Don’t know your Presta from your Schrader? Here’s a beginner’s guide to valve types…
By far the two most common types found in bicycle tubes these days are Presta and Schrader. And there’s some important differences between the two…
Presta valves are thinner than Schrader valves and made entirely of metal. They’re usually found on road bikes and performance bikes as they’re lightweight and capable of holding higher pressures.
Also known as French valves, they have a little security top part which needs to be unscrewed by hand before attaching the pump or head of the hose, and tightened again afterwards to prevent air from slowly leaking out of the tyre.
They also don’t require a large hole in the rim of the wheel, which improves the strength of the wheel.
This is still the most common type of valve and acts in the same way as car valves, so you can inflate directly.
On bikes, Schrader valves are usually used on lower pressure tyres, such as mountain bikes and they are also common in kids’ bikes and many hybrids.
They are wider and generally sturdier than Presta valves and have an easily-removable core. To open a Schrader valve, you simply unscrew the rubber cap at the top. The pin in the centre can be depressed with a narrow object to release air from the tube, and the spring mechanism keeps the valve closed.
There is another type of valve you’ve probably heard of. Dunlop, or Woods, valves can be found on older bikes but are rarely used today. They have a wider lower section, like the Schrader, and a narrow top section, like the Presta.
When the pump fits…
Most bicycle pumps, such as the Topeak Joe Blow Sport II, are compatible with both Presta and Schrader valves. Pumps that work for both will either have a flip head, two different holes next to each other or some sort of internal switch mechanism.
A Presta-only pump, such as the Specialized Air Tool, has a rubber gasket in the head that fits tightly round a Presta valve but won’t fit a Schrader valve and they are often designed to facilitate inflating to higher pressure.
A Schrader-only pump has a pin in the centre to depress the valve. If you try to put it on a Presta tube, it won’t fit.
Check out a comprehensive range of Presta and Schrader bicycle pumps at Evans’ online superstore.