your Tire
It is a good practice to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the pressure of your bike, which you will usually find on the tire’s sidewall.
If it is not there for some reason, keep in mind that road bike tires operate at higher pressures than mountain bike tires.
Often, they have a pressure range of 80 to 120psi.
If you are still unsure, you can ask a pro to get an educated estimate on how much pressure your bike tires should have.
Inadequate tire pressure can result in pinch flats.
In turn, it will negatively impact the quality of your ride, specifically the speed and turning.
On the other hand, excessive inflation of your tires may result in a rough ride with undesirable traction, or worse, tire explosion.
How to Pump up Road Bike Tires
One of the most practical methods to determine what’s the reason for your deflated tire is to try pumping it up.
If it loses air at a faster rate, then you likely have a puncture that needs repair.
On the other hand, if it leaks air slowly, either you have a very fine puncture or maybe just an old tube that’s begging to be replaced.
Here’s how to pump up bike tires:
Step 1: Determine the type of valve.
The majority of pumps today feature two connections—one for Presta valves and another for Schrader valves.
You can also find specially-made pumps that automatically adapt to work with both valve types.
Step 2: Attach the pump.
After you’ve determined the pump head that fits your valve, you can start attaching the pump to it.
For the Presta valve, remove the dust cap if it has one, detach the lock ring at the top, and push it down on the valve head.
By pressing on the valve’s head, you’ll be able to confirm that the air channel isn’t clogged.
Otherwise, it would hinder the air from entering the tires of your road bike.
On the other hand, if you have a Schrader valve, unscrew the cap and tightly attach the pump head to the valve.
For the same reason you push down on the Presta, do the equivalent on the spring apparatus in the center of the Schrader valve.
Step 3: Secure the pump and inflate.
If your pump head has a threaded end, make sure that it is properly screwed on.
Push and lock the pump into place if your pump has a locking mechanism or lever arm.
When you connect the pump, you may hear air escaping, which is perfectly normal because you are just starting to inflate it.
However, if you still hear the air seeping out after you have secured the pump completely, you have to remove and reattach the pump.
If the pump is attached correctly, you should not hear air escaping out of it.
Step 4: Remove the pump.
After you’ve finished inflating your road bike tire, remove the pump head carefully.
As you do, make sure you don’t bend or shift the valve in an unnatural position.
A good indication that you have done the pumping correctly is that you hear air discharge from the pump instead of your tires.
Step 5: Close the valve.
Screwing the lock ring tightly back into place on Presta valves is a must.
Don’t try to overdo it, as you might find it difficult to open it again the next time you need to pump up your tires.
More Tip to Keep in Mind
Regardless of the type of valve stem you have on your bike, keep in mind that it is simply glued to rubber.
Considering this aspect, it’s crucial to be careful when pumping your tires.
Watch closely when attaching the pump head to the valve to ensure that you are doing it properly.
If using a hand pump, be sure to hold the valve with just enough force so that it does not awkwardly bend with each stroke.
Remove the pump by pulling it in a straight direction, as it will reduce the chances of damaging your pump head or valve stem.
Besides knowing how to pump up road bike tires, it’s also vital to be aware of when you need to do it.
Various tires and tubes lose air at different rates, so it’s difficult to predict when you’ll need to pump air.
We suggest checking your bike’s tire pressure before each ride instead.
It can be as simple as doing a hard push on the tire to ensure it’s not spongy or flat.
This way, you’ll know your tires won’t give up on you in the middle of the road.