Your new bike is Bylt, delivered, and ready to roll. The days ahead are filled with fun, fitness, and the eager exploration of the open road. After a couple weeks of rabid, rapid riding, it'll be time to top off those tires, and that's usually when this question rolls in, "What kind of pump do I need to fill these bad boys?". In today's post, we'll take a look at identifying the two types of tire valves, and what you'll need to pump them back to plump!
The valve you probably grew up with, the same one you'll find on a standard car tire, is called a schrader valve. Recognizable by their quarter-inch diameter and the pin in their center, schrader valves have been the standard on cars and kids' bikes in the states for more than 100 years.
Schrader valves are standard on our Classics, Step Throughs, Cruisers, and Balance bikes. The upside to schrader valves is their ubiquity means you can usually re-up the air anywhere. Gas station? Yup. Old basketball pump? If it's got a removable needle, yup. The foot pump in Grandpa's old shed? Yup. And, of course, most modern bike pumps will either come in a schrader version, or have a dual head that can handle both presta and schrader. If your valve looks like the one above, scoop a schrader pump and you'll be all set come top-off time.
So what's the deal with presta valves then? A french design from around the 20's, presta valves have a narrower diameter than schrader valves, meaning a smaller valve hole is necessary in the rim, and that means thinner, lighter, stronger wheels are possible. That's why you'll typically find presta valves on racing rides like our Road and Track Series.
Presta valves also maintain higher pressures better than their schrader counterparts, so that means more miles at the right PSI and less drop off over the course of your rides and races. That's why we used them on our Urban Commuter series as well, because when you're heading out the door a bit behind schedule, the last thing you want to have to do is top off the tires before you can pedal to work.
You'll also notice that instead of having a pin down inside the valve, presta valves have the pin exposed up top and secured by a knurled nut. To inflate, just loosen the nut so that you can press the pin down into the tire, grab your presta pump, and air 'em up!
Making it Work
But what do you do if you're at a friend's and the only pump they have is the wrong type? The easiest solution is just to pop a presta/schrader adapter on your ride and forget about it. That way it's always ready when you need it and you never have to stress about finding the right fit. You can even leave one on your valve itself, how's that for hassle-free storage?
Most shops will have adapters for a couple bucks, but if you're trying to go from presta to schrader, you can always Macguyver yourself an adapter from your valve caps too. It's not quite as classy and finished as a tailor-made adapter, but it'll get you the air you need to get home.
So don't stress when pump shopping. Take a peek at your tires and choose the pump to match. Or scoop a pump that can do both and you'll be the friend-ready-for-anything, no matter what your buddies roll in on.
We'll see you out there.