How to use a Bicycle Pump | How does a Bike Pump Work

A bicycle pump is one of the most common types of positive displacement pump. A bicycle pump uses a moving piston to inflate the tires of a bicycle. In the bike pump, the piston moves up and down to suck and transfer the air into the bicycle tire.

The bicycle pumps are only developed to inflate the tires. This pump works on the base of Boyle’s law.

Bicycle Pump

These pumps use two valves that are:

  1. Presta valve
  2. Schrader valve

A bicycle tire air pump is operated with the help of a hand-operated piston. During the upward movement, the piston sucks air from the environment and transfers it to the pump chamber via an inlet valve worked as a non-return valve. During the downward movement, the piston pumps air into the bicycle tires.

Maximum floor bike pumps have a fixed pressure gauge that shows the tire pressure. These pumps are also known as track pumps.  The electric tire pump used for inflating the car tire may also use to inflate the tires of the bicycle if the proper connection is accessible.

Read also: How does a Hand Water Pump work?

How does a Bicycle Tire Pump work?

A bicycle pump works based on Boyle’s Law. It is a manually operated pump. It has a piston inside the pump, which has upward and downward motion.

Bicycle pump working, tire pump

During the working of the bicycle pump, as you pull the piston in an upward direction via the pump handle, a vacuum creates inside the pump cylinder. Due to this vacuum, the air pressure inside the pump becomes lower than the external air pressure. Due to this pressure difference, the pump sucks air from outside into the cylinder via a suction valve.

As the internal air pressure becomes equal to the external air pressure, the suction valve closes, and the compression process starts.

When you push the piston down through the pump handle, the piston compresses the air by reducing the volume of the cylinder. When the piston increases the air pressure according to the requirements and the pump’s internal air pressure becomes higher than the tire’s internal pressure, the pump outlet valve opens, and air delivers inside the bicycle tire.

After this, you pull the piston upward again through the pump handle to inflate the tire more. This process continues until the bike tire’s internal pressure reaches your requirements.

 Some bike pumps contain a pressure gauge which indicates the air pressure inside the tire. As the tire’s internal pressure reaches according to the desired pressure, you can remove the valve from the tire, and the cap puts on the tire valve.

For a better understanding of the bicycle pump working, watch the following video:

Types of Bicycle Tire Pumps

The bicycle tire pump has the following major types:

  • Floor pump
  • Foot pump
  • Hand pump or Minibike Pump
  • Stand Pump
  • Electric Pump

1) Floor Pump

A floor pump is also called a stand pump. It is known as a floor pump because, during its operation, the pump base is settled on the floor. It is a manually operated pump. Floor pumps have small in size, and you can easily shift them from one place to other.  These pumps have the capability to deliver highly compressed air that other small pumps can’t deliver.

floor pump

During operation, the pump base settles on the floor, and the operator pulls and pushes the handle to move the piston up and down so that the pump can transfer air into the bicycle tire. They are well suited to provide high-quality, high-pressure air and can inflate tires according to requirements.

2) Hand Pump (Mini Pump)

A hand pump is also known as a mini bike pump. It has a small size and can easily shift from one location to other.

These pumps are usually used for occasional or emergency situations. Because of their small size, they are preferable for traveling.  But a mini bike pump can’t deliver the high air pressure as a floor pump, but if you have a punctured tire and you want to fix it quickly, a hand pump is a perfect substitute.

This pump puts a lot of pressure on the bike tire valve. Therefore, you should use a hand pump with a hose that reduces pressure on the valve to reduce the chances of air leaks.

hand pumps

These pumps have the following two major types:

  1. Integral Pump
  2. Tubed Pump

i) Tubed Pump

This bicycle tire air pump needs a separate tube to attach the valve to the pump. The main benefit of these pumps is that they have low cost than other bicycle pumps. But these have low efficiency than other pumps. The tube pumps also have many joints through which air can leak at any time.

ii) Integral Pump

On the side of the integral pump, there is a hole with an attached rubber seal around the valve. It has very high efficiency due to its low dead volume, excellent rigidity, and excellent sealing.

Integral pumps have more efficiency than tubed pumps. Because an 8″ inches integral pump delivers transfers faster air than an 18″ tubed pump. With integral pumps, especially those with Presta valves, there is a cut-off risk of the tube valve.

3) Stand Pump

A stand pump has multiple functions and is most widely used in cars.  These are best suitable for wide Schrader valves. If you need to use it with the Presta valves, you will need to purchase a brass reducer.

The stand pumps can’t deliver high pressure as floor pumps. Therefore, these types of pumps are best suitable for pumping tires that require low air pressure, but they are not suitable for tires that require high air pressure.

