Pumping Bike Tires

Slide1Excuse: “My tires are flat”

 Properly inflated tires make a huge difference in the amount of energy it takes to pedal. Underinflated tires are also more susceptible to flats. Let’s avoid this, shall we? Here are some things to know about tires:

“Tube” vs. “Tire”

tube size

For those of you new to bike anatomy, your bike tire is inflated with a tube. When you get a flat tire, the problem is typically the tube, not theactual tire that you see. When a tube is punctured, it can often be patched or replaced completely, both relatively inexpensive options. Tubes come in a variety of sizes and are indicated on the side of the tire. Look for two numbers with “x” in the middle (such as 300×32), this is the size tube you need.

Proper Pressure

Tires are marked with the proper inflation pressure, also located on the side of the tire. There will be a number or a range of numbers (typically between 45 and 90) followed by the letters “psi.” Many bike pumps (stop by your local bike shop and try theirs) have a gauge to help make sure

schrader valve

you’ve filled to the appropriate pressure.

Schrader Valves

Most bikes, particularly children’s bikes, have Schrader valves. These valves are very simple. All you need to do is put your pump on, clamp it down and pump away. To release pressure, push down on the pin in the middle of the valve. These are the easy valves and thankfully what came on the Boda Boda Big Ben Schwalbe tires.

Presta Valves

presta zoomed in

Some tires have presta valves; these are skinnier, longer valves (and they’re a pain in the neck – just kidding, I’m sure they have a great personality). After taking the cap off, you’ll notice a little piece at the top of the valve. In order to pump the tire, you need to open up the valve. Loosen the little piece at the top of the valve a few turns; do not loosen it all the way. It should be loose enough that when you push the top you hear the air come out. Clamp on your pump and inflate the tire. Afterwards,

retighten your valve and replace the cap. To release pressure, hold down the middle pin when the top piece is loose.

pumping tire full bike 1

Pinched Valves

If you notice your valve is sticking out at an angle, take the time to straighten it out to avoid pinching or popping your tube.

To do this, deflate the tire about halfway. Holding the rim in place with one hand, rotate the tire in the direction the angled valve is pointing. Continue to shimmy the bike tire until the valve straightens out completely.

Note: If you’re biking in icy or snowy conditions, taking a little air out of tires will increase their ability to grip the road.

Prepare to handle any tire trouble with a small pump that attaches to your bike (like this one from Planet Bike). It’s also smart to purchase a small patch kit to have with you, or even an extra tube.

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2 thoughts on “Pumping Bike Tires

  1. Pingback: Basic Bike Tools | Why Bike

  2. Pingback: Sweet Bike Gear: PostPump Seatpost | Why Bike

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