Finding yourself stranded on a ride with a flat tire is frustrating and inconvenient. If you have a pump, a spare tube, and the tire itself is undamaged, you can get moving again soon. But do you know how to pump up bike tires without a pump? Read on to learn how!
How Does a Flat Tire Happen?
There are many reasons you could end up with a flat tire. You most likely to need to know how to pump up your bike’s tires without a pump if your flat occurs mid-ride. We’re all aware of the potential dangers of riding on the road, and some may choose to hug the curb to avoid the traffic. Unfortunately, the area of the road right next to the curb is where harmful debris, like shards of glass, ends up.
How to Pump Up Bike Tires Without Pump – 3 Ways
Watching out for hazards in the road will help you get home with two inflated tires. But, what happens if you don’t? And then you realize you don’t have a pump handy? If you find yourself without a pump, we have some ideas for you.
Even if you like to ride with minimal gear, a CO2 cartridge and inflator should be on your kit list. It’s compact, lightweight, and requires minimal effort to get you back on the road.
Depending on the inflator you have, either screw the inflator to the valve or screw the canister to the inflator. Some will release the gas as soon as it screws in, and others rely on pressure from the valve.
The other thing to remember when you choose this method is that carbon dioxide dissipates quickly, so replace it with regular air when you have the opportunity.
Gas Station Air Compressor
If you’re in town when you suffer a flat, you might find a solution at a nearby gas station. You’re probably familiar with using these compressors to fill your car’s tires with air, but did you know you can use them for your bike tires, as well? These are extremely powerful, so only add air in short bursts.
You may struggle with the nozzle and your valve not being compatible. Shrader valves are the same type of valve as a car tire. If you have a Schrader valve, just fit the air hose to the tire and add air.
If your tubes have a Presta valve (the long, skinny type with a lock-nut at the end), you will need an adaptor. These nifty gadgets are small and inexpensive. It’s unlikely the gas station sells them, so it’s a worthwhile item to keep in your saddlebag. All you need to do with the adapter is loosen the nut on the valve, attach the adapter, and add air.
Remember, an under-inflated tire will help you limp home; a burst tire will not. Be very careful not to overfill your tires.
Last Resort — By Mouth
There’s a good chance that if you need to know how to pump up bike tires without a pump you don’t have a valve adapter or CO2 inflator. Perhaps you’re even reading this on your cellphone on the side of the road. This really isn’t an efficient method, human lungs just don’t have the capacity to meet the psi requirements of a tire.
This trick is most common with fat bike tires. Most riders can get their tire to 1.5 psi, which is snow pressure on a fat bike. But, for reference, I run my road bike tires at 80 psi. If you want to give it a shot, be sure to clean off the valve as best you can. There’s no telling what grime it’s picked up on your travels.
This will only work with a Presta valve. If you have a Schrader valve, you will need a pump as the valve responds to pressure.
Do Not Try This Method of How to Pump Up Bike Tires Without a Pump
Maybe you’ve heard of some questionable ways to pump up your bike tires if you don’t have a pump handy. We do not recommend the following method.
Starter Fluid and a Lighter
If you’ve searched this topic online, you may well have come across videos showing this method. While it’s entertaining to watch, we don’t recommend you try it! It involves using a little starter fluid around the rim (or hair spray. Probably any pressurized canister will work.) Briefly bring a lighter to the rim and the chemical reaction will seat your tire and add a little air.
Of course, this air will also promptly dissipate, so you’ve really done nothing to fix your problem and it’s potentially dangerous. This method is definitely good for a laugh, but not a great (or safe) way to add air to your deflated tires.