4) Mini Bike Pump

A mini bike pump is one of the famous types of the hand pump. As the name of the mini pump represents that it has small in size and lightweight. These are portable pumps and can be shifted easily from one location to other.

mini bike pump

A mini pump can easily be attached to the bike for emergency use. You can also keep it in the bike saddle bag or pocket. These pumps can’t use for pumping high air pressure.

5) Foot Pump

A foot tire pump is generally not made specifically for the bicycle. These pumps can’t produce high pressure like a floor pump. Therefore, these are best for low-pressure tires but not appropriate for narrow racing bike tires.

These pumps especially design for car tires having Schrader valves. If you want to use it for your bicycle with a Presta valve, you will need a small brass reducer to use the pump.

6) Electric Pump

These pumps have multiple applications. These pumps can pump a wide variety of air to items like bicycle tires, mattresses, toys, and car tires. An electric pump has a built-in pressure gauge through that you can check the air pressure inside the tire more accurately to prevent over-inflation.

electric pumps

One of the major advantages of electric bike pumps is that they reduce the need for manual labor. But they have a high cost than manual pumps. The electric pump also has a large size, and you can’t carry it with you. It has many electrically operated parts; due to that, it requires high maintenance. Due to these reasons, maximum people don’t prefer to use an electric pump.

Read More: Types and Applications of Pumps

How to fix a Bike Pump

A bike pump can be fixed in the following way:

  • Attach the pump nozzle with the air hose end on the bicycle tire valve. The lever on the end air hose nozzle will lock the nozzle on the valve. If the nozzle is not fixed onto the valve, try again by opening and closing the lever.
  • After installing the nozzle, force the lever in the anti-clockwise position to lock it in place tightly.
  • Start pumping by moving the pump handle upward and downward.
  • If you listen to an air leakage sound and the bike tire is not inflating, eliminate the nozzle. Inspect the nozzle end. If the nozzle has two holes at its end, it means you are using an incorrect hole. Use the other one hole and reconnect the nozzle again with the tire.
  • If there is still no air in the tire, disconnect the nozzle with the tire valve. Inspect the nozzle internally; there will be a small core. In the case of some bike pumps, this core is reversible.
  • Remove the core with your finger, roll it, and install it back into the nozzle. After this process, connect the nozzle again with the tire valve and start pumping the handle.  Check that after this process either your pump is working or not.
  • When the tire begins to inflate, but you still hear a leakage sound, again remove the nozzle from the tire valve.
  • To check the air leakage, place the thumb on the nozzle and move the handle to generate pressure. Now, listen to the leakage sound carefully and try to identify the location of the leakage sound. In maximum cases, this leakage may occur in the places where the nozzle couples with the bicycle pump or where the nozzle couples with the air pipe.
  • Use a utility knife to cut the air hose one inch away from any holes or cracks in the air line. Also, remove the remaining small portion of the air hose from the connection, and insert again the hose where it was cut.
  • If the pump does not have an air hose, skip steps 3, 4, and 5.
  • If your pump is still not inflating the tires, remove the pump and replace it with a new one. Because your pump contains faulty internal valves that are not working, these valves can’t repair.

Types of Bike Pump Valves

Below given are three major types of bike pumps valves:

  1. Schrader valve
  2. Presta valve
  3. Wood valve

1) Schrader Valve

Schrader valves can be installed on almost all automobiles and bicycles with wide tire rims. It has a valve stem that has a threaded valve. This core is a mushroom valve attached via a spring.

The major advantages of these valves are that they are user-friendly and easy to use. When you eliminate the pump’s head, the center rod automatically springs back, and the valve closes. These valves have a removable core.

The major drawback of Schrader valves is that they require large diameter holes inside the rim than Presta valves. This valve uses for almost all vehicles’ tires, bike tires, and bicycle tires with a wider rim.

2) Presta Valve

This is one of the most famous types of bicycle pump valves. Presta valve has a more complicated design than a Schrader valve.

These valves are most widely used for mountain bicycle inner tubes and high-pressure rod-style tires.  It has an inner body of the valve and an outer valve stem. There is a nut to secure the stem at the rim, and a valve cap can also be accessible.

To inflate, first, loosen the knurled nuts on the center stalk and place it on its top. Then gently push the lever down (you will hear the hiss of air). Plug in the pump and turn it on the pump. After finishing the pumping process, eradicate the pump and loosen the top knurled nut to close the valve.

The Presta valve has easy operation when the pump contains a hose and the pump head fixes into place. The main advantage of these valves is that they require fewer diameter holes inside the rim than the Schrader valves.

