What pressure should I inflate my tyres to/what if I don’t have a gauge on my pump?

The pressure you should run your tyres to will be written on the sidewall of your tyre (the side of the tyre).  It will say something like XXXPSI (pounds per square inch).  If you can’t find it, go with the following general guidelines.

Skinny road tyres (about 100psi)

Fatter road tyres (around 60-80 psi)

MTN bikes ridden on the road(40-60 PSI)

MTN bikes ridden off road (a little bit less pressure than MTN bikes ridden on road.  The less pressure in your tyres, the more traction you’ll have, but the more likely you are to get a pinch flat)

So, what if I don’t have a gauge on my pump?

A gauge is better, but if you don’t have one, you can guess.  A good way to check your tyres if you don’t have a guage is to push down on the tyre with the heel of your hand firmly.  Put your body weight into it (remember this tyre is going to support your body weight, so don’t be afraid to give it a good push).  Don’t pinch the sidewall with your fingers, push down on the tyre with the heel of your hand.

100 PSI will have almost no give at all.  Imagine pushing into a dog’s hard rubber toy.  100 PSI is hard.

60-80 PSI will have a slight amount of give.  It probably feels like a well inflated netball.  You’d expect to feel a couple of mm movement.

40-60 PSI will have a bit more give.  More like pushing into a tennis ball.

Valves.

A quick word about valves on your tyres.  There are 2 general types of valves.  Presta and Schrader.  Firstly take the little black plastic cap of the valve by unscrewing it.  This cap just protects the valve and stops dirt and grit working its way into your valve.  If you don’t have a cap, don’t worry, you’ve probably lost it somewhere.

Cap on valve

Most road bikes will have a Presta (or French) valve. You’ll see a brass tube with a little knob on the top.  You need to unscrew the knob (it doesn’t come all the way off ), so that you can inflate the tyre.  If you don’t unscrew the little knob?  You won’t inflate the tyre.

Presta valve, done up. You cannot inflate a tyre like this.

Presta Valve, ready for pumping

Schrader valves look like car tyres.  You can inflate these tyres at a service station with a car tyre pump.  All you do is unscrew the cap and go for it.  They are generally fatter than presta valves.

Schrader Valve

So, how do I inflate my tyres?

This, to an extent, depends on the pump you have.  I’ll give you some general ideas, and I’m pretty sure you’ll work it out.

Firstly, check what sort of pump head you need (Presta or Schrader).  Some pumps will take both kinds of valves without swapping the pump head over, some you need to unscrew and swap the tip over.

Then, get the head of the pump, and stick it on the valve.  Press it on firmly, and make sure that when you put it on, you put it on as parallel to the valve as you can.  Especially with Presta valves, makes sure that you don’t push or pull the valve to hard, as you’ll rip it out of the tube and give yourself a flat tyre.

Support the pump with your fingers so you don't rip the valve off

A lot of pumps then have a lever to lock the pump onto the valve.  Not all pumps have this.  If you are using a hand pump, try and support the pump on the valve with your fingers.  As you pump, you’ll wiggle the valve, and again you want to try and avoid ripping the valve out.

Pump away… Try and use full strokes – as far as the pump will extend before compressing as it’s more efficient.

When you’ve reached the pressure you want, unflick the lever (if it has one), then pull the pump head off.  Again, try and pull the pump away from the valve parallel to the valve (don’t pull it off at an angle) to avoid ripping the valve out of the tube.  If your bike has a Presta valve, do up the little brass knob (if you forget this, you’ll be having to pump your tyre up again), and then stick the little plastic cap onto the valve tip.

Redo this with your other tyre, and Voila, you’re ready to ride

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