Pumping it up right: selecting the best valve doesn’t have to be a tiresome endeavour.

Arguably the most important aspect of any bicycle is its wheels, because they have such a tremendous impact on how it rides, handles, stops, and starts. Your wheels really matter, and how you fill them counts, too, but don’t feel pressured when it comes to choosing the best valve for your bike.

Don’t go hopping from shop to shop. Just examine the facts.

Over the years there have been several types of valves used to put air in bicycle tires, but before you go hopping about, shopping for the best valve, consider the benefits of each. There are three types in use today: the Woods, or Dunlop valve, the Presta, and the Schrader valve, though of the three, the Presta and Schrader are the only two you will find here in North America, so let’s consider their advantages.

Presta valve, closed.

The Presta valve is what you’ll always find on the skinny tires of a high end road bike, since the narrower hole needed for this valve won’t compromise the structural integrety of the narrow wheel’s rim.

Presta valve, open.

Presta valves are slightly more cumbersome to use, since you have to loosen the lock nut before pumping the tire, and the same locking system ensures that a roadbike’s high air pressure stays contained within the tube, and ensures that dust, dirt and debris doesn’t get trapped inside the valve mechanism. These valves are associated with high performance tires, but don’t feel pressured to use them. There really isn’t any great benefit associated with their higher price.

Presta with a Schrader adapter.

If you have Presta valves, it’s a good idea to pick up an adapter, so that you can pump your tires at a gas station, something you can always do with the universal Schrader valve. Any small weight savings associated with the Presta valve are quickly diminished when you have to carry an adaptor, but it’s strongly recommended that you do.

060The Schrader valve is used on cars and many bicycle tires, and so with it, you can easily inflate your tire almost anywhere. It is easy, and simple to use, too, because the removable, spring locked mechanism is hidden inside the valve.


You will want to keep the cap on your valve to ensure that dust and debris doesn’t get trapped inside, but this robust mechanism is easy to use, and efficient, too. You don’t have to remember to tighten the nut to lock air into the tire, because the spring loaded system does that as a matter of course. The benefits of the Schrader valve are easy to see: it’s a simple design, which is easy to use, and Schrader pumps are everywhere. Replacing your Schrader tube is less expensive, too. The Doctor strongly recommends that you choose Schrader valves over Presta, but if your tires are cut for Presta, just come in to the shop and we will drill the hole a little wider for you to accomodate the bigger Schrader valve.


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