Pumping Up European Tires

Schrader valve
Bikes made for racing and city bikes from Holland have different valve types that leave a lot of Americans scratching their heads. How do you deal with these fancy European tires? Read on, and I’ll tell you how a couple of bucks can save you a whole lot of frustration.

Most people in America are familiar with one type of valve on their bicycles. Most bikes we buy, and even our cars, mopeds, motorcycles, push carts, and hand trucks use the Schrader Valve.

Most pumps in the United States are ready to go … only on Schrader valves.

The bicycle industry has different thoughts on this issue, and so we have different valve types.

Presta valve on a Public D8 at Flying Pigeon LA
If you’re a real bike enthusiast, or you ride higher end bicycles, you should be familiar with the vaunted Presta Valve. I do not know the engineering reason for the switch to these skinny valves, but you can’t buy a bike in this country that is made for racing or big mountain bike jumps without running headlong into the presta valve wall. These fiddly little things confound countless people, and so I sell a bundle of brass presta to schrader adapters each month. We also do a brisk business is floor pumps that have a hole for either presta or schrader valves.

Everyone in the bike world in the US is with me so far, but here is where I lose 90% of the people: there is another valve type!

Yes, another type of valve.


I asked my self the very same question when I first encountered this valve type on bikes we imported from Holland. The answer is, “Deal with it.”

And so we do.

Dunlop valve on a Batavus Old Dutch at Flying Pigeon LA
The third valve type is called a Dunlop (or Woods) Valve. These are standard issue on a lot of bikes on the European continent, and especially in Holland. In the US, they are a pain to deal with for most people, since they definitely do not work with a schrader valve pump head, and work very poorly with a presta valve pump head.

The solution? Buy yet another pump? Switch out the tubes on your expensive new bike? Give up bikes for rollerblades? No!

Brass presta and dunlop to schrader valve adapters
To pump up European tires you need to buy a presta-to-schrader valve adapter and screw it onto your dunlop valves. Boom, done. As arbitrarily as the bike industry has handed us theses three valve types to deal with, they have offered up a nice solution: the threads on the presta and dunlop valve are identical. A presta-to-schrader adapter is therefore a dunlop- or presta-to-schrader adapter.

Valve adapter on a dunlop valve on a Gazelle Chamonix Pure at Flying Pigeon LA
We equip all of our Dutch bikes with an adapter, to save ourselves the inevitable phone call about this issue.

If you’d like a set of nice set of  dunlop-to-schrader adapters you can buy them online here! It will cost a few bucks to ship a set of these anywhere in the US.

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  1. Ken
    Posted March 11, 2011 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    One advantage of the Presta valve is that it requires a smaller hole in the rim. This allows the rim to be thinner and stronger than if a larger hole for a Schrader valve existed.

  2. Posted March 11, 2011 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    Presta valves are also easier to pump up to pressure, since you’re not also fighting the spring that is inside Schraeder valves. And since you close them manually, they are less likely to be clogged by dirt, as happens on occasion with Schraeders.

    Dunlops sometimes ned a bit of spit to make them hold air–they use a little rubber gland to seal them. They are also popular in Japan.

    As I’ve heard many a time from engineers, “The great thing about standards is that there are so many of them!”

  3. Miss V
    Posted March 27, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Permalink


    Thanks for pumping air into my mom’s rear tire as she cannot figure out the valves on her bike, and it’s hard for me as well, being 4 and all. The ride on the back Yepp seat was smooth this morning!

    Your daughter

  4. Lou K
    Posted August 20, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    I just faced this issue tonight while examining my new Dutch bike. Then I discovered your informative article on this very subject. I just emailed you for a set of the adapters. Thanks for taking the time to write this piece……

  5. J James
    Posted February 8, 2014 at 6:10 am | Permalink

    I just bought a Japanese trike. The two back wheels have the weird type valve stem. I started unscrewing what I thought was the cap to figure it out and all the air shot out and the valve blew across the parking lot. It took me a while to find this post to figure out how to reinflate the tube. Thanks!.

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