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The perfect fit

21 July, 2014

Finding the right riding gear for your body shape can be a challenge—Wheel Women‘s Tina McCarthy looks at the options for riders who need a roomier garment. 


Ding-dong! The doorbell rings. It’s that exciting moment when my new cycling gear arrives from the online order. I can’t wait to rip it open—I will look “fabulous” in this new jersey! But wait, something isn’t right—they’ve sent me the wrong size! Surely they’ve made a mistake?

Have you ever made that online order and the gear turns out to be the size and cut of a large garbage bag, or so tiny in all the places that count it is like wearing an external lap band procedure?

For those who fit into the curvier category of body shape like me, finding cycling gear which fits well, looks great and has the technical qualities needed is
a challenge for men and women.

As a cycling coach, I wear cycling gear every day, so I buy lots of it. But finding gear that fits my body shape has been a constant issue—I’m no waif and never will be.

I have a 41” (104cm) bust size, and my hips pretty much follow that too.

Despite what you may think my doctor reckons I’m in great shape. I am also a serious rider—and just because I wear a larger size, doesn’t mean I’m not out on the bike every day—so cycling gear manufacturer’s need to take note.

Tina5According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) the average Australian woman is 161cm tall and weighs in at 72kg. That puts me spot on for height and 3kg over on the weight. I’ve got lumps and bumps where I’d rather not have them, a bust many would feel blessed to own, and a set of hips which challenge any pair of knicks. That’s just the way I am—I actually feel pretty good about my body these days! But finding gear to fit has been an ongoing saga.

I asked my cycling buddy Peter Mathison how he felt about the topic. Peter weighs in at 90kg and is 173cm tall. That means according to the ABS he is 2cm shorter and 4kg heavier than the average Australian male. Peter serves as a member of the Australian Defence Force, so I wouldn’t say he’s unfit…to the
contrary, I’ve cycled many hills with Peter and he does just fine.

Since I’ve known Peter, he’s lost a fair bit of weight, but he has described himself as being on the “larger size of big”.

However, since he too is not far off being “average”, according to the statistics, we decided to experiment. Peter usually wears L or XL, so we looked at what was available in one store in that size range—it was clear that is not Peter’s size in cycling gear! After much ego deflating, we realized that Peter would need a 2XL or 3XL to get anything, which was a reasonable fit, but suddenly the options were limited. Coincidentally, everything left on the sale racks was either marked as S, M, or L… does this indicate the larger sizes are the best sellers?

There are many brands whose largest women’s size fits a bust of 36” or 38”. That counts me as “almost Ms Average” out instantly—by a long way! I refuse to squeeze into gear which makes my legs look like a string of frankfurts and body like a shrink-wrapped walrus! But there are a few brands out there which actually understand larger cyclists’ need to be catered for.

So rejoice ladies and gentlemen of ‘average’ and larger sizes, get out of those shrink-wrap jerseys, put away the baggy shorts and sloppy t-shirts and ride proud with your curves and beautifully fitting lycra!

Our curvy person’s gear guide


Wider is better! Look for wide waist bands and cuffs on the legs – narrow bands create the Frankfurter look. Try to get a little bit of compression in the fabric because it holds escaped curves in a little better.


Personally I think bibs work really well for larger women and men. You won’t be forever hitching them up over the bumps and they feel great… I’m a total convert. Until of course I need to visit the ladies’ room!


Go for jerseys and jackets that are described as ‘club cut’, not race cut, or ones which offer a ‘relaxed’ fit—club cut offers a more gentle shape but isn’t boxy. Longer jerseys are great too and some brands make their women’s lines in larger sizes a little longer, with the sleeves cut longer as well.

clothing for all sizes heroThe brands


I would never fit into their gear… or so I thought! The new Anna Meares signature line has been designed specifically for the ‘average’ Aussie woman (thanks Anna!) Sizes go up to 3XL in that range and the men’s gear goes up to a 5XL! We found the Santini gear looks great, has fabulous technical qualities and is cut to flatter.

For more check out:

Pearl Izumi

Both Peter and I wore 2XL. Cut beautifully to flatter, is a little more relaxed than some brands, has fabulous colours, is longer in the hem line and has great technical quality. Really accurate size charts, leggings have generally all got the wider waist and leg bands.

