Clothes make the man

The arrival of colder temperatures also signifies my least favorite time of the year for riding a bicycle. And that's only because it takes half the day just to get ready. Then the other half to put everything away. Throw in the fickleness of the weather, and it is a wonder I even bother.


The pile.

Prior to any pedal, I always check the forecast on my cellphone. The other day it indicated no precipitation. So I made the effort to put all those clothes on, with readings in the 30s. As soon as I stepped outside, you guessed it, the heavens opened up. I did an about-face, promptly went inside, and pouted. No ride, but boy I sure had fun putting all that stuff on.


However, I haven't been completely thwarted in my quest to achieve 7,000 miles. My current total is 6,018 — just 982 to go. I'll keep you posted on my progress.


Tube tutorial


One of the most requested items at the bike shop is a bicycle tube. Usually, our opening question for the cycling customer is, "Do you need Presta or Schrader?"


This got me thinking — where did these two names come from? What is their history? Let's find out.


Around 1890, following reports of English cyclists' success in using pneumatic tires, German-American August Schrader saw the need for a bicycle tire valve. By 1891, he had produced the Schrader valve, which also is called the American valve.


The Presta valve was invented in the 1920s by a Frenchman named Sclaverand. In some places, the valve is called the Sclaverand valve or French valve. Sclaverand worked for a company that eventually morphed into Zéfal, which still makes bike pumps and accessories.


Presta on the left and Schrader on the right.

Initially, Schrader valves were more common on bicycles. As road wheels and tires became skinnier over time, bicycles required a more narrow valve. At this point, the Presta valve gained popularity in cycling.


Some benefits of Schrader valve:

— More robust. Due to the shorter and thicker design, Schrader valves are less fragile than Presta valves. You can handle them a bit more roughly without worrying about breaking them.

— More universal. Schrader valves are the world standard. You can find them in pretty much any country. This is important for bicycle tourists who often find themselves traveling through the developing world or rural regions where Presta tubes are difficult to find.

— You can inflate them anywhere. With Schrader valves, you can go to any gas station to inflate your tires. You can also use any air compressor or bicycle pump. They are all compatible.

— More reliable. Schrader valves have fewer exposed parts that can get damaged. They also have a sturdier design. This allows for increased reliability.

— Cheaper. For whatever reason, Schrader tubes are slightly cheaper than Presta tubes. This probably has to do with the fact that Schrader valves are much more widely used across many industries. Presta valves are pretty much bicycle specific.

— Easier to use. Pretty much everyone knows how to use a Schrader valve. After all, every automotive tire uses them. You just remove the cap and start inflating. Non-cyclists may not be familiar with Presta valves. There is a slight learning curve.


Some benefits of Presta valve:

— Stronger wheels. The valve hole creates a weak spot in your rim. Because Presta valves are more narrow than Schrader, the valve hole can be smaller.

— Fit narrow rims. Some road rims are so narrow that a Schrader valve wouldn’t fit between the beads of the tire. In this case, you need to use Presta valves.

— Available in different valve lengths. This is important if you are using deep rims like many carbon ones.

— You won’t lose pressure when you stop pumping or remove the pump. This is particularly important when filling high-pressure tires. By design, the pressure in the tube keeps the Presta valves closed. With Schrader valves, you rely on a spring to close the valve. You almost always lose a bit of pressure when you stop pumping or remove the pump from the valve.

— Presta valves are lighter. The weight difference is so minimal that it’s almost not worth mentioning. But if you are the kind of rider that weighs every part you install, you can shave a gram or two by using Presta valves.

— You can release pressure in a more controlled manner using only your finger. Presta valves allow you to easily press down on the unscrewed valve to let air out. If you overfilled your tires, you can slowly let out air until they reach the proper pressure.


All this brings up the topic of tube versus tubeless. But that's a debate for another day. I will say many of my cycling friends are now going tubeless, but I'm not ready for that camp — just yet. I will add that many of the top professional teams have switched to using tubes, even for bone-jarring races like Paris-Roubaix.


Anyway, stay safe ... even if you're not riding a bike.


'Thought for the day'


"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." — Albert Einstein


From "Words To Ride By ... Thoughts on Bicycling" by Michael Carabetta (Chronicle Books, 2017)


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