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How to Inflate a Presta Valve and Do It Properly?

Robbie Ferri
February 13, 2022

To inflate a Presta valve, you must unscrew the core valve, push a pump on, and inflate it with air. Once inflated, remove the pump and screw the core valve back up.

As someone who has worked in the cycling industry for years as an athlete and in bike shops, I am asked many questions on bike maintenance. I absolutely love to share my knowledge and help others get into cycling.

In this article, were going to tell you everything you need to know when it comes to inflating a Presta valve. We will look at how to identify Presta valves, how to set up a bike pump, how to inflate the tire, how much to inflate the tire, and things to be cautious of.

bike tire close up

How to Identify a Presta Valve?

There are two common types of valves. When it comes to bicycles, you will have a Presta valve and a Schrader. Before you do any work on your bike, it's vital to understand which valve you are using, as this will change how you pump up the tires. First remove the valve cap.

Typically a Presta valve is a small tube about 3mm in width, and it has a screw piece at the top and will typically be silver or black. The valve is made up of two parts, a tube, and a core, which can be separated apart. Commonly these valves are seen on road bikes, gravel bikes, touring bikes, and bikes that have 700c wheelsets. These are the valves used not just on inner tubes but also on tubeless systems.

Then you have Schrader valves: these are small open circular valves about 5mm across with a pin in the center. These are larger and seen on bike and car tires. These valves are commonly seen on inner tubes and mainly on mountain bikes and typically older bikes. These are a single piece valves, and the valve cannot be separated apart. Gas station pumps use Schrader valves. Make sure you don't mistake these for Presta Valves. 

How to Set Up Your Air Pump to Inflate a Presta Valve?

Bike pumps come in various different shapes and sizes and the most common types are track bike pumps and hand pumps. Typically, a modern day air pump will have what they call a pump head. You will either have a single or double piece on the pump head. A double piece will have an adaptor for Presta and Schrader valves. On a single, it will generally be set up for Schrader valve cap when you receive it. 

If you have a standard tire pump with a single adaptor, you will generally need to unscrew the top of the head, switch it upside down and screw it back together. Now it should be ready for the Presta valve, and you can always tell by simply looking. You should see a small hole about 2-3mm with a rubber ring round the outside, this will mean it is a Presta valve adapter.

How to Inflate a Presta Valve and Blow Up Your Tires?

To inflate a Presta valve firstly, you will need your pump to hand. Next, you will need to unscrew the Presta valve core at the top. This might be under a valve cap you may need to remove. To do this, you will unscrew it to the left and the valve cap will come off. Once unscrewed, push or screw on the pump depending on which type of bike pump you have.

Once screwed on, take the pump's handle and start using the handle to inflate air pressure into the bike tire. Once you have the pressure you need, remove the head of the pump. Screw the valve back uptight, and then you will need to fit the cap again by turning it to the right. Your bike tire now should be ready to be used.

How Much to Inflate Your Tires?

A common question I am asked is how much to inflate your tires to the correct bike tire pressure. This depends on many different factors, such as what tires you are using, what kind of riding you plan to do on those tires, and the terrain. Most bike pumps will have a tire pressure gauge on them. If not, you can buy these separately, and I’d say it is a good investment. When you come to inflate presta valve you can see what's going in the tire.

single bike tire

The best way to find out the correct tire pressure is to check what it says on the side of the bike tires. Typically, it will give you a figure like 110psi max, and this would be a road bike tire. Just because it says 110psi max does not mean it is a good amount to put in. Riding road bike tires with 110psi in would be very uncomfortable.

Based on my experience, the best place to start is to go to 70% of this figure. Once there, take your bike for a ride and if you find it too hard, take some air out or too soft, put some more air in. The most important thing is to not go above the max psi the manufacturer states on the bicycle tire while also not having so little that you cannot control the bike.

Things to Be Cautious of When Inflating the Presta Valve

When it comes to working on our bikes, you need to make sure you're doing it right. Here are a few things we recommend to ensure you don't damage the valve or need to make further repairs to your bike.

  • When you have the valve unscrewed, do not let it bend
  • Make sure you have screwed it back up after and have the Presta valve cap on
  • If you are using a screw-on pump, do not put it on too tight, as this could remove the valve
  • Regularly check your tire pressures, so you don't ride an unsafe bike
  • When going out, carry a spare tube
  • If your inner tube goes down quickly, look for punctures on your bike tire

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Final Note

Now you know how to inflate a Presta valve. It's not a difficult job and can be the difference between having a good ride and a bad ride on your bike. Many rides have been ruined by not having enough air in my tires, and I feel I'm working harder than everyone else I'm with.

Presta valves are typically quite fragile, so be cautious when working on them. If you are unsure of how to do anything, we recommend going to a local bike shop and getting them to show you how. They should be happy to help, and sometimes it works to see it in person.

Now it is time to jump on your mountain bike and go out on a bike trip, enjoy some miles out on the mountain biking trails and get fitter and stronger. Also, share the knowledge with your friends.

Robbie Ferri
About the Author
I’m Robbie Ferri I’m a Cyclist from Norfolk UK. I have been cycling for many years and found myself in Time Trials, Ultra Cycling World Records, and Bikepacking Races. I have worked in a Bike shop and with some of the industry’s leading brands. I’m also an experienced Spinning Instructor and avid Indoor Cyclist. If I’m not cycling, I’m writing about it.
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