What are the different bike tire valve types, you ask? Well, as you can see in the image above, there are several different options when it comes to tire valves.
The three main bike tire valves available are Schrader valves, Presta valves and Dunlop valves (Woods valves).
These three bike tire valves are easily identified by their unique appearance and are all operated differently.
Throughout this short article, I’ll talk you through every valve type, covering the pros & cons of each valve, which valve type you need for your bike and the history behind each valve.
Ready to become a bike tire valve expert?…. Not a hugely desirable title. I get it! But you never know when you’ll have an issue with these fiddly little systems.
The Different Bike Tire Valve Types Explained
If you’re a keen cyclist, you’ll likely know what a Schrader valve is, and if you own a road bike, you’ll probably have used a Presta valve before. But what is a Dunlop valve?
If none of the above meant anything to you, don’t worry! These are simply three different bike tire valve types.
Just below, you’ll find a detailed breakdown of each valve type, and then towards the end of the article, I’ve put together a few simple guides on how to change valve types and answers to popular bike valve FAQs.
If you know what bike tire valve type you want to learn about already, use the buttons below to navigate to each section.
What Is a Schrader Valve?
The Schrader valve is the most universally used and known valve variety. They’ve been used most motor vehicles and bicycles since their invention in 1891, courtesy of August Schrader.
A Schrader valve has a wide valve stem, into which a small valve core is inserted.
Schrader valve cores use a small spring that keeps the valve in the closed position.
When the valve’s spring is depressed, the valve opens, and air can pass through the Schrader valve.
Schrader valves are also referred to as American valves, as they were patented in the United States in 1893, just two years after their invention.
Schrader valves are shorter, wider, less fragile, and typically cheaper than Presta valves.
Schrader Valve Pros and Cons
How To Use a Schrader Valve
Using a Schrader valve is very simple once you know what to do!
The steps below will teach you how to inflate or deflate a tire or system that uses a Schrader valve.
- Remove the valve stem cap, and before attaching your pump, remove any visible dirt or debris from the top of the stem and around the stem valve.
- Using a firm object such as a pen, depress the central valve core pin and release a sharp burst of air to flush out any remaining debris.
- Once clean, attach your pump to the Schrader valve. Some pumps use a hose that twists onto the Schrader valve threads. Other pumps will simply fit over the top of the valve.
- Inflate the tire to your desired pressure.
- Remove the pump and replace the valve stem cap
- Job done!
Schrader Valve Anatomy Explained
- Schrader Valve Stem – Houses the valve core internally using inner threading. It has an outer thread around the top of the valve, which the valve stem cap and bike pump hoses screw onto.
- Schrader Valve Core – Controls airflow in and out of the valve using a spring-loaded central core pin.
- Schrader Valve Stem Cap – Learn why stem caps are so important in this short article.
What Is a Presta Valve?
Presta valves are a type of valve used to control the airflow into and out of the inner tube of a bicycle. They’re long and narrow and are found on the majority of modern bikes.
Invented by Frenchman Etienne Sclaverand Presta valves are often fittingly referred to as the French valve.
The exact date of invention for the Presta valve isn’t known, but it’s thought to be just after 1880.
Presta bike valves are lightweight and are made in varying lengths to accommodate wheels with deep-section rims, typically found on road bikes.
Presta valves contribute to a stronger wheel, as their thin valve stem only requires a small hole in the rim. Nowadays, Presta valves are found on most modern bicycles.
Due to their thin stem and partially external valve mechanism, Presta valves are more fragile and slightly more expensive than other types of bike valves.
Presta Valve Pros and Cons
How To Pump a Presta Valve
Using a Presta valve involves one more step than other bicycle valve types. That being said, it’s still straightforward to inflate or deflate an inner tube that uses a Presta valve.
Follow the steps below, and you won’t have any trouble:
- Remove the valve stem cap and inspect the top of the valve core for any dirt or grime.
- Using a dry clean cloth, wipe away any muck and unscrew the valve core nut until loose.
- Press the valve core pin down until a sharp burst of air is ejected from inside the inner tube. The air will flush out any dust from around the top of the valve and prevent it from entering the valve when inflated.
