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How to Pump Up Your Tires - Step by Step

by SRP on August 23, 2021

How to Pump Up Your Tires - Step by Step

Whether you ride often or are getting your bike ready to roll for the first time in a while, knowing how to pump up your tires is an important maintenance skill. You should add air to your tires at least once a month, more if you ride regularly.

Ideally, your tires should always be inflated at or above the minimum pressure listed on the tire sidewall (more on this below).

Riding with underinflated tires is risky: Not only will you have reduced control of the bike, you’ll also be more susceptible to getting a puncture or pinch flat, not to mention sidewall or tread damage, which can cause a blowout.

We’ve outlined how to pump up your tires, step by step, below.

Graphic by Federico Miller /

  1. First check to see whether you have a schrader or presta value on your tube. Most floor pumps (and some hand pumps) are able to accommodate both types, but you’ll want to confirm that the pump you buy or carry with you works with your valves.

  2. Next, find the appropriate pressure listed on the sidewall of your tire. It will be the number or range typically measured in bar or psi. Use whichever measurement is represented on your pump's gauge. Optimal tire pressure within a range depends on how loaded your bike will be, including your weight and cargo like groceries or stuffed panniers. Increase tire pressure as weight increases (but never inflate above the recommended pressure). If you’re unsure, inflate your tires to somewhere in the higher half of the range.

  3. Then open your valve. With schrader valves, all you need to do is unscrew the cap before applying the pump. For presta valves, you’ll also need to unscrew the nut on the top of the valve as far as it will go. The New Wheel has great videos and guides on how to inflate a tire with a presta or schrader valve.

  4. Next attach your pump to the valve. Not all pumps work the same, but generally the pump head slips over the valve. Then you pull up on the pump arm to lock the valve into place.

  5. Now it’s time to give your tire some air. And remember you should inflate your tire to at least the minimum pressure indicated on your tire’s sidewall. If you have a different tire for each wheel, the pressure may also be different, so be sure to double check.

  6. Check your pumps’ gauge while you inflate and stop once you’ve reached the desired pressure (note hand pumps often don’t have gauges, so use your thumb and forefinger to pinch your tire — it should be firm).

  7. If your tire doesn’t inflate or loses air quickly, you may have a flat or a slow leak. In that case, it’s best to take out your tube to diagnose the problem or take your bike to your local shop for a flat fix.

  8. Finally, release the arm of your pump, remove the head from your valve, then re-apply the cap. Remember, if you have a presta valve, be sure to screw the nut back up to the top of the valve point before applying the cap.

  9. You’re now ready to roll!


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