When choosing wheels for your bike, one important decision you’ll need to make is which type of valves you’re going to use. The two most common bicycle valves are called Presta and Schrader valves. The best bike valve depends on the type of bike you ride, the terrain you ride, and your personal preference. This guide outlines the main differences between the two valve types. I’ll also list the pros and cons of Presta vs Schrader valves to help you choose the best valve type for your style of riding. We’ll cover wheel strength, ease of use, durability, weight, cost, durability, and much more.
What are Schrader Valves?
Schrader valves are shorter and wider than Presta valves. They consist of a valve stem, valve core, and cap. The valve stem is threaded on the top to accept the cap. The bottom section is rubber wrapped. You’ll often find a plastic cap screwed on the top. This keeps debris out of the valve.
The valve core is threaded inside of the valve stem. The valve core contains a spring that holds the valve shut. A small rubber seal prevents air from leaking out while the valve is shut. This type of valve is called a check valve. It only allows air to flow in one direction.
To allow air to pass through the valve, you must push the inner pin down. This pin is visible from the valve opening. If you push the pin, the spring compresses and the valve opens. When the valve is open, you can pump air in, let air out, and check the tire pressure. When you release pressure from the pin, the valve immediately closes.
You find Schrader valves on car tires, motorcycle tires, and bicycle tires. They are a universal standard. Bicycle manufacturers usually install Schrader valves on lower-end bikes, kids bikes, BMX bikes, hybrid bikes, and sometimes mountain bikes. You’ll also find Schrader valves on bicycle air shocks and air forks as well as on dropper seat posts. In addition, Schrader valves are used on some refrigeration and air conditioning systems, aircraft hydraulic systems, and Scuba equipment. Schrader valves are sometimes referred to as American valves.
What Are Presta Valves?
Presta valves are longer and more narrow than Schrader valves. The valve stem is made completely out of metal and is threaded from the top all the way down to the base. The valves taper toward the top. Presta valves often have a lock nut that secures the valve stem to the rim. There is usually no cap on top.
Presta valves have a removable inner core that threads into the valve stem. The valve core has a small locknut on top that holds the valve closed when tightened. There is no internal spring. When the locknut is loosened, Presta valves the pressure in the tube holds the valve closed.
Presta valves are a bit more complicated to use than Schrader valves. To allow air to pass through the valve, you must loosen the small locknut on top. You must be careful not to loosen it too much so the nut doesn’t come off. You can then push the inner pin down to open the valve. When the valve is open, you can put air in, let air out, or check the tire pressure. When you release pressure from the pin, the air pressure in the tube closes the valve immediately. You then tighten the top locknut to prevent the valve from opening or leaking.
Presta valves are used almost exclusively on bicycles. They can be used with both tubed and tubeless tires. Manufacturers usually install Presta valves on road bikes, gravel bikes, and higher-end mountain bikes. Presta valves are sometimes referred to as French valves or Sclaverand valves.
What’s the Difference Between Presta and Schrader Valves?
Both valves serve the same purpose. They allow you to put air in and let air out of the tubes. They both have a valve stem that passes through the rim and a valve core that controls the airflow.
The biggest difference is the size of the valves. Schrader valves are larger in diameter than Presta valves. Schrader valves measure 8mm in diameter while Presta valves measure 6mm in diameter.
Presta valves are a bit longer than Schrader valves. The standard Schrader valve length is 32mm. Presta valves come in a range of lengths including 32, 42, 48, and 60 mm.
The mechanism that holds the valve closed is different as well. A spring holds Schrader valves closed. A locknut holds Presta valves closed. The valve core of both valve types is usually removable and replaceable. This can come in handy if the valve starts to leak or if it gets gummed up with sealant. Some models of both valve types do not have replaceable valve cores.
Presta valves feature a lockring that secures the valve against the rim. Schrader valves do not have this feature. Most Schrader valves have a cap while Presta valves typically don’t.
As for the bike, the only difference between a wheel designed for Shrader valves and a wheel designed for Presta valves is the size of the valve hole that is drilled in the rim. Schrader valves require a larger hole than Presta valves because they are larger in diameter.
A Brief History of Presta and Schrader Valves
Schrader valves were invented by a German-American man named Schrader in 1891. Presta valves were invented sometime in the 1920s by a French man named Sclaverand.
Initially, Schrader valves were standard on bicycles. As road wheels and tires became skinnier over time, bicycles required a more narrow valve. At this point, the Presta valve gained popularity in cycling.
These days, Presta valves are used almost exclusively on bicycles. Schrader valves have a wide range of applications including bike tires, motor vehicle tires, hydraulic equipment, HVAC systems, and more.
Presta Valve Pros
- The wheels are stronger when you use Prest valves- The valve hole creates a weak spot in the rim. Because Presta valves are more narrow than Schrader valves, the valve hole is smaller. The smaller valve hole leaves an extra couple of millimeters of material in the rim. This extra material helps to maintain wheel strength. In other words, Presta valves affect the structural integrity of the rim less than Schrader valves. This doesn’t make much of a difference for wide mountain bike rims. For narrow road rims, having smaller valve holes can help to make the wheel much stronger. A stronger wheel is more durable. It will also stay true longer. If your rim accepts tires less than 28mm, you should use Presta valves.