- Using a Presta valve compatible pump, inflate your tire until the desired pressure is reached.
- When you remove the pump from the valve, you’ll hear a sharp burst of air if you’ve inflated your tire to a high pressure. Don’t worry, this. is perfectly normal!
- Make sure to tighten the valve core nut back down to sit tightly on top of the valve, preventing the valve pin from being depressed.
- Replace the stem valve cap, and you’re done! Mission success.
Presta Valve Anatomy Explained
- Presta Valve Stem – Holds the valve core with internal threading. External threading on the stem allows the use of rim nuts.
- Presta Valve Core – Regulates airflow in and out of the valve. Opened and closed by the valve core nut at the top of the valve core.
- Presta Valve Rim Nut – Prevents the valve from sinking into the rim during inflation and attachment of the pump, can remain attached or be removed once tire inflated.
- Presta Valve Stem Cap – Learn why stem caps are so important in this short article.
Dunlop Valves (Woods Valves)
What Is a Dunlop Valve?
Dunlop valves, also known as Woods or English valves, aren’t common in the USA or the UK. Several European countries use them, but they’re primarily used across Asia and in multiple developing countries.
Invented by C. H. Woods, the Woods valve (modern Dunlop valve) quickly replaced the original valve created by John Dunlop.
The modern Dunlop valve is much easier to inflate and maintain than the original, which used a tight rubber sleeve to regulate airflow.
This rubber sleeve often deteriorated over time, meaning more maintenance was required to keep them functioning correctly.
Unlike Schrader and Presta valves, the Dunlop valve doesn’t require a special tool to remove its core. Their straightforward maintenance and robust stem are perhaps why Dunlop valves are so popular in the developing world.
The Woods valve has a similar-sized stem to a Schrader valve. However, it requires a Presta pump to inflate unless used with a bike tire valve adapter
The stem size of a Schrader and a Dunlop are the same. Therefore, these two valves can be used interchangeably on wheel rims.
Dunlop Valve Pros and Cons
How To Pump a Dunlop Valve
Inflating a Woods valve tire is very easy. All you’ll require is a Presta compatible pump.
- Remove the valves cap and attach your pump to the top of the valve.
- Inflate until the desired pressure has been reached.
- Remove the pump and re-attach the valve stem cap.
- Job Done!
How To Deflate a Dunlop or Woods Tire
Unlike Schrader and Presta valves, Woods valves can’t be deflated by depressing a valve core pin.
Instead, to deflate a Woods valve, you’ll need to remove the valve core to allow pressure to be released from inside the tire.
- Remove the valve stem cap from your woods valve.
- Remove the top nut from the valve stem.
- If your tires are inflated to a high pressure, complete step 4 with concentration and care.
- Firmly grip the valve core and slowly pull it out of the valve stem.
- Air should begin to escape from underneath the valve core, which may be pushed out quickly, so make sure to grip it tightly!
- Once deflated, return the core to its original position and re-attach the top nut and valve stem cap.
Dunlop Valve Anatomy Explained
- Dunlop Valve Stem – Valve core sits inside the valve stem and is held in place by the top nut, which screws onto the outer threading. Stems external threading also allows the use of a rim nut.
- Dunlop Valve Core – Allows airflow into the valve but doesn’t have a central core pin and needs to be removed to release pressure, secured into the stem by the top nut.
- Dunlop Valve Rim Nut – Stops the valve stem from entering the rim when inflating the tire, can’t be removed once the tire is inflated due to the top nut.
- Dunlop Valve Stem Cap – Learn why stem caps are so important in this short article.
What Is a Tubeless Valve?
Tubeless valves work with tubeless wheel setups. Presta and Schrader tubeless valves are available and are simply a valve on its own without the inner tube.
Instead, the tubeless valve has a rubber base that seals against the inside of a wheel’s rim to maintain air pressure inside.
Cyclists that ride tubeless tires normally add a sealant liquid inside the tire.
When inflated, the sealant plugs any leaks and should a rider have a puncture, the sealant will be forced out of any puncture holes, quickly resealing the tire so that it can be reinflated.
