Bicycle tire valves allow riders to inflate their tires with air. According to bicycle expert Sheldon Brown, the three types of bicycle tire valves are Schrader, Presta and Woods. Cycling writer Jobst Brandt says most current bicycle manufacturers produce Schrader and Presta valve tubes. Most bicycle valves attach permanently to inner tubes, but some newer tubeless bicycle tires use a special Presta valve temporarily attached to the wheel rim.
Cyclists call Schrader valves "American valves." Automotive tire and plumbing applications in the U.S. commonly use Schrader valves. Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary recommends the use of a 21/64-inch drill bit to convert Presta-drilled rims to accept Schrader valves. In the U.S., you can fill Schrader valve tubes at gas stations and with many styles of air pumps. Most children’s bicycles and other less expensive bicycles use Schrader valve tubes.
Presta valves, or "French valves," are skinnier than Schrader valves and use a locknut mechanism to retain air pressure. Presta valves require a Presta pump or a Presta valve adapter, which you can find at bike shops. Presta valve caps protect a tube from valve puncture during shipping, but Brown's Bicycle Glossary says riders don't need to use caps.
Woods valves, roughly the size of Schrader valves at the base, taper to the size of Presta valve locknuts. Once common in Asia and the British Isles, Woods valves rarely appear in the United States. Presta pumps work with Woods valves. The rubber interiors of Woods valves deteriorate over time so they no longer retain air. Some patch kits include short lengths of rubber tubing designed as replacement rubber interiors for Woods valves, according to Brown's Bicycle Glossary.
- Photo Credit tyre valve image by TA Craft Photography from Fotolia.com
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