For more check out:


I don’t think you can go wrong. The gear fits well, is priced well and is pretty easy to find at lots of stores. Their new women’s range is cut really well with great colours. The jersey runs a little on the short side in the length, but wasn’t too short. I wore the largest women’s size of XXL, and Peter needed the largest men’s in XXXL.

For more check out:


A Swedish brand with beautiful cut. The jerseys are slightly longer in the body and arm length, and pretty generous in size for an XL, which I needed.

For more check out:


This women’s specific brand from the USA is a favourite of mine. The website has accurate descriptions of cut and sizing, but the best part is that the sizing goes up to a 3X, which is a 49-50” bust (124-127cm). It’s a great range with really reasonable pricing and technical quality great for recreational cyclists.

For more check out:

These brands are available from Australian bike stores.

Ride On content is editorially independent, but is supported financially by members of Bicycle Network Victoria. If you enjoy our articles and want to support the future publication of high-quality content, please consider helping out by becoming a member.

Ride On digest

16 July, 2014

The week’s top bike news from around the world, brought to you every Wednesday.

Local news

vbjf9qwf-1405466942Can riders can do more for friendlier roads?

Associate Professor Craig Fry from Victoria University’s Centre for Cultural Diversity and Wellbeing writes in The Conversation that while drivers and the media aren’t always fair towards bike riders, riders who merely point the finger aren’t helping matters either.

Get the full scoop >>


Tour Down Under 2015 route revealed

Pro cycling fans can now take a peek at the terrain their favourite riders will tackle when they head to Aus  in January 2015.

Get the full scoop >>

Inspiration comes in many forms

While Richie Porte is doing Australia proud at Le Tour, Sydney Morning Herald‘s On Your Bike blogger Michael O’Reilly finds that the pros aren’t the only ones who make great role models for riders.

Get the full scoop >>

Newcastle Challenge a no-go in 2015

The Newcastle Challenge won’t be going ahead next year. According to event organiser, Bicycle Network, “We’ve exhausted every avenue to improve this event. Our research shows that the route between Gosford and Newcastle is not the best option for riders, and our thousands of friends and members deserve better.”

Get the full scoop >>


International news

n-BIKE-WINNERS-large570Science says: ride your bike

Here’s six, scientifically proven reasons riding your bike more often makes you a better person.

Get the full scoop >>


Helsinki  to ditch private car ownership by 2025

The Finnish capital has revealed plans for an innovative, ambitious and highly personalised public transport system that would link mini buses, driverless cars, share bikes and ferries and require a single payment for multi-modal trips. The city believes that if the system is successful, there will be little incentive for people to own a private car.

Get the full scoop >>

Tour update after first rest day

Le tour de France 2014 is proving to be a real road of trials for the peloton, with several big names forced to retire from the race before the first rest day. But it’s not all bad news; going into Stage 11 Aussie rider Richie Porte is currently in second place behind Vincenzo Nibali (Italy).

Get the full scoop >>



jqvcbj9r-1358293157Can you pay off your ‘sleep debt’?

For all of you who are looking a bit bleary-eyed from late nights watching the Tour, make yourself a strong cup of coffee and find out if and how you can make up for lost sleep.

Get the full scoop >>




Playing catch up

Check out a quick recap from Stage 10 of the Tour before the race gets under way again tonight.



Upcoming events

dotdotdot 23 July – 3 August 2014 Commonwealth Games Glasgow, Scotland
dotdotdot 24-26 July Townsville to cairns Bike Ride Townsville, QLD
dotdotdot 25 July – 10 August Coffs Coast Festival of cycling   Coffs Harbour, NSW


Ride On content is editorially independent, but is supported financially by members of Bicycle Network Victoria. If you enjoy our articles and want to support the future publication of high-quality content, please consider helping out by becoming a member.

Untangle muscle tension

15 July, 2014

Got knots and strains stretching can’t fix? Myotherapist Andrew Pell has self-massage techniques to target the common ones.