Tubeless Valve Pros and Cons
Tubeless Valve Anatomy
As this tubeless bike valve is a Presta valve, scroll up to read about the anatomy of a Presta valve.
Otherwise, the only unique feature of tubeless valves is their rubber bung.
- Tubeless Valve Rubber Bung – Prevents the valve from being pulled through the rim and helps form an airtight seal around the rim valve hole.
Bike Tire Valve Accessories Explained
Bike Valve Stem Caps
Bike tire dust caps act as an added layer of protection for your valves.
They prevent any excess dirt, buildup, or debris from entering the valve and potentially damaging it over time.
Dust caps are inexpensive and, therefore, very accessible to every bike owner.
Custom valve stem caps are also a great way to customize your ride for a low price.
If your bike valve stem caps are missing or you’ve been cycling without them, this short article explains why you NEED to replace them.
Stem Valve Nuts
Stem valve nuts are fitted on threaded valves and prevent your tire valves from sinking into your rim when inflating your tires.
There’s an ongoing debate on whether stem valve nuts should be left on after tires are inflated.
To be completely honest, once you’ve inflated your tires, whether you leave the valve nut in place or remove it, won’t make much difference.
Some cyclists complain their stem valve nuts rattle whilst cycling. If this is the case, remove them and keep them somewhere safe for the next time your tire pressure is low.
Whilst Presta and Dunlop stems have a similar diameter, the nuts they use aren’t interchangeable.
Bicycle Tire Valve Adapters
Where there are multiple valve types avalible, cyclists often find themselves with the wrong pump for their bike tire valve type.
If you’re in this position, don’t worry. You won’t have to replace your inner tubes. All that’s needed is a valve adapter to convert your existing valve into a valve type compatible with your pump!
If your bike uses Presta valves, but your pump only works with a Schrader valve, a simple Presta to Schrader valve adapter will do the trick.
Similarly, if you have Schrader valves on your bike but your pump is for Presta valves, you can easily pick up a Schrader to Presta valve adapter for a very reasonable price.
Presta Valve Extenders
Presta valve extenders are used to extend the length of your Presta valves.
Presta valve extenders are used by cyclists who use deep-section rims, whereby the standard length valves aren’t long enough to pass through the rim or for the pump to connect to.
While helpful, one disadvantage of Presta valve extenders is their ability to rattle while a bike is in motion. However, there are a few steps you can take to reduce rattling that I explain below.
Another issue you should be aware of before attaching a Presta valve extender is that they increase leverage on the valve, so if care isn’t taken when installing, they can damage the valve or the inner tube.
How to Use Presta Valve Extenders
If you need to use a bicycle valve extender but haven’t done so before, follow this brief guide for the best fit:
Before we begin, you’ll need:
- A pair of pliers
- Silicon tape
- Remove the valve stem cap from your Presta valve.
- If your existing Presta valve uses a removable core, use a set of pliers to tighten the valve core, making sure that it’s not loose.
- Completely undo the valve core nut, then use a pair of pliers to undo the valve nut an extra half a turn. This extra half-turn will damage the core stem and nut and prevent it from closing properly, which is what we need.
- Use silicon tape and wrap it ten times around the top of the valve stem, right where the Presta valve extender will screw onto.
- Wind the Presta valve extender down the thread and over the silicon tape, which will prevent air from leaking.
- Replace your valve stem cap, and you’re good to go!
Valve Stem Cores
Valve stem cores are the part of a valve that regulates airflow in and out of the tire or system.
Schrader, Presta and Dunlop valve cores all work in different ways.
Schrader valves are spring operated and allow air to flow freely into or out of the tire/system when the central core pin is depressed.
Presta valve cores use a similar central core pin, although it’s not spring-loaded. Instead, it uses a valve core nut.
When a Presta core nut is loosened, the central valve pin can be depressed, but when tightened, the valve core pin is held in a closed position.
Dunlop valve cores only allow air to pass into the tire. Therefore, to deflate a Dunlop tire, the valve core needs to be fully or partially removed.
