How To Pump A Bike Tire With A Hand Pump – Simple Steps

If you have a bike then you should know how important it is to keep your bike tire properly inflated before hitting the road. You should make a habit of maintaining proper bike tire pressure before every ride. Because a properly inflated tire confirms a smooth and safe ride regardless of the rough, winding and bumpy roads. If you are a beginner cyclist and thinking about how to pump a bike tire with a hand pump, then I must ensure you that you need not to worry about that. Fortunately pumping a bike tire is not that tough as you are thinking. It can be quite simple and manageable if you have an air pump and you follow the given instructions.

Here we have given a detailed guide on how to pump a tire including different valve types, pumps, amount of required pressure, etc so that it becomes easy for you to pump your bike tire whenever you need.

It should be noted that if your tire only needs some air then you can follow these steps of pumping air in the tire. But if it is a flat tire or a leakage of air then you might need to change the tube. 

How To Pump A Tire: Step By Step Guide

1.  Determine Your Bike Tire Valve Type:

 The very first step of pumping bike tires is to find out the type of valve your bike tires have. This will determine how you will attach the bike pump to the tire. The valve is connected to the inner tube which is located between the rim and the tire. For this you have to inspect your tires. The two most popular bike valves are the Schrader valve and the Presta valve. Have a look at the image below to determine which type of valve your bike has:

bike tire valve types

Schrader Valve:  

A schrader valve is most commonly used on children’s bike and hybrid bikes. Car tires also use these these valves. They are wider and shorter then Presta valve. It has a cylindrical stem which is usually coated with rubber at the bottom. Its top portion is bare metal which is surrounded by threaded valve core. A plastic dust cap closes the top opening of the valve. You will find a metal pin at the center if you remove the cap. It is called the check valve. The check valve controls the air flow in and out of the inner tube. This pin is designed to let air flow only in one direction and needs pressure to allow the air flow. When the pressure is removed, the tube seals due to the mechanism of a spring.

Presta Valve:

A Presta Valve is a long, narrow, light and spring less valve which is threaded all the way down with no rubber coating. There is a lock nut at the top by which you can open and close the valve by screwing and unscrewing the nut. The inner valve body remains shut due to the air pressure within the inner tube. Unscrew the nut and press the needle into the body of the valve to let air out. You will usually find these high pressure valves on high end bikes such as road bikes, mountain bikes.

These valves are more delicate than the Schrader valves and can easily break or bent due to its slender body. Thus you should take extra care. By the way these are easily replaceable with the bike tools.

2.  Use The Correct Pump For Pumping A Bike Tire:

After figuring out the valve type, the next step is to choose the right kind of pump for your bike. There are mainly 3 types of bike pumps. Though in this article we will discuss about how to pump a bike tire with a hand pump only, yet we should know about the different kinds of pumps. They are:

  • Floor Pumps: Every bike user should have this kind of pumps in his garage. Due to having high capacity, it inflates the tires quickly and smoothly with a high pressure.
  • Hand Pumps: These small portable pumps are best for emergencies and are good for carrying with you in long rides.
  • Electric Pumps: With this pump you can inflate different types of things such as toys, mattresses, car tires, bike tires, etc. without manual labor involved in pumping.

Different type of valves requires different pump nozzle. Though most of the modern pumps have both options but you need to know the use of the right one. The other pumps which only accommodate Schrader valve can also be used for presta valve if an external adapter is attached to it. So it is better for you to choose a pump which accommodates both the Schrader and the Presta valve , in order to avoid the hassle of caring the adapter.

3.  Determine The Proper Tire Pressure You Need:

Before knowing how to pump a bike tire with a hand pump, you need to determine what the appropriate tire pressure of your bike is. It is really important to inflate the tires with the proper pressure recommended by the manufacturer. This is because both low pressure and over tire pressure can cause serious accidents.

Just like car tires, bike tires also measure the air pressure in pounds per square inch or PSI in short. For measuring the PSI you can use a pressure gauge. If incase you do not have a gauge in hand, then you can also check the tire pressure without gauge. You can do this with your experience and sharp judgments. For proper guidance you can read our article on how to check tire pressure without gauge.

In order to find out the proper tire pressure of your bike, inspect the sidewall of the tire between the thread and the rim. There ideal pressure is printed just like the image below.

proper tire pressure

However, if your tire doesn’t consist of the PSI range then you can follow our guideline of the standard PSI range:

Standard PSI Range:

  • A Road bike’s standard tire pressure is between 80 to 130 PSI.
  • A Hybrid or Cruiser bike’s standard tire pressure is between 40 to 70 PSI.
  • A Mountain bike’s standard tire pressure is between 25 to 45 PSI.  

Nevertheless you should keep in mind that the standard PSI will vary depending on some factors- weight of the riders, surrounding temperature, conditions and the surface on which the rider is riding the bike. For example light weight rider needs lower tire pressure as they do not press the tire down the surface that much. On the other hand, heavy weight riders should use maximum recommended tire pressure. Again each 10 degree Fahrenheit fall of the temperature causes the tire pressure to reduce by 2%. Moreover, rough surface needs softer tires, while for smoother surfaces hard tires are needed. But for wet surfaces, low tire pressure is good as it creates greater friction between the tire and the road avoiding the bike to slip. Thus adjust the tire pressure accordingly based on the above factors.

determine the proper tire pressure

4.  How To Use A Bike Pump:

Step 1: Remove The Cap From The Valve

Now that you have determined your valve type and the tire pressure, so you can go for the pumping process. Both Presta valve and Schrader valve usually consist of a valve cap for protecting the valve pins and for preventing dust and mud to enter into the valve. First unscrew the valve cap and remove it. Keep it somewhere in a safe place where you will not lose it.

remove the cap from the valve

If it is a Presta valve, then along with removing the cap, you have to unscrew the lock nut too. If it is a Schrader valve then you can skip this.

