You can inflate your mountain bikes’ tires using an air machine or air pump from the gas station.
Knowing how to pump your mountain bike tire is a crucial part of bike maintenance. You can have your riding gear ready and have all your riding essentials stocked, but if your bicycle tires are not in their optimum condition, you can kiss a fun weekend trip goodbye.
To avoid this horrible possibility, you must ensure that your tires are fully inflated before you hit the road.
How to Inflate Mountain Bike Tyres with a Presta Valve: A Guide
Inflating mountain bike tires can be tricky at the very beginning. There are a lot of factors and variations involved in the process but one element remains consistently important throughout – the Presta valve.
What is a Presta Valve?
A Presta valve is made entirely of metal and is commonly used in mountain bikes across low-end and high-end bikes.
Unlike Schrader valves commonly used in car tires, the Presta valve is sleek and uses pressure in the tube or tire to seal and prevent leaking, ensuring no air goes in or out. This design offers steadier air pressure when compared to a Schrader valve.
Schrader valves are wider and flatter on the end, unlike Presta valves. A schrader valve has a very small center button that lets air out or in when pressed.
A Presta valve comprises an outer valve stem that opens by unscrewing a knurled lock nut at the top, a valve core, base grommet options, O-ring, and a cap. When unscrewing the stem nut, caution must be taken to ensure you don’t accidentally unscrew the entire core to ensure the air does not get out of the tire.
Presta valves are more compatible, fitting easily with all types of rim holes and bike tubes, as well as with an air pump, standard tire pump, and foot pump, etc. To accommodate deeper and thicker rims, a valve extender is used to lengthen the Presta valves.
How to Inflate a Presta Valve With an Air Pump From the Gas Station
Most bike pumps have holes that cater to both types of valves. It is advised that you play it safe by carrying an adapter with you when you go mountain biking.
It’s easily portable and if you don’t want to carry it around, you can also attach it to your tire valve.
Here’s how you can use a Presta valve adapter with an air pump to inflate your bike tires:
- Unscrew the screw found on the tip of a Presta valve and let out a little air.
- Place the Presta valve adaptor on the now unscrewed tip of the Presta valve and attach it to the pump cautiously to avoid breaking the valve core. A little attention in this step can significantly increase the life span of the tube.
- Use the pump to slowly inflate the tire to the appropriate pressure. The inner tubes should feel sturdy enough to support your bike ride.
- Remove the pump head or hose and screw the Presta valve closed so it won’t leak air. You can replace the cap later.
An adapter turns a Presta valve into a Schrader valve. So, as long as you have a Presta valve adaptor, you can easily inflate your bike’s Presta valve with a gas station pump.
How to Inflate A Presta Valve With an Air Machine From the Gas Station
If your gas station has an air machine, it makes the inflation process significantly easier. Here’s what you need to do:
- Read the instructions. Most machines will have an air pressure limit.
- Releasing a little air from the tire, screw the Presta adapter onto the valve.
- If the machine is digital, you may want to leave a minimum leeway of 10 PSI with your target pressure as these machines tend to overinflate.
- If the machine has an analog gauge near the nozzle, fit it onto the valve and inflate it in short bursts, then use the lever to get a good seal. As gas station pumps are extremely high pressure, using any more pressure poses a risk of popping your tires.
- Once you’ve reached the desired pressure, remove the nozzle.
Air machines can be unpredictable. If it doesn’t track the pressure, don’t rely on your instincts to inflate your tires, rather purchase a portable gauge instead.
How to Inflate Presta Valves Without Presta Valve Adapters
You can’t expect to be prepared for emergencies all the time, no matter how hard you try.
When you’re stuck with a tire that needs some pumping but there’s no filling station in sight and you don’t have access to a Presta valve adapter, you can use a plastic Presta valve cap to inflate your tires.
Here’s a step-by-step guide that can help:
- If you don’t have a pump compatible with a Presta valve, modify the Presta valve cap. Locate the spot where the valve gets smaller and cut it with scissors or a knife and discard the small piece.
- Unscrewing the valve on the mountain bike tires, place the bigger part of the valve cap upside down on the tire, find the wide-rim mark at the base of the cap and cut it down.
- Loosen the locknut just enough to release air. Now, insert the modified cap into the Presta valve stem and twist it shut.
- Attach a connector pump head on the cap.
- Pump air into the inner tube via the pump head.
- Once you pump the tires to the desired pressure, screw the lock nut to prevent air transfer and shut the Presta valve once you’re done.
What Is the Right Tire Pressure?
Tire pressure is the air pressure pushed onto your bike’s tire walls. It is measured using the PSI (pounds per square inch) unit. Different tires can have different “ideal” air pressure ranges depending on the bike type and weight.
So instead of depending on someone else’s criteria of air pressure, check your tire’s sidewall for the recommended air pressure. As long as your tire’s air pressure lies somewhere in the range given, you’re good to go biking.
For mountain bikes, the air pressure recommendation is 30 PSI for off-road riding and 50 PSI for on-road. It’s significantly lower than most types of tires, but it serves a purpose, namely, filtering through the tough terrain efficiently.
How to Do an Air Pressure Check on Your Mountain Bike Tires
You don’t have to rush to a bike repair shop to check your mountain bike’s air pressure when you can do it yourself. Just squeeze the tire with your hand and check how the pressure holds in the middle.
Generally, the air pressure needs to be harder in the center compared to the tire near the treads.
If you don’t think the hand test is reliable, which is often the case, you can use a tire pressure gauge instead. It’s more likely to give accurate readings (provided the sensitive sensors are up and working).
When Should You Check Your Bike’s Air Pressure?
The frequency of air pressure checks that need to be undertaken to ensure proper bicycle maintenance depends on a range of factors, including the type of bike tires and their valve type, as well as the riding style of the biker.
Generally, you should check your bike’s tire pressure at least once a week. If you’re a seasonal rider, make sure to check your bike tire pressure a good day or two before taking a road bike trip.
Inflating bike tires with a Presta valve is key to enjoying a good mountain bike ride. It will offer support on a high-pressure ride and extend the life span of the pump head.
Learning this skill yourself can help you get the most out of your rides, so make sure to invest in a Presta valve soon!
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long will it take to pump a bicycle tire with a Presta valve?
It should take no longer than 10 minutes to pump a bike tire with a Presta valve.
Where can I purchase a Presta valve adapter?
All bike shops and most general sporting goods stores sell Presta valve adapters. If you’re not up for the trip, you can also purchase a Presta valve adapter online.