Editor’s Note: One of the perks of being an RBR Premium Member is the ability to send us a direct question using the Ask RBR a Question form at https://www.roadbikerider.com/ask-rbr-a-question. (You can find the link anytime you need it in the Premium Members section, upper right of any page on the site.) Oftentimes, the question is about a specific training or tech issue relevant only to the Member asking the question. At other times, though, we get a question whose answer is quite interesting and worth sharing with all RBR readers.
Such is the case with a recent question we received about the benefits of Presta valves. And as is sometimes the case, if we don’t know the answer off the top of our heads, we’ll research it and do our best to find an answer for you.
Question: I work at a television studio in L.A. During the performance of my job, I use my Specialized Sirrus to get around the lot. The other day I was pumping up my tires and a co-worker asked me about the Presta valves on my tires. I’ve had Presta valves for as long as I can remember on all my bikes. I never even thought about where they come from, or what the benefits are. I was momentarily stunned by his question. When did Presta valves come about, and what are the benefits of them. As always, thank you. – Greg Banta
John Marsh Replies: Greg, here’s your answer, via two late industry icons, Sheldon Brown and Jobst Brandt: http://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/presta-schrader.html.
I think the most important part is this:
“The outer valve stem is manufactured in various lengths for different applications and has a narrower diameter (6 mm) than Dunlop and Schrader valves (8 mm). The weakest point of a bicycle rim is usually the hole for the valve stem. The smaller hole for a Presta valve makes it possible to have extremely narrow wheels while maintaining sufficient strength in the wheel. [Wikipedia, credited to Jobst Brandt]”
I’ve copied Jim Langley, our Tech Editor, in case he wanted to add anything.
Jim Langley Replies: John’s answer was great and I can’t add anything really, except to tell you that I haven’t ever been able to find out when/where the Presta valve was invented for sure. But patent searches suggest that it was invented by Michelin in France between 1880 and 1890. The Schrader valve goes back to 1893. Here’s one thread on the subject that I used as a source: https://nycc.org/node/33518