Air hoses that frustrate some riders

air hoses tyre pressure gauge

Riders with spoked wheels on their bikes are frustrated at not being able to get some service station air hoses to fit their metal valve stems.

The owner of a Queensland service station says he suspects one rider became so frustrated he found a solution to the problem by bending their air hose nozzle.

“I’ve often seen riders struggling to get the nozzle on to the valve stem on motorcycles,” the servo owner says.

“I suppose this works better now because of the angle, but I’m surprised he didn’t break it as it’s only made of brass.”

Riders should be aware that service stations are not legally bound to provide the free air service. Some have chosen to withdraw the service because of vandalism and accidental breakage.

Air your grievance

Air hoses are made to suit cars with flexible valve stems. They don’t suit all types of motorcycle wheels.

Riders with mag wheels on their bikes can start laughing now …

However, it’s no laughing matter for some riders with spoked wheels on their bikes.

In fact, it can be downright infuriating.  On several occasions I’ve ridden to several service stations in search of a hose that will fit.

The worst offenders are the old-style air hoses with the pressure indicator on the air hose. These have a long metal nozzle which is at the wrong angle to fit on the rigid metal valve stem of spoked wheels.air hoses tyre pressure gauge

Modern flexible air hoses with the pressure indicated on a digital screen on a fixed post are better. air hoses tyre pressure gauge

But even some of those are too stiff to bend enough to fit over the perpendicular valve stem.

Most spoked-wheeled bikes only have one disc brake on the left of the front wheel so you access the valve stem from the right. But even these can be difficult to get an old-style air hose to fit.

If your bike has dual front discs like the Ducati GT1000 I once owned or the Triumph Scrambler 1200 I tested recently, it is almost impossible to fit any type of air hose.

Some bikes with spoked wheels have large holes in the wheel hub so you can thread the air hose through the middle to access the valve stem in a straight line.

Otherwise, you have to thread the hose through the spokes wheels and even then it can be a difficult angle.

I’ve copped bloodied knuckles trying to get the right connection on the valve stem.

Meanwhile, as you try fitting it, the connector triggers the valve and lets out precious air pressure.

After struggling in vain, I’ve sometimes left servos with less pressure in my tyres!

L-shaped valves

air hoses tyre pressure gauge
Replacement L-shaped valve stem

Apart from the vandal’s less-than-ideal solution, you can fit L-shaped valve stems to your wheels for easy access by any style of air hose.

I swapped the very heavy spoked wheels of the Ducati for beautiful, lightweight Blackstone TEK carbon fibre wheels which came with convenient L-shaped valve stems.

Blackstone TEK Black Diamond carbon fibre wheels for Ducati GT1000
90-degree valve stem on Blackstone TEK Black Diamond carbon fibre wheels for my Ducati GT1000

It’s surprising bikes with spoked wheels don’t come from the factory with these right-angle stems.

You can buy L-shaped stem replacements for a few dollars or about $25 fitted.

However, make sure the tyre fitter re-balances the wheel after they are fitted because the stems can have a slight affect on balance that could lead to handling problems.

Even a minor variation in rotating weight can lead to dangerous vibrations.

air hoses tyre pressure gauge
L-shaped valve stem adaptors

A cheaper option is to buy an L-shaped valve stem adaptor that screws on to your valve stem. They are small enough to fit in your pocket and only cost a few dollars. 

Which air hoses are the most accurate? Click here for details.

8 Comments

  1. Using a servo air pump is fraught with issues, even just riding to your local will alter the pressures through heat from riding, sun on the tyres, not to mention the gauge is probably not accurate. At the very least take your own adapter and pressure gauge so you can at least overfill and drop the pressure down to recommended. Serious riders will spend $100 to have their own air compressor at home and check air pre-ride while the tyres are cold and in the shade for a true value on air pressure. What value do you put on the only thing holding you on the tarmac?

  2. I think Bike & Tyre Shops could do themselves and us Rider’s a favour IF they would suggest fitting these right angled stems to our bikes when the tyre’s are in for replacement.
    9 out of 10 times, only the rear is a problem, unless you have a RR type bike with bigger rotor’s.
    The cost of these is under $20 for 2, and the screw on right angle adapter is under $10.
    I went for the $10 cheaper option as it’s yours for ever to swap to another bike, but it is not necessarily great.
    My local servo has an electronic box which has the pressure gauge and button’s. The issue is the amount of pressure needed to hold it in place as the holding clip for the stem is broken, and the hoses mating internal O ring is perished. Back off the manual pressure, and it goes into ‘error’ mode.
    Holding it from the chain side to counter the hose attachment effort always ends up touching the chain.
    Also fitting this adapter is frustrating and loses tyre pressure going on and off, so I have to add 2 PSI more to compensate.
    Of course, nobody behind the counter could care less as the Owner is non existent in these 1 person places.
    It’s all up to the Guy who services the fuel pumps to find it and how often is that for some minor complaint that is not as obvious as a cut hose.

  3. I ride an FJR Yamaha Mag wheels twin Disk on front a real bastard to check your pressure you cant get your hand I tried 90 degree extenders you have photos of but by the time you get them unscrewed you lose your pressure as well as skin, I ended up with rubber extention its about 150 mm long and is flexable you can screw it on with ease bend it to any angle and unscrew with out losing any air, it is the best way to check your pressure , I brought it on line at one of those cheap sites like Wish or frog or some such site, I recommend you try and find one, regards Peter.

  4. Thank you for this story, i did not know about the adaptors while my rear wheel came fitted with a tube with the bent valve stem (thank god) the front one does not, I and my grazed knuckles thank you.

  5. I don’t use service station air pumps at all. I find them wildly inaccurate at times. I prefer to check pressure at home with my own gauge and manual pump.

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