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The Goldilocks Principle: Valve Stem Length

The Goldilocks Principle: Valve Stem Length

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The Goldilocks Principle is under assault, balance is lost. Without balance, we are reduced to savages. Steerectile dysfunction is spreading like wildfire; socks are quickly becoming knee-highs and the line between shorts and knickers continues to blur.

We spend considerable time making everything on our loyal steed fit and look perfect. Bar tape and tire color are carefully coordinated to frame and decals; the tape is wrapped and finished expertly. Saddles are positioned with a spirit level. Cables are cut to the shortest length possible to allow for smooth and friction-free braking and shifting. Cable ends are trimmed to the shortest sensible length. Tires are mounted with labels mounted directly above the valve. And yet the valve stems themselves have recklessly been allowed to grow ever longer.

The Prophet and De Vlaeminck didn’t ride around with 5cm of valve stem sticking out of their rims. Granted, they only had one length to choose from, but that one length stems were made in was obvious: as short as possible. Valve stems need to be managed just like everything else on our bikes. They need to protrude from the rim enough to allow for a pump head to be securely attached to it; anything more is ugly and dead weight. (Incidentally, if you are using a pump with a screw-on head like a Lezyne or Silca, then this means all you need is the threads of the valve core plus a few millimeters to allow for the head to securely thread on.)

For those among us riding deep section rims, forget the long-stem inner tubes. Buy tubes with 32mm stems with removable cores and use the shortest valve extender possible. Under no circumstances should one use an inner tube without removable cores. It is important, however, that upon removing the tube from its package and before installing it or placing it in your kit, that the core be removed and reinstalled using a small wrap of plumber’s tape; this will ensure that the core does not unthread with your pump head, causing a disappointing deflation of both spirit and tire.

Bring back the balance. Stop this long valve madness and get thee to your local bike shop for some fresh, short-stemmed tubes.

We are not savages, my children. We are the Velominati. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

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// La Vie Velominatus

  1. @sthilzy

    @frank @Nate

    @frank

    @Nate

    Where was this article before?

    Most of those stems are a wee bit too short to get a Silca pumphead onto.

    My silca that @Scaler911 gave me screws on there just fine, but it’s possible that the old silca pump heads that sucked ass don’t work.

    Proper Silca heads neither screw on nor suck ass.

    Love my trusty old Silca! My Cycling Sensei gave it to me back in the 80″²s. I’ve only changed the leather washer a couple of times. Needs new head rubber due to threaded valves.

    No ride starts without Silca checking pressures/topping up.

    That’s a beautiful photo but I have to admit a dark secret: my childhood is scarred by trying to hold the damn head on with one hand while pumping with the other.

  2. @Beers I ride Fulcrum 3s.  Even with the computer magnet placed quite close to the rim on the spoke next to the valve stem, the wheel stops spinning with counterweight at the bottom.  OTOH, I have never ‘felt’ anything out of balance.

  3. I have been using a Silca floor pump for decades, as well. Here’s a tip that will make the rubber parts last forever and make it unnecessary to hold a worn chuck on the valve while pumping. To do this, you have to have the reversible Silca head (like the one pictured in frank’s recent post), and not the bell-shaped head. Take apart the chuck head and flip the washer around for Schraeder valves, and close it up. With pliers, screw a presta valve adapter into the Silca pump head nice and tight. Now just thread the entire chuck onto your presta valves in order to pump them up, and then unthread when done. It can’t blow of at any pressure, and the rubber parts will never wear. Just leave the presta valve adapter in the Silca head permanently.

  4. Sorry, frank. I see sthilzy posted that pic…

  5. @frank

    … if you have even a small degree of competence …

    There’s my problem right there.

  6. @ScottyCycles62

    The new cuff links are looking good!

    Indeed they are. Is it just me, or is it twisted ever so slightly to the left? A small detail to be sure, but just enough to niggle one’s sense of order. Unlike having valve stems that might be a few millimetres too long . . . cough, cough.

  7. I posted the inner core coming out frustration last year, not a good day or walk home. I don’ use tape just give the core a small turn to lock it in now. So far so good.

