Bike valve types – what you need to know

Don’t know your Presta from your Schrader? Here’s a beginner’s guide to valve types…

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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

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.

Schrader

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.

Dunlop

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.

Comments

lesley Munro 26/07/2018

I always have trouble inflating through the presta valve. I need from you far more detail on how to operate a pump with this valve.

Reply
    Pearce Sampson 7/08/2018

    Hi Lesley,

    If you were able to pop into your local store our staff would be more than happy to give you a quick demonstration in person.

    Reply
David 18/04/2019

Hi, I have inherited a Ladies Bicycle called an Esperia.
The valve on it is not one of those you mention above and the adaptor you can buy to allow you to pump up a Presta using a Schrader attachment does not fit.
The stem on the valve is quite long and thin and has a silver piece at the top which screws right the way off.
I’ve tried fitting the adaptor over it but the silver piece is too wide.
Any ideas what type of valve this is called and if there is a n adaptor available for it.

Reply
    Pearce Sampson 22/04/2019

    Hi David,
    This sounds like it’s either a woods valve – in which case although it doesn’t seem like it a lock on presta pump will fit – or it’s a presta vlave with a removable core that’s coming out too easily, which can happen – if it’s this one then you’ll need to crew the piece back in and there should be a smaller piece slightly further along that also unscrews but only partially, unscrew this to open the valve then attach your pump. If neither of these work then feel free to drop the bike or wheel into your nearest Evans Cycles store and the guys will be happy to help identify the valve for you.

    Reply

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