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How to inflate road bike tires?
CREATED: 03/14/09 by wombat REPLIES: 6
wombat's ravatar wombat    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 266
How to inflate road bike tires?
POSTED: 3/14/09 9:09 PM

Idiot alert! My road bike tires are completely flat and I can't inflate them. Please help this clueless soul. I unscrewed the black value covers and loosed the gold screw/lock thing. I then took my floor pump, attached it to the value and flipped up that little plastic lever to lock it into place. However, when I start pumping air nothing is going into the tires. I can hear and feel the air flowing out of the pump, just not into the tire. This leads me to believe (a) something is broken or (b) I am a complete moron who doesn't know how to properly attach a pump to her tire.

I've watched others put air in my tires and consulted youtube videos and it doesn't look like I'm doing anything different than they are, but I must be. Any ideas? Thanks for tolerating my hopeless ignorance.

trimontana's ravatar trimontana    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 50
RE: How to inflate road bike tires?
POSTED: 3/14/09 9:24 PM

Don't worry about what people might think of your question. Everyone has been there at one point or another. Also, all you have to do is watch Chrissie Wellington at the 2008 World Championships to see that the skill of inflating tires is not always easy.

It sure sounds like the procedures you're following are correct.

I suspect the problem might have to do with difference in types of valve stems: For example, your tire valve might be a "Presta" but your pump might not (might be a schrader). Your local bike shop could easily show you the difference.

If that doesn't work, make sure the tires are actually good. They might be damaged and losing air at different locations, thus masking the problem.

Finally, if that doesn't work, take one of the tires off and take it to the bike shop and have them fill it up for you, with your pump. If they're grumpy about this free demo request, then just buy a few tires from them and then pose the question. You'll never have too many tires in this sport, as you'll get flats the more you train on country roads.

dsgrunning's ravatar dsgrunning    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 1267
RE: How to inflate road bike tires?
POSTED: 3/14/09 9:27 PM

Bike tires have two types of valves. You either have a Schrader or Presta. Most bike pumps also have two types of valves that connects to either the Schrader or Presta. Make sure that you use the correct pump valve to the tire valve. If you don't use the proper pump valve to the proper tire valve then you won't be able to inflate the tire properly. If you have a pump that only pumps one type of valve and your tire is a different type then you will either need a new pump or new tire.

If this still does not work for you then go to the nearest bike shop and they'll take a look as to what you are doing wrong. Don't worry about it. You are not the first who has this problem nor will you be the last.

wombat's ravatar wombat    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 266
RE: How to inflate road bike tires?
POSTED: 3/14/09 9:34 PM

Thanks. I have a Botranger Turbo Charger floor pump which is supposed to fit both schrader and presta valves (

I'll definitely swing by my bike shop tomorrow, but it doesn't open until noon and I was hoping to join the HIP bike ride at 10 am. Hopefully I can show up early and bum a pump (or two) from a fellow HIPster.

sandyc's ravatar sandyc    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 288
RE: How to inflate road bike tires?
POSTED: 3/14/09 10:22 PM

I've had a similar problem on occasion with inflating a tire. What I found is if the plug (the thing that you loosen the lock on and press down on to release air) is slightly bent even the tiniest bit, I have to fiddle with readjusting the pump (I have a Bontrager pump as well) on the valve a few times until I get it seated just right. When this first happened, I felt like a complete idiot and couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong, but then I figured out how to adjust it when needed. I find that it doesn't happen with all tubes - just occasionally where I've bent the plug just a little bit. I have a pressure gauge on my pump, so I can tell right away when it's not working as the needle just drifts right down when I'm not pumping. Try lifting the lever, pressing the pump back down onto the valve again (maybe just at a very, very slightly different angle - be careful not to bend the plug anymore) and lock it while you're pressing down.

I'd show you tomorrow, but I'm probably going to bail on the HIP ride tomorrow because I'm a wuss about riding in the cold and rain. ::;^|:: Good luck!

wombat's ravatar wombat    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 266
RE: How to inflate road bike tires?
POSTED: 3/14/09 10:37 PM

I think I had a schrader pump on a presta valve issue. A friend dropped by with her pump and I was able to inflate both my tires to the recommend 100 psi. Tomorrow I'll be buying a new pump.

Thanks everyone! Biking is my weakness so you'll see many more posts from me in the future - like how to clip out without falling, proper gearing, how to change a tire, etc. In exchange I can answer any swimming questions you have.

seleav's ravatar seleav    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 24
RE: How to inflate road bike tires?
POSTED: 3/17/09 12:15 PM

thanks for posting this question! I learned some stuff already just by reading this thread.
Cheers! Stacey

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