Presta vs. Schrader: Everything You Need To Know
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Cycling is an amazing sport that comes with a lot of benefits. It’s constantly growing in popularity and a big part of many towns and cities sustainability plans. When it comes to cycling, there’s a lot to learn, not just about riding but about your bike, but how you can maintain and look after it.
A common question we get asked by many cyclists is about bike tire valves, particularly Presta and Schrader valves. They are a vital part of the bike, and understanding how they work and how to use them is vital for good bike maintenance. In this article, were going to be telling you:
- What Is A Presta Valve?
- What Is A Schrader Valve?
- What Are The Key Differences Between A Presta And Schrader Valve?
- Which Is For You?
- Tips And Tricks When Using Bike Valves
What Is A Presta Valve?
The Presta valve is also known as the French or Sclaverand valve. Although there are many sources, the best information we can find tells us the Frenchman Etienne Sclaverland invented it.
It was originally made as an alternative to the popular Schrader valve, which was common on many bicycles but wasn’t the most efficient option for cyclists. Presta valves are found on mountain bikes, road bikes, gravel bikes, and many more. In modern times the Presta valve is the most popular valve used on bicycles, but this has only really changed in the past decade.
Modern Presta valves have a unique design. They are long, with a thin valve stem, typically threaded with a locknut on the bottom and a small insert at the top where a valve is installed. On the top of the valve fitment is a small screw piece that you can use to control the amount of pressure in the inner tube.
Also Read: How To Change an Inner Tube
They Only Make Tubeless Valves In Presta
Presta valves are also commonly used in tubeless systems, which are very popular on modern bikes. This is where instead of an inner tube, you just have a small Presta tubeless valve, and the tires are filled with sealant.
- Presta Valves come in all different lengths
- Small, light, and easy to use
- Valve cores can be changed
- Smaller in size for stronger rims
- They are available in a wide range of sizes
How Does A Presta Valve Work?
The most important part of the Presta valve is the valve core itself. This is what holds the air in and can release the air too. You can release air by unscrewing the top of the valve and pressing it down. To insert more air, you unscrew the valve then you can attach a pump to add more.
What Is A Schrader Valve?
A Schrader valve is also known as an American or car valve. It was invented by August Schrader in the 1890s and continues to this day to be heavily used. For over a century, they were the most popular bicycle valve until the last couple of decades, when the Presta valve became more popular.
They are found on many bikes, especially bikes that might be a little older or budget bikes. You will also find them on motorbikes, cars, and even wheelbarrows. They are very durable valves and can be filled with air by gas station pumps and car pumps. Nearly all pumps available come with a Schrader adaptor because they are so popular.
They are a small, wide tube with a screw thread at the top and a rubber cover and base. Inside this threaded tube you will have a small pin which is the valve. Unlike the Presta, a Schrader valve is completely one-piece and not designed to have the core taken out.
- Schrader valves are very durable
- Nearly every pump can be used to inflate them
- Can inflate and deflate quicker
- Available in a wide range of sizes
How Does A Schrader Valve Work?
A Schrader valve is a little easier than a Presta valve when it comes to being used. All you need to do is remove the cap, if it has one, and then push the pin down to release air. When it comes to pumping it up, you only need to attach the pump head and start pressing air into it. Out of the two valves, it’s the easier one to use.
Presta vs. Schrader: What are the Key Differences?
Although these valves both do a very similar job, there are some key differences between them. Here’s what you need to know:
The first difference is the design. The Presta valve is much more minimal, and being smaller, it is slightly lighter. It’s a two-piece design where the valve and the tube can be separated. The Schrader valve is bigger and slightly heavier. It is a single-piece design where the valves are not designed to be separated.
Presta valves are more fragile compared to Schrader valves. If they are knocked, or the valve comes loose, you can end up needing to change it, or you might start losing air. Schrader valves are designed to be much more durable, and it’s not often you will find any problems with Schrader valves as there are fewer moving pieces, and they are just more sturdy.
Although most people think both valve types will fit all wheels, this isn’t always the case. Regarding width, Presta valves will fit all rims, but Schrader valves being much bigger, will struggle to fit in rims with a smaller valve hole, such as performance rims.
It’s also important to discuss the valve length. Presta valves come in all lengths from 40mm all the way to 80mm+. This means they can work deep-section wheels without using any special extenders. It’s important to double-check your spare inner tubes to make sure they fit the rims you’re using.
