Using a ball pump to fill up a bike tire is such a hassle that you are better off buying a bike pump instead. Bike pumps are not expensive.
If you try to use a ball pump to inflate a bike tire, you will have a frustrating time. You may increase the pressure in the tire somewhat, but you will get stuck with underinflated tires. If you can't buy or borrow a bike pump right now, you can get your bike tires pumped up at the gas station instead.
A ball pump won't work well for a bicycle tire because it is too weak. It usually won't generate enough pressure, and the valves aren't always compatible. The pressure in a basketball is much lower than a bike tire.
Basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, bike tires, and car tires need different amounts of pressure. Pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). You can't use a weak pump to generate high pressure.
I have tried to pump up bike tires with a ball pump before, and while you can make your bike barely rideable, it doesn't really work. Even if you tire yourself out pumping fast and hard, you still won't achieve normal bike pressure. Some people have more luck than others, but a ball pump is usually too weak.
Does a Ball Pump Connect to a Bike Tire?
Sometimes, your ball pump will connect to your bike tire, depending on what valves are used. If the valves are incompatible, you can't use the ball pump at all. If it does connect, it will be quite a challenge to pump your bike tires up, but you will at least be able to try.
Ideally, the ball pump will work even though it doesn't create as much pressure as a bike pump will. You will find your bike rideable even though the pressure is lower than normal. You should not use a ball pump often (riding around with underinflated tires can damage your bike), but it might work if you have no other options.
What Types of Valves do Bike Tires and Ball Pumps Use?
There are only two commonly used types, Schrader valves and Presta valves. Road bikes that require more pressure will usually use Presta valves. Kids bikes, utility bikes, and cruiser bikes often use Schrader valves instead.
Not every ball pump uses only Schrader valves. You can get a ball pump that has both kinds of valves and may work reasonably well as a bike pump, depending on how little pressure your tires need.
How Much Pressure Do Balls Need?
You don't need much pressure to inflate a soccer ball properly. The recommended pressures for balls are:
- Soccer balls: 8.5 to 15.6 PSI
- Basketballs: 8-10 PSI
- Handballs: 5.8-8.7 PSI
- Volleyballs: 4.3 to 4.6 PSI
While ball pumps can create more pressure than is necessary to pump up a soccer ball, they may not produce enough pressure to pump up a bike tire. Bike tires need quite a lot more pressure than balls do.
What PSI Do You Need for Bike Tires?
Bike tires can have anywhere from as little as 20 to as much as 130 PSI of pressure in them. Since even 20 PSI is more than what a soccer ball needs, ball pumps are not up to the task of filling bike tires. Some common pressures for bike tires are:
- 20-40 PSI for kids' bikes
- 80-130 PSI for road bikes
- 50-70 PSI for hybrid bikes
- 30 PSI for mountain bikes off-road
- 50 PSI for mountain bikes on roads
Bikes with narrow tires have the most pressure (80-130 PSI), medium tires less pressure (50-70 PSI), and thick tires the least pressure (30-50 PSI). There is a trade-off where more pressure means more speed but less impact resistance.
If you ride a mountain bike off-road, you need less pressure to handle all the bumps you will hit on a trail. If you are on a smooth pavement surface, more pressure and narrower tires help you go faster. The bigger and heavier the rider is, the more pressure they need to put into their tires.
What Pressure Does a Ball Pump Produce?
Some ball pumps produce more pressure than others, and some tires need less pressure than others. If your tires need 80 PSI and your pump only produces up to 20 PSI, there's no way to produce an adequate amount of pressure.
However, your tires might only need 30 PSI, and your ball pump might produce that. If you have a relatively powerful ball pump and your tires need relatively little pressure, a ball pump might work if the parts are compatible.
How Do You Measure PSI?
Sometimes, your pump will have a PSI gauge on it, so you will not have to use two separate tools. If there is no pressure gauge on your pump, you will need a separate pressure gauge to measure it.
The Dangers of Under-Inflated Tires
If you ride over a bump with underinflated tires, this will lead to a pinch flat. A pinch flat is where the tire fails to protect the rim from the impact. This can damage your rim, sometimes right away and not only over time.
You can also fall off your bike and get hurt if your tires are underinflated. If you make a sharp turn without enough air in your tires, the tire may roll under your wheel, and you may fall.
It also takes more effort to ride your bike with less air in your tires. The bike will bob up and down as you ride it.
Can You Overinflate Your Bike Tires?
Yes, you can overinflate your tires. At worst, this will make your tires rupture, and you will have to replace them. Just because your tires don't burst doesn't mean that they are not overinflated.
If the pressure in your tires exceeds the optimal PSI, it will make your ride uncomfortable. Every tiny bump you hit will make your bike vibrate. You won't feel the bumps nearly as much with a normal amount of pressure in your tires, as they will absorb some of the shocks.
Part of the point of rubber wheels is that they absorb some of the shocks. Solid wheels don't absorb shocks nearly as well, and over inflated rubber wheels will function more like solid wheels.
Overinflation Can Damage Your Bike
You can also damage your bike or wear out your bike parts much faster if you use too much pressure. Since an overinflated tire won't flex, all of the impacts will be transferred straight to your rim. This puts too much strain on your rim, like riding with a flat tire does.
Things are even worse if you hit big bumps such as curbs or potholes with an overinflated tire. One impact can easily damage your rims that way. Get a PSI meter and know the right pressure for your tires.
Types of Bicycle Pumps
The two most common kinds are hand pumps and floor pumps. Floor pumps are the most familiar - you stand them up, hold them down with your feet, and pump the T-shaped handle up and down to fill your tires. A bicycle pump that isn't broken will always work much better than a ball pump.
Hand pumps are small and portable, so you can take them with you when you go on a long ride. They are not as powerful as floor pumps, but they are still much more powerful than ball pumps and are good enough to inflate your tires.
If you don't want to pump up your tires by hand each time, air compressors work very well. Air compressors are good for filling up bike tires and not only car tires.
Take Your Bike to a Gas Station
If you don't have a bicycle pump, the best thing is to take your bike to a gas station to fill up the tires. You have a worse than even chance of getting enough pressure in your tires with a ball pump.
About THE AUTHOR
Mountain biking is more than just a hobby for me - it's a way of life. I love the challenge and excitement that comes with it, and I'm always pushing myself to go faster and ride harder. Some people might think that mountain biking is dangerous, but I see it as the only way to live.Read More About Danny Lawson