Bike Tire Valve Types: Presta, Dunlop & Schrader Valves
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Cycling is trickier than it seems at first glance. Not only does it make for strenuous exercise, demanding more than just moving your legs, but it also requires maintenance knowledge if you want your bike to go far. Being able to put your bike chain back in place on the fly will come in handy, as will knowing how to change an inner tube. That said, if you’re planning on the latter, you need to know something else, first – bike valves. Getting an inner tube that isn’t compatible with your bike’s valves will mean it won’t fit, and if you find yourself changing a tire out on the trail, you’ll find yourself stuck there.
In this article, we will cover some of the more common bike tire valve types, what makes them different from one another, and make sure you aren’t left stranded in the event of a flat tire.
What are bike tire valve types for?
Bike tire valves are small tools that allow for the inflation of an inner tube, or a bike tire itself if it is tubeless. While this sounds like a simple job, one that wouldn’t need several variations on the component, it isn’t so straightforward. Certain bikes need tires with higher pressure than others, which in turn need bike valves capable of withstanding that pressure. Equally, bikes that need to be as light as possible will sport tires that have light bike valves. Naturally, these valve types won’t be as durable as heavier-duty ones. It all comes down to your bike and what you need, which is best known before you need to make an inner tube change. With that said, let’s take a look at the main bike tire valve types.
If you’ve got a bike that’s anything other than ancient, it probably has Presta valves. These bike tire valves, sometimes called high-pressure valves or French valves, depending on who you ask, are the most common valve types out there. True to their alternate name, Presta valves are quite durable, and capable of withstanding high pressures for both inner tubes and tubeless tires. Although they can take a lot of pressure, Presta valves are very thin and require you to remove two parts, the retaining ring and then the core, before you can inflate or deflate your bike’s tire. This can be a challenge to do if you don’t have the right tools, and if you’re out for a ride when you need to pump extra air into your tire, you could be out of luck. As a tradeoff, Presta valves require very little in the way of maintenance, and can be left largely untouched, provided you clean them every now and then.
In addition to being capable of withstanding high pressure, Presta valves have a series of other advantages. They are lightweight, easy to clean, have several sizes to choose from, and make it easy to adjust the air pressure in your bike’s tire. However, there is one major downside to using a Presta valve – durability. While they can take high air pressure without issue, Presta valves are notoriously easy to damage or outright break while out and about. As they are long and slim, it doesn’t take much of a fall to snap one in half, a nightmare any cyclist could do without while having their weekend ride. Thankfully, the several removable parts make some repairs easier, if you only need to replace one or two parts.
Also Read: How To Adjust Bike Brakes
Do you need a special pump for a Presta valve?
For the most part, you won’t need a special pump if your bike has a Presta valve. Most pumps are compatible, and will fit perfectly fine without any special modifications or nozzles. You’ll even be able to use a Schrader pump on a Presta valve, given the similarities between the two bike valves. However, this is not to say that every pump will be compatible. If you are unsure, check your bike’s manual to find out which pumps will be compatible with your bike valve.
On the other end of the spectrum sits Dunlop valves. Also known as Woods valves, these valves are now quite rare, generally relegated to older bike models. Despite their age, Dunlop valves do quite a good job, with very little air leakage and good durability against both high pressure and knocks on the trail. They are also easy to use, as inflating a tire follows the exact same process as with a Presta valve; simply unscrew the cap, then remove the core, and increase the pressure.
While Dunlop tire valves are fairly easy to use, not requiring specialist knowledge or tools while also being quite durable, there are a couple of significant disadvantages to them. Often the most difficult obstacle is finding replacement parts; Dunlop valves are old and aren’t so widely used anymore, making replacement parts more difficult to come by. This isn’t to say it’s impossible, but you can expect to have a tougher time and pay a little more in order to obtain what you need. The good news is you won’t need to do it often, as Dunlop valves are a hardy component. The second main disadvantage is compatibility. This is again due to their age, as most modern bikes are built with Presta valves or Schrader valves in mind, rather than the aged Dunlop valves. They are also heavier compared to the Presta valves and Schrader valves, which could be a downside if you are a performance-oriented cyclist.
Also Read: Best Bike Chain Cleaner
Can I pump a Dunlop valve with a Presta pump?
This depends on your pump in particular. Some pumps have a twin head that are capable of servicing multiple valves, while others are compatible with multiple valves on their own. If your Presta pump won’t fit the bill, you can find Presta valve to Dunlop valve adapters quite easily. Simply fix one to the end of your bike pump, and you’ll be good to go.
Schrader valves are something of a middle ground between the previous two valve types. Sometimes called American valves, they are heavier and more durable than Presta valves, without being as difficult as Dunlop valves to find spare parts. However, there is a key difference in how Schrader valves operate – instead of removing several parts before inflating your bike tire, you can simply unscrew the cap and get to work. This is great for inflating your bike’s tire, but when it comes to deflating it, the Presta valves and Dunlop valves have it beat. With a Schrader valve, you’ll need to remove the core and allow the bike to deflate completely, then re-inflate it to the desired pressure. This can be quite annoying, especially if you’re in a hurry.
Despite this disadvantageous quirk, Schrader valves are quite useful. They’re easy to use, cheap to maintain, and quite durable against both high pressures and physical damage. However, they have a few other disadvantages to consider. Schrader valves are a bit heavier, are larger and require compatible wheel rims, air will be lost upon removing a pump from the valve, and deflation is a nuisance. All that said, they are still an effective valve.
What’s the difference between Schrader and Presta valves?
Although similar valve types, Schrader and Presta valves are very different. For starters, Presta valves are a bit more fiddly to use. This is thanks to Presta valves having a locknut to make sure the valve remains closed. Schrader valves take a different approach, instead using a spring. However, there is an upshot to this inconvenience. Presta valves are capable of withstanding higher pressures and will affect your bike less, thanks to requiring a smaller rim. Presta valves are also very easy to find adapters for, which is very handy when customizing your bike.
As you can see, the differences between bike tire valve types are small, but certainly still worth knowing. For the best valve type, you need something compatible with your bike and with your needs. If you’re pursuing performance above all else, a lighter bike valve will be best. For mountain biking along rough trails, something that can take a few knocks would be a good idea. Now you know the different bike tire valve types, all that’s left is to get back in the saddle and out for a ride.