Also Read: How To Measure Rim Width
Then we have pressure capacity. Schrader valves are much better when it comes to lower pressures compared to presta valves being able to hold much higher pressures. The reason why we used to see road bikes with Presta valves and mountain bikes with Schrader valves was because they were suited to the typical pressure they would run.
Ease Of Use
When it comes to using these valves, they are both very simple to use. Out of the two, you will find the Schrader valve much easier to use as you only need to remove the cap and pump it up or deflate it. The Presta valve requires you to unscrew the valve itself, and then it lets you put air in and release it.
Although it’s not the first part of the bike you might think requires servicing, this is something that you can check. A well-looked-after valve is going to work much better and also last longer. Presta valves being a two-piece system, you can actually remove the core and replace it if it starts to get stuck or leak air.
Schrader valves generally are one single piece, and the cores can not be replaced. On some versions, you can, and this is typically seen on cars, but on bikes, as soon as the valve is broken or leaking, the whole tube will need replacing.
Tube Size Options
When it comes to tube sizing to fit the correct tires, both Schrader and Presta offer a wide range to choose from. In modern times you do get more options when it comes to Presta valve tubes over Schrader valve tubes.
This is because of performance wheels, and the fact Presta valves can fit any rims available means companies are better off using them instead of the Schrader valve, which is becoming outdated. A Presta tube will have more options.
Which Is For You?
When it comes to whether you should be using a Presta or a Schrader valve, in our opinion, the best option for bikes is the Presta valve. There’s a reason why companies are choosing to switch over to the Presta valve, and that’s because it’s more efficient for the pressure you need to run on bike tires, and they are compatible with more rims.
As a cyclist, the best choice is Presta valves. The Schrader valve is best kept in cars and motorcycles. Although some cyclists will prefer the Schrader valve, we feel it’s only a matter of time before they are not used on bikes anymore.
Tips And Tricks When Using Bike Valves
As expert cyclists who have a lot of experience with bikes, we have learned a lot about valves. Here are our top tips:
Keep Them Clean
All bike valves come with caps when you first get them. Most cyclists tend to take these off to save themselves around 20g of weight on the wheels, which we appreciate every little helps when racing.
Without caps on, though, it’s easy for them to get full of dirt, and then eventually, they clog up, or the rubber can get perished inside. This can lead to leaky valves or valves that get stuck and just don’t pump up.
Use A Bike Pump
When it comes to getting more pressure into your tires, there are a lot of options. You can use a car tire pump, a pump at a garage, or even an air compressor. These will all put air into the wheel but a little too quickly, and they are designed for car tires with a lot more volume of air pressure.
We highly recommend using a bike pump and only a bike pump when inflating a bicycle tire. The best option is a track pump, but a mini pump will be fine if you’re on the road. C02 is what many people use, but it dissipates out of your tires within a few days, unfortunately.
Check Your Spares
A very common problem I see a lot of cyclists face on rides is having the wrong spares when it comes to valves. Many cyclists end up going to change a puncture and end up trying to install spares that don’t work.
It’s vital to check that your valve type and length are correct on your spares kit before leaving for a ride. We also recommend if you’re using a Presta valve to carry a spare inner valve core and also a valve removal tool.
Use Valves Regularly
When it comes to valves, if they don’t get used, then they will perish or get stuck. If you are not using them often, we highly recommend letting air out and putting some more in every so often just to stop it from seizing up and getting stuck.
Having a broken valve can be incredibly annoying as it can feel like the pump is broken, or you might have a tubeless block.
A Final Thought
Both Presta and Schrader valves have been around for a long time and are found on bikes of all shapes and sizes. Knowing the difference between them can help you cycle and ensure that when you’re ordering spares, you’re getting what you need. Thanks for taking the time to read our article today.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Are Presta valves more difficult to inflate?
Presta valves and Schrader valves, in my professional opinion, feel the same to inflate. There’s very little in it, even when using the same pumps. They do say that Schrader valves have the ability to inflate quicker, but as far as effort goes using a hand pump, it’s very similar.
Which type of valve is more common on bicycles?
In the past, Schrader used to be a more popular valve, but in the last decade, you typically see more Presta valves in cycling. We think in the future, we will see a lot more Presta and a lot less Schrader. If your pump doesn’t cater for Presta, get a Presta valve adapter.
Are Presta valves more prone to leakage?
If not looked after properly, then yes. Presta valves are typically two-piece valves, and if not screwed together properly, then they do leak, yes. The reliability is similar to a Schrader valve if you look after it.