Bike valves are far more important than most cyclists realize.
While you can get great results with either type of bike valve, it’s important to compare Presta vs Schrader and know the differences between them so you can know how to equip your bicycle in the best way.
Presta and Schrader valve types are very different and should be used on different types of bicycles. Let’s talk about the differences (Presta vs Schrader) and determine which defining features could change how you maintain your bicycle(s).
What is a Bike Valve?
Bike valves control the flow of air inside the tube of your tire. The valve is the entry point to your inner tube and is where you attach a bicycle pump to fill the tire with air.
Casual cyclists don’t put much thought into the type of valve they have, but it impacts more than you’d think.
They’re conduits with either caps or locking mechanisms at the mouth, granting you a secure way to maintain your tire pressure without worrying about leaks while riding.
Your valve keeps the pressure strong, otherwise, you’d be riding on rims as the air escaped during your ride. Bike valves also allow secure access to your inner tube air supply so that you can pump up your tires as you see fit.
Presta vs Schrader Types of Bike Valves
There are technically three types of bike valves: Presta, Schrader, and Woods. However, Woods is the only valve type that we no longer see used for inner tubes on bicycles.
There’s a bit of background regarding these valves that you should know before we disregard them from the conversation.
Woods, also known as Dunlop valves, use rubber tubing on the outside of the valve. With this valve type, you connect a pump to the rubber to inflate your bike tires.
The problem with these old-school valves was rubber degradation over time, how difficult they were to use, and the fact that they simply weren’t ergonomic.
There are two valve types that actually matter: Presta vs schrader. Let’s talk about the differences between Presta and Schrader pros and cons and help you choose the right one for your bicycle.
Presta valves have a small nut on the top of the valve that you have to turn to release air and allow intake for new air. They’re narrower and a bit smaller at their base than Schrader valves, which has pros and cons.
Here’s what you need to know about Presta valves.
Better Structural Integrity
The base of any valve is where it’s built into the tire’s inner tube and is where it lets air in. Because the rubber of the tire is disrupted by the presence of the valve, this poses a problem with the integrity of the seal between the valve and the tire.
Because Presta valves have a smaller diameter at the base (usually 5 mm to 6 mm, as opposed to 8 mm+ in Schrader valves), there’s a smaller impact on the rubber. This helps maintain pressure in the tire with as little impact as possible.
You can get Presta valves in 5 different lengths – from 32 mm up to 80 mm. This is important depending on which type of bike you’re using, however, Schrader valves are set at a solid 32 mm length.
Convenience generally leads to less control, which is why diehard cyclists prefer Presta valves, so they can control how their bicycle reacts.
You Can Use an Adapter
Presta valves aren’t hard-pressed. You can use an adapter on the outside of your Presta valve to make it work with Schrader-specific bike pumps.
People often worry about the fact that Presta valves are less common than Schrader, but the truth is it doesn’t limit you in the slightest.
Easier to Inflate Flat Tires
Flat tires come with their own set of difficulties. Because Presta valves stay in place, they don’t move within the rim as Schrader valves do.
This makes it much easier to know that your valve will stay put while you’re pumping it up (and can prevent some slight wear and tear damage as well).
No Loss of Pressure During Pumps
That little lock nut on the top of the valve is more incredible than you realize. It keeps pressure inside of the tire, so even when you pull your bike pump off the lock nut, it doesn’t lose a little burst of air.
With Schrader valves, you lose a bit of pressure just by removing the bike pump head. The lock nut is the key.
Easier to Damage by Bending
Presta valves are unfortunately very fragile. They’re placed on thinner tires, which means that they’re easier to bend and break at the base of the valve.
Because the valve itself is also about 25% thinner than a Schrader valve, you can damage it and bend it far easier. If you place a bike pump head on a Presta valve, you have to be careful with how much it bends and moves.
Harder to Shop For
Presta valves are simply not as common. This causes some supply chain difficulties. You may have a hard time finding a replacement for your inner tube.
Yes, we have access to online stores that have just about everything we could ever want, but what if you’re backpacking on your bicycle when your tire runs into an issue?
Local cycling shops may not carry Presta replacements – simply put, it’s harder to find Presta replacements.
Schrader valves are the most common types of valves on any modern tire, including car tires. These involve a simple screw cap over the top and a sturdy, albeit slightly wide, base built into the edge of the tire.
Below is what you need to know about Schrader valves moving forward.
Presta valves can be up to 80 mm long. That can be good for certain niche occasions, but realistically, it doesn’t make that much of a difference.
The short 32 mm standard Schrader valve provides better durability and keeps it close to the inner tube. It’s a lot harder to break a Schrader valve than a Presta valve.
