How to Pump Up Road Bike Tires


Tire inflation is the easiest, yet perhaps most neglected maintenance task that bicycle riders can do themselves. Narrower road bike tires will require higher pressures than their wider counterparts. And because of their narrow tires and high pressures, air will naturally escape, even as soon as after a week after inflating. So make it a practice to keep pump up your road tires before every ride.

Check whether you have a Schrader valve, which looks almost exactly like the tire valves on your car. Equally likely it will have a Presta valve, which is skinnier and is typically used on road bike tires. The design of the Presta allows the road bike rim to be narrower without compromising strength. Look for a brass cap underneath the plastic valve cap of a Presta. Most bike pumps have either a double head with a skinny hole for Presta valves and a fatter hole for Schrader valves, or a single smart head that will accommodate both types.

Rotate the tire until the valve stem is on the bottom of the wheel. By placing the valve down, you avoid placing stress on your pump's hose.

Remove the plastic cap from the valve and, if you have a Presta valve, lightly unscrew the brass cap just until it stops. Carefully slide the proper pump head straight down onto the valve stem, then lock it by pulling the lever up.

Pump up the tire. With a floor pump, place one foot on each side of the stand, grip the handle, and pump it up and down. With a hand pump, hold one hand firmly on the valve, nearby spokes and the pump head and move the pump handle with the other.

Seat the tire properly while you inflate it. This is especially important with high-pressure road tires. If you've recently replaced the tube, stop every 20 psi and look for bulges or dips.

Remove the pump head by pushing the lever down and sliding it straight off the valve when the tires are at the preferred pressure. Tighten the brass cap on Presta valves and screw on the plastic valve cap.