Muscle tightness and discomfort is a regular problem for many people. This can result from long training rides, previous injuries, general fatigue, poor posture and, most commonly, being desk-bound during the week. Muscles often develop hypersensitive ‘knots’ called trigger points. Identifying these points can sometimes be easy due to the area being tender under light touch. It is also common for these points to refer pain to a distal location when pressure is applied. Unfortunately, trigger points do not always respond to stretching and periods of rest. If not treated and managed correctly trigger points can lead to early muscle fatigue, loss of strength, further injuries and overall reduced performance. However, in conjunction with a consistent stretching regime, the use of self-massage techniques such as these can be a powerful tool to deactivate trigger points, promote blood flow to tight spots and keep your muscles feeling fresh.

Iliotibial band and quadriceps

One of the most common complaints among bike riders is tightness in the quadriceps muscle group and iliotibial band (ITB). Although the ITB is not a muscle but a band of connective tissue called fascia, it responds very well to self-massage with a foam roller. Trigger points and tightness in this area can cause discomfort and pain, particularly around the knee and hip joints. This easy self-treatment eases quad tightness and, over time, should decrease ITB tightness too. The best thing is that you can even do it while watching TV!

1) Position yourself as shown in the picture below and slowly roll up and down over the side of your thigh. It’s important that you use light pressure the first time you attempt this technique to see how your body responds. If you use too much pressure initially, your muscles may respond negatively and tighten up even more.

2) Roll up and down the area several times for around 2-3 minutes each leg or until you feel a softening in the muscle group. Stop and hold areas of increased tightness and soreness—these spots are likely to be trigger points and may refer slight discomfort down to the knee. Relocate the foam roller to ensure the entire section of muscle and fascia is worked thoroughly.




Calf and lower leg

Muscle tightness and fatigue through the back of the lower leg is another common complaint among bike riders. The calves and surrounding lower leg muscles are well used in the down-stroke of the pedalling motion, particularly when powering up hills.

1) Resting on your hands, place the foam roller under your lower leg as seen in the picture.

2) Gently roll up and down each leg for 2-3 minutes focusing on those tender spots.

3) Ensure you cover the whole muscle group from the Achilles tendon right up to just below the back of the knee.




Your gluteal muscle group is extremely strong and an important stabiliser of the pelvis and hips. Trigger points within the glutes can lead to lower back pain and poor muscle activation.

1) Place a tennis ball or spiky massage ball under your gluteal muscle group as seen in the picture below.

2) Gently move your hips to target different tender points. When you find a tender spot, hold for 20–30 seconds until the muscle releases and the discomfort eases.

3) Another option when you find a tender spot is to slowly straighten out your leg. This is more of an active release for those feeling confident.



Thoracic spine and pectoral muscles

Stiffness and soreness through the top of the shoulders and thoracic spine is a very common problem. This can occur from having a desk-bound job, a hunched riding position, poor posture and tight muscles through the middle and upper back.

1) Gently position yourself as shown below and ensure your head is supported either on a Posture Pole, foam roller or a pillow.

2) Position the Posture Pole or foam roller in the middle of your back and gently allow your arms out to the side. Aim for a comfortable stretch through the front of the chest (pectoral muscle group).

3) Take three deep breaths in the position and feel your arms relax closer to the ground as the muscles release through the front of your chest.



Please note that the best self-massage programs can be specifically designed by musculoskeletal specialists. 

Andrew Pell is a Myotherapist in Northern Myotherapy in Brunswick, Melbourne. 


Ride On content is editorially independent, but is supported financially by members of Bicycle Network Victoria. If you enjoy our articles and want to support the future publication of high-quality content, please consider helping out by becoming a member.

Back to basics: how to change a bike tube

14 July, 2014

Punctures are enough to leave anybody feeling flat, but as Iain Treloar demonstrates, it’s easy to get rolling again. 

P44-45 hero

There are three certainties in any bike rider’s life: death, taxes and punctures. Regrettably, Ride On can’t help much with the first two. Happily, we can help with the last one. From changing tubes to preventative measures to reduce the risk of punctures happening in the first place, here’s our survival guide for one of life’s deflating scenarios.


There are two primary causes for punctures—one that you can to some extent control and one you can’t.

The first is what’s known as a pinchflat and is caused by tyre pressure being too low, causing the tyre to compress when hitting a bump and pinching the tube against the rim. What this looks like is two thin slits in the tube. This gives a pinch flat its other name: a ‘snakebite’.