  8. I find myself in search of enlightenment because of this principle.  I appreciate the point of the article, but I also think that @Puffy has a point about the desirable length.  Or seen another way, that Frank’s definition of optimal length may be different for me than for him.

    I have a perfectly functional floor pump, which sadly does not have a nifty head such as those on a Lezyne or Silca pump.   In order to properly engage the head requires some downward pressure on the valve before locking it on.  In order to keep the valve stem as short as possible whilst still providing enough length to be functional (See @Frank above), I require the use of the little threaded nut (gasp!) to keep the valve stem from burrowing into my rim like a whack-a-mole critter.  Alternatively, I could abandon the nut (laudable) which would require an excessively long stem (Violator!) be employed to keep enough length of stem protruding for pump engagement.

    Being the Velominatus Budgetatus that I am, I am loth to discard a perfectly decent pump in order to part with funds that could be better spent on my quest to n+1.  So here is my dilemma: excessively long stem which permits proper pump fuction, but looks like I’m a tri-hard, or proper stem length, with an unsightly lock nut in place?

    And no, I won’t remove the lock nut after inflation, as that time would be better spent ON the bike.  It may be only a small amount of time, but like’s Frank’s claim of fractions of hundredths of grams, its still time I’d rather be riding.

  9. @humantorch

    The idea of adding valve extenders to my kit seems to be fixing a problem that (for me) doesn’t exist in the first place, but then again I ride with an EPMS so I suppose my argument is invalid.

    You nailed it.

  10. @Chris

    For as long as the old stock lasts.

    If you prefer this full removable alloy valve you should buy old stock Vittorias because all new updated ISOgrip compound Vittorias come with brass valve 42 mm with removable core.

    Vittoria went back to their old valve system after comments and complaints that their red anodized full valves are expensive and have no removable cores which makes injecting sealant difficult and less practical.

    Also new Pave 320 tpi tubular is like the previous 290 tpi version black in the center with green stripes along the sides.

  11. @meursault

    I posted the inner core coming out frustration last year, not a good day or walk home. I don’ use tape just give the core a small turn to lock it in now. So far so good.

    You’ll only really understand the meaning of frustration when your valve core come loose mid glue job, just when you’re about to do the final adjustments to make sure it’s all lined up nicely. By the time the valve core was back in, the glue was just a little bit too firm and the tubular had to be pulled off and the whole thing done again the next night.

    It was my first time. It wasn’t the scented candled, zen like experience that I’d read about. There was a lot of swearing.

  12. @Jamie

    @Beers I ride Fulcrum 3s. Even with the computer magnet placed quite close to the rim on the spoke next to the valve stem, the wheel stops spinning with counterweight at the bottom. OTOH, I have never ‘felt’ anything out of balance.

    Cheers for the reply. It was a thought, being involved with balancing wheels for a different purpose previously, that with bike wheels specifically, a manufacturer included compensatory weight could only be guessed at, as there are so many different weights of valves, and computer magnets also, that they couldn’t possibly be near a perfect (or at least good enough) balance to be worth it, hence it seems a bit gimmicky/sales pitchy, and your experience seems to align with that.

    Individual balancing with self adhesive lead tape for a given rim, tyre and tube or tub combo (use same tube as spares, they should be approximate) would be the only way I would have thought. I wonder if pro teams do this, hardly worth it for an amateur, but when looking for your half percenters……

  13. @TommyTubolare The concept was a good one but the lack of a removable valve core does seem like a bit of an own goal. Doesn’t stop the application of pitstop though.

    I found the threads that pumps screw onto were a bit soft – my Lezyne pump used to blow off before it was completely off which damaged the threads. Not great when you find yourself unable to pump your tyres up on holiday. I’ve replaced the chuck with one of the newer air bleed models, problem solved.

    Glad to hear they’re going back to the black centre stripe though. The only time the current ones look clean is on wet days.

