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The Different Types of Bike Valves

types of bike valves

If your wheel needs air, but at the latest when you have a puncture, you will be faced with the question of what type of valves do you have on your bike. There are only three forms of valves that are common under the different names. They are typical for certain types of bikes. In the following we present the different variants with their advantages and disadvantages and explain how to deal with them.

The 3 Different Bike Valves

In principle, every bicycle tube has the same structure. A metal tube is attached to the actual tube, through which the air enters the tube. The actual valve, the valve core, which in turn prevents the air from escaping from the tube, then sits in this tube. Depending on the shape, this is screwed into the tube. The different valves cannot simply be interchanged. You cannot simply install a bicycle or car valve on a tube that previously had a Presta valve installed. Accordingly, if you want to use a different type of valve, you will need new hoses. It should be noted that different holes in the rim are necessary – tubes with a Presta valve fit through narrower holes than those with a car or bicycle valve.

Which three valve types are used on the bike?

  • Presta Valve (also known as Sclaverand valve)
  • Schrader Valve
  • Dunlop Valve

Presta Valve

  • Rim bore: 6.5mm
  • Used for road bikes, mountain bike, tubeless systems

The Presta valve is the narrowest of the three valve types and withstands the highest pressure. It has therefore always been used on road bikes. Presta valves are also primarily found on mountain bikes today. Most tubes have exchangeable valve cores, which you can unscrew with a 4 spanner or pliers. This is necessary if the valve core is damaged and no longer closes tightly or you have to install a valve extension (see below).

Handling

If one has been screwed on, you must first remove the valve cap from the valve in order to access the actual valve. From this you mainly see the rotatable valve head. To pump air into the tube, you first have to open the valve by turning the valve head loosely (counterclockwise). Now you can put on a pump head and start pumping. To release air, you can simply press the valve head from above in this open state and air will already flow out. Once you have set the correct air pressure, you should close the valve again. To do this, turn the valve head back on. The valve is thus secured against unwanted air loss, for example on rough sections of the route.

Installation

If you take a new tube with Presta valve out of the packaging, you will find a valve cap over the actual valve and a nut on the valve tube. To push the valve through the hole provided, you have to remove both. Then you can fix the valve to the rim using the nut. However, this is not absolutely necessary – except for tubeless valves.

Valve extensions

If you buy a road bike tube, you will notice that you can choose between tubes with valves of different lengths in this area. The background to this is the aero wheels with the high flanks, which have become more widespread in recent years. The valve of a “normal” tube may not be long enough and would disappear inside the rim, so that theoretically you have an intact tube, but you cannot use it. That is why tubes with correspondingly long valves are offered, which also extend through the up to 80mm high aero impellers. Another option is to use a valve extension. These are also available in different lengths.

To be able to mount a valve extension, you first have to make sure that the tube that you bought also has a screw-out valve core. If this is the case, unscrew the core. Now you can screw the valve extension with the thread, which is located on the lower side of the tube, into the tube connected to the hose. You can tighten the extension. Now you can screw the valve core previously removed from the tube into the valve extension from above – done!

Tip: In any case, when using aero wheels, you should remember to have a spare tube with a correspondingly long valve with you!

Schrader Valve

  • Rim bore: 8.5mm
  • Used for travel bike, everyday bikes

The Schrader valve comes from being used in the car. Accordingly, it has the great advantage over the other variants that you can fill it up at the petrol station. Therefore, it is the first choice for touring cyclists. You can remove the valve core of a car valve using a special tool.

Handling

To change the air pressure in a tube with a car valve, as with the other valve types, you may have to unscrew the valve caps. To fill, you can now put the pump head on the valve and start pumping. To deflate, you can use a narrow object – small screwdrivers are good for this – press on the pin that you can see in the middle of the valve tube.

Installation

The assembly of a hose with a car valve is simple – the valve is pushed through the hole provided in the rim and secured with a lock nut to prevent it from slipping. It can be easily inflated without any further work steps and does not have to be secured.

Dunlop Valve

  • Rim bore: 8.5mm
  • Used for City bikes


The dunlop valve is primarily found on city bikes today. It has no real advantage over the other types of valves.

Handling

To inflate a tube with a bicycle valve, remove the valve cap, if available. Then you can start pumping. However, deflating is not that easy. To do this, you have to loosely screw the valve core. You do this by loosening the cap nut that holds it. In most cases, all of the air will now flow out of the hose and you will have to fill the hose “from zero”.

The actual valve must first be removed for assembly or disassembly. To do this, unscrew the union nut, which holds the valve core in its place, and remove the valve. Now you can push the tube through the valve hole. Then you insert the valve core and secure it with the nut.

Which valve do I need for my bike?

Type of ValveType of Bike
Presta ValveRoad / Mountain Bike
Dunlop ValveCity / Trekking Bike
Schrader ValveTouring / Mountain Bike

Do I need valve caps? Do I need a nut?

Valve caps – yes or no? If you remove a tube with a Presta Valve or Schrader valve, a nut is usually also screwed onto the tube, which you must unscrew before you can push the valve through the hole provided in the rim. But then what to do with the nut?

Valve caps have two functions. The first is to protect the valve from dirt when installed. The second, sometimes underestimated: protect the tube from the edges of the valve when it is rolled up as a replacement.

It has never happened, even when used in deep mud, that a valve without the protective cap was damaged. The protection of the valve is therefore not really necessary. On the other hand, the valve cap on the replacement tube is important to guarantee its tightness. You can safely leave them out on the built-in tube.

The use of the locking nut for Presta and Schrader valves is not quite as controversial. This is supplied with most tubes. But what for? It also fulfills its function above all during installation. First, it can be used to secure the tubes against slipping during installation. Second, unscrewing this nut prevents the valve from being pushed into the rim when inflated. However, once the hose is inflated, this nut no longer functions and can be retired together with the valve cap.

Bike Pumps & Adapters

Which bike pumps and adapters do I need for the valves?

  • Most pumps can be used for all three valve types
  • For valve heads with two holes: – large hole: Schrader valve – small hole:  Presta valve and Dunlop valve
  • With some hand pumps, the rubber seal must be adjusted according to the valve type
  • Worthwhile: adapter for filling hoses with Presta valve or Dunlop valve at the gas station!

Most wheel pumps are suitable for filling hoses with all three valve types. Only the long plastic pumps, which can still be found on some older bikes, can only be used for Dunlop valves.

This topic is very important, because only when the bicycle tire is well filled does the bicycle roll best. 

Most current wheel pumps, however, have a head with two holes – a slightly larger one – this is for Schrader valves – and a slightly narrower one for Presta valves and Dunlop valves. Depending on the type of valve your bike has, you have to select the corresponding input on the pump head. There is not much you can do wrong, because the Schrader valve is too thick for the narrow entrance, but if you push a narrow valve into the wide entrance for Schrader valves, the pump head will not find a stop. It is a bit more complicated with some hand pumps that are made to be carried on the bike. To save space, they only have a single entrance. To adapt it to different valve types, you have to install the rubber seal of the pump head in a certain direction in the head. However, this is described in more detail in the instructions for these pumps.

Furthermore, the different valve types can be “transformed” using special adapters. This makes sense especially if you don’t want to laboriously inflate your road bike or mountain bike, which is equipped with Presta valves, when you have a puncture. With the help of an adapter from a Presta valve to a Schrader valve, the compressor at the gas station becomes your helper. With regard to road bikes, however, it should be noted that these compressors can often only generate 5 bar pressure. You shouldn’t rely on the gas station alone.