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How to Put Air in Bike Tires at Gas Station

Gas station

When it comes to cycling, there’s a lot to learn. Not just about riding bikes but also maintaining them. It’s all part of being a cyclist. We often get asked questions about cycling and love answering them for our readers.  

One thing that is becoming increasingly popular is cyclists putting air in their tires at gas stations. Is this a new cycling hack? Well, in this article, we’re going to be discussing if you should be putting air in your tires at a gas station and if you choose to do it the right way to go about it.

Should I Put Air in My Tires at a Gas Station? 

Black and yellow coloured bike tire

Before we start, it’s important to speak about whether you should put air in your bike tires at a gas station because there are a few reasons that might put you off.

They are not designed for bikes 

The first thing to mention is these machines are not designed for bikes. They are designed for cars. Car tires are much thicker, have a much larger internal volume, and typically run lower pressures. If the machine forces air in too quickly, it might cause you some issues with over inflated tires or a blowout.

Garages don’t like cyclists using them 

After speaking to many cyclists about this, they have told me that garages are not always very welcoming when it comes to cyclists using their air machines. We recommend going and speaking to the attendant beforehand to make sure they are ok with you using the machine with a bike.

They cost money 

Unlike your trusty hand pump, you will probably find yourself having to pay for the privilege of using a garage tire inflator. They used to be free, but most garages charge anywhere up to a dollar for 5 minutes of use.

You typically will need an adaptor 

Bikes generally in the past used to use a Schrader valve which is the same as a car tire. Over the past decade, the industry has moved over to Presta, which is a little more fragile and redefined. This will mean you will need an adapter to ensure you’re able to do this:

Brass Presta Valve Adaptor (Pack of 5 + 10 Caps)

Do We Recommend It? 

It’s not something we would recommend personally. We think it’s much more beneficial to just have a proper bike pump and use the correct tools for the job. If you are in a situation where you are stuck and don’t have another choice, then here’s how to use a gas station pump.

How to Put Air in Your Tires From a Gas Station Pump 

So say you plan to use a gas station pump to inflate your tires. Then here’s what you’ll need to do. Firstly you’re going to need the following;

●    Gas Station Pump
●    Schrader to Presta Adapter
●    Cash

Step one: Preparation

The first thing you need to do before starting is ensure that it’s ok to use the pump at the gas station. We recommend taking yourself to the counter where the staff are and politely asking them if it’s ok to use the machine for your bike tires.

The staff are generally are ok about it but asking goes a long way. Once They have agreed, you will want to get your bike leaned against the machine, making sure that it won’t fall down and cause any injury or the bike to break.

Step two: Add an adapter and set the machine up 

Now you will see these machines are set up for Schrader valves. If you haven’t got Schrader valves on your bike, you will need to undo the Presta top and screw the adapter on ready. Once this is done, ensure it is nice and tight.

Now your bike is ready for the pump. Generally most of these machines, you have to select the PSI. Depending on the size of your tire, you will need different amounts. Once selected, grab the hose and take it across to your bike.

Step three: Add air

It’s time to put the pump onto the valve, and it will automatically start pumping the air in. It shouldn’t take too long unless something is wrong, you may want to know why your bike pump is not working, most machines beep when they reach your selected PSI.

On some machines, you can just use a handle to pump in as much air as you wish. We recommend being careful, not putting too much in, and slowly building the pressure up. Now remove the adapter, and you are done.

A black and white image of a bike tire and its shadow

The Proper Tools for the Job 

As we mentioned before, we don’t highly recommend using a gas station pump. There are many excellent pumps on the market to choose from, and some of them are even electric. Here are our top picks.

Woodwind LP1 Tire Pump 

woodwind lp1 tire pump

This isn’t your standard bike pump and is one of the best options instead of a gas pump. The Woowind is actually a small electric pump you can carry with you. When you want to use it, all you need to do is attach the hose and turn it on with the correct PSI entered, and it will stop itself when finished.

Pro Bike Tool Mini Pump

Pro Bike Tool Mini Pump

If you want something a little more basic that doesn’t rely on electricity, you might want to consider the Pro Bike Tool mini pump. It is compact, lightweight, and easy to use. It works with Presta and Schrader valves, and with a large chamber, it doesn’t take long to get a tire pumped up quickly.

Lezyne Control C02 Pump

Lezyne Control C02 Pump

Finally, we have the Lezyne Control C02 pump. Unlike the other pumps, this uses C02 canisters to force air into the tire. It is the quickest way to pump a tire up, but you only get one shot per cartridge, which can get expensive.

Conclusion

Many cyclists use a gas station pump to fill up their tires with air. We don’t generally recommend it as they are not designed for bikes and, in some circumstances, could cause you some issues. In an emergency, we recommend following our guide to ensure you do it properly. Thanks for taking the time to read our article.

 

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Robbie Ferri

Robbie Ferri

Robbie Ferri is a cyclist living in Norfolk in the UK. From breaking World Records to competing in some of the hardest Bikepacking races in the world he is not shy of riding the miles. He has been lucky enough to work at some amazing shops and with some big cycling brands. Alongside this he even had input in designing bikes and has also been a tester for unreleased products. He absolutely loves cycling and believes everyone should have a bike.