How to Pump a Bike Tire With a Hand Pump

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If you are a biker, you’ve experienced the pain of a low tire when you’re far away from your pump. More prepared cyclists will bring a pump with them, but it’s hard to fit a standard floor pump into a backpack or pannier. But there’s another option–a hand pump is smaller and more convenient to carry, but is it just as easy to use? 

How to Use a Hand Pump 

Most of us have used a floor pump to pump up a tire. It’s quick and straightforward but not very portable. If you are biking cross country or have less room in your panniers for a full-size pump, you might have invested in a hand pump. These are the steps for how to pump a bike tire with a hand pump to fill your bike tires: 

  • Determining the type of air valve 
  • Deciding how much pressure your tire needs 
  • Opening the valve and attaching the nozzle 
  • Pulling the pump lever
  • Pumping the tire full of air 
  • Closing the valve and replacing the cap

If you follow these instructions, you will be able to fill your tires with air anywhere you go without having to use a floor pump. As always, make sure that your bike is stable and you’ve taken all the necessary safety precautions before doing any work on your bike! 

Determine Your Valve Type 

Bike tire valves come in two types: Schrader or Presta. The Schrader valve is much more common in road, mountain, or cruiser bikes. The Presta valve has a screw-on cap and is often used in sporting or racing bikes (it’s smaller and racing tires are thinner).

Presta valves are screwed open and shut, and Schraders come with a small cap. Odds are, if you don’t know which type you have, it’s a Schrader. Hand pumps generally come with two sides–one for Schrader and one for Presta–so either way, you’ll be able to pump up your tire!  

Determine Your Tire Pressure 

When you’re pumping a bike tire, it’s essential not to over-or underfill it. Either way could lead to a tire blowout and rim damage, and it’s much more expensive to replace a rim than to keep your tires properly inflated. 

In general, mountain bikes need 25-35 psi, cruisers need 40-170, and road bikes need 80-130. However, make sure to check what your tires need! The proper pressure is printed on the side of your tires. 

Open Valve and Fit Nozzle 

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Once you’ve decided how much air to put in and which nozzle to use, you’re ready to start pumping! Open the valve by removing the cap (if it’s a Schrader) or screwing it open (if it’s a Presta). Just remember where you put the cap–they’re easy to misplace! 

Fit the nozzle of your hand pump to the open valve. Some air might escape when you pressure the valve, but it should stop once the pump is attached correctly. If it’s not on, it will slip while you’re pumping, and air will escape. 

Pull up Pump Lever 

Most of the time, your hand pump will be equipped with a pump lever to tighten the nozzle onto the valve and make sure no air escapes. Ensure that this lever is pulled 90° from its original position and is flush with the valve. 

Once the pump lever is in place, your tire is ready to be pumped. Check again to make sure no air is coming out at this point and readjust if necessary. You don’t want to lose air while you’re trying to pump it full! 

How to Pump a Bike Tire With a Hand Pump

Pump the Tire 

Now the essential work begins. Hold the pump with one hand and the nozzle with the other, and start pumping! It will take a while because hand pumps only give a small amount of air, so be patient. You want your tire to have the optimum amount of air pressure. 

Most hand pumps have a pressure gauge. This indicator is essential to see how much air you’ve put in the tire–it’s notoriously tricky to eyeball a tire! The gauge will tell you exactly how much air you need and when to stop pumping. 

Remove Pump and Cap Nozzle 

When you’ve pumped the tire to the correct pressure level, remove the pump and close the nozzle. A little air will escape, but don’t worry about it–it’s not enough to decrease air pressure. Tighten the cap all the way and store your hand pump for next time. 

If you’re worried about your pressure declining over time, use the hand pump to gauge the tire pressure a few hours after refilling. If it’s low again, there’s a chance your tire needs a patch or replacement to avoid blowouts on the road. 

Final Thoughts 

There you have it! In just a few steps, you’ve learned how to check your air pressure and fill your tire by hand. As it turns out, it’s pretty easy to pump a bike tire with a hand pump–you’ll always be able to keep your tires full without lugging a full-size pump around! 

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