How do Presta valves work? Bikes have different types of valves, and one of the most common is a Presta valve. While every biker knows that the valve allows air into the tire’s tube, this type of valve works a little more complicated (not to fret, I’ll explain).
A Presta bike valve was designed to accommodate narrow bike wheel widths without scarifying wheel strength. The valve has a small locking nut, inner spring, stem and outer valve, rim nut, and cap. 2 key features of the presta valve are the lock nut which must be loosened for airflow and longer stems for thicker bike rims.
How Do Presta Valves Work?
How do Presta valves work? If you are a keen mountain biker, it is common knowledge that a Presta valve is a slim tube attached to your bike’s tire. This valve typically consists of either brass or alloy. And while this valve looks simple, it plays a vital role in keeping your bike tires pressure.
That said, it is essential to understand how Presta valves work. In this article, I will discuss the function of a Presta valve and all the vital information you need to know if you have this valve on your bike.
How A Presta Valve Functions
This type of tire valve is common in high-pressure tires and racing-style road bikes with 27.5-inch wheels. You can also find it in mountain bikes and specialized touring bikes. This valve is a long, narrow metal made of brass or alloy. In addition, its size varies to accommodate the pressure the tires need.
A Presta valve consists of four parts:
- an inner valve body – responsible for regulating the airflow coming in and out of the tire
- the outer valve stem – holds the internal valve in place
- a rim nut – controls the airflow in and out of the tube
- a lock nut – prevents dirt and debris from building up and damaging the internal valve.
The function of the Presta valve is to help pump air inside a bike’s tire. As air passes through the valve, the pressure caused by the airflow closes the inner valve body. However, it would be best if you loosen the rim nut before pumping air into the tube. The reason is that this nut controls the air that gets in and out of the tire. Once enough pressure is inside the tube, you need to tighten the rim nut to prevent it from deflating.
Moreover, a Presta valve also has a lock nut that closes the outer valve stem. Many think the lock nut prevents a bike tire from deflating. However, its function is to prevent dust and other particles from entering the valve. Without the lock nut, dust, dirt, and debris can build up inside the valve. If this happens, air cannot flow in and out of the tube, rendering the tire useless. (source)
MTB Tools I Love and Recommend
I own each of these tools and only recommend things I own and use.
- Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand. Nice mountain bikes don’t have a kick stand so keeping your MTB safe but conveniently stored is essential. I keep my bike on my stand whenever I’m not riding it. This makes it easy to lube the chain, inflate the tires and adjust the derailleur. Highly recommended – Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand (👈 Link to Amazon to see what thousands of others have said)
- A basic MTB toolbox for replacing a chain, adjusting brakes and dialing in the fit. Bike Hand has a 37-piece box that has most of the specialty bike tools to keep your MTB properly maintained. The Bike Hand brand is value packed for the avid rider. Check out the competitive prices with this link to Amazon 👉 Bike Hand 37 pcs Bike Repair Tool Kit
- Get a good air pressure gauge, if you get just a tiny bit serious about MTBing you’re going to start playing with tire pressure. A couple psi can make your tires sticking or not. Get a good gauge, I highly recommend the Topeak Smartgauge D2, it’s accurate, flexible and easy to use. An Amazon best seller, here’s a link 👉 Topeak Smartgauge D2
- Carry a multitool with you on every ride. I’m serious, most of the time you can MacGyver something to get back to the trailhead if you have a multitool. I’ve got the Crank Brothers M19, it’s worn, rubbed and abused – but it still works. Thousands sold on Amazon – check it out with this link 👉 Crank Brothers M19
Is A Presta Valve Better Than Other Tire Valves?
There are three types of valves for bike tires:
- Schrader Valve
- Dunlop or Wood Valve
- Presta Valve
A Schrader valve is standard for hybrid and city and inexpensive mountain bikes. Unlike the Presta valve, a Schrader valve only allows air to flow in a single direction, so you need to put pressure on its pin to let the air out.
A Dunlop valve is more expansive than Presta and is common in city bikes. While it is easier to use, a Dunlop valve’s rubber sleeves deteriorate over time. As a result, you will need to invest in more maintenance work to keep it functioning.
On the other hand, a Presta valve works better than the Schrader and Dunlop valve. It can hold more air, making it ideal for bikes that need excellent wheel rolling resistance. It also uses air pressure to seal itself, resulting in lesser chances of a deflated tire while biking.
Even better, a Presta valve does not degrade as quickly as the other two. While a Schrader valve tends to be leaky and a Dunlop valve degrades upon use, a Presta valve contributes to the tire’s strength. It only requires a tiny hole on the rim, so it does not create a significant weak spot in the tube.
