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Your bike pump questions

There are certain items used in cycling which seem very simple, but in actual fact they need a bit more though. One of which is bike pumps. We get sent a lot of questions regarding bike pumps, so we are going to address them for you as best we can. 

The main purpose of a bike pump is to inflate your inner tube or tubeless tyre. However, there are some additional aspects which can help you decide which pump you need. We have listed some of these below, but please feel free to send us your questions in the comments below.


What bike pump do I need?

We recommend that you actually have two bike pumps. This is to cover the two main types. The first is a small, portable pump. It usually attaches directly to your bicycle for use when you’re out riding. Ideally it needs to be lightweight and very durable. It also must have a strong attachment so it doesn’t fall off, especially if you are mountain biking, which is usually bumpy. The second is a larger floor pump. This is to keep at home in the shed, garage, or wherever you store your bike. It produces more air per pump so requires little effort to fill a tire or tube. It’s used in bike maintenance before you ride your bike, or when replacing tubes and tyres.


Can I use a car pump on my bike?

If the car pump has the correct valve for your bike, then yes you can. There are a couple of very important things to consider though. The first is that the pump has a pressure gauge. You need to keep a close eye on this, because a car pump usually delivers a lot of air quickly. It can be very dangerous if the tube or tyre explodes from over inflation. The next thing is that car pumps are usually larger so not very portable. This means you could be left in the field without a means to inflate your tyres.


Which is better, Presta or Schrader valve?

This question has a split opinion between cyclists. The choice is made by understanding the two types and what it can mean to you. A Schrader valve is more common in cycling and sometimes referred to as “the big valve”. These are the valves you see on most cars too. A Presta valve is much slimmer in its design. An important factor is the width of the valve. A thin wheel, which is on a lot of “road” bikes, cannot fit a Schrader valve so has to have a Presta. However, its slim design does make it a lot less durable than its larger cousin. Another factor to consider is that the larger Schrader valve has a spring to depress in order for air to enter, which can make attaching a pump securely more difficult. The choice is yours, but I personally use Schrader on my mountain bike due to its durability, and Presta on my road bike for its size.


What PSI should my bike tyre be?

There is no strict requirement for your PSI (pounds per square inch). It depends on the type of tyre, bike and the surface you ride on. However, there are a couple of general rules to follow. Firstly, look on the side wall of the tyre itself, it will show the recommended tyre pressure. If you stick within this you should be safe. A second general rule is that the harder the tyre, the easier it rolls, making it easier to ride. Also, the smaller the tyre, the more pressure it needs. A small road tyre may have up to 130 PSI, whereas a standard size may have 40-50 PSI. Be very careful not to over inflate the inner tube or tyre, as this can be dangerous if it were to explode.


How do you pump up a bike tyre without a pump?

There are two ways to inflate a bike inner tube or tyre without a pump. Unfortunately they’re both not ideal. The first is to use a CO2 canister. These are small metal canisters of carbon dioxide. It is screwed onto the valve and inflates the tyre. I personally do not like these because they are in no way eco friendly and have single use materials. They are also quite expensive. The other option is to use your mouth. The obvious downside to this is that the valves are dirty because of the nature of their use. Actually performing this task is difficult to do as the spring in a Schrader valve needs to be depressed at the same time, whereas a Presta is possibly easier. This is truly a last resort, so just buy a pump to make your life easier!

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