One way of avoiding such punctures is by ensuring you maintain correct tyre pressure. This is usually marked on the sidewall of your tyre (given in PSI). Your optimal pressure may depend on a range of different factors, including surface conditions, weather, tyre volume, your personal preferences for a harder or softer ride and your weight. Let’s just focus on the last one for now. Simple solution: if you’re at the heavier end of the spectrum, inflate the tyre closer to the upper limit, as more weight presses the rim closer to the ground, increasing the risk of a pinch-flat. If you’re a lighter rider, it’s safe to run the pressure toward the lower end of that range; if the tyre is too firm, you may find the ride is uncomfortably jarring, and lose grip as the tyre won’t conform to the ground.

As materials used in bicycle inner tubes are slightly porous, it’s normal for them to lose pressure over time. As such, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of checking your tyre pressure weekly.

The other major cause of punctures is something working its way through the tyre, pricking the tube and causing it to deflate. This can either be instantaneous, or a delayed process presenting itself some way down the track—always, it seems, at a time of great inconvenience. Keep an eye on the condition of your tyres and every so often, deflate the tyre, and go around it picking out any fragments of glass with a sharp point. To prolong the life of your tyres, a dab of superglue on larger slits will help seal the hole.

Never leave home without…

  • Spare tube
  • Patch kit
  • Tyre levers
  • Pump or CO2 canisters

My tyre is flat. What do I do?

  • Remove the wheel from your bike, and let out any remaining air in the tube by depressing the valve.
  • Insert one tyre lever under the bead of the tyre, and lever it over the rim. Repeat this process until one side of the tyre is sitting outside the rim [Figures 1 through 4].
  • Remove the flat tube and store it away for repair.
  • Run your fingers around the inside of the tyre to feel whether there’s anything sticking through the tyre casing. If you find anything, remove it. [Figure 5].
  • Check the sidewalls of the tyre for any cuts or slashes.
  • If you still haven’t found any obvious cause for the flat, run your finger around the inside of the rim—check that the rim strip/tape is in good condition and hasn’t exposed any spoke holes.
  • Inflate the replacement tube just enough for it to hold its shape inside the tyre—this limits the risk of it sitting under the bead of the tyre and pinching on full inflation.
  • Insert the valve of the tube through the valve hole and then work your way around, inserting the tube into the inside of the tyre [Figures 6 through 8].
  • Slowly work the tyre around onto the rim. You should be able to do this with your thumbs most, if not all, of the way around. As soon as you use tyre levers, there’s a far greater risk of pinching the tube and taking yourself right back to square one [Figures 9 and 10].
  • Once you’ve seated the tyre correctly on the rim, inflate the tube about halfway, check that there are no unsightly bulges or asymmetries, and then inflate fully. Job done!
Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 3

basic mainteance 4

Figure 4

Caption 5

Figure 5

Caption 6

Figure 6

Figure 7

Figure 7

Figure 8

Figure 8

Figure 9

Figure 9

Figure 10

Figure 10


I’m out of spare tubes: how do I patch one?

  • Inflate the tyre until you can hear the air hissing out. Locate the source, then mark it with a dab of saliva.
  • Let any remaining air out of the tube.
  • Rough up the area around the hole to help the patch stick [Figure 1]. All patch kits come with a square of sandpaper or a course metal tab for this purpose.
  • If your patches are self-adhesive, remove the backing and firmly press down. Hold for a couple of minutes to be on the safe side.
  • If your patches are glue-on, apply a generous film of rubber cement around the hole. The glued area should be larger than the size of the patch so that it doesn’t peel off [Figure 2]
  • Leave the glue to sit until it’s tacky, rather than wet. Then peel off the foil back of the patch and place over the hole. Press and hold for several minutes [Figures 3 and 4].
  • The plastic sheet covering the patch is technically supposed to be removed. In reality, don’t bother. peeling it off risks lifting the edge of the patch and compromising the deal.
  • Install tube and inflate.
Figure 1