  14. Of which I should add, the choice of valve length can be used to help balance your setup further, as long as it’s short enough and long enough…

  15. @Beers With regard to the Fulcrums, I believe that the only reason I know about the balance point is the spectacular bearings / hubs.  Every other wheel I own stops at a random spot and I KNOW they are less well balanced than the Fulcrums…

  16. @TheVid

    Being the Velominatus Budgetatus that I am, I am loth to discard a perfectly decent pump in order to part with funds that could be better spent on my quest to n+1. So here is my dilemma: excessively long stem which permits proper pump fuction, but looks like I’m a tri-hard, or proper stem length, with an unsightly lock nut in place?

    I would submit that ideal length is (a) subjective and (b) that mine is dependent on using a Lezyne or other pump that screws on and (c) not to take any of this crap too seriously. Except the bit about the nut because that’s just crazy talk.

    Go as short as is reasonable with your pump. 

    Here is an example from my own stable with unacceptable length stems and whose presence on my equipment brought this issue to a head. The tubes have been replaced.

    @TommyTubolare

    @Chris

    Also new Pave 320 tpi tubular is like the previous 290 tpi version black in the center with green stripes along the sides.

    The single most exciting gear development of 2013.

  17. With my HED 60/90 combo my LBS sold me tubes with 80mm stems. This fits  the front sans extender and the back with the supplied extender. HED logo sits just above the rim too. Cores don’t transfer but no issues yet. Got 3 TT PBs this season so it must be the correct solution.

    Works well with my Specialized (err, red with BMC decals) floor pump.

    I can’t vouch for the long term use of the extender yet.

  18. @sthilzy nice pic bro

  19. @scaler911

    So pump it up with the valve extender, take the extender off, call it good. Unless something pushes on the core, you’ve got nothing to fear (except fear itself).

    Really? Doesn’t the leakage between the valve extender and the vlave stem bother you? I hate it when I am reduced to confirming tyre pressure by listening to when the valve opens because the air leaks around the extender and the pressure in the pump/gauge drops immediatly one stops pumping, and obviously the reading is high whilst you are. Gas tape around the threads seals it nicely, but it’s a once only thing. Screw the extender off in my experience and the seal is never the same again.

  20. @scaler911

    I should also add, the daily tyre pumping would become needlessly bothersone having to install/remove and extender twice. Regardless, I see you have taken the issue to its logical conclusion. Nothing visible at all.

  21. @frank

    This is why you are still but a Pedalwan, my son. Comparing valve stem length to sock length is a hopelessly rookie move. They are different things entirely, but I understand your confusion; it is in the nature of a Pedalwan to strive to draw connections between the unconnected.
    The middle ground lies between a valve that can not be engaged to function, and one which it superfluously long. The stems in question are perfect.

    Pedalwan I am, but question I must since it is the question that leads to knowlege, not the answer.

    How are sock length and stem length theory not connected? Too short a stem is unusable, as is too short a sock. We look for a higher than ankle length sock for no functional reason, merely good form. In the same way, a valve stem need not be so short and stubby. A little length looks good.

  22. Finally! Good to see the V getting back to important topics after the silly season. And by important I do mean the minutiae and metrics of mechanical aesthetics.

    Spent the past month in remote wilderness with only occasional internet access. Obviously I used those brief windows to check in here, rather than communicating with loved ones, but it was all moustaches, dirty MTB desires and self-spanking apologia for rule violations. Could have squandered my meagre bandwidth allotment on porn.

    A month off the bike has me fat and cranky, but my valve stems are pure Goldilocks.

  23. @TheVid

    I have a perfectly functional floor pump, which sadly does not have a nifty head such as those on a Lezyne or Silca pump. In order to properly engage the head requires some downward pressure on the valve before locking it on. In order to keep the valve stem as short as possible whilst still providing enough length to be functional (See @Frank above), I require the use of the little threaded nut (gasp!) to keep the valve stem from burrowing into my rim like a whack-a-mole critter.

    I had this problem. Try this. Instead of using the threaded nut, just push on the outside of the tire with your thumb while you engage the pump head. Works for me.

  24. @Puffy

    @frank

    This is why you are still but a Pedalwan, my son. Comparing valve stem length to sock length is a hopelessly rookie move. They are different things entirely, but I understand your confusion; it is in the nature of a Pedalwan to strive to draw connections between the unconnected.
    The middle ground lies between a valve that can not be engaged to function, and one which it superfluously long. The stems in question are perfect.

