FIRSTLY: A NOTE ON VALVES
The first thing to know about how to put air in an ebike tire is that there are two different types of valves on ebike tires. There are Schrader valves, exactly the same as you’ll find on your car tires, and there are Presta valves, which are more common on road bikes. Presta valves are better suited to higher pressures, whilst Schrader valves operate on tires with lower pressures.
Both of these valves have different “heads” on them, meaning that a different nozzle is required to connect either of these with any form of pump. Many ebike pumps fit onto Schrader heads as standard and then the purchase of a cheap adaptor will convert them to work with Presta valves.
OPTION 1: CO2 INFLATORS
Whilst hand pumps were, in the past, the most popular method of pumping up an ebike tire whilst on the trail technological innovation has enhanced the world of the average cyclist providing us with lightweight, hassle-free CO2 inflators. These are lighter weight than hand pumps, and take up much less space in your bag.
If you’re looking for how to put air in electric bicycle tires quickly and easily then these little tools will help you to do just that. They consist of two parts: a CO2 inflator head, which looks like just the top of a hand pump, and a CO2 cartridge. Both of these are available at ebike shops and online.
CO2 inflator heads vary slightly in style and can vary quite a bit in price. These price fluctuations are based on different functionalities. Some have built-in valves which allow you to control the flow of CO2 much more acutely than the other style which are a bit more “plug and play”. When purchasing a CO2 inflator head choose one with functionality that suits your needs, and make sure that it fits the valve which you have on your ebike.
The small CO2 cartridges contain gas under pressure so, whilst they look very tiny, they actually pack a very powerful punch! This is what allows such a small package to fill a whole ebike tire. There are actually two different sizes of CO2 cartridges, 16 and 20 grams. 16-gram cartridges are ideal for road ebike tires as well as regular ebike tires, whilst 20-gram cartridges are best for fat tires and larger, 29 inch, regular tires. Cartridges can either be threaded or unthreaded and you should make sure to purchase the style that suits the CO2 inflator head you purchased.
HOW TO USE A CO2 INFLATOR
There are a few steps to filling a tire with a CO2 cartridge and here’s a step-by-step rundown of how to do it.
NOTE: It is recommended that you learn to use your CO2 inflator at home first, before you get stuck out on the trail with only one or two cartridges i.e. one or two attempts, to get you rolling again. Failing this we do have the manual method, which we’ll explain in a moment, however, for reasons which will become apparent, this is the preferred method.
Place the inflator head securely onto the valve of the tire you want to fill.
Insert the CO2 canister into the inflator head. For threaded inflator heads, this means a few turns clockwise with the cartridge, until you hear gas beginning to flow. For unthreaded inflator heads this means that you are going to firmly push the CO2 cartridge into the inflator head to start the flow of air.
Allow the tire to fill for 1-2 seconds, and disengage the CO2 cartridge from the inflator head, either by turning it anti-clockwise -for threaded cartridges- or by simply pulling the cartridge out of the inflator head -for unthreaded cartridges.
Make sure the gas is entering the tire by checking to see if the tire has inflated a little. If it was totally flat before then now is the time to ensure that the tire itself is in its proper position on the wheel rim. If all looks good then continue.
Place the inflator head onto the valve and allow it to continue filling the tire until it has reached the desired pressure.
Once the tire is adequately filled then remove the inflator by pulling it straight up, away from the valve. Such a move will avoid severely damaging the valve.
CO2 dissipates quicker than air, and your tire could easily empty over the course of 24 hours. It is therefore wise to carry more than one cartridge with you and fill your tire up with air from a pump as soon as you can. It is because of this that these CO2 inflators are not a long-term solution, but they will allow you to fill your ebike tire and get home without the need for a lot of pumping and huffing and puffing on the side of the trail.
OPTION 2: MANUAL INFLATION
If you’re wondering how to inflate an ebike tire without a pump then manual inflation will be your last resort. It will, however, get you back home to your store-bought or homemade bike pump so that you can pump up your tire and fix any leaks that may be causing your problem.
Manually inflating your tire is much like giving your tire mouth-to-mouth -or mouth-to-valve- and because of your tire’s close proximity to the ground we recommend giving the valve a good rub clean with a hand, a t-shirt, or any other clean piece of cloth before you begin this process. It is also recommended that you remove the wheel from your bike to make this a much easier, and much less dangerous, process. Additionally, manual inflation is probably only possible if your bike has a presta valve.
Place your mouth over the valve and your tongue on the centerpiece of the valve; this will keep it open whilst you begin to blow it up.
Begin blowing up the tire. This will take a lot of time, so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen quickly enough. After a minute or two check to see that the tire is inflating and that all your hot air isn’t for nothing.
You’re not going to be able to reach the PSI level you could with a pump or a CO2 inflator but it will be enough to carry you home without damaging your wheel’s rim. Once you reach a high enough PSI for your riding needs, stop.
Put on the dust cap and reattach the wheel and get yourself to a pump!