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 2

Figure 3

Figure 3

Figure 4

Figure 4

Handy hints

  • Realign any logo or branding on the tyre with the valve hole. Not only does it look neater, but will also help you locate what caused the puncture, as when you locate the hole in the tube you have an instant reference point tracing back from the valve for where the tyre was pierced.
  • Use plastic, not metal tyre levers (and definitely not spoons). Most rims are made from comparatively soft aluminium these days, and metal levers can damage these. Tyre levers cost between $5 and $10 a set.
  • If you don’t wish to repair your tube, at the very least put it in a bin rather than dumping it on the side of the road.
  • If you have a handpump that clamps onto the valve, brace the valve and pump head with one hand when inflating. If you’re pumping away without doing so, there’s a high likelihood that you’ll break the valve or tear it from the rubber at its base. Neither of these two outcomes is repairable. If you’re in the market for a new mini-pump, Ride On recommends models that have a hose that threads onto the valve, meaning you won’t have to brace the valve and freeing up a hand for on the pump instead. Happily, this style is becoming increasingly popular, with Lezyne, BBB, Giant and Airace all making variants.

Ride On content is editorially independent, but is supported financially by members of Bicycle Network Victoria. If you enjoy our articles and want to support the future publication of high-quality content, please consider helping out by becoming a member.

Ride On digest

9 July, 2014

The week’s top bike news from around the world, brought to you every Wednesday.

Local news

TheftsBike theft on the rise

The past six months has seen a spate of bike thefts in inner Melbourne. Victoria Police urge riders and bike shop owners to secure their bikes with sturdy locks (see Ride On‘s top locks here) and to remove all accessories, such as lights and saddle bags when leaving your bike unattended.

Get the full scoop >>

The right site

Bike Sydney is launching a new website, Pedal Power, to help riders better understand their legal rights and responsibilities on the road. They are currently seeking feedback on the site and welcome suggestions.

Get the full scoop >>

Make your bike a share bike

Thanks to a new app, Melburnians can now rent out their bike as a share bike when they aren’t riding it.

Get the full scoop >>


International news

Yorkshire bikeYorkshire has a field day hosting Le Tour

Locals went all out to make the riders feel welcome at the Grand Depart of the world’s most famous bike race. Check out some of their incredible fan art and tributes.

Get the full scoop >>

Selfish selfies

While Tour de France riders are thrilled by the millions of people who have come out to cheer them along the route, they’re not so enthusiastic about the new craze among spectators to step onto the road as the peloton approaches and snap themselves with the riders in a  #TDFSelfie. According to Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas: “There have been too many accidents with riders hitting spectators. We don’t want to see that but it could easily happen.”

Get the full scoop >>

Riders on the rise in Copenhagen

In Copenhagen, bike riding rose 5% from 2012 (36%) to 2013 (41%), but not for the reason you might think. Rather than better education and improved infrastructure, experts are attributing the rise to 17 major construction projects that have disrupted car traffic. Rather than face delays, it seems drivers are jumping on their bikes instead.

Get the full scoop >>



Gym bunny or couch potato?You might want to stand up before reading this…

We’ve all heard that sitting is the new smoking, and getting enough exercise outside office hours isn’t enough to counter the effects. Here’s a neat summary of why too much sitting is a bad thing and what you can do about it.

Get the full scoop >>



Boris bikes on  Tour

Sure, the pro riders in the peloton are a tough bunch, but it’s the guys who rode Stage 1 of Le Tour on Boris Bikes to raise funds for a good cause who are the real heroes of this year’s race.


Upcoming events

dotdotdot 12 July BicyGals Bike Maintenance Course Brisbane, QLD
dotdotdot 12 July Bupa Around the Bay Team Bicycle Network Training Ride Melbourne, VIC
dotdotdot 13 July Pushies Galore Swap Meet Brisbane, QLD


Ride On content is editorially independent, but is supported financially by members of Bicycle Network Victoria. If you enjoy our articles and want to support the future publication of high-quality content, please consider helping out by becoming a member.

5 tips for a better bunch ride

9 July, 2014

There’s no question that cycling provides a great social experience, whether it be a small ride with a few friends or with a larger group that’s more organised. So what is the best way to approach the bunch ride? Bicycle Network ambassadors, Drapac Professional Cycling’s Jordan Kerby and Darren Lapthorne are here to help.

Drapac bunch ride

1. Stay relaxed

“It can be quite normal to make contact with another rider or touch wheels just by the natural flow of the bunch,” says Lapthorne. “The bunch constantly moves in all directions so the calmer each rider is if there happens to be contact with another wheel or shoulder, the less chance of having an accident.”

