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The tires are what keep the bike moving. They provide grip and traction on the road or trail, they absorb shock when you hit bumps, and they act as a cushion that shields your body from impact in case of a fall. Therefore, it’s essential to take care of them properly. If you don’t, then there’s a good chance that you’ll be out cycling before long because your wheels will have gone flat!
The valves found on bicycle tires can make all the difference between getting back on the road quickly after an incident versus being stranded for hours waiting for help to arrive!
In order to help you choose the right bike valves, this article will focus on the Schrader valve, what it is, how it works, and how it differs from Dunlop and Presta valves.
Bike Tire Valves: The Basics
Bike tire valves are what allow you to inflate and deflate your tires. As such, it’s crucial that they are in good condition when you need them most!
The valves on bike tires come in different shapes and sizes, but they all serve one purpose: allow air into or out of the tire’s inner chamber.
There are three distinct types, and let’s go over each one of them, so you know which is the right one for your bike.
The Schrader valve (also known as the American or standard tire valve) can be identified by its large, round appearance. It has a threaded outer for a rubber cap or a pump head at the top. It typically has the same circumference from top to bottom and has an easily removable core.
This type is usually found on road bikes because they’re more lightweight and aerodynamic.
A Presta valve has knurled nut at the top, which you can unscrew. Presta valves do not have a spring-loaded check valve. Therefore, they seal based on the air pressure in the tires.
Presta valves also tend to accidentally unscrew as you pump air into your tire. They also loosen easier when removing them from tires after they’ve gone flat. However, it is also easy to pump air on almost all Presta valves because they don’t have a valve spring.
Dunlop valves are usually found on city bikes and hybrids. These are lighter than both Schrader and Presta valves.
What Is a Schrader Valve and How Does It Work?
A Schrader valve is a bike component that allows you to pump air into your tires. Most modern bicycles have it, which you’re most likely to encounter when fixing flats on the road.
These are generally made of brass and come in different sizes, depending on what needs inflating. The top part of the valve core contains an air chamber that can be opened or closed by a small metal inner pin.
The bottom of the removable core is what gets inserted into a matching tube in your tire, and it has what’s known as an “inflation point.” This inflation point gives you access to moving air when you push on the valve stems!
The Schrader valve body has an inner tube of rubber that fits snugly inside the outer shell. This creates one continuous airtight surface that prevents any leakage from occurring between them during use or storage. The rubber is what also helps to create an airtight seal within the entire core when you remove it from the tire after a flat.
The spring-loaded check valve at the bottom allows the airflow in the tires to continuously flow in only one direction. This helps to prevent the back-flow of air, making the valves suitable for getting the most amount of air into your bike tire in one go.
Additionally, these components almost always have some sort of rubber boot around them to keep dirt and other foreign matter from getting inside the air chamber.
How to Inflate Bicycle Tires With a Schrader Valve
Step 1: Check Your Tires
When you have this type of valve on your bike, you need a Schrader pump that has the same kind of nozzle as what’s already attached to your inner tube.
Step 2: Remove the Valve Cap or Dust Cap
Unscrew the cap of your bike valve. Remember to place the cap somewhere safe because it is easy to misplace.
Step 3: Find Out the Right PSI for Your Tires
This indicates how much air pressure there is on your tires. It’s on your tire and usually shows a range. Don’t let your PSI drop below the lowest figure stated. Keep in mind that the higher number is the maximum PSI recommended by manufacturers.
Step 4: Attach the Nozzle on the Schrader Valve Tube
Attach the air pump nozzle onto your tire valve stem. Make sure it’s securely attached by pumping air into the inner tube. Continue working until you feel or hear a hissing sound indicating that there is enough pressure in the bicycle tubes so that it doesn’t lose any more air unless you remove what was just added because it was too much.
Step 5: Inflate Your Tires
Locate the valve and mount the pump. If there is a lever nearby the nozzle, make sure it’s in an open position that’s parallel to the nozzle when you’re placing it on the valve.