Another benefit of a Presta valve is that it is compatible with rims drilled for Schrader and Dunlop valves. The only downside of having a tire with a Presta valve is that it can be challenging to find a compatible air pump. The good news is that valve adapters are cheap and create an airtight seal between the valve and the air pump. I use my adapter when I take my bike to a trail and forget to pump the tires, so I stop at a gas station. In other words, the adapter allows you to use any air pump available.
Bike Valves are a Touchy Subject
Folks either love or hate Presta valves, the problem is that in many tubeless wheels or even aero road bike wheels Schrader valves will not work or will weaken the wheel. I’ve got more info on bike valves below:
More About Presta Valve Adapters
A Presta valve adapter is a tool you connect to your Presta valve when you need to pump air into it. The valve converts a Presta valve into a Schrader valve, allowing you to use a regular air pump to inflate your bike tire.
This adapter is a small metal, but despite its size, it plays a significant role in sealing the connection between the valve and an air pump. With the valve, you will be able to inflate your tires. (source)
Presta Valve: The Pros And Cons
|Allows cyclists to adjust tire pressure quickly||The inner valve is a bit delicate|
|Available in different sizes, allowing it to accommodate deep-section wheels||Not compatible with a regular air pump|
|It does not easily clog with dirt.|
How To Inflate A Presta Valve-Equipped Bike Tire
Bike tires leak a bit of air every day. In the long run, you will need more than the pressure within the bike tires to keep them rolling steadily. For this reason, you need to check your tires before going on an adventure. But if your bike tires have a Presta valve, you may need help to inflate. But you can do so if you have a regular air pump and a Presta valve adapter.
The first step to inflating a bike tire with a Presta valve is to unscrew the lock nut so you can access the rim nut. The lock nut is pretty small but is an essential part of the valve, so ensure you will place it correctly.
Now that you have removed the lock nut, you can access the rim lock. Loosen it until you hear a short burst of air coming out of the valve. Once the rim lock is loose enough, attach the Presta valve adapter to make it compatible with a regular air pump. Make sure to close off the pump’s opening.
Now that the valve and air pump is tight and secure, you can inflate the bike tire until its pressure reaches the proper PSI. You can find the tire’s recommended PSI written on its side.
Once the pressure inside the tire is enough, pull the air pump’s lever open, tighten the rim nut, and screw the lock nut. (source)
The primary function of a Presta valve is to keep high-pressure tires inflated. It has an inner valve where air passes through when you inflate the tire. This inner valve also has a rim nut that controls airflow through or out of the tire’s tube. In addition, a Presta valve uses air pressure to close its opening and prevent the tire from deflating.
Do you have any questions? You can leave them in the comments so we can help you answer them.
How do Presta valves work? It helps you control tire pressure by letting air in and out of the tube.
Looking for Some More Ways to Help Your Bike Last
- Regular maintenance will keep you pedaling for years. Read – DIY Mountain Bike Maintenance Schedule
- Everyone wants a new bike, find out when it’s time to buy with this article: Repair Old Bike or Buy New – Options
- DIY Mountain Bike Tune Up – A Complete guide to what to repair and how.
David Humphries is the creator of DIY Mountain Bike. For me a relaxing day involves riding my mountain bike to decompress after a long day. When not on my bike I can be found wrenching on it or making YouTube videos at 👉 DIY Mountain Bike Read more about David HERE.
- Dennis Bailey and Keith Gates. Bike Repair and Maintenance For Dummies. USA: John Wiley & Sons, 2009. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=xlVnDwAAQBAJ&pg=PA87&dq=how+to+use+a+presta+valve&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwihvIyw6pj6AhWDl1YBHb2ZBzwQ6AF6BAgCEAI#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20use%20a%20presta%20valve&f=false. Accessed September 16, 2022.
- DIY Mountain Bike YouTube. How Do Presta Valves Work, YouTube Link – https://youtu.be/K6yTD9I-KEM
- John Forester. Effective Cycling. MIT Press, 1993. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=0n2t7P1v2M8C&pg=PP120&dq=how+to+use+a+presta+valve&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwihvIyw6pj6AhWDl1YBHb2ZBzwQ6AF6BAgGEAI#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20use%20a%20presta%20valve&f=false. Accessed September 16, 2022.
- John Forester. Effective Cycling Seventh Edition. USA: MIT Press, 2012. https://books.google.com.ph/books?id=aBfyXQ8EeLUC&pg=PA96&dq=how+to+use+a+presta+valve&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwihvIyw6pj6AhWDl1YBHb2ZBzwQ6AF6BAgFEAI#v=onepage&q=how%20to%20use%20a%20presta%20valve&f=false. Accessed September 16, 2022