2. Remember you’re sharing the road

“If a motorist is courteous to you and gives you plenty of room, make sure you give them a wave,” says Kerby. “It shows you appreciate them not trying to run you off the road. Also, if the bunch needs to change lanes, make sure everyone changes lanes quickly and at the same time. A pet hate of mine is when you have half of the bunch committing to turn and the other half not—it’s a very bad image to spread out all across the road.”

3. Help your mates

“Always signal road traffic and objects such as rocks and potholes nice and early this makes crashes much more avoidable,” says Kerby.
Lapthorne expands: “The riders at the front of the bunch have an obligation to point out any hazards that may be approaching. Just a simple hand signal to make people aware of a pot hole or parked car is appropriate. Riders following can then pass on the signal further down the bunch. “When riding further down a bunch, it’s important to focus on what’s happening well ahead rather than looking directly at the wheel in front,” he continues. “This way you will be able to read the flow of the bunch and have more time to prepare for cornering, braking, potholes.

4. Give yourself the best chance

“If you’re going for an early bunch ride where there could be low visibility, make sure you always have your lights with you,” says Kerby.

5. Remember, learning to ride in the bunch takes time

“If you’re not comfortable riding in a large group then stay towards the back and allow extra space,” says Lapthorne. “If it’s your first time riding in a larger group, then start small and find a smaller bunch to give yourself that extra space around you. The larger the bunch, the more chance of accidents occurring. I find training in a bunch of 6-8 riders ideal as it’s still big enough to share the workload and much smoother as there are less riders for a mishap to occur.”

Ride with members of Drapac Professional Cycling on this year’s Bupa Around the Bay – Ride for a Child in Need. More info and entries at

Ride On content is editorially independent, but is supported financially by members of Bicycle Network Victoria. If you enjoy our articles and want to support the future publication of high-quality content, please consider helping out by becoming a member.



8 July, 2014

There’s more to the humble inner tube than meets the eye, writes Stephen Huntley



An inner tube seems like such a simple and straightforward bike part that very little is ever written or said about it. But it is an important component; there is more to the tube than meets the eye, and getting the right one for your bike is important.

Size it up

To work out the right size of tube for your bike, first look at the side wall of your tyre. Somewhere, often hard to find and very difficult to read, will be a written code for its size. On a road wheel, it will be something like 700x23C. This means the wheel diameter, including tyre, is 700mm, and the width of the rim is 23mm (ignore the ‘C’; it is no longer relevant). You may also see an additional number, ‘622’. That is an alternative measure of the wheel diameter (622mm), measuring it without the tyre attached.

Inner tubes are sold to match the tyre diameter, but are flexible enough to fit a variety of widths. So, typically, you will see their packets marked with something like 700×18/25. That tube will fit a 700mm diameter tyre with a width anywhere between, and including, 18mm and 25mm.

The size of the tyre is printed on the side wall.

The size of the tyre is printed on the side wall

Feel the quality

Most tubes are made of butyl rubber of varying thicknesses. You will pay more for very light, ‘racing’ tubes, or thick, more puncture-resistant tubes.

Tubes made of latex are also available. More expensive than butyl, latex tubes have slightly better riding characteristics as they are more flexible and adapt better to impacts. They are also a bit lighter, but are more permeable than butyl, so you’ll have to pump up your tyres more often.

You will also normally find two valve types on offer; the slim, long presta valve, and the shorter, stubbier schrader valve (schrader valves are also found on car tyres).

If you’ve been using schrader-valved tubes, you can, if you like, buy a presta-valved tube instead, but there is a chance the valve will rattle around in the larger rim hole while you ride. To prevent this happening, buy a rubber adaptor to fill the space.

A packaged inner tube. The box tells us it will fit a 700mm diameter wheel with a tyre width of 18-25mm. it also has a 60mm presta valve.

A packaged inner tube. The box tells us it will fit a 700mm diameter wheel with a tyre width of 18-25mm. it also has a 60mm presta valve.

Simply schrader

Because they can be blown up with a simple sports pump, and with a service station air hose, some people prefer the convenience and simplicity of schrader-valved tubes in their tyres.

Schrader valves are essentially a hollow tube containing a valve core. The core can be screwed out with a basic tool and replaced, or tightened if it has become loose. The valve has a central pin which, when depressed, lets air in and out. When not depressed, an internal spring pushes the pin up, creating an airtight seal.