Step 2: Test The Valve:

In order to test the valve, press down the head of the valve to allow escape of air (if there is little air left). This is done to check if there is any clog which can prevent the air from entering into the tire and that the valve is working properly.

Step 3: Connect The Pump To The Valve To Fill Tires With Air:

As I have said before that most modern pumps has two nozzles- one for Presta valve and the other for Schrader valve. However, you can distinguish both by the size of the openings- narrow openings for Presta and the larger one for Schrader. Once you have figured out the right pump nozzle for your bike tire, then it is time to attach the pump with the valve. Press the appropriate pump nozzle down the valve and make sure that it is firmly on the valve to avoid any gap or loose connection which can lead to loss of air during pump

Most pumps will have a lever that needs to be pulled up for locking the pump nozzle so that it does not come off. So pull the lever up 90 degrees. However, note that some pumps will have lever that you have to push in to lock the pump nozzle onto the valve. However, there are pumps which do not have a lever to seal the air. In that case there might be a screw to lock the pump nozzle or you have to seal the pump nozzle with hand applying some pressure to avoid disconnection or air loss.

how to attach a bike pump to your bike

Step 5: Pump The Tire With A Hand Pump

Now the main step of how to pump a bike tire with a hand pump comes. Start pumping the tire after you attached the pump nozzle to the valve. Most hand pumps take a bit more labor then floor pumps as you need to hold the attached pump nozzle tightly with one hand and hold the pump handle with other hand. Now push and pull the handle to inflate the tire to your desired tire pressure which you will be able to check with a pressure gauge.

Most of the hand pumps will not have a pressure gauge attached with them. In that case you have to use an external pressure gauge to reach your desired tire pressure level. Do not worry if you do not have a gauge. You can feel the tire and determine the appropriate tire pressure with your hand. You can have a look at our article where we have discussed some other methods to how to check tire pressure without gauge of which you can apply any one.

While pumping if you see that the tire is not inflating and the air is coming out instead of going into the tire, then you have to readjust the pump nozzle quickly and then inflate the tires.

Step 6: Remove The Pump From The Valve

When you will reach your desired tire pressure, stop pumping the tire. Now it is time to detach the pump from the valve. At first you have to unlock the pump nozzle by pulling down or pushing up the lever. If the pump does not have a lever, then unscrew the nozzle and pull it quickly. On doing this you might hear the sound of a small amount of air escaping out from the tire. Do not worry it is normal and would not make big difference on the pressure level. Next, you have to quickly close the valve.

Step 7: Close The Valve After Pumping The Tire:

If your tire has a Schrader valve then, then simply put on the plastic cap on it and close it. But if it is a Presta valve then you have to first put the screw nut back by turning it clockwise on the valve till it is tight. Then close the valve by putting the plastic cap on it. Make sure to do all this process in a hurry so that the air inside the tire doesn’t escape much.

close the presta valve after pumping the tire with a hand pump

By the way after detaching the pump from the valve and closing it, if in case you still notice some escape of air from the tire, then you need to repeat correctly the closing process of valve again. 

However if you feel that the tire has been over inflated then before closing the valve just allow some air to escape from it by pressing the valve down until you reach your desired pressure. Then close the valve.

Some Important Tips:

  • While buying a pump, first consider which one is best for you. Though a floor pump has high pressure capacity and inflates tires quickly but it is good for keeping at home. On the other hand a hand pump is a great option as it is very convenient and easy to carry. You need not to worry about flat tires on long rides. You can mount the hand pump in your bike and carry it with you wherever you go. Whenever you thing that the tires are out of air, you can take out your hand pump and inflate them following these simple steps. So try to collect both the pumps.
  • Be careful about identifying the valve type.
  • When you open the valve’s plastic cap, do not forget to keep it in a secure place. As because if you lose it, the valves might get dirty and air might leak out more quickly.
  • After inflating your bike tires with appropriate air, pressure check the pressure again within few days. If you notice a big difference then go to a mechanic shop as you might require replacing the inner tubes or tires.
  • While inflating the tire, check the tire pressure at time to time. You should do this so that you do not over inflate the tires.
  • While riding try to avoid trails with lots of sharp rocks and pointy objects which can lead to puncture tire. After all, inflating your tire will only work if it does not have any holes or tears.

Final Thought:

Inflating a bike tire is simple and manageable as long as you have the required tools and know the methods. The above steps explain how to pump a bike tire with a hand pump in a very easy way. Now that you know all the steps of inflating a tire so if you have a hand pump in hand, you need not to worry when you see a flat tire in a road where there is no workshop. You can just follow the given easy steps and inflate your tires according to your desired tire pressure. Moreover, you can also save money because instead of going to a mechanic you can just fix this issue by yourself. But be careful not to mess the things up.

The air of the tire naturally reduces due to use. Even if you do not ride the bike and let it sit idle for a long time, the air may slowly comes out of the tire with the passage of time due to damaged or faulty valve stem. So it is important to check the tire pressure at time to time in order to avoid any undesirable circumstances or any serious accidents. Appropriate tire pressure ensures safe and smooth ride. So keep the tires inflated properly and be ready to enjoy your next rides.

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