Not all tire valve cores are removable, so it’s worth paying attention to this when buying a new inner tube or replacement valve.
Bike Tire Valve Type - FAQs
The correct valve type for your bike is equally as important as using the right inner tube.
The questions below will provide additional knowledge to ensure you know what you’re doing regarding any valve-related issues!
Which Valve Do I Need For My Bike?
If you’re unsure which valve type you need for your bike, inspect the valves you have on your bike and compare them with the pictures shown above in the article.
If your wheels don’t have inner tubes in them at the moment, a Presta valve is probably your best bet, especially if your bike is modern.
Almost all new bikes use Presta valves, and they’re compatible with Schrader and Dunlop rims, so if you’re unsure, Presta valves will be a fail-safe option.
What Length of Valve Do I Need For My Bike?
The length of the tire valve you use depends on the rim depth of your wheels.
The larger your rim depth, the longer your valve length should be. A correct size valve will allow you to attach a pump and inflate without a struggle.
The best way to decide what valve length you require for your bike is to measure the depth of your wheel rim from either side of the valve hole.
Once you’ve measured your wheel rim depth, add 15mm to your measurement, this will ensure you’ll be able to attach a pump to the valve once assembled!
Can You Put Schrader Valves on a Presta Rim?
While it is possible to put Schrader valves or a Presta rim, you must widen the valve’s hole to achieve this.
I don’t recommend drilling the hole yourself, as this can damage the structural integrity of your bike’s rim if not done correctly.
In most cases, you won’t have the specialist tools required for the job, and instead of paying someone to drill your rims for you, it may be worth getting some new rims instead.
Can You Put Presta Valves on a Schrader Rim?
You can use Presta valves on Schrader wheel rims, but considering they are much thinner than a Schrader valve, they’ll likely be loose, and this can damage the inner tube.
You can get a rim valve hole grommet, which will hold the Presta valve in place and help prevent your inner tube from catching the valve hole.
However, using a grommet still won’t guarantee that the rim won’t wear down your inner tube. So I’d only recommend using a Presta inner tube on a Schrader rim if no alternative is available.
How to Fill Presta Valve With Schrader Pump
To inflate a Presta Valve with a Schrader compatible pump, you’ll want to get hold of a Presta to Schrader adapter.
Once you’ve got hold of the correct valve adapter, screw it onto the Presta valve, and you’ll then be able to use the Schrader pump to inflate it.
How to Pump a Presta Valve Without an Adapter
If you only have access to a Schrader bike tire pump, don’t panic.
In this guide, I give a short yet detailed explanation of how you can inflate your Presta tire without an adapter.
All you’ll need is a Schrader pump (with locking capability) and a Presta valve stem cap (dust cap).
Learn this nifty bike hack here.
Where to Find Tire Valves on Your Bike
The valves on your bike are very easy to find! Bicycle valves are short metal tube-like structures that protrude from the front and rear wheel rims.
Don’t get your valves confused with your spokes, though!
If you’re struggling to find your valves, my complete guide on bicycle anatomy will point you in the right direction!
How to Remove a Broken Schrader Valve?
If your Schrader valve isn’t working correctly or you suspect it has a slow puncture or leak, it’s best to run your inner tube through a bowl of water whilst inflated.
If air is escaping from your inner tube, the leak will release bubbles into the water.
If the inner tube itself is damaged, you can get a repair kit to mend it, or if it’s damaged beyond repair, get yourself a new replacement.
If the leak is coming from the valve core and your Schrader valve has a removable core, you can replace the core by using a core removal tool and getting hold of a replacement core.
Rounding up - Bike Tire Valve Types
Hopefully, your bike valve-related questions have all been answered!
It took me a while to put together this detailed guide, so it’d be great if you could leave some feedback below.
If you think something is missing from this guide or if there’s any way I can make the information clearer, let me know, and I’ll make changes so that the content continually improves for the next readers!
If you aren’t already, make sure to use a good quality bike lock to secure your bike.
Whilst a decent lock will cost more money, it’ll be cheaper than replacing a stolen bike!
As always, lock it or lose it.
Ciao for now.