It is a good idea to keep an outer cap screwed onto the valve for protection. It will keep muck and water from getting in, which otherwise might erode or jam the valve mechanism. Schrader valves are seen as quite tough and hard wearing, and, unlike presta valves, are unlikely to break when using a small, handheld pump.

A schrader valve

A schrader valve

Hey presta

The small diameter of a presta valve means it is ideal for narrowrimmed wheels, whose structural strength may be compromised by a bigger valve opening. Presta valves are also traditionally seen as being better at holding the high pressure needed for fast road bikes, although many dispute this claim.

The presta valve is sealed from the inside through internal air pressure, making it easy to inflate, and easier to push in high air pressure from a handheld pump.

There is a nut at the top of the presta valve that is effectively a permanently attached cover. It needs to be unscrewed before air can be added. The nut remains loosely attached after unscrewing, and can be pushed in to deflate the tube.

Some riders leave the nut loose, and theoretically this won’t cause any great problems. But the closed nut will stop muck getting into the valve, and when closed, a separate valve cap is not necessary. However, having a valve cap is a good idea when carrying the tube as a spare, as it stops the valve end damaging the tube.

Presta valves come in varying lengths, and it is important to buy the right size to suit your rims. You will want enough of the valve standing proud of the rim to be able to get a good grip on it with your pump. But if the valve is too long, you are more likely to damage it when pumping, and some riders find they flap about at high speeds.

For standard wheels, a length of about 40mm is usually fine, but you can buy longer ones to fit rims with deep sections; valves of 50mm, 60mm and even 80mm are available.

A presta valve

A presta valve

Pumped up schraders

The pump head must press in a schrader valve’s pin before air can be pumped through. A screw-on pump hose will depress the pin as it is tightened. A clamp-on pump head will normally have a lever that, when pulled open, will cause an internal needle to press against the valve pin and open it up, ready to receive air.

When using a clamping pump, because a schrader valve stem is usually quite short, it can be hard to get enough purchase to engage the pump head. Try pushing against the back of the tyre to force the valve far enough out of the rim for the pump head to clamp on.


Looking inside a schrader valve the central pin is visible

Looking inside a schrader valve the central pin is visible

Pumped up prestas

Presta valves come with a slim collar that screws down towards the rim. Some riders ditch this collar with little consequence, but it does serve a purpose.

Make sure you take the collar off before putting your tube into the tyre, then before attaching the pump head, screw the collar down very lightly against the rim. When attaching the pump the collar will stop the valve disappearing into the tyre. Be careful not to over tighten this collar; you may end up pulling the tube into the valve hole, leading to a tear.

Before attaching the pump, unscrew the nut on the top section of the valve. Depress this nut down quickly once, which will let a little bit of air escape, but will help loosen up the valve seal (called ‘burping’ the valve).

Some pump heads with hoses will simply screw onto the top of the valve, but most need to be gently pushed down over the top of the valve and its loosened nut, then clamped on by pulling back on a lever.

When pumping in air using a handheld pump with no hose attachment, try to grip the head of the pump and the wheel in one hand, while pumping with the other (see main picture); it is awkward to do, but if you don’t use this technique, a vigorous pumping action may bend the valve stem.

When you’ve finished pumping, grip the wheel and valve stem with one hand to keep it stable while gently removing the pump head, then screw the upper nut back in.

A presta valve with the locking nut released

A presta valve with the locking nut released

Handy extras

If you use presta tubes, valve extenders are a useful item to have in your kit. You can then buy more easily attainable and cheaper, shorter valves, and use the extenders when using a pump. The most basic extenders simply screw on to the existing valve. Extenders are also handy for emergency situations where you need to borrow/buy a tube and the valve length available doesn’t reach completely through your rim.

Another handy buy is a simple adaptor that allows a presta valve to accept a schrader pump head. The adaptor may save you a long walk if the only working pump available is a service station air hose, or a schrader-specific pump.


prestagrommet_CMYK valveextendor_CMYK prestatoschraderadaptor_CMYK
Rubber adapter for a presta valve fitted in a schrader rim  Presta valve extenders Adjusters that allow presta valves to accept schrader pump heads


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