April 8, 2009 6:41 PM   Subscribe

Chicagofilter: Where do (or would) you go to fill up your bike tires for free?

i recently bought a really shitty bike that deflates faster than any other bike i've had before. today i decided to stop at a BP to fill my tires only to find that they wanted 75 cents for goddamn AIR! as a result i want to start a directory of FREE air locations in chicago (where i live). i've lived on all coasts and non coasts in this country and i know i've been to gas stations with free air machines before and i know chicago HAS to have some. so...

where's the free air at?
posted by defmute to Travel & Transportation around Chicago, IL (16 answers total)
I believe most bike shops have an air pump you can use.
posted by borkencode at 6:44 PM on April 8, 2009

There aren't as many free air gas stations as there used to be.

Most, if not all, bike shops will happily let you fill up your tires there.

And while you're at the shop, you can get new tubes, which might be the long-term solution to your deflation problem.
posted by box at 6:45 PM on April 8, 2009

They have free air at the Easy Rider Bike Shop.
posted by nitsuj at 6:49 PM on April 8, 2009

Are you talking about a bicycle? And you want a shop that provides you with air? Seriously?

Do they not make hand pumps for bikes that clip on the frame, any more? That way you'll never get caught out riding on flat tyres (it's much easier on fully inflated ones) while you work out why you won't just buy (as mentioned above) two inner tubes to fit your bike.
posted by Brockles at 6:50 PM on April 8, 2009

Maybe it's only a California thing, but I thought that by law gas stations had to give you free air. Yes, the machines do have a thing for you to put in quarters, but if you ask the attendant, they just fire it up for free, no questions asked.

I agree with getting new inner tubes. It's just not worth your time looking for free air.
posted by No New Diamonds Please at 6:53 PM on April 8, 2009

Here in Uptown [Car Wash located at Broadway/Ainslie; approx. 4890 N.; about 2 blocks North of Lawrence Ave.] the air machine is only $.25

But wait--it's not your friend's bike, is it? (Whatever happened with that?)
posted by applemeat at 6:53 PM on April 8, 2009

Response by poster: no it's actually not that bike (though i wish for hilarity sake). i couldn't end up getting him the bike he used to have with 500 and i ended up just giving him 500 cash.
posted by defmute at 7:02 PM on April 8, 2009

Johnny Sprockets in Lakeview has free air.
posted by gueneverey at 7:55 PM on April 8, 2009

Any bike shop worth even half a shit will provide free air. Any bike shop that doesn't isn't worth your time or money.

That said, a few thoughts about tubes:

1.) Tubes are cheap. If you don't have spares you're asking for trouble. Buy two new tubes and a floor pump. Replace your tubes.

2.) Tubes with a slow leak are usually easy to fix with a patch kit. Such kits only cost a few dollars (some places give them away) and will let you patch up your tubes. In order to locate the leak, partially inflate the tube and hold it under water (say in your half-filled kitchen sink) and watch for bubbles. Locate the hole and patch it. PROTIP: you can fix tubes while drinking a beer. This is much preferable to trying to fix it on the side of the road. In the rain. When you're late for work.

3.) Generally you should pump up your tires once or twice a week. The rubber tubes are porous and will over time go flat. Your tire has the recommended pressure listed on the side wall - pump the tire up to that pressure. A properly inflated tire will resist pinch-flats and ride better.
posted by wfrgms at 9:06 PM on April 8, 2009

I have found over the years that "free air" stations are poorly maintained and either don't have air or have air but don't have a working nozzle that hasn't been run over by a car a million times.

The new pay machines seem to often be third-party and are maintained.

That said, if you have a slow leak, you need a new tube. They're not expensive. And you can get a 110V air pump for around $10 and a bike nozzle for a few bucks more.
posted by dhartung at 9:22 PM on April 8, 2009

XXXing get a hand pump. In part because if your having issues as bad as you say, even if my map all the free air compressors in the midwest, you're likely to get caught away from one, need air, and, as you have observed, get screwed. Also, depending on the set up, some compressors won't be set to give you the kind of pressure a bike tire wants (80 psi vs about 35 for a car) or, if you get an old style compressor that had a big tank full of compressed air and a regulator set to max, you can blow a bike tube in a metric heartbeat.

The two tires on my Trek always lost pressure really (like in a day or so) between rides. This year before my first ride I pulled my valve stems and put about 4 oz of some fluorescent green stuff in there with a brand name like goo or spew or vomit or some such. It's been a week and that seems to have dealt with my slow leak issue, so that might make your life easier.

A spare tube (and enough tools to change it out) is a good thing to have though. Tubes die and you can be far from home when they do it.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 9:42 PM on April 8, 2009

Additionally, the volume of air that some compressors output will pop your tube.

Get a pump. And a tube, unless you're inflating it to 80 PSI and you're losing 20 pounds in a week or two, which seems about normal to me.

Do you really want to ride to the nearest free air place on a half flat tire (much harder work, that) and risk busting your tube with a pinch flat?
posted by wierdo at 12:57 AM on April 9, 2009

Car tire pumps are designed to push a bunch of air fast, because of the large volume of a car tire. If you're not careful, it's pretty easy to damage the tire or tube with them.

The reason your tires are leaking is that the tubes are leaking. Fix and/or replace them. Look carefully at your tires, if they're old and rotted, they'll not protect the tube, and you'll flat. I generally will replace a tube or tire after four years regardless.

As always, when in doubt, link to a Sheldon Brown page on the subject.

damn, I still miss you, bro.
posted by eriko at 3:17 AM on April 9, 2009

Rapid Transit on North and Wolcott has free air.
posted by chickadee at 4:20 AM on April 9, 2009

Butyl bicycle tubes will leak air slowly, so you'll always need a pump handy. Latex tubes leak much quicker, but there's no reason to use them unless you're racing. If you're airing up every day, you have a slow leak. Pull out the tube and patch it, or just replace the tube (and buy a spare or two while you're at it). If you don't know how to do this, any bike shop worth their salt will be happy to teach you, or at least let you watch.

Then, buy this pump and strap it to your bike. You won't be sorry.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 9:36 AM on April 9, 2009

Roscoe Village Bikes has free air. Also nice people work there.
posted by kpmcguire at 8:00 AM on April 13, 2009

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