Presta vs Schrader Valves: What’s The Difference And Which One To Choose?

If you are just getting into the cycling world, chances are that you don’t know much about different types of valves on bicycle tubes. There are two contenders for this: Presta vs Schrader valves.

Well, the question is, how do you identify one from another? Which valve is Presta and which one is Schrader? To answer all your questions about these valves, keep reading our article and find out!

What Bike Tire Valve Types Are There?

The two most widely used valves on today’s bicycles are Schrader and Presta valves. 

The Schrader pump is a similar type to the one used on cars, so it can easily be used to pump tires at any petrol station or garage. They are more typically found on inexpensive bicycles. Presta valves are thinner in design and are generally found on more expensive bikes. Here are the main differences between them.

The Differences between Presta and Schrader Valves

Although they serve the same purpose, they are more different rather than similar to each other. 

Presta comes with more parts such as:

  • Valve core
  • Valve lockring
  • Locknut

The modern Presta valves come with a removable valve core and you can replace them if they start leaking or repair them with tire sealant. The valve lockring sits on the outer part of the valve and screws down to secure the valve on the rim and prevent it from moving up and down. 

Also, the locknut is placed on top of the valve and holds the valve core together. It will have to be unscrewed when pumping air or replacing the core.

In comparison, Schrader valves are not as complex as Presta. They are made of an outer shell and a removable core with a spring-loaded check valve and a plastic cap on top.

What is a Schrader valve?

Schrader valve

Schrader valves are wider and usually shorter than Presta valves. It is the type of valve found in the automotive industry and is, therefore, more versatile than Presta valves. Schrader valves have a threaded exterior side (to attach the cap), a bottom rubberized half, and a spring-loaded check valve in the middle.

The valve only lets air through in one direction, so it is required to press the inner bolt must let the air out. You can also check the air pressure in the tire with this method.

You will find Schrader valves on cheaper bikes be it a mountain bike, a hybrid, etc.

What Is a Presta Valve?

Presta Valve

In comparison to Schrader valves, Presta valves are much thinner and also shorter. Metal is used throughout the components and the whole valve is usually threaded. 

They are a bit more difficult to use because a locknut is used instead of a spring-loaded valve for a better seal.

Almost all Presta valves nowadays have a removable inner core, which can pose a problem for inexperienced riders. If you unscrew the locknut too much when attempting to pump air into the tube, you may accidentally unscrew the entire core and lose all of the air in the tire.

Almost all modern Presta valves come with a removable inner core which might be a problem for beginner riders. If the locknut is loosened too much when pumping air into the tube, it may come off entirely and you lose all the air in the tube/tire.

Dunlop

Dunlop valve

There is actually another valve as well – Dunlop. This third one is mostly seen in Europe and Asia on cheaper bikes. It is wider and shorter than Presta valves. The upside is that they use the same pumps as Presta valves.

Which One To Choose?

Advantages of Presta valves

  • Allow for higher air pressure
  • They come in a variety of sizes and valve lengths
  • They fit narrow rims

Disadvantages of Presta Valves

  • They are fragile due to their long and thin design
  • Spare parts and tubes are hard to find for
  • They are a bit more difficult to use
  • Their cores cannot be removed frequently
  • You cannot use standard car tire pumps with these valves

Specifically made for bicycles, Presta valves come with great benefits that put them over the top of Schrader valves.

The main advantage of Presta valves is the fact that they are narrower and don’t require too much space in the rim. Being a lot smaller, they don’t affect the integrity of the rim nearly as much as Schrader valves. Presta valves can also hold more air pressure and they are more reliable.

The way it is designed, a Presta valve will seal itself with the air pressure. Not having a mechanical valve like Schrader, they weigh less and contribute to the wheel’s rolling resistance.

Another incentive of Presta valves is that they are easily extendable with adapters. This way, the same valve can be used for different size rims.

Advantages of Schrader valves:

  • Schrader valves are more robust
  • Easier to use
  • Universal and used worldwide

Disadvantages of Schrader valves:

  • Too wide, causing more damage to the rim
  • Less reliable with keeping the air pressure
  • Not adjustable on different size rims

When it comes to practicality, however, Schrader valves excel. With their simple design, you can inflate your tire in any petrol or service station. 

Presta valves are more challenging to get used to compared to Schrader valves, which is why beginner/amateur cyclists may not choose them. Their cores cannot be removed, which makes it difficult to add puncture-resistant sealing to the tube. 

If you have tubeless tires, you’ll want a valve with a replaceable core, similar to a Schrader valve. Schrader valves are very user-friendly; cars use these types of valves! You will not have to learn anything special to use Schrader valves because you just need to throw off the cap and start inflating.

Using a standard car tire pump is only possible with Schrader valves, Presta valves won’t be compatible, making it a big drawback for Presta. This means, every time you need to inflate your tires, you will have to access a specific pump. With Schrader, any service station pump will do.

Schrader valves are universal and are considered the world standard, as they are available in almost all countries. This is important, especially for cyclists who travel to different rural and urban regions where Presta tubes are not available.

Schrader valves are more reliable than Presta valves and you can inflate anywhere as they are both gas station and pump compatible. You can walk to your local gas station or use a bike pump or air compressor to inflate your bike tires. They have fewer parts at risk of damage and their more robust design increases reliability.

The final choice comes down to your preference. Do you want a bike-specific valve that will be of higher quality with less user-friendliness? Then Presta is your valve. If you want a simple, easy-to-use valve, then go with Schrader. 

Adapter

We know that you can’t use a regular gas station air compressor to fill the Presta valve, but many experienced cyclists are trained for emergencies such as a broken pump and have a small inexpensive Presta to Schrader adapter.

This small piece of hardware threads onto the Presta valve and allows the air compressor to be used just about on anything. Keep it in your bag just in case – it’s a great tool if you get stuck without air in your tires.

When shopping for an air pump, consider a double-ended pump. This type of pump has built-in Schrader and Presta’s heads and can pump any type of hose.

FAQs

Why are Presta valves so difficult?

Because Presta valves lock themselves when there is no air pressure coming in. They only open under the pressure from the pump.

Do Presta valves need a different pump?

Presta valves require a standard pump with a special adapter. This adapter turns your Presta valve into a universal Schrader type of valve.

Can I use a Schrader tube in a Presta rim?

You can put a Presta-only tube in a rim made for Schrader valves, however, it’s not advisable for situations other than an emergency. This fix won’t be reliable in the long run and shouldn’t be done unless absolutely necessary. 

Can you drill out a Presta valve?

Presta valve tubes cost the same as Schrader ones and they are also widely available. There would be no need to drill out your rim for the purpose of this. 

Conclusion

From the discussion in this post, it is easy for you to decide which valve works best for you. The question of whether to go with Presta vs Schrader valves lies in the difficulty of use, availability, and ability to keep air pressure.

Photo of author
Written By Robert Gibbons
From riding to school since the age of 13, attending BMX races and events with his dad to himself conquering 50+ trails across the globe. For Rob, his Giant Stance 29 2 2020 is the friend that makes everything better. He is also a proud member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA).

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