Rant: Presta Valve Caps Are Stupid

Rant: Presta Valve Caps

Ed. note Here’s a Rant: Presta Valve Caps are Stupid from Mark V. He is teetering on the edge from dealing with difficult customers as the year comes to a close.

I don’t want to trivialize behavioral disorders, but I would appreciate it if you’d check your irrational need for Presta valve caps on your wheels at the door. Thank you very much. Why? Because they are beyond useless. Valve caps are a self-inflicted hindrance. 

A Presta inner tube includes a threaded plastic cap over the valve. This plastic cap serves precisely two purposes: it protects the valve mechanism from being damaged. It also prevents the valve from damaging the tube casing while folded up before being installed. Once the tube is installed and inflated inside a clincher tire, it can get poked by many things. The valve core isn’t one of them.

Bent Cores

Sure, the actual Presta valve core mechanism can easily bend, but I’m going to reveal an uncomfortable truth. All bent Presta valve cores are due to user error.  Valves get abused during inflation. That’s when the cap is off to give the pump or inflator access to the valve. Yeah, that’s right. When you bring your bike to my shop and tell me that your Presta valve cores got bent and you don’t know how they got that way, I know how they got that way.  

Your Presta valves got bent because you carelessly forced the pump on the valve just as you were late for a ride. Or because you buy crappy pumps. Possibly both. There, mystery solved! At the time, I withheld that insight to protect one’s self-esteem.

Wait, you say you need to fit the Presta cap to protect the valve? No, you don’t. 

Unlike a Schrader valve (that “fatter” valve-type more commonly found on automobiles and bicycles), a Presta valve doesn’t present an open orifice into which dirt can collect and affect operation. Before you road riders out there say that you need valve caps because you ride in the rain, stop before you embarrass yourself any further. Try to find pix of Sven Nijs or Katie Compton racing even the muddiest cyclocross with valve caps. Katie F***ing Compton (TM) doesn’t use them! Her mechanic is her husband. Her bike was a rolling monument to that man’s obsession with details. If her bike doesn’t have valve caps, that didn’t happen by accident.

On the bike, the only thing Presta valve caps accomplish is slowing down the process of getting air into your tires. Before you open up the valve core and hook up the pump, you must first remove an ornamental decoration. Less distracted, you probably wouldn’t have bent the bloody valve core in the first place.

More Important Things

Before we go any further, I want to double-check to make sure that none of you readers harbor the idea that the Presta valve cap contributes to preventing air from escaping the inner tube. Because if you do, you should bail out now because there’s no point in me trying to explain pneumatic seals or valves or the permeability of butyl rubber. You probably think party balloons would stay inflated longer if you tied them off with a double-knot instead of a single. 

I detest people who think Presta valve caps serve any practical purpose while on a bicycle. The worst is when people go out of their way to get color-coordinated or novelty Presta valve caps. 

When you come into my shop and want me to change a flat or pump your tires, I’ll make you take those caps off the valves before you hand me your bike. Why? Because I can’t be bothered with your nonsense, and for all, I know that stupidity might be transmissible.

When I forget to replace valve caps, it’s because I was thinking about what mattered. Like, brake pads or the fact that your quick-release is on wrong.

Then you’ll sob about how crestfallen you would have been to ride home on a safe and functional bike bereft of your ridiculous valve accouterments, all the while suspecting that I wanted to keep your precious baubles to sell on eBay. If I wanted to deal with that, I’d be charging you the same hourly rate as my therapist.

Muc-Off Valve Caps

If you exclude Presta-to-Schrader adaptors, I know of only one particular Presta valve cap that serves any practical purpose on a bike. And it comes with Muc Off tubeless valve kits. It might seem contradictory, considering that tubeless valves aren’t even attached to tubes, thereby eliminating the original raison d’être of Presta valve caps. 

Rant: Presta Valve Caps
Muc-Off valves included a valve core remover.

Muc-Off valves ($29 on Amazon) have a cap that incorporates a tool to remove valve cores. Assuming that you’re not bending valve cores because you were clumsy with a crappy pump, the reason you’d want to pull a valve core out of a tubeless valve stem is to make mounting the tubeless tire easier. 

I keep a similar tool on my keychain. It’s somewhat more convenient to attach it to the actual valve. 

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