How to pump up a Presta valve

While many of you may know how to pump up a bicycle tyre, some valves can be more difficult than others.  Before you can pump your tyres you will need to check which valve your bike has. There are two common valves, Presta and Schrader. In this case we are going to be explaining how to pump up a Presta valve. To be able to see if you have a Presta valve use the following steps:

1) Remove the dust cap. If it is long and goes to a point then you have a Presta valve.  If it is short and stubby then you have a Schrader.

2) If you don’t have a dust cap, or you’re still not sure, then look at the top of the valve.  If the valve finishes with a brass nut then it is a Presta valve. If it is flat then it is a Schrader valve,

3) If you need further help then go and look at a car valve.  This will be Schrader.  If your valve looks nothing like this then it will probably be a Presta valve.

Once you have identified that you have a Presta valve you will need to check if your pump is set up for Presta valves. Some pumps only have one hole that will take either valve, other pumps have one hole that will do either valve but only after moving the fittings inside. Other pumps have two holes, one for Presta and one for Schrader. These dual fitting heads are either one above the other or opposite each other.

Setting up pump for a Presta valve

  • To set up your pump to the Presta valve you first need to unscrew the knurled nut surrounding the hole.  This should be hand tight and has a “normal” thread, that is, it unscrews anticlockwise, the same way as most things in everyday life, e.g. taps, jars.
  • Once that is undone, you will be able to see a  circular piece of rubber with a hole. To remove it, first move the lever to the position that would grip around the valve. When you move the lever to this position, the rubber pad will lift up. Grasp the rubber and slowly slide it out.
  • Now you can see that both ends have a hole, the one for Schrader is bigger and the one for Presta is smaller. Inside the pump head there is one more piece, usually made out of plastic. Tip this out of the head. One end has a pointy end (the valve-stem-depressor) and the other end is open. 
  • Now take the plastic piece and put it into the pump head with the valve-stem-depressor going in first so that the open end is uppermost.  Put the rubber part in place with the smallest hole facing upwards and the larger hole against the open end of the plastic piece.
  • You can now refit the external knurled nut. Close the lever and push the rubber seal down. Now screw on the external knurled nut. Don’t over tighten it, it just needs to be finger tight.

So your pump is ready, let’s move on to how to pump up a Presta valve.

How to pump up a Presta valve
  • The first step in our guide on how to pump up a Presta valve involves unscrewing the brass washer. Depress it a bit as it sometimes seizes especially if it hasn’t been used for a while. The stem on this knurled nut is very fragile so try not to be too aggressive. Remember it is only pressurised air pushing against the valve.
  • Push the connector on as far as you can. This is important as if the pump isn’t connected properly then the air isn’t getting into the tube. At this point air might start escaping, but don’t worry about this, it’s just the valve settling into the connector.
  • If there is a lever on your pump, move it now so that the pump adapter grips the valve.
  • Now start pumping. 

Many people find Presta valves a source of frustration. This is because the brass screw at the end of the valve is very thin and relatively delicate. Removing the pump at an angle can cause the brass screw to bend or even break. If it does break or bend too much then the tube is useless. Practise removing the pump adapter with a sharp downward movement and if it is a constant source of irritation then buy a pump that works better for you. 

Now you should know how to pump up a Presta valve.

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