Presta vs schrader valves

by Kevin Stard

Although the valves on your bicycle tires might not seem like the most important factor to consider as a rider, they do play a very important role in your hobby. Those who are beginning road biking may only now be noticing that there are different types of valves used on bike tires. There are Presta valves and Schrader valves.

So, when it comes to Presta vs. Schrader, which one is the right choice for you? Which ones do you have on your bike tires now? How do they compare to one another? What are the differences and similarities?

Below, we will be delving into the world of valves, so you will have a better understanding of what they each offer. We will be looking at the advantages of each of these types of valves, so you will be able to make an educated decision when you are buying your next bicycle tires.

The Two Types of Valves

Presta and Schrader are the two main types of valves that you will find on bikes today. While there is a third type of valve, called a Dunlop valve, these are often only found in places in Asia, as well as a few parts of Europe. For the most part, the world is using Presta or Schrader, though. Let’s take a closer look at these valves to learn more about the Presta vs. Schrader comparisons.

Schrader Valves

The Schrader valve is one that may be familiar to you because it is essentially the same type of valve that you would find on a car tire. They will usually have the same circumference from top to bottom, and the outer wall is threaded. This allows it to accept a pump head or a cap. The valve is generally wrapped in rubber.

There is a spring-loaded check valve pin in the center that controls the flow of air in and out of the tire. In order to let air into the tire, it will require pressure on the inner pin. If you’ve ever filled up your car’s tires at the gas station, you are familiar with how the valve works.

This type of tire valve is often found on kids’ bikes, as well as on inexpensive models of bicycles. You may also find these types of valves on mountain bikes. Since the Schrader valves are like a car tire’s valve, it means you could fill up your bike tires at most gas stations.

The Schrader valve is also quite easy to use, and it is durable. Still, it is not the typical type of valve used on most of the quality road bikes that are on the market today. Instead, they make use of the Presta valve, detailed below.

Presta Valves

presta valveWhile the valves might serve the same function, they look quite a bit different. The Presta valve is only about half the width of the Schrader valve, and it is made entirely of metal. The top of the valve will generally taper.

To open the valve stem, you will need to unscrew the nut at the top rather than simply removing a cap. There is no check valve with a Presta valve. The seal on the tire is based on the pressure that is in the tube or tire instead.

You will want to be careful when you are taking the nut off the top of the Presta valve. Only remove the nut and do not mistakenly unscrew the valve core from the tire. If you do, you will find that you’ve let all the air out of your tire.

Even though they may be more difficult to use, these are the most commonly used type of valves today. There are many reasons for this.

First, they help to improve the strength of the rim. This is because they require a much smaller hole in the rim.

Another one of the nice features of the Presta valve is the fact that they are lighter. This means that you can use them with high-quality, high-performance wheels without needing to provide any counterbalancing. While this might not be important to all riders, those who are riding at a high level appreciate this.

Due to the way that the Presta valves seal using only air pressure, it helps to eliminate mechanical issues with the valve. With the Schrader valves, for example, debris can clog the hole and cause issues with the pin. This could make it difficult to add air, or it might even mean that the tire has a slow leak due to an issue with the valve.

You will also find that you can use adapters that will extend the valves. For those who have special aerodynamic rims, this makes them a good solution.

For those who are serious about road biking and who do not want to have valves found on cheap bikes and kids’ bikes, Presta valves make the most sense.

Using the Right Pumps

Riders always want to have the correct gear for their bike, and that means having the right pump. You can find Presta hand pumps, which will feature a rubber gasket in the head. This will fit onto the Presta valve perfectly, but it will not work with a Schrader valve stem. The Schrader hand pumps, and other Schrader pumps, have a pin in the center for the check valve, which means they will not work with Presta valves.

However, there are options on the market today that have dual heads, meaning the pumps can work with either type of valve stem. If you have both types of tires for multiple bikes that you own, getting one of these pumps is a good idea. This way, you can use a single pump with dual valve heads, for your mountain bike, road bike, etc.

There are floor pumps that have twin heads and different gaskets for the Presta and Schrader valves. There are also swappable heads available for some mini pumps and hand pumps. You will simply have to exchange the heads depending on the type of tire valve you are working with at the time.

Of course, the simplest option is an adjustable head. These are becoming more and more common. This type of head can fit either Presta or Schrader valves, and you will not need to swap any parts. Press the head onto the valve and fill the tire. It’s simple, and you won’t have to worry about getting Presta vs. Schrader heads for all of your bikes.

Always make sure that you have the right pumps available for your bikes. This includes hand pumps. Taking one of these hand pumps with you on the road helps to ensure that you always have the air pressure you need in your tires. Of course, you will likely want to keep a patch kit with you, just in case.

Ideally, you will have a hand pump that you can take with you when you are out, as well as a floor pump or another type of pump that you can keep at home. It’s better to be prepared with what you need.

Can Tubes and Valves Be Mismatched and Still Work?

A Schrader valve will not fit into a rim hole that has been drilled for a Presta valve. This is because it is too large for the hole. Conversely, it is possible to use a Presta tube in a rim that was drilled for a Schrader valve. However, it’s not a good idea for several reasons.

Firstly, it is not built for the rim, and this means that it will not stay in place properly. The Presta valve will move around the hole in the rim, and it could cause damage to the valve, the rim, and the tube. In fact, there is a chance that it could destroy the tube entirely.

The only time that you should use this method is if you have an emergency and there is simply no other choice before you get off the road and home. Even then, it might be better to call someone who can pick you up. You do not want to do anything that could damage your rims.

Conclusion

So, in the Presta vs. Schrader battle, which type of valve should you choose for your bike tires? For those who have quality road bikes and who want to have quality tires and rims, Presta is the best option. In fact, when you look at options from bike shops, you will find that they are often the only option.

There is a smaller hole in the rim, they seal well, and they are used in most road bikes today. They are generally going to be the best solution for your road bike tire needs. When you get these tubes and valves, make sure that you remember to get a pump that will work, as well.

Kevin Stard - professional sportsman in category MTB. Participant of the Downhill World Cup #1