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I'm an old-time bike rider who commuted to grad school every day for 3 years on a bicycle. Then after a 20+-year-long hiatus, started riding again with my son. I cannot figure out the fitting on the modern pumps. I can get some air in, but after several cases of the thing flying off or making an embarrassing leaking, whoosh sound with every stroke.

Q: Are pumps with the old-style, screw-on fittings available anywhere anymore?

Q: Is there a good reason I should appreciate the new fitting?

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Presta valves have become more common in the last few years. Do you know if you have those or Schrader valves? bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/244/terminology-index/… and bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/244/terminology-index/… –  jimirings May 9 '13 at 16:16
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From what I remember with screw-on fittings, a significant amount of air was let out when unscrewing the fitting. So you'd have to pump them up a little bit extra to account for the air you would lose when unscrewing the pump. Maybe that's just the pumps I was using though. –  Kibbee May 9 '13 at 16:39
    
You can be like me and appreciate Presta valves for being smaller and making narrower wheels possible. You can also join me in cussing them out due to the inflation problems you mentioned above. Everything's a compromise. :-) –  Brian Knoblauch May 9 '13 at 19:04
    
I will edit this question in a day or two to add a photo. thanks! –  pterandon May 9 '13 at 20:49
    
Old style screw up hoses didn't let air out of a Presta fitting while you unscrewed it if you were careful, as far as I remember. But I recently bought a Silca pump that came with Silca's "#60.1 Reversible Connector". It lets huge amounts of air out of a Schrader valve, and I've replaced it with the head off my failed Topeak floor pump. –  armb May 10 '13 at 14:04
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3 Answers

There are two main standards: Schrader and Presta. Schrader is the standard auto tire valve, while Presta is thinner and has a little knurled knob on top. Schader is relatively straight-forward to use while Presta requires a little finesse.

Most newer "floor pump" valves are "agnostic" and will fit either style without conversion, but some require flipping a gasket over inside the chuck or some such.

Floor pumps generally have a flip-lever valve where you press the valve on, then flip the lever up to lock the valve on. Sometimes, if the tire is flat, you may need to press your thumb into the tire on the back side of the valve to keep the valve from sliding into the rim as you push the chuck on -- if you don't then the chuck doesn't get on far enough. Plus on some valves you may need to adjust the chuck by tightening a knurled fitting on the chuck, to compensate for gasket wear, etc. And of course there are cheap pumps that won't work regardless.

Presta can be a little tricky. You need to unscrew the knurled knob ALL THE WAY, then press the chuck on. And I like to tap the unscrewed knob once to free the internal seal from its seat -- sometimes they stick, making it hard to get air in. When you're finished filling a Presta, just tighten the knob barely finger tight, so as to not unnecessarily deform the seal.

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A good quality pump will rarely have issues like this. You may have a very cheap pump, or you may have a pump which is designed for one of the other valve styles available.

There are a few threaded valve fittings, mostly on fairly high end pumps. Lezyne and Scott Sports (Syncros) both make good pumps with threaded fittings which fit the 2 main valve types on European and US bike styles.

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zenbike beat me to it—Lezyne pumps feature threaded connectors for both Schrader and Presta valves—no adaptor to lose. Now if I could just find a threaded Schrader fitting for the compressor in my truck. ;) –  jaberg May 9 '13 at 16:29
    
Make sure the head is fitted correctly on the valve. Most older pumps had the "locked on" position with the lever parallel to the hose with the lever layed down. . Most new pumps seem to have the locked position with the lever up or perpendicular to the hose. –  mikes May 9 '13 at 20:22
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Answers so far seem to concentrate on floor pumps, but what I haven't seen recently is a full length frame pump that uses a hose connector. But 20+ years ago, that was fairly standard.

I'd recommend getting a floor pump for regularly keeping tyres topped up, but you still need a pump to take on the bike in case of a flat.

If you want an old style pump, Google finds me the Zefal Lapize, but a couple of reviews are unenthusiastic, and suggest that the retro style is the only real reason to consider it.

In a more compact style, the Topeak RaceRocket has a hose connection that fits both main valve types. Topeak also make some "mini-floor" style compact pumps with hoses, the Morph range.

For pumps without a hose :

  • As with the floor pumps, make sure the head is set for your valve type, which might mean unscrewing it, swapping some bits, and putting it back together, might mean picking the right one of two holes, or it might just always work with both. (Or, worst case, it only works with one type, and it's not the type you have.)
  • Adjust any rubber sealing washer in the head to lightly grip the valve when you push the head on, then grip firmly when you press the locking lever in the right direction. (Some cheap nasty pumps have no lever and need the compressing ring tightened while the pump is in place. Some heads without levers you can get the grip just right to push on against a bit of resistance and stay on without adjusting.)
  • Keep the pump barrel at right angles to the valve while pumping. Gripping some spokes of your wheel with the same hand that is holding the pump head can help.
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