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Now that you have bought a suitable bike pump, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions to use it properly. Most users complain about the products they have bought because they don’t understand the technical aspects of using these pumps correctly.
Below are the steps you need to follow to get the best service from your bike pump:
1. Determine The Type Of Valve (Presta/Schrader)
Before using a bike pump, you have to determine the type of tire valves you have on your bike tires. The two main types are Presta and Schrader and each comes with its own peculiarities.
- Schrader valves: These are the wider valves similar to the ones you find on your car tires. They have an outer chuck which is threaded to accept a valve cap or pump head. There is a spring loaded check valve controlling flow of air in and out. They are designed to only let air flow in one direction. The pin at the center requires pressure to let air in.
- Presta valve: This is a narrow metal valve which is threaded and tapers slightly at the top. Unlike a Schrader valve, there is no check valve but seals entirely depending on the pressure in the tubes. They are common on high end bikes and road bikes. These are more preferred as they require a smaller hole on the rim and hence don’t affect strength of the wheel. It is a high pressure valve and can easily be extended with an adaptor.
Checking these valve features helps you determine the type of pump you require. However, some of the pumps in the market now are not valve –specific and can be interchanged. Some have smart valve heads which automatically switch to fit any type of valve required. Other bicycle pumps require an adaptor to use with different valves.
2. Attach The Pump To The Valve
Now that you know the type of bike pump you need, the next step is connecting the air hose onto the valve. This needs to be done carefully to avoid shredding the valve and ruining the tire. If you have carefully selected your bike pump, this should be easy because the best pumps in the market are designed for convenience.
A good bike pump should be easy to set up and start using in no time to get you back on the road fast enough. The usual steps to follow are:
1. Pull the valve cap off slowly and make sure you place it safely for later replacement.
2. The pump head should be in an unlocked position and must confirm this before connection. Otherwise it might not fir into the valve. There is a lever for this function and it should be pressed down or in a parallel position with the hose.
3. Presta valves have a locking nut and you need to turn it counterclockwise until you feel it can’t move anymore.
4. Now press the pump’s valve head straight onto the visible tire valve and lock it firmly into place using a lever if available. For pumps without one, press the pump head down and hold it firmly to avoid disconnection or air loss.
At this point, the connection is secure and there should be no gap or any loose connection which could lead to air loss. The best bike pumps are uniquely designed specifically to avoid air loss thus guaranteeing more efficiency and less energy use.
3. Pump Air into The Bike Tire
With the connection in place, it is now time to start pumping. This entails pushing and pulling the handle down to inflate the tire. Floor pumps, mini pumps and hand pumps operate in a similar manner with the piston inside the pump cylinder creating a seal inside during an upstroke and forcing the air fast into the tire during a down-stroke.
This goes on until the pressure gauge indicates the required pressure has been reached. Some digital bike pumps have an automatic shutdown feature which cuts off any more airflow when the indicated pressure level is reached. These pumps have an LCD display for easier reading both day and night.
How to Inflate a Tire with Presta Valve
Presta valves are common on high end bikes and road bikes. They are narrower and while this protects the strength of your bike’s rims, you will also find it harder to use these valves. To inflate a tire with a Presta valve follow these steps:
1. Find the valve and remove the cap if any.
2. Check the valve’s condition. Hold it down and see if it releases a short hiss of air a sign that it is not stuck.
3. Unlock the acorn nut and place it safely.
4. Connect the pump head either by pressing or screwing it on.
5. For higher efficiency, fully close and open your bike pump with each stroke. For floor pumps, use your arms and body to push the last volume of air into the tires.
6. Once you have reached the desired air pressure, carefully disconnect the hose from the valve and quickly close the nut and replace the valve cap.
How to Inflate a Tire with Schrader Valve
Schrader are larger than Presta valves and are more common on car tires. They have an inner spring to close the valve. To inflate tires with a Schrader valve:
1. Check the Schrader valve carefully and remove the valve cap if any.
2. Air can be released by pressing down on the valve stem.
3. Connect the pump by screwing or pressing on the pump head.
4. For each stroke, make sure you fully open and close the pump for maximum efficiency.
5. Once you are done, quickly pull the connector off to minimize air loss and replace the cap.
How to Inflate a Tire with a CO2 Inflator
A CO2 is a compact, lightweight and portable alternative to bike pumps but is a one-off solution. There’s a nozzle/inflator and a cartridge holding the CO2. Steps to use your CO2 inflator are:
1. Release remaining air out of a bad tube. Check for puncture and repair it.
2. Connect the inflator’s valve head into the Presta or Schrader valve.
3. Once you are sure the connection is tight, screw the cartridge to the inflator.
4. Inflate the tire and if need be add another cartridge if you are using a high pressure tire.
5. Check tire clean lines for bumps and correct them.
4. Keep the Pressure Up
Once you are done inflating the tires to desired pressure, make sure the pressure stays up by constantly checking it. For CO2 inflators, you need to inflate your tires again within 24 hours because CO2 evaporates quite fast. Make sure you clean your tires after riding to remove debris and constantly check the condition of the valves. Remember changes in temperature affect pressure and you don’t have to wait till you suffer a flat to inflate the tires.