3) Wood Valve

These valves are most commonly used on Dutch bikes. The wood valves have a wider valve stem like a Schrader pump. To inflate the tire, it needs a Presta pump. The wide-knurled ring uses to hold the easily detachable valve core in place.

How to use a Bike Pump?

Follow the following steps to use a bike pump:

bicycle pump using procedure

1) Buy a bike pump according to bike tire valve

First of all, you need to buy a pump for your bike tires but purchase the pump according to your bike tire’s valves. Mostly the bike tires have Schrader or Presta valves.

Inspect the tires and find the type of valve your bike has. Maximum bikes have Schrader valves. After this, purchase your pump.

2) Find the tire pressure requirements for your bike

It is very important for the safety of your tire that it shouldn’t inflate more or less than its requirements. Therefore, you need to find the exact pressure requirement for your tire. For this, check the sidewall of your bike tires to find the recommended highest and lowest tire pressures in PSI.

You can also use a pressure gauge to check the pressure requirement for your bike or bicycle tires and pump the air according to that. A pressure gauge is a device that will help you to find the exact pressure need for your bike tires. As a rule of thumb, road bike tires need a higher psi than hybrid or mountain bike tires.

3) Unscrew the cap from the valve

In most cases, the Schrader valve and Presta valve contain a plastic cap that must be removed before pumping air into the tire. Keep your cap in a place where you can find it easy to screw it again on the valve.  The main objective of this cap is to prevent dust and dirt from entering the valve.

If your bike tire has a Presta valve, you will need to loosen the lock nut and remove the cap. Before connecting the pump, turn the valve several times to open the valve. If you are using a Schrader valve, you will not need to perform this extra step.

4) Place the pump on the valve

A bicycle or bike tire pump has multiple types. But the floor pump is ideal for garage storage and can be used whenever you need to refill your tires at home. This pump is portable and can deliver more pressure than other pumps.

In general, floor pumps have a large capacity and can pump bicycle tires up to 160 psi (which is more than your need).

The hand and floor pumps have two holes in the nozzle. Fit the correct nozzle hole on your tire Presta valve or Schrader valve and start pumping.

If air is not pumping into the tire and coming out, it means you are using the wrong hole. Remove the nozzle and reconnect it with the valve by using the other one hole. 

5) Pull the Pump handle in an upward direction

After placing the pump on the tire valve, start the pumping process. For pumping air into the tire, the maximum bike pumps have a handle that you need to move upward and downward (at 90 degrees) for pumping air into the pump.

Read the pump manual for more guidance about this step.

6) Inflate the tire

As the pump nozzle is attached firmly to the bicycle or bike tire, it’s time to inflate the tire!

In the case of floor pumps, stand your feet on both sides of the pump base and move the handle up and down with both hands for pumping air into the tire.

In the case of a hand pump, use one hand to pump and the other hand to attach the nozzle to the valve. All types of hand pumps don’t have pressure gauges. So, I recommend you buy a hand pump with a pressure gauge.

7) Detach the pump from the valve

If you pulled the bicycle pump handle upward, push it downward. Then detach the nozzle from the tire valve. As you will disconnect the pump nozzle, you may hear a small air leak. This leakage of air is completely normal and will not result in any significant change in tire pressure.

8) Close the valve

In the case of a Schrader valve, just put the plastic protective cap again onto the valve. While in the Presta valve, ensure that the lock nut has been screwed tightly and put the protective plastic cap back onto the valve.

Advantages of Tire Pump

  1. These pumps can be fitted easily in the bike pocket or bag.
  2. These have small size and lightweight.
  3. A bicycle pump is portable.
  4. They require less space for installation.
  5. They have a compact design.

FAQ Section

Bicycle pump works on which law?

A bicycle pump works on Boyle’s law.

Are bicycle pumps universal?

The answer is yes because it has become the need of everyone who has a vehicle or bicycle. Therefore, a bicycle pump has become universal.

How much PSI can a bike pump produce?

A standard floor pump has a volume per stroke of up to 300 cubic centimeters and can supply a maximum of 160 psi tire pressure.

What are the types of Bicycle Pumps?

A bicycle pump has the following major types:

  • Stand Pump
  • Floor pump
  • Electric Pump
  • Foot pump
  • Hand pump or Mini bike Pump
Read More

8 thoughts on “How to use a Bicycle Pump | How does a Bike Pump Work”

  1. If you want to know whether you successfully inflate your tire, you can check your bike wheels by riding it. Once you can ride comfortably and do not feel any off vibe on your wheels, you have fully inflated your bike property.

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