The valve core is housed inside the valve itself, not at the top where it’s vulnerable to external damages. Simply put, they’re stronger and able to handle more damage than Presta valves.
Most valves are Schrader, which means you’ll have more options opened up to you. If you have to buy replacement tubing and you can’t wait for it to ship online, you’ll have to go into a local shop, which will have far more Schrader options available than Presta.
You won’t have a difficult time finding these valves anywhere you go.
Schrader valves aren’t as exposed. Most of the valve is below the rubber, and the exterior length isn’t longer than 32 mm (whereas some Presta valves can be 80 mm).
Simply put, this reduces the likelihood of damaging your inner tube or blowing out a tire – more protection is just better.
Far Cheaper than Presta
Because they’re universal, the rule of supply and demand is in your favor.
There’s a huge supply of Schrader valves, so you don’t have to buy specialty pieces or find specific shops to buy a new valve. It’s easier and less expensive to buy Schrader valves.
You Can Remove Valve Cores
Got some gunk stuck in your Schrader valves?
Thankfully, you can remove the entire core if you really need to. This makes it easier to clean and replace your Schrader valves, and if you end up going tubeless, this makes replacements a breeze.
Weaker Entry Point
When you use a Schrader valve, it actually takes up more space in the inner tube of your bike. When the valve is pressed into the rubber, it’s roughly 25% wider in diameter than Presta valves.
This means that while these valves are shorter, there’s more pressure when they’re moved side to side. The larger the hole is in the rubber, the weaker it is – even if there’s a patch or valve mitigating the flow of air.
More Difficult to Inflate
Yes, Presta valves are more fragile, but they’re also a lot easier to pump up. That’s why they’re so popular for street bikes with flat wheels. They allow you to pump up your tires easily.
Schrader valve stems have an internal valve spring that you have to bypass as part of the design. This requires more air pressure to overcome it, meaning you have to pump harder to fill up your tires compared to a Presta valve.
Caps are Necessary
You can’t use Schrader valves without caps. The caps help keep the air pressure in the tires, but they also allow you to protect the Schrader housing.
a Presta valve, the nut helps protect the interior of the valve. Schraders are open-ended, so if your cap falls off, you can get dust, dirt, and debris in your valve that will clog it up. What’s worse is that you might not even be able to clear it out.
You can’t buy deep rims if you use Schrader valves. They are exclusively 32 mm in length, which means that you’re limited to a set number of rims.
Some are just not available with that length valve. While there’s certainly still a large collection of rims that you can use, limiting yourself with Schrader valves can impose restrictions.
Air Loss at the Pump
You pump up your tires with Schrader valves, pull the pump out, and then you hear a quick little gust of air. This doesn’t sound like a big problem, but you just got the pressure perfect, and now it’s releasing an undefined amount of pressure because you pulled the pump out.
This poses issues because you won’t be riding on an ideal PSI, and you have no way of knowing how much air has escaped.
Are they Interchangeable?
No, these two bike valves are not interchangeable. While you can get away with using a Dunlop and Schrader, you’re not going to find many bicycles that run Dunlops anyway.
Your rims will either be made for Schrader or Presta valves, which will impact your bike a lot.
If you use a Presta valve on a rim that’s specifically made for Schrader, it will work, but not for long. In fact, it could lead to rapid leakage or a blowout if you aren’t careful.
It doesn’t work the other way around because a Schrader is much wider than a Presta, so you absolutely can’t use those valves on a Presta-specific rim.
Which Pump Should I Use for Each Valve?
Most bike tires will have Schrader valves. As a result, most of the bike pumps you find will be designed for Schrader valves, but there is something you can do if you have Presta valves.
You can buy an inexpensive adapter for your pump and screw it onto the nut of your Presta valve.
This way, the pump can attach to it without causing any damage to the thin and fragile Presta valve.
It’s not advised to get a Presta-only pump, since there’s no telling which valves your next bicycle will have. Schrader pumps can be interchangeable with a simple adapter, but not the other way around.
Which One Should I Use?
This depends on which type of bike you have. For flat tires, Presta valves are the better option, since they’re easier to inflate.
For mountain bikes or bigger tires, Schrader tends to be a better option. You’ll also notice that Schrader valves are used on car tires, and that’s for a good reason.
Schrader just makes more sense for usability and speed. Nobody wants to spend a bunch of time pumping up their tires.
For bicycles, as long as you don’t mind taking the additional time, Presta valves are fantastic at preventing leaks. Both are great options; one is a more convenient option.
Last Updated on June 25, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic