How To Pump A Bike Tire Without A Pump?

Knowing how to properly inflate a bike tire is an essential skill for a cyclist. Whether you suffer an unexpected flat mid-ride, or simply want to keep an optimal level of tire pressure, keeping tires properly inflated is a must.

Usually, there’s not much to it – bike pumps are pretty self-explanatory. But if you are out on a ride, or haven’t gotten around to purchasing a bike pump – can you still inflate a tire? The answer is yes – but the process requires a little know-how.

Thankfully, we’re here to help – we’ll go over the process step by step, as well as cover all the additional information that you need.

Inflating A Bike Tire Without A Pump

Keeping your tires inflated is a big deal. Not only does it guarantee optimal performance, but it reduces the chance of an accident happening, and also prolongs tire lifespan.

flat bike tire

And you should check your tire pressure often – at least twice a week, and preferably before and after each ride. That’s easy when you have a bike pump – but if you don’t, or if you find yourself in the middle of a trail or a bike path with a flat, you’re going to have to take a slightly different approach.

We’re going to cover the two methods of inflating a bike tire without a pump – so the next time you find yourself in this predicament, you’ll have a helpful guide to refer to.

Tools and Technical Details

The first method of inflating a bike tire without a pump makes use of a C02 cartridge. C02 cartridges are small, easily portable, and light, making them a perfect failsafe on the road or at home. However, they’re just a temporary solution – we still highly recommend getting a bike pump – but more on that later.

The second method requires no tools, and simply entails blowing air into the tire by using your mouth. Obviously, the first method is much easier and much less messy. But it isn’t as straightforward as you might be led to believe – there are a couple of things to keep in mind.


Not all cartridges are made equal. C02 cartridges differ in size, and different types of bikes require different tire pressures to achieve optimal performance.


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    C02 cartridges

    How much C02 you’ll need can easily be found online – but in general, smaller cartridges work well for standard bike tires and road bike tires, while larger cartridges are required for mountain bikes, 29-inch tires, and fat-tire bikes.

    Cartridges are divided into two types – threaded and non-threaded. While threaded cartridges can be screwed onto your inflator head, non-threaded cartridges have to be pushed or pressed into the inflator head.

    Along with this, some cartridges allow you to control the flow of the gas. A lot of cartridge models simply let out all of the gas when pierced, but some feature push-to-inflate or twist-to-inflate mechanisms.


    The next thing that you have to do is ascertain which type of valve your tire uses. Most tires will use either a Presta valve or a Schrader valve.

    presta and schrader valves

    In general, you’re more likely to see a Presta valve on a road bike tire and a Schrader’s valve on a mountain bike tire. However, this isn’t set in stone – Presta valves are suited to higher tire pressures, while Schrader valves operate with lower tire pressures.

    Telling the difference between these two valves is quite easy – Presta valves are slimmer, skinny, and long, while Schrader valves are thicker, wider, and more robust.


    When purchasing a nozzle, it’s important to get one with the right head for your valve type. Presta and Schrader valves are not interchangeable – so picking an incompatible nozzle will make the C02 cartridge useless.

    different types of nozzles

    Certain nozzles have stop mechanisms that will cut off the flow of gas when the tire is properly inflated, but others don’t. Although it may be a slightly more expensive option, we recommend investing in a nozzle with a stop mechanism.

    The Process

    Now that you’re armed with the knowledge of all the things you should keep in mind, we can move on to the actual pumpless pumping process. First, we’ll cover the method that uses a C02 cartridge – then, we’ll move on to the manual method of pumping a bike tire without a pump.

    Using a Cartridge of C02

    Begin by attaching the cartridge of C02 to the nozzle. If your cartridge has a threaded neck, you’ll have to screw it onto the nozzle. If your cartridge is a smooth neck or non-threaded, you just have to insert the neck into the nozzle.

    using C02 cartridge to inflate a bike tire

    What you do next depends on how deflated your tire actually is. If it is completely deflated, you’ll want to take things step by step – open the nozzle and inflate the tire for a couple of seconds. Then, check whether or not the tire is properly placed onto the rim.

    If your tire isn’t completely deflated, it’s much easier to tell whether or not it is properly placed on the rim from the get-go.

    If you use cartridges without a mechanism that can stop the flow of gas, you’ll ideally want to pack more than one. If you have just one on hand, you have to make it count – so we suggest deflating your tires and practicing at home.

    bike tire infinity 700x38c

    Once you’re done, close the nozzle and pull it off the valve, by pulling as straight as possible in order to prevent any possible damage. Put the valve cap back on the stem – and you’re done.

    Well, you’re almost done. Keep in mind that C02 dissipates rather rapidly – it can easily dissipate in the span of a single day – so make sure to replace it with regular air as soon as possible. The easiest way to do that, of course, is by using a pump – and although this is a guide on how to make do without one, we strongly suggest purchasing a high-quality pump.

    Manually Inflating a Tire

    Tires naturally get quite dirty, and your valve is no different. You’ll want to use anything at hand – preferably a towel, a piece of cloth, or a t-shirt to wipe it down.

    bike safety check

    Once the valve is a little less unsanitary, you can proceed. Begin by blowing a small amount of air into the tire. You’ll want to use your tongue to put pressure on the valve to keep it open.

    After you’ve inflated the tire a little, stop and check to see if the tire is properly positioned on the rim. If needed, adjust the tire until it is in the proper position.

    Inflating a tire using this method takes quite a long time. Don’t get discouraged, and make sure to check whether or not the tire is properly adhering to the rim from time to time. Once you think you’ve inflated it enough, check the tire pressure by squeezing the tire with your hand.

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    How To Pump A Bike Tire Without A Pump? — Bike Hacks