I recently got a new beginners road bike:


And an air pump:


But I have no idea how to use the bike pump. I really don't have that much experience with bikes, which is probably a large portion of the problem. Here are some questions I have:

  1. How do you even use the pump? I imagined it would be intuitive but it isn't, at all. It looks like my wheels have a schrader valve (it's definitely not presta, could it be something else?), and my pump says it can work for these valves, but I can't attach the end of the pump on the part of the tire that takes in air at all. After reading the Amazon reviews I understand you have to do an operation to change the head in order to deal with schraders, but even after that, it still doesn't work for me.

  2. When I was young, I always pumped my bike until I felt the wheel was firm, as I had never heard of psi or anything. How do you exactly tell how much to pump your bike and what does psi have to do with anything?


  • The psi required will be stamped on the side of the tire
    – mikes
    Jun 9, 2012 at 21:28
  • It seems like this should have already been asked before, but I can't find any other posts about how to inflate tires. It's good to have a question about this somewhere on the site.
    – amcnabb
    Jun 9, 2012 at 23:23
  • Was thinking about this question while at the shop. There are six or so different types of heads for the pumps and I could see where someone might get confused. Is it worth while taking some pictures of the main contenders with how they are used?
    – Ken Hiatt
    Jun 11, 2012 at 2:49

2 Answers 2

  1. Remove the valve cap
  2. With the lever folded flat against the pump insert the valve into the Schrader port of the pump
  3. Lift the lever so it is perpendicular to the pump body this will lock the pump and valve together
  4. Pump the pump until the tire feels firm
  5. Fold the lever against the pump body and quickly remove the pump from the valve
  6. Measure the pressure with a tire pressure gauge
  7. If the pressure is less than desired repeat steps 2 thru 5
  8. If the pressure is above the desired pressure release some air and recheck it with the gauge As a side note the more you use the pump the closer you will be able to judge the pressure by the effort required to push the pump
  • This is where having a pump with an inline pressure gauge can save a lot of time.
    – Kibbee
    Jun 11, 2012 at 18:09

On the manufacturers page for your pump there is a video showing how you switch the pump over from presta to schrader.

At the top right of the Topeak PocketRocket page there is a link to this YouTube video "How to change internal pump head parts"

As far as PSI goes, you can either go for what feels right, or buy a separate pressure gauge. It is probably possible to buy something very cheap that should do a good enough job. Some people swear by their specific tire pressure, others don't really notice the difference. Just avoid letting them get too low because that will cause damage to the tires.

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