The debate about Presta vs Schrader valves continues after what seems decades. Which is better, Presta or Schrader? What are the differences? Why should I care?
We are going to take a deeper look at both Presta and Schrader valves to help you make up your mind.
What types of bike tire valves are there?
The most commonly used tire valves are Presta and Schrader, Dunlop valves are also available but today we are looking at Presta vs Schrader.
Although the designs and dimensions of the Presta and Shrader differ from each other, they both have the same function. Simply put they allow air to go into the tire but prevent air from leaving the tire.
What is a Schrader valve?
A Schrader valve is certainly the most common tire valve on the planet. The reason for this is that not only is it found on bikes but is also used on just about every motor car, motor bike, wider wheeled bicycles and even on fridges!
The Schrader valve, named after its inventor August Schrader, was patented in the US back in 1893, so not exactly a newcomer.
The Schrader valve is easy to spot, with its central spring-loaded pin that allows the valve to open to inflate or deflate the tire. It is shorter and fatter than the Presta.
What is a Presta valve?
The Presta valve, also known as the Sclaverand valve or French valve is used solely on bikes and more on mountain bikes and touring bikes.
Named after its inventor, Frenchman Etienne Sclaverand it is narrower in diameter than the Scrader, the Presta (meaning quick or rapid) is 6mm in diameter whereas the Schrader is 8mm.
Unlike the Schrader the Presta valve does not utilize a spring loaded pin but uses a nut to allow air to flow.
What are the main differences between Presta vs Schrader valves?
As we touched on before, the obvious difference between the Presta vs Schrader is the diameter, the Presta comes in at 6mm so it is more suitable to the narrower wheels. As you can imagine, the hole in the rim is the weakest part, the bigger the hole for the valve to fit through, the weaker that rim could potentially be.
The Presta valve is normally considerably longer than the Schrader.
The second difference is the mechanism the two valve types use. Both valves allow air to pass, needed to inflate or deflate the tires well as ensuring that no air passes whilst riding the bike.
The Schrader uses a spring-loaded pin that, when depressed, allows air to flow. When you press the pin on an inflated tire, air will be allowed to escape and therefore the tire will deflate.
The Presta system is somewhat simpler but can be a little bit fiddly, rather than having a spring -loaded valve, the Presta uses a locking nut. We will look at the methods of inflation a little bit later.
Presta vs Schrader valve – which one is best?
When it comes to Presta vs Schrader as with so many cycling topics, the choice is very much up to the individual – sorry.
There are a number of advantages with the Schrader valve, it’s pretty much universal so you will always be able to pump it up easily. The Schrader is also bigger and more robust than the Presta so if you are a “hard” rider, then the Schrader is probably best for you.
Also if your bike comes with a particular valve, you probably want to stick with that.
In some cases your bike will have deep section tires, these bikes are almost always fitted with Presta valves, additionally some riders with high pressure tires prefer Presta.
To be honest both valves are good and reliable, the Schrader is easier to inflate but any performance differences between the two valve types will be marginal.
How to inflate a Presta valve
First of all you are going to need a Presta compatible pump of a Schrader pump with a Presta adapter.
- Unscrew the valve cap
- Loosen the valve core nut until the pin can be depressed
- Attach your pump to the valve and inflaste to the requires pressure
- Detach the pump and tighten the core nut so that the pin can no longer be pressed.
- Put the valve cap back on the valve.
- Good to go!
How to inflate a Schrader valve
As with the Presta setup, you are going to need a Schrader pump or a Presta pump with a Schtrader adaptor.
- Remove the valve cap.
- Press the central pin. (This allows any dirt in the valve to be blown away.)
- Attach the pump to the valve and inflate to the required pressure.
- Remove the pump.
- Replace the valve cap.
- Hit the road/trail/track!
Presta to Schrader valve adapter
If you have Presta valves on your bike but only have a Schrader pump, no worries.
(Some pumps come with the ability to inflate both types)
You can easily get a Schrader to Presta valve adapter from your local bike store for about $1 or buy a pack of them from Amazon.
These little brass adaptors fit onto the Presta valve so that you can use your Schrader pump.
To do this you simply remove your valve cap, unscrew the lock cap on the Presta valve, screw the adapter over the Presta valve and inflate as normal.
When the tire is up to pressure, unscrew the adaptor, screw back the lock cap and replace the dust cap.
Schrader to Presta valve adapter
Similarly if you have a Presta pump and your valves are Schrader there is a work around too.
There is an adaptor that allows you to inflate Schrader valves with a Presta pump, they tend to be a little more expensive than the Presta to Schrader coming in at $5-8, they are most often silver in color.
The principle is the same, screw the adapter onto the Schrader valve, pump up and away you go, of course not forgetting to replace your valve cap!
Can you mismatch Presta and Schrader valves?
You can put a Presta tube in a rim that has been drilled for Schrader but it’s really not a good idea and you should only really do this in an emergency situation. The hole in the rim will be considerably bigger if it is for a Schrader valve. This means that if you put a Presta valve in here, the fit will be loose and there is a danger of the valve moving around in the hole. There is then of course the possibility of the tube rubbing against the rim, making a hole and therefore the tire deflating.
The only way to put a Schrader valve into a Presta rim is to enlarge the drilled hole.
We cannot recommend this as it can seriously compromise the integrity of the rim itself.
Can you have a Presta on the front and a Schrader on the back? Yes but why would you?
Is Presta or Schrader better when opting to go tubeless?
The majority of tubeless set ups come with a Presta valve,particularly for mountain and touring bikes. Although some tubeless rims are pre-drilled for Schrader valves, today’s tubeless tires are nearly always Presta. Check out our post here on the The 10 Best Road Bike Tubes in 2022
On that basis we say Presta.
FAQs – Presta vs Schrader valves
Q. What is the advantage of Presta valves?
A.The main advantage of the Presta valve is its ability to hold higher tire pressures and maintain that pressure over a longer period. It is also lighter and improves the rolling resistance of the wheel.
Q. Do Presta valves leak?
A. No. The design is such that the Presta valve, if fitted properly, will not leak
Q.Do Presta valves need a special pump?
A. No but they do need the correct adapter in the pump.
Q.Do Schrader valves leak?
A. Schrader valves can leak if incorrectly fitted or if some grit or dust gets into the valve. Valve caps are always a good idea!
Q.Do Schrader valves need a special pump?
A. The Schrader valve needs a Schrader pump or alternatively a p;ump with a Schrader adapter. The Schrader system is the most common throughout the world so it shouldn’t be too difficult to find a suitable pump.
Q. Can I inflate my Schrader valve tire at a gas station?
A. Theoretically yes. We would strongly recommend that you do not though. The compressors at the average gas station can be fierce. They are fine for inflating car and truck tires but they can easily deliver far too much air for a bike tire and you can easily end up popping your tire.
As with all items such as valves, much will be down to the preference of the rider.
For what it’s worth we really haven’t got a preference as regards Presta vs Schrader, although we feel that for mountain bikes Presta is the better option.
But remember whether it’s Presta vs Schrader don’t forget to replace the valve caps!