Guide to Pumping Bicycle Tires

Charles Luiting

Do you ever wonder if your bike tires are properly inflated? You're not alone — most cyclists aren’t exactly sure. That’s why we’ve put together this handy little guide. Once you read it through, you'll be able to pump your bike tire correctly, without problems, whenever it’s needed.

Step 1: Locate the Recommended Inflation Pressure on Your Tire

Every tire has a maximum inflation recommendation (usually in PSI or bars) labeled on the side of the tire. This number tells you how much air your road, mountain, cruiser, or hybrid bike needs (different bike tires require different inflation pressures).

If you follow this number, you will be good to go. Riding with your tire pressure too low can lead to pinch flats. Pinch flats happen when you hit a bump with an underinflated tire and the tube gets pinched between rim and tire casing. The tube tears in two spots and looks like a snake bite. Conversely, riding with too much pressure can result in poor traction, and may make the ride feel bumpy and harsh.

Pro Tip: Different styles of bikes and tires have different recommended PSI ranges.

Schwinn Inflate Tires using PSI on tire

Picture Source: Total Women's Cycling

Step 2: Identify Your Valve Type

Valves come in two styles:

Presta: Presta valves are generally found on higher-end bikes and road bikes.

Schrader: Schrader valves are the same type as used on your car and many mountain bike wheels.

Pro Tip: Remember to buy tubes with the right valve style.

Tire Size Guide

Picture Source: Presta on the left. Schrader on the right.

Step 3: Tire Inflation

The best way to inflate tires is to buy a good floor pump. Gas station air compressors aren't very accurate, can fill too quickly, and don't always deliver high-enough pressures. A good floor pump has a gauge, so there's no guesswork. Many come ready to use both types of valve stems.

On the road, a small hand pump or carbon dioxide inflator is a good idea so you can change a flat tire if you should need to.

Quick Tip: A road bike tire at 100 PSI can just barely be compressed when pushing on it with your thumb.

Watch our How-To Video

We hope you found this guide helpful. Remember, never hesitate to contact your local bike shop for additional advice, resources, or even to just find the right pump!

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