You walk into the drugstore, because you need toilet paper and toothpaste, or maybe to refill your scrip for whatever antidepressant you take, and it’s December, so Christmas music is playing. The Vince Guaraldi Trio is doing that thing they do for a “Charlie Brown Christmas,” and you think, “Poor Vince and the two other guys whose names we don’t even know. The only time we even think of them is in association with holiday music playing on a crappy speaker in the Walgreens.”
Why am I even sketching this little tableau? Well, because Schrader is the coolest Peanut. He has an actual talent, and as an adult, and in introvert, I relate to his vibe, which is, “please leave me alone.”
The valve named after our charming, little cartoon friend appeared on the scene in 1891, and it’s remarkable really that it has played velvet-rope bouncer for the air entering pneumatic tires the world over ever since. That’s a solid design.
Also, I know the Peanuts are ageless, but to think that mop-topped ragamuffin was capering about in the 19th century, trying to figure out how to keep the tires on his safety bicycle properly inflated just boggles the mind.
Of course, as Very Serious CyclistsTM we seldom encounter Shrader valves. At some point in our ascension to the dizzying heights of cycling expertise we entered the Presta zone, a skinnier, more finnicky and fiddley, place, where valves snap off at the top, rendering themselves instantly useless. This is how we know we’re really serious. We choose an inferior product on purpose. VHS over Betamax.
The Presta valve is also sometimes called the French valve. If any country on this planet values form over function, it’s France. See for example, Versailles, Bernoulli’s Principle, or Lièvre à La Royale. Don’t get me wrong. I love France and the French, but they love to complicate things. The Schrader valve is also known as the American valve or the ‘car valve.’ Americans are, by nature, sorta dumb and overly practical. That’s why most of our architecture is crappy, plain and rectangular. Once we find a thing that works, we tend to stick with it.
And yes, I know that the Schrader valve is too big and bulky for skinny road tubes, but road tubes aren’t skinny anymore, and why in the flaming hell do I have to have two outputs on my floor pump?
Speaking of flaming hell, have you ever been stuck on a sun-blasted patch of tarmac in mid-summer with a flat tire, only to have that little pin on the top of your Presta valve snap off as you try desperately to inflate your spare tube with a tiny frame pump and a pair of sweaty hands?
Valves are sorta vestigial anyway, right? Tires should come without tubes or valves now. Maybe wheels should come without tires, or they should be integrated. Maybe the fork should have a wheel/tire/tube situation molded into it. What is the logical conclusion here anyway? The whole bike, the whole shebang, all the components and everything should just get stamped out of some sort of foam. The foam could then be impregnated with other foams of different densities, stiff foams, soft foams, you get the picture. It’s basically all foams.
Except in reality, the Schrader valve has been around since 1891. That bad boy is gonna bury all of us. It’s the perfect way to infuse a tube with air, and as long as we need air to be held captive in places in order to pursue our bicyclic passions, the Schrader will be here, and Vince Guaraldi will be playing the piano on the ancient speaker mounted in the drop ceiling at the Walgreens.
Why not buy yourself a TCI subscription for whatever holiday you celebrate?