In recent years, bicycle manufacturers have been taking advantage of new technology to make sweeping changes to bikes. One change has been the introduction of new types of tire valves. Most riders are used to the Schrader valve, which is also used on most car tires. However, Presta valves, a narrower style of valve, has become prominent in recent years, and is common on many bicycles.
The Schrader valve is a wide style of valve also used in most car tires. Besides being used on a bicycle's inner tube, it is used on some forks and rear shocks. Schrader valves are simple: Simply attach the pump and begin inflating. Their other advantage is their compatibility with the air compressors at most gas stations.
Originally called French valves, Presta valves were first seen on high-end French road bikes before expanding to most types of bicycles. They are skinnier than Schrader valves and slightly more complicated. To inflate a Presta valve, first unscrew the locknut on top of the valve, then depress the rod on top of it in order to ease the inflation. Finally, you must screw this locknut back down after you have inflated the tire. Keep in mind that you cannot use Presta valves at petrol station air compressors.
Presta Valve Adapters
Since they are a more recent trend, it sometimes may be difficult to find a pump compatible with a Presta valve. A solution to this is the Presta valve adaptor, which attaches to a Presta valve in order to emulate the head of a Schrader valve. These are available at most bike shops and are installed simply by screwing the non-threaded end onto an open Presta valve.