Schrader valves are common valves for bicycle tires and the standard valves for automobile tires. Invented by George Schrader, this valve has pretty much remained unchanged since Schrader patented the design in 1898, according to the Schrader International website. Schrader valves feature a slim, hollow, cylindrical tube that is threaded on one end to hold the valve cap. A thin, metal pin sits inside the tube. Tire gauges and air hoses include a small tool that presses the metal pin in to allow air to escape and enter and read the tire's air pressure. The pin uses a spring to pop back into place once it is depressed.
Presta valves, also known as French valves, are common on high-performance bicycle tires. They are thinner and longer than Schrader valves and feature a valve cap that is built into the design and cannot be removed. Rather than relying on a pin to pop back into place to stop air from escaping, Presta caps must be immediately and securely closed, or air will leak from the tire. The lack of spring also makes Presta valves a bit easier to fill with a hand pump. Because they are thinner, Presta valves also require a smaller hole on the bicycle rim.
Woods valves, also known as Dunlop or English valves, are not too common, at least in the United States, according to Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary. These valves feature a thin, threaded cylinder with a slightly thicker base. The inside of the cylinder holds a short piece of rubber tubing, which is the key to keeping the air from leaking. Newer Woods valves work on the spring-loading system, rather than relying on the rubber tubing; although, they share the same design as the original. John Boyd Dunlop, who invented the pneumatic tire, also invented the Dunlop valve. Sheldon Brown's Bicycle Glossary adds that Dunlop valves were once widely popular in Asia and the British Isles.
Article Written By Ryn Gargulinski
Ryn Gargulinski is a writer, artist and performer whose journalism career began in 1991. Credits include two illustrated books, "Bony Yoga" and "Rats Incredible"; fitness, animal, crime, general news and features for various publications; and several awards. She holds a Master of Arts in English literature and folklore and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in creative writing with a French minor from Brooklyn College.