How to choose and inflate a road bike inflator

Posted at: Sep 28, 2020

Managing air pressure on a road bike is known as "the basics." We have compiled a list of how to select and inflate air pressure for road bicycles, which is similar to but slightly different from that of city bicycles.

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Why they say “air pressure management is fundamental” for road bikes

Road bikes are specialized sport bicycles that are designed to be ridden long distances at high speeds. Components and frames are a major factor in road bikes being able to travel long distances and at high speeds, but “slender, high-pressure tires” are also a major factor.

High pressure reduces the footprint between the tire and the road surface to achieve high speeds. When air pressure is reduced, the tire collapses, increasing the surface area of the road surface and increasing resistance, making it difficult to ride at high speeds.

In terms of long-distance riding, the minimum requirement is “no punctures. Even just a thin road bike tire will induce a puncture, such as a rim strike, if the air pressure drops. It is not possible to ride long distances on a bicycle that gets a puncture.

This is why it is said that “maintaining air pressure is the most basic of basics” for road bikes.

How to inflate a road bike

The method of inflating a road bike is basically the same as that of a regular city bike. However, compared to city bicycles and minivelos, road bikes have special parts.

  • Valve shape
  • High-pressure tires

You need an inflator that is compatible with these two points.

Type Valve Pneumatic
Road bike French type about 8-8.5bar
City cycle English style about 3-4bar
Electric bicycles English about 3-4bar

Check the valve type of the tire

Bicycle Valve Shape

Most road bicycle inflators are French valves. Since French valves are not compatible with the English valves used on city bicycles, the same inflators used on city bicycles cannot be used to inflate them.

Occasionally, connection adapters are available, but they may not inflate high-pressure road bike tires properly (they may come off when the pressure is high enough to try to inflate them), so try to select an inflator for French valves (such as for both English and French valves).

Prepare an air reservoir with an air pressure gauge!

Air inflator with air pressure gauge

In order to maintain proper air pressure in road bike tires, an inflator with an air pressure system is essential.

The reason why air pressure is important for road bikes is that without proper air pressure, the following risks can occur

  • Low air pressure -> tire crushes and is more prone to punctures
  • High air pressure -> tube is more likely to burst

An inflator with a pressure gauge costs $10 to $20 more than a regular one, but since you will be using it for a long time, choose one from a solid manufacturer such as Topeak or Panaracer.

Check the air pressure on the tire!

Road bike tires are marked with the correct air pressure.

Road bike tire pressure varies depending on the type of tire.

Usually, the air pressure is indicated on the circumference of the tire, so use that as a reference to inflate the tire. A good rule of thumb is to use about 80-90% of the pressure on the specs.

How often should I inflate my road bike?

The best frequency for inflating a road bike is “every time you ride”. High-pressure tires will depressurize without any action, so at the very least, check the air pressure every time you ride. Decreased air pressure can lead to punctures, such as hitting the rim.

If it is too much trouble to check the tire pressure with an air pressure gauge every time you ride, at least try to push the tire from the top. If the tire is so “tickly” that you can’t push it, it has some air pressure.

Even if you commute to work and “it’s hard to inflate every day,” you should inflate your tires at least once a week.

If you ride every day, you will feel discomfort when the tire is depressurized (bounce from the ground or discomfort at the start of a ride), so inflating the tire as soon as you feel discomfort will help prevent a flat tire.

Can you tell the tire pressure of a road bike tire by hand?

You can get some sense of this if you have inflated your own road bike tires many times, but you cannot tell for sure by just pushing and checking by hand. You can tell that it is low by pushing, but at the risk of over-inflation and parsing the tube, you should use an inflator with a proper pressure gauge or purchase an air pressure gauge.

Adjusting air pressure is such a delicate process that even professional bicycle stores use inflators with pressure gauges when inflating road bike tires.

If you are afraid you might get a flat tire.

If you are worried about managing air pressure, you may want to ask your local bicycle shop to do it for you in the beginning. Many bicycle shops will inflate your bicycle for free. However, some may not have French-style & air pressure gauges, so check with the store. A bicycle shop that handles road bikes is a sure bet.

Bicycle shops are also a business, so if you are going to buy bicycle items, make sure to buy from a bicycle shop that is grateful to you.

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