    Pedalwan I am, but question I must since it is the question that leads to knowlege, not the answer.

    How are sock length and stem length theory not connected? Too short a stem is unusable, as is too short a sock. We look for a higher than ankle length sock for no functional reason, merely good form. In the same way, a valve stem need not be so short and stubby. A little length looks good.

    However negligible, definitely lighter and more aero, a shorter valve stem is. Socks may or may be not, so purely aesthetic, their length is.

    The longer the valve stem, to flop around and make noise the greater potential.  Socks, not so much.

  25. @pistard

    Finally! Good to see The V getting back to important topics after the silly season. And by important I do mean the minutiae and metrics of mechanical aesthetics.

    Spent the past month in remote wilderness with only occasional internet access. Obviously I used those brief windows to check in here, rather than communicating with loved ones, but it was all moustaches, dirty MTB desires and self-spanking apologia for rule violations. Could have squandered my meagre bandwidth allotment on porn.

    A month off the bike has me fat and cranky, but my valve stems are pure Goldilocks.

    Solid fucking gold.

    Obviously I used those brief windows to check in here, rather than communicating with loved ones, but it was all moustaches, dirty MTB desires and self-spanking apologia for rule violations. Could have squandered my meagre bandwidth allotment on porn.

    It sounds like that’s what you did. Plus One badge to you, matey.

  26. @pistard

    @Puffy

    @frank

    This is why you are still but a Pedalwan, my son. Comparing valve stem length to sock length is a hopelessly rookie move. They are different things entirely, but I understand your confusion; it is in the nature of a Pedalwan to strive to draw connections between the unconnected.
    The middle ground lies between a valve that can not be engaged to function, and one which it superfluously long. The stems in question are perfect.

    Pedalwan I am, but question I must since it is the question that leads to knowlege, not the answer.

    How are sock length and stem length theory not connected? Too short a stem is unusable, as is too short a sock. We look for a higher than ankle length sock for no functional reason, merely good form. In the same way, a valve stem need not be so short and stubby. A little length looks good.

    However negligible, definitely lighter and more aero, a shorter valve stem is. Socks may or may be not, so purely aesthetic, their length is.

    The longer the valve stem, to flop around and make noise the greater potential. Socks, not so much.

    Your month off has done you well, my son. Exceptionally strong work.

  27. Interesting timing. My pal who rides to get around flatted last week and was trying to get a long enough valve to work with his Mavic CXP33s. Need something like 42mm or more. He was all excited to get the wheel back together, then realized he couldn’t inflate the tube.

    Hmm, what to do. Vredestein latex tubes have really long valves, something approaching 50mm. How they look on Open Pro rims has bothered me, but I otherwise really like these tubes. They’re okay on deeper rims, but not ol’ short lads.

    I’m a big, big fan of smooth valves, and gold valves too.

  28. @frank

    I would submit that ideal length is (a) subjective and (b) that mine is dependent on using a Lezyne or other pump that screws on and (c) not to take any of this crap too seriously. Except the bit about the nut because that’s just crazy talk.

    Go as short as is reasonable with your pump.

    The moment I start taking any of this too seriously is the day I go insane and get on a recumbent…:shudders:

  29. I continue to be surprised by the simple fact that you people really need to get a life.

  30. @Hashola

    I continue to be surprised by the simple fact that you people really need to get a life.

    Don’t be.

  31. @Hashola Reads like Asshole if you squint.

  32. @unversio

    @Hashola Reads like Asshole if you squint.

    Chapeau!

  33. @Jamie

    @unversio

    @Hashola Reads like Asshole if you squint.

    Chapeau!

    Brilliant!

  34. @unversio

    @Hashola

    I continue to be surprised by the simple fact that you people really need to get a life.

    Don’t be.

    Of course this is quite amusing as it implies @arshola has been around for a while and so is damning themselves!

  35. @Teocalli

    @unversio

    @Hashola

    I continue to be surprised by the simple fact that you people really need to get a life.

    Don’t be.

    Of course this is quite amusing as it implies @arshola has been around for a while and so is damning themselves!