Keep an eye on the PSI as you pump. Pump the handle until the desired PSI has been reached. When you’re done, snap the lever into position, which is perpendicular to the nozzle and down.
Step 6: Remove the Pump Nozzle off Your Tire Valve Stem
You have to do it in a fast motion, so air doesn’t escape from either of them at this point. Check valves, making sure the dust caps are back in place.
The Benefits of Using Schrader Valves
The main benefits of using a Schrader valve over a Presta valve include the following:
Schrader Valves Are Easy to Install and Remove
A Schrader valve is a quick-release valve. The simple mechanism of the Schrader allows you to quickly install or remove your wheel without removing the tube from inside. This also reduces the risk of damaging the tube.
Schrader Valves Are Easier to Use Than a Presta Valve
Unlike a Presta valve, these are less likely to get stuck or break than other valve types. Since the rubber flap inside can be pushed down by a finger, you do not need a special device (like what is needed for a Presta valve) to open it up and release air quickly through the valve hole. This makes them easier to use than Presta valves because there is no need to carry a special tool.
Schrader Valves Are Easier to Replace Than Presta Valves
These are what you’ll typically find in most bicycle tires. This is what makes them easy to replace, as they are the same size and shape across brands of tires, unlike Schrader counterparts.
Schrader Valves Hold Air Well
They hold air well even in extreme temperatures since it has a rubber seal inside the valve that prevents leakage due to temperature changes, high pressures, and other factors.
Schrader Valves Require No Lubrication
No lubricant is required to secure the valve on a tire stem. Unlike a Presta valve, the Schrader doesn’t require a lubricant to make it work.
Schrader Valves Are the Least Expensive Choice
These are often found in cars and bicycles because they are cheaper than a Presta valve. In the long run, they allow you to save money by not requiring a specific tool for installation and removal.
Schrader Valves Are What Most American Bicycle Tires Use
These valves are more common in the United States than Presta valves. American tires come with Schrader valve systems, and so do the typical handheld air pumps we find around town. This makes it easy to inflate your tire without needing a different pump or a special Schrader adapter.
Schrader Valves Are Available With a Wide Range of Fittings
These can be filled using almost any type of air pump seen at gas stations. This makes it easy to fill your tires up at the gas station, with an air compressor at a friend’s garage, or with a bike pump.
What’s the Difference Between Presta and Schrader Valves?
There are several differences between Schrader and Presta valves.
Compared to a Schrader valve, Presta valves have a thin, tapered metal core with a knurled nut at the top that has to be unscrewed to access the inner tube. The Presta valve core is also narrower than that of a Schrader valve.
A Presta valve also has a smaller hole at the bottom which opens wide enough to let air in and out of it. The Presta valve hole opens as you depress/release your pump head down over the top of it.
Unlike the larger Schrader valves, Presta valves have no mechanical check valve that helps maintain the air pressure. Instead, the valve closes itself based on the pressure in the Presta tube.
How Will I Know if My Bike Has a Schrader or Presta Valve?
Schrader valves are what you will find on most bikes in the U.S., while Presta valves are more common outside of North America.
However, some higher-end road and mountain bikes do have dual head designs that allow for both Presta and Schrader valves to be used with them. This means it is best to check what type your bike has before purchasing a bike pump.
To find out what valve types you have, open the quick-release mechanism on one side of the wheel and pull back to view the inner tube.
If you find a round metal stem with a small protrusion coming out from it, then this means that what you have is a Presta valve. If what you find is a flat metal stem, then the bike has a Schrader valve.
Inflating Tires Made Easy
Now that you know the answer to “What is a Schrader valve?” and understand how it works and how it differs from Presta valves, you can confidently pump air into your bike’s tires as needed. Just follow our instructions for using bike valves correctly, and you’re on your way to enjoying the benefits of having optimal tire pressure!
If this article was helpful to you in any way, don’t hesitate to share it with bike owners who might need some help with their bicycle tires. Let us know if we’re missing anything from this guide by leaving us feedback below!