Do you know what different types of bike tire valves are at your disposal?
Learning as much as possible about the various valves on offer could prevent you from ruining your bike.
Today’s guide will outline why bike tires have different valves and how you can choose and use the right valves for your ride.
What are the Different Types of Bike Tire Valves?
Bicycle innertube valves come in three main types:
Tubeless tires, by contrast, are only available with Presta or Schrader valves.
1) What Are Schrader Valves?
The most common and popular type of bike valve is known as a Schrader valve. August Schrader invented these valves in 1891, and they have been used in most bikes and motor vehicles ever since.
Patented in the U.S. in 1893, a Schrader valve is sometimes referred to as an American valve.
This type of valve has a wide stem. Here, a valve core is inserted. Valve cores used on Schrader valves utilize a small spring. This spring serves to keep the valve in its closed position.
Depressing the spring of a Schrader valve causes the valve to open and allows air to pass through.
Shorter, wider, and more robust than Presta valves, Schrader bike tire valves are also typically less expensive.
How To Use Schrader Valves
Using Schrader tire valves is straightforward. Follow these simple steps to inflate or deflate bike tires that use a Schrader valve system.
- Take off the valve’s stem cap. Before you attach your bike pump, make sure you remove all visible dirt and debris, both from the area surrounding the stem valve and from above the stem.
- Use a pen or similar firm object to depress the core pin at the center of the valve. This will release a burst of air to purge any residual debris.
- Once the valve is clean, attach the pump to the valve. With some pumps, a hose attaches to the threads of the Schrader valve. You can find other pumps where they fit snugly over the top of the Schrader valve.
- Inflate your tires to the correct pressure. If you are unsure about tire pressures, check out our handy guide right here.
- Remove the pump then replace the stem cap and you’re done.
2) What Are Presta Valves?
A Presta valve is a long and narrow valve used on most modern bikes to control airflow entering and leaving the bike’s inner tube.
Etienne Sclaverand from France invented Presta valves in the early 1880s. Presta valves are interchangeably known as French valves.
These lightweight tire valves are constructed in varying lengths to cater for bike wheels with deep-section rims, typically road bikes. Since the thin stem of these valves only needs a small hole in the wheel’s rim, overall wheel strength is improved.
The key drawbacks of Presta valves are their cost and their fragile nature.
How To Use Presta Valves
Using Presta valves involves an additional step. That said, the process is still simple. Just follow these pointers:
- Remove the stem cap and check that the top of the valve core is free of debris.
- Wipe away any dirt using a clean, dry cloth. Next, loosen the core nut of the valve.
- Push the pin of the valve core down. Air will burst out, flushing out any remaining dust from the top of the Presta valve.
- Using a pump that’s compatible with Presta valves, inflate the tire to your desired pressure.
- When you remove the bike pump from the valve, it is normal to hear a sharp burst of air.
- Tighten the core nut of the valve so it sits snugly on top of your valve and prevents depression of the valve pin.
- Replace the stem cap of the Presta valve and you’re ready to ride.
3) What Are Woods Valves?
Woods valves, also known as English valves or Dunlop valves, are not common in the United States or in the U.K. This type of tire valve is commonly used throughout Asia and in many developing nations.
The original valve of this style was created by John Dunlop. C. H. Woods invented the modern iteration of this valve, accounting for the different names used to describe it.
The uprated Woods valve is much easier to inflate and to maintain that the original Dunlop valve. The original Dunlop valve utilized a tight rubber sleeve for airflow regulation. Over time, the rubber sleeve degraded, triggering intensive ongoing maintenance.
Robust, easy to maintain, and requiring no special tool to remove the core, Woods valves remain a popular choice of bike tire valve in many countries worldwide.
Although Woods valves have similar stems to Schrader valves, you need a Presta-compatible pump unless you are planning to use a valve adapter. Since the stem size is the same on Schrader and Dunlop valves, the valves work equally well on all wheel rims.
How To Use Dunlop Valves
To inflate a tire equipped with a Woods valve, grab a pump compatible with Presta valves and follow these instructions:
- Remove the cap of the valve and attach the pump to the valve.
- Inflate the tire to your desired pressure.
- Remove the pump.
- Reattach the stem cap of the valve and you’re good to go.
Note: You cannot deflate a Woods tire valve by depressing the core pin. Instead, remove the valve core so you can release pressure from inside the bike tire.
What Are Tubeless Valves?
A tubeless valve is expressly designed to work with a tubeless wheel setup. You can find tubeless valves in Presta and Schrader form, but not as Woods valves.
Most cyclists that use tubeless tires apply some sealant liquid inside the tires to help maintain air pressure. This sealant will plug leaks when the tire is inflated.
Is It Possible to Mismatch Inner Tubes and Valves?
It is possible to use a Presta-style tube in a rim prepared for Schrader valves, although it is inadvisable except as an emergency fix. You will find that both the tubes and the tires will move slightly on the rim and could even compromise the integrity of the rim.
Which Bike Pumps Work with Which Valves?
Presta-only bike pumps are equipped with a chuck or rubber gasket in the head. This is designed to accommodate only Presta valves.
Schrader-only bike pumps, by contrast, have a pin in the middle of the chuck used to depress the check valve of the stem. Presta tubes will not fit on Schrader setups.
You will find that many contemporary bike pumps have a dual-headed design. These pumps come in the following three varieties:
- Dual head: Some floor pumps come with a twin head and a chuck with gaskets for both Presta and Schrader valves.
- Swappable head: Some frame pumps and mini-pumps have a swappable head. One side will be narrower so it can accommodate Presta valves, while the other is designed for the wider Schrader valves.
- Adjustable head: Modern pumps come with adjustable heads that will fit both Schrader and Presta valves without the need to swap any internal parts.
Remember, you cannot use a bike tire pump for suspension components on your bike to inflate tires. You will not generate the required pressure and there is insufficient fine-tuning available. Beyond this, the size of a suspension pump means it would take an eternity to inflate Schrader tires using this type of pump.
Is It Necessary to Replace Bike Tire Valves?
Since the majority of valves come pre-attached to inner tubes, swapping a valve requires you replace the entire tube.
You may need to undertake a valve replacement in these two scenarios, though:
- Presta valves used for tubeless bike tires are sealed with a nut that attaches the rim to the valve. If the seal fails and you start losing air, all you need to do is swap the valve. Some tubeless valves are wheel- or rim-specific. Check for compatibility or the gasket may not seal effectively.
- Some Presta valves feature replaceable cores. You can unscrew these cores to add tire sealant or valve extenders. If your tire is not holding air, or if you detect that sealant has clogged the core, just substitute it for a new one.
If you pitched up here today at Florida Cycling confused about the different types of bike tire valves, you should now have a clear idea of which type you need for your bike and why.
Reach out if you have any questions on any elements of cycling and we’ll more than happy to help. Also, take a moment to bookmark our blog before you go and be sure to pop back very soon!