The 2 main types of bike tire valves and how they work

If you’re trying to understand bike tire valves, then you’ve come to the right place!

There are two types of bike tire valves that are used on most modern bikes: Presta and Schrader.

We’re going to take a look at how to tell the difference between these two valves and how to pump up inner tubes with each type of valve. We’ll also touch on a special widget that you need in order to pump Presta tubes with a standard (Schrader) car tire style of inflator – it’s only a few bucks, but it’s incredibly useful.

What are the 2 types of bike valves?

The majority of modern bicycles have one of only two types of valve – Presta and Schrader.

Presta valves are common on high-end bikes and many road bikes. Schrader valves are the same style as you’d get on most car tires. They’re common on many bikes including mountain bikes, hybrids and electric bikes.

The main difference between Presta and Schrader valves is the thickness of the valve stem. Presta valves have a narrow valve stem that is threaded for a screw-on locking nut at the top. Schrader valves have a wider valve stem and a spring-loaded valve core that needs to be depressed in order to pump air into the tire.

Another difference between Presta and Schrader valves is that Presta valves are often used on tubeless tires, while Schrader valves are not. This is because the smaller valve stem of a Presta valve is less likely to leak air when used with a tubeless tire setup.

How to determine your bike tube valve type
Schrader = auto / fat; Presta = skinny

How do you inflate bike tires that have a Presta valve?

To pump up a bike tire with a Presta valve, you’ll need a bike pump that has a special adapter for Presta valves. This adapter is usually a small, threaded tube that screws onto the end of the Presta valve and converts it into a Schrader valve. Undo the locking nut at the end of the Presta valve before attaching the adapter.

Once you have the adapter attached, put the valve stem of the inner tube into the nozzle of the pump head and lock it into position. Now you can start pumping air into the tube. When the tube is inflated to the desired pressure, release the pump inflator head and remove it from the inner tube valve. Also remove the valve adaptor and store it in a safe place.

It’s important to remember to screw the Presta locking nut back down and put the valve cap back onto the valve stem after inflating the tire. This will help to keep air from leaking out of the valve.

How do you go about pumping inner tubes with a Schrader valve?

To pump up a bike tire with a Schrader valve, you’ll need a bike pump that has a Schrader valve head. The Schrader valve is the same type as you get for car tires and is a tube with a small amount of thread near the tip (which is used to secure the dust cap).

Put the Schrader valve stem of the inner tube into the nozzle of the pump head and push down on the spring-loaded valve core to open it up (the pump head often has a lever to lock it into position on the tire valve). Now you can start pumping air into the tube. When the tube is inflated to the required pressure, release the valve core and remove the pump nozzle from the inner tube valve.

Remember to fit the valve cap back on after inflating the tire. This keeps air from leaking out of the valve and ensure that dust and junk don’t get in and clog the valve.

Is it possible to use Schrader valve tubes in Presta rims?

No, you can’t use a Schrader valve in a Presta wheel rim. The hole in a Presta rim is too small for the wider Schrader valve stem.

You can, however, use a Presta valve in a Schrader rim as the Presta valve is slimmer than a Schrader, so will fit in the rim hole.

It’s worth using a rubber grommet to fit around the Presta valve when used with a Schrader wheel rim.

This will ensure a snug fit in the rim hole and stop particles from getting through to the inner tube and possibly puncturing it. Grommets are inexpensive, so there’s no excuse for not using them and saving yourself some unnecessary bike repair down the road.

Do you need to have a special tire inflator to pump Presta valve tubes?

No, you don’t need a special pump to inflate a Presta valve. You can use any standard bike pump to inflate a Presta valve by using the appropriate adapter. The Presta-to-Schrader valve adapter is usually a small, threaded cone that screws onto the end of the pump hose. These only cost a few pennies to buy but are very useful – you can’t inflate Presta tubes with a Schrader pump unless you have one as there won’t be a tight airseal between the pump and valve.

Are there any different styles of Presta valve?

Yes, Presta valves come in different lengths. The length of the valve stem is important to know so that you can get the right inner tube for your wheels. If you have aerodynamic deep-section wheels, you’ll need a longer valve stem so that it will reach through the rim. Shorter valve stems are better for the type of shallow rims found on most bikes. Bear in mind that you could also use long stems in shallow rims – they will just poke through further, but won’t otherwise be an issue.

Measure your existing valve stem length to check that the one you’re considering buying is the correct size for your wheel rims.

What is a Presta valve extender and what is it for?

A Presta valve extender is a small metal or plastic tube that screws onto the end of the valve stem to extend it. This is useful if you have a deep wheel rims and need a longer valve stem to reach the rim.

Presta valve extenders are available in different lengths, so you can choose one that will give you the desired valve length.

It’s also a good idea to get an extender with a built-in valve core tool. This will come in handy if you need to remove the valve core to add air to your tire.

Do bike tires lose pressure without the valve cap fitted?

It’s a good idea to put the cap back on your bike tire when you’re not using it. This will help keep the tire inflated and prevent it from losing air.

If you don’t have the cap, the tire will still lose air, but it will take longer for the air to escape. Without the valve cap it’s likely that you will get dust and gunk in the valve. To avoid this, wrap a piece of electrical tape over the valve opening.

If you’re worried about losing your bike tire cap, you can buy a replacement at your local bike shop or online. They’re not very expensive, and it’s always good to have a spare on-hand.

Conclusion

There are different types of bike tire valves, and it’s important to know which type your bike has before you buy a new inner tube. The two most common types are Schrader and Presta. Remember that you will need a Presta/Schrader adapter if you need to pump up Presta valve inner tubes with a Schrader (auto tire) style inflator.

Presta valves also come in different lengths, so be sure to measure your valve stem before buying a new inner tube.

REMEMBER – Try not to misplace your valve cap when you’re pumping tires up – if you do, mud and dust can get into the valve head and clog it up.

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