- Presta valves can fit narrower rims- Some road rims are so narrow that a Schrader valve can’t fit between the beads of the tire. This is often the case on racing bikes that use clincher tires. Presta valves are narrow enough to fit between the beads. If you use extremely narrow tires, you’ll need to use Presta valves.
- Presta valves are available in different valve lengths- Presta valves are available in a range of lengths including 32, 40, 48, 60, and 80 mm. Longer valves are necessary if you’re using deep rims, such as carbon fiber aero rims. The valve needs to reach from the rim bed to the other side of the rim. Schrader valves only come in a 32mm length. If your bike has deep rims, these would be hidden and inaccessible.
- Presta valves stay straight in the rim- The locknut at the base of the valve holds the valve perpendicular to the rim. This prevents the valve from sitting at an angle. Schrader valves tend to sit crooked if you installed the tubes slightly off-center. When the valve sits straight, it is less likely to get damaged by the rim. It also looks better.
- Presta valves make flat tires easier to inflate- The locknut on the base of Presta valves holds the valve against the rim. This prevents the valve from moving up and down in the rim when the tire is flat. It’s much easier to attach your pump and inflate a flat tire when the valve stays in place. Schrader valves tend to move down into the rim when you try to attach a pump.
- You can use an adapter to convert Presta valves to Schrader valves- If your bike has Presta valves and you don’t like them, you can install a simple converter. This also allows you to use a Schrader pump or gauge on Presta tubes. This is a simple and inexpensive conversion. These Slime Valve Adapters would do the trick.
- Presta valves are easier to inflate- When you use Presta valves, you don’t have to overcome the valve spring when using the pump. Pumping takes less effort. This makes it much easier to inflate high pressure road bike tires.
- You won’t lose air pressure when you stop pumping or remove the pump- This is particularly important when filling high-pressure road tires. By design, the pressure in the tube keeps the Presta valves closed, even when the top locknut is loose. When you remove the pump, you won’t lose any air pressure. With Schrader valves, you rely on a spring to close the valve. You almost always lose a bit of pressure when you stop pumping or remove the pump.
- You can release pressure in a more controlled manner using only your finger- To let air out of Presta valves, simply loosen the top locknut and gently press down on the pin with your finger. This allows you to easily and slowly let the air out. No tools are required. This is helpful if you overfilled your tires. You can let the air out until they reach the proper pressure. It also comes in handy if you need to reduce your tire pressure for extra traction while riding on a loose or rough surface. This comes in handy while riding off-road. To let air out of Schrader valves, you need a tool. It’s also harder to control the airflow with Schrader valves.
- Presta valves are lighter- Presta valves weigh a few grams less than Schrader valves. The lighter weight can reduce rolling resistance. The weight difference is minimal. You can also save weight by using a lightweight Presta pump. These simple pumps have a chuck or pump head that attaches directly to the pump. There is no hose or valve depressor. If you carry a pump, you can save some weight by using Presta vavles.
- Presta valves are more common in cycling- These days, Presta valves have become the standard. Any mid-range or higher mountain or road bike will come from the factory fitted with Presta valves. High-end wheelsets are drilled for Presta valves. Presta tubes are more common in bike shops. Entry-level bikes still usually come with Schrader valves.
- You don’t need to use a valve cap- Due to the nature of the design, Presta valves don’t require a cap. They lock closed and don’t get clogged as easily as Schrader valves. This is one less part to worry about losing. You can install a cap if you like.
- Presta valves may hold more air pressure- Road bike tires need to be inflated to 90-125 psi. Presta valvs can handle these pressures without any issues. Schrader valves may not be able to handle as much pressure. Even though the pressure rating may be lower, many cyclists run Schrader valves at high pressures without issue. Schrader valves are also used in many high pressure application. For example, airplane tires use Schrader valves and are frequently inflated to over 200 psi.
- Presta valves may maintain pressure better- I’m not sure if this point is true or not but many cyclists make this claim. Supposedly Presta valves drop less pressure over time than Shrader valves because the air pressure in the tube helps to hold the valve closed. Personally, I don’t believe this but I decided to throw it in the list anyway for you to consider. Comment below if you have any proof or experience with this. I’ve never had a problem with either valve leaking as long as they are in good condition.
- Presta valves are associated with higher-end bikes- This point is really only about looks. If you ride a high-end bike, you may prefer the more premium look of Presta valves.
Presta Valve Cons
- Presta valves are more fragile- Due to the long and skinny design, Presta valves break more easily than Schrader valves. The locknut can sometimes break off the top. Sometimes the top section can get bent. You must be a bit more careful when pumping up your tires so you don’t bend or break the skinny tip of the valve. Schrader valves are much more robust.
- It can be harder to find Presta tubes and replacement parts- Tubes with Presta valves are often only available in modern bike shops and online. You may not be able to find a replacement tube in a department store. In the developing world, Presta valves are not quite as common as they are in the developed world. In some parts of the world, it can be difficult to find Presta tubes, even in bike shops. This can be an issue for bicycle tourists and bikepacker who rides in rural areas or developing countries. Of course, if you only ride in the city in the developed world, this isn’t an issue. Presta valves are the standard and are available in every bike shop.
- Presta valves are slightly more expensive- Tubes with Presