Why won’t the air go in?

A young man once found that the bicycle was a preferred method of transportation.  Quick, simple, and easy.  One day, he discovered that his tires needed air, a common occurrence.  He had inflated countless bicycle tires in the past.  In his ignorance, he thought all valve stems were created equal.  He found a small hand pump and decided he would air up his tire without having to bother anybody about it.  How difficult could it be?  He parked the bike and looked at the stem.

More dangerous than it looks!

It looked a little different than he was used to; the shaft was threaded and a rubber gasket/missile was held in place by a threaded cap.  Wary, he attempted to attach the pump end to the end of the valve.  Which worked!  Then he tried putting air in.  Which didn’t work!  He tried and tried as the hot sun thumped against his neck.  Sweat dripped from his brow and his arms became sore from forcing the stubborn plunger.  He figured something was wrong after um… too much time.

“There must be another way,” he said out loud to nothing in particular, breathing fully for the first time since he began his Herculean labor.

He stared at the valve stem.

The valve stem stared back.

“Maybe that little threaded cap needs to come off so the air can move?”

He stared.

The valve stem beckoned.



“It has to come off,” he said as he removed the threaded cap.


The rubber missile launched from the tube and bounced off his forehead.  The tire flattened.

Bicycles everywhere!  On the sidewalk, on the road, parked in rows, up mountains, down valleys, crawling along at a slow dirge, or sprinting across great distances in a moment.  Japan is a big bicycle culture.  Nearly everyone, of all ages, at least owns a bicycle and uses it extensively.  Granted, I now live in an urban setting, which I am not accustomed to, and I also come from a sprawling rural area with lots of hills so my observation may be a bit skewed.

Erica U – The Ultimate in Transportation!

One of the things I looked forward to most when I decided to make the trip to Japan was the switch from primarily driving everywhere to riding a bike and walking.  It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a long time but it is difficult to change an established routine.  So, here I am biking everywhere.  I’m no stranger to biking; it just wasn’t my primary mode of transportation.

And a new journey begins.  I’ve discovered that there are three types of bicycle valve stems.  There’s Schrader, Presta, and Woods/Dunlop.  The Schrader is similar to car tires and is the most common type in America.  The Presta is skinnier and is usually seen on higher end bicycles and sometimes high-performance car tires.  The Woods/Dunlop is similar to Presta except the inlet point is slightly different.  They EACH take their own kind of pump head or an adapter.  So the next time you look at valve stems…


About Matthew J. Durocher

Matthew Durocher is a graduate of Michigan Tech University. He acquired his BA in English along with a minor in Music Composition and a certificate in Writing in Spring 2012. His style is one of passion and musicality. One foot is firmly rooted in tradition while the other slides dangerously close to the clouds.
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