    My favorite part is the apparent feeling of obligation to take the time to post in order to state the obvious.

  36. @Ron

    Hmm, what to do. Vredestein latex tubes have really long valves, something approaching 50mm. How they look on Open Pro rims has bothered me, but I otherwise really like these tubes. They’re okay on deeper rims, but not ol’ short lads.

    As mentioned before, those are the exact tubes that got my dander up and finally brought me to the point of savagery. Balance was lost.

    Besides being more sensible length-wise, the Vittorias are thicker tubes and ride almost as well and are much less prone to punctures.

  37. @frank

    My favorite part is the apparent feeling of obligation to take the time to post in order to state the obvious.

    I’m chuckling like Beavis after a big pull on a bong.

  38. @frank   Yes I was stepping over that but I too find it amusing when folk go to the trouble of subscribing only to post diatribe and not just here.

  39. @Hashola

    I continue to be surprised by the simple fact that you people really need to get a life.

    We have a life. Welcome to it.

  40. Chop wood. Carry water. Enjoy your life.

  41. @frank

    Besides being more sensible length-wise, the Vittorias are thicker tubes and ride almost as well and are much less prone to punctures.

    Except the only Vittoria tubes that come in 36mm are for 25-28 tyres and they aren’t going to fit in my frame. 19-23 are 42mm and the latex are all 50mm.

    I kinda thought this artical should be accompanied by a list of tubes that have short stems…

  42. @pistard

    However negligible, definitely lighter and more aero, a shorter valve stem is. Socks may or may be not, so purely aesthetic, their length is.
    The longer the valve stem, to flop around and make noise the greater potential. Socks, not so much.

    Ok. I shall consider myself “told”. You have convinced me. It’s just going to have to wait however, I’ve got six tubes left in 42mm. Still with the wet season upon us, they shouldn’t last more than a few weeks.

  43. @Hashola

    I continue to be surprised by the simple fact that you people really need to get a life.

    I tried to “get a life.”  When that didn’t pan out, I realized I’d rather ride a bicycle and debate velominutiae with all that free time.  Fortunately, I’m not alone.

  44. @Hashola@Teocalli@unversio@PeakInTwoYears , @scaler911@Optimiste

    I continue to be surprised by the simple fact that you people really need to get a life.

    This is why we call it La Vie Velominatus.

  45. @Optimiste

     

    I tried to “get a life.” When that didn’t pan out, I realized I’d rather ride a bicycle and debate velominutiae with all that free time. Fortunately, I’m not alone.

    Velominutiae should be in the Lexicon.  Though I’ve never been good at malarky or whatever, so I won’t attempt to come up with a definition.

  46. @frank Thanks. I promise not to wear it with my Carrera denim bibs.

  47. @Hashola

    I continue to be surprised by the simple fact that you people really need to get a life.

    I have a life, and it’s good. And I get to discuss important topics (bikes) with interesting and entertaining people via the Interweb. Looking forward to riding with some of them in 3-D.

  48. I joined The Order today just for this post alone…for decades now I have watched the stem length fiasco continue  on it’s terrible trajectory …my complaints to other riders went unheeded,  of course…so I am so glad to see The Order taking a stand on this….long overlooked!

  49. i did not believe is till i saw it very hot

  50. @PeakInTwoYears

    @frank

    My favorite part is the apparent feeling of obligation to take the time to post in order to state the obvious.

    I’m chuckling like Beavis after a big pull on a bong.

    I have to say, it was brilliant thinking having the random selection of old articles that pop up be available. I don’t read ’em often but when I do, rarely do I not find a post that cracks me up and made the time well spent. >>> chuckling like Beavis after a big pull on a bong <<< Sometime in 2015 that line’s gonna get used with great effect.

    @PeakInTwoYear’s post followed a random post from someone apparently surprised at how “… the simple fact that you people really need to get a life” ! Hah!! May 2015 provide us all with plenty of opportunity to obsess over our bikes, our rides, the countryside we see on our bikes, our friends on bikes and allow us to be completely and blissfully unconfronted by the otherwise looney tunes nonsense that real life can bring us every day on the front pages of newspapers. Cheers all!

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