How to Inflate Your Bike Tires Properly (3 Easy Steps)

Have you been doing it wrong this whole time?

Bike tire getting inflated with gauged air pump.
Bike tire getting inflated with gauged air pump. Source: TheDigitalWay, Pixabay

The best way to keep your bike riding smoothly and avoid flat tires is to maintain your tires properly inflated. Tires that are properly inflated ride better, last longer, and resist punctures. But how do you know if you’re doing it right? How do you properly inflate a bike tire?

To properly inflate your bike tires, identify if you have Presta or Schrader valves. Always use a pump with a gauge to measure the air pressure as you pump. Reference the manufacturers, suggested max PSI. This is located on the sidewall of the tire.

But there’s more to it than that. So, in this article, you will learn about tire pressure and how to properly inflate your tires, so you can fill up your tires with confidence.

Editor’s note: This article was updated on October 29, 2021, to include additional information regarding tire pressure.

Why is tire pressure important?

Over time, even overnight, your tires lose air. A similar thing happens with automobile tires, but it isn’t as serious since the quantity of air lost is so little in comparison to the vast volume of air in a car tire.


However, when it comes to bicycle tires, a tiny amount of air makes a significant impact. A bicycle tire may lose up to 20% of its air in a single day.

Aside from making your bike less efficient, low tire pressure can result in a “pinch-flat.” A pinch-flat is a major threat that arises from low tire pressure and can occur when you hit a pothole, curb, rock, stick, or other sharp impediments.

If the air pressure in your tires is too low, the inner tube becomes trapped between the tire and the rim, and the rim edges cut two side-by-side holes into the inner tube, causing a “snake bite,” which is essentially a puncture that slowly leaks air out. You can learn how to avoid snake bites and other kinds of tire punctures here.

It should also go without saying that tires with low air pressure just suck to ride. They feel slow, sluggish, and are a drag, literally.

What kind of pump do I need to inflate my bike tires?

Some bike shops allow you to use their air compressors to fill up your tires. This is perfectly safe. However, they typically don’t have a gauge built in to measure the air pressure, so you risk overinflating and damaging the inner tube.

This is why I always recommend using a floor pump that has a gauge to indicate the PSI level. This way, you can fill the tire up to the specific recommendations set by the manufacture, no more, no less.

If you don’t already own a floor pump, consider some of the options below.

Never try to inflate your tires at a service station with a vehical tire compressor. Your bike tire can explode on you in seconds.

1. Determine the kind of valve you have.

To guarantee that you get the proper tubes as replacements, you must first determine the valve type of your tube.

There are generally two different types of valves available; Schrader valve and Presta valves.

Presta Valves

Presta valves are sometimes known as “French,” “racing,” and “needle” valves. Some Presta valves do not have threaded shafts, others have smooth metal or rubber shafts.

Presta valves are available in a variety of lengths. The length of the valves that came with your wheels should be the same. If you have deep rims, you must use a tire with longer valves.

To add or remove air from Presta valves, unscrew the tip by rotating it counterclockwise. Press down on the tip to open the valve and let the air out. Before inflating, press down to ensure the valve is open.

Man replacing inner tube with a presta valve on a black bike tire.
Man replacing inner tube with a presta valve on a black bike tire. Source: Adobe stock.

Schrader valves

Schrader valves are similar to car tire valves and are frequently referred to as “American” valves. Schrader valves consist of a valve stem into which a valve core is threaded. The valve core is a poppet valve assisted by a spring.

Plastic caps are often included with every valve. These provide some protection as well as a “finished” appearance. Many cyclists, however, opt not to ride with them since it is quicker to inflate tires when the caps are off.


I personally always like having the caps on. It gives me peace of mind to know that I’m not willingly allowing air to escape from the valve.

Want to know wich valve types best? We wrote a whole article on the difference between presta and schrader valves. Be sure to check it out.

If you are looking for some 700c inner tubes, consider some of the options below.

2. Connect the pump to the tube

There are many bike pumps available on the market with different instructions. The best way to ensure that you use yours appropriately is to carefully read the instructions.

Most contemporary pumps have a head that can accommodate both valve styles. You just utilize the hole on the valve (skinny one for Presta and larger for Schrader).

Some pumps feature convertible heads that must be disassembled and reassembled when you wish to pump up a different valve. Set it up for your bicycle’s valves and keep the instructions accessible so you’ll remember how to modify it if required.

Always open a Presta valve by unscrewing it and slightly pushing on the tip. Also, be sure you press the pump head on far enough (cover about one-third of the valve).

If the pump head has a “lever lock,” flip it to connect it to the valve and begin pumping.

3. Inflate the tire with air.

To get the proper PSI for your tire, reference the manufacturer’s suggested max PSI, which is written on the tire sidewall (it’s frequently on a little label, but it might also be molded into the casing, so check carefully).

Keep your eyes on the gauge. You don’t want to overinflate, or you will render the tire useless! This is more common than you might think.

Don’t pump too hard. Slow and steady gets the work done and avoids pump damage (pushing too rapidly might damage the gauge).

If you need a visual guide, check out this video that shows you exactly how to pump your bike tires with a floor pump.

A video called How to Inflate a Bicycle Tire from Schwinn Bicycles’ YouTube Channel.


Maintaining the proper air pressure in your bike is one of the most important things you can do to avoid tire punctures and ensure you have a smooth, fun ride.

In this article, we covered why tire pressure is important, what kind of pump you should get and showed you who to inflate your tires in three easy steps. Here are some key takeaways:

Key takeaways

  • Tires with low airpresure are susceptible to snake bike punctures
  • Bikes with low trie pressure ride slow and feel slugish
  • Never use an aircompressor designed for a car on yuor bike
  • Identify if you have Presta or Schrader valves
  • Always use a pump with a gauge to measure PSI levels as you inflate

So, do you use a hand pump? Floor pump? Or do you typically YOLO it with a gauge-less air compressor? Let us know in the comments below (we read and reply to every comment). If you found this article helpful, check out our full blog for more tips and tricks on everything fixie. Thanks for reading, and stay fixed.

Written by Bradly Knight

As a native New Yorker, Bradley is no stranger to the fixed gear scene. He’s been riding fixed for over ten years. When he’s not on the bike, you can find him practicing his many hobbies including playing guitar, video production, and photography.

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