How To Inflate Presta Valves In 5 Easy Steps [With Video Guide]

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Learning how to inflate Presta valves is one of those beginner bike maintenance jobs that are incredibly simple once you know how to do it – but you still need to be shown the first time!

It’s also one of the most important bike maintenance tasks to get nailed down, as it’s the one you’re likely to find yourself performing most often.

If you feel like you don’t know where to begin – or aren’t really sure what a Presta valve actually isfear not! In this guide, we’ll be covering:

  • What Is A Presta Valve?
  • How Do I Identify A Presta Valve From Other Types?
  • Why Might You Find Yourself Needing To Inflate The Valve?
  • What Tools Will I Need To Complete The Job?
  • Our Step By Step Guide On How To Inflate Presta Valve
  • Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: How To Inflate A Presta Valve

Let’s dive in!

How To Inflate Presta Valves: Title Image

What Is A Presta Valve?

The Presta valve is what most modern bikes are equipped with. It was originally invented as an alternative to the Schrader and Dunlop valves.

Prestas are narrow valves and have a small lock nut at the top. The Presta valve was designed to work with higher-pressure tires and be easy to use without tools.

Presta valves are very popular due to their being very easy to use. Unlike Schrader valves, you can remove the valve core and clean and service them if required. Presta valves come in different sizes, which makes them excellent for wheels with taller aerodynamic profiles.

It’s important to mention that Presta valves are not always connected to a tube. On tubeless systems, they stand alone and fill the hole in the rim. They still work the same, but use the outer tire to hold the air. 

Long Presta valve without a cap.
A Presta valve with the cap removed.

How Do I Identify A Presta Valve From Other Types?

There are a few different types of valves on the market, and they work in different ways. Identifying the correct valve is important to ensure you pump it up properly. Here’s how to identify each.

Schrader Valve

A Schrader valve is not just seen on bikes but also on cars too. It is a small wide valve with a pin in the center that releases the air inside when pressed. They typically are a brass color with a black base.

Dunlop Valve

A Dunlop value is not commonly seen in modern times. It’s similar to a Presta valve, though, and works in a similar way. It has a tall silver valve with a wide lock nut at the top that wraps around the valve stem.

Presta Valve

A Presta valve in modern times is the most common type of valve on a bike. It is a tall silver valve with a lock nut at the top. Unlike the Dunlop valve, the lock nut sits directly on the top and doesn’t wrap around.

Close-up of a Schrader valve with no cap.
A Schrader Valve.

Why Learn To Inflate Presta Valves?

You might need to know how to air up a Presta valve for many reasons. Here are our top reasons:

#1. After Fixing A Puncture

Punctures are common on bikes, and as a cyclist, you will see many. After fixing a puncture, the tire will be flat, and you must pump it up for the wheel to work properly.

#2. When Installing New Tires

When you install new tires, you must completely deflate the inner tubes. Once installed, you will need to pump them back up again to optimum pressure. 

#3. When Your Inner Tube Loses Air

Inner tubes do not need to be punctured to lose air. They naturally lose it over time. Some tubes go down quicker than others, depending on the quality of their construction. When they go down, they need pumping back up.

#4. To Compensate For Multiple Terrains 

If you ride a bike such as a gravel bike or a mountain bike, you will find yourself adjusting the pressure of the tires to suit the terrain you’re riding on (less pressure for off-road and more pressure for the road).

A pink tubeless Presta valve sits on a black surface.
A tubeless Presta valve.

What Tools Will I Need To Complete The Job?

To inflate a Presta valve, all you will need is a bike pump with the correct fitting for the Presta valve.

You will come across two types of pumps: track pumps and hand pumps.

A track pump is a large tall pump with a footplate and a large chamber for air. These are definitely the quickest way to inflate a Presta valve and often come with a psi (pressure) gauge. They are much better for getting high pressures compared to a hand pump.

A hand pump is great if you are out on the road and only need one in an emergency. They have a small chamber and are very lightweight. They struggle to reach high pressures and take much longer than a track pump but are much more convenient.

A black track pump rests on its side on a black floor mat.

How To Inflate Presta Valves in 5 Easy Steps

Now, onto our step-by-step guide on how to inflate Presta valves! If this is the first time you’re doing this, allow for around 5 minutes, but take your time if you need to.

Step #1. Preparation 

Close-up of the end hose of a hand pump in a mechanic's palm.

The first thing you need to do is get prepared.

We recommend doing this in a safe place and ensure if you’re out outside taking your bike well away from any road you might be on. Have your pump handy and ensure it is set up to work with a Presta valve.

Your pump might have a switch on the end, with the two sides marked “P” (Presta) and “S” (Schrader). You’ll need to switch it to the “P” side.

Step #2. Undo Cap And Release The Valve

Close-up of a Presta valve with the cap being removed.

First, remove the valve cap.

You should now be able to see the valve top. It will be a small circular piece that sits on a thread. It should be nice and tight to hold the pressure in, and often they can get stuck. To undo it, you must go anti-clockwise, the same way as the cap.

Turn the valve, and it should work its way up to the top of the thread, leaving a gap between the valve stem and the top. If you find it to be stuck, move it around on the top using your fingers, and it should loosen off. 

Step #3. Test The Valve

Attaching the pump to a Presta valve.

Now you will need to test the valve itself. When you have unscrewed the valve at the top, press down on the top of the valve.

If there’s air in the tire, you should hear a hiss of the air come out. If there was no air in, it should just drop to the bottom. This shows us the valve is working properly.

If it doesn’t move, you might need to apply some pressure or, worst case, change the valve core – which is rare.

Step #4. Pump Some Air In!

The pressure gauge on a track pump.

Next, it’s time to attach the pump. If you have a track pump, it will just press on, and then you lock it into place with the pressure clip.

If you’re using a hand pump, it will screw on, and you must ensure it’s tight.

Start pumping air into the tires, ensuring the correct pressure by either using the pump gauge or checking with your fingers. 

You will need to get the pump off when you have hit optimum pressure. On the track pump, release the clip and pull the pump off. On the hand pump, you will need to unscrew it. The quicker you can do this process, the better, as you can lose some air.

Step #5. Shut The Valve And Replace The Cap

Screwing on a Presta valve cap.

Finally, we need to lock all that pressure in. Screw your valve back up by turning it clockwise, ensuring you don’t press it down and release any pressure.

You want it to be nipped up tight, but try not to over-tighten it as they get stuck easily. Once the valve is finger tight, get your cap and screw it on clockwise.

Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: How To Inflate A Presta Valve

Check out the BikeTips YouTube Channel here for walk-through bike maintenance guides and more!

Now You Know How To Inflate Presta Valves…

Learning to inflate a Presta valve is an important skill for any cyclist. It will be a task you perform often!

Learning how to adjust your tire pressures goes a long way to improving the riding experience and can make a bumpy road much more comfortable.

Now it’s time to put those freshly pumped tires to use and hit the road!

Found this beginner bike maintenance guide helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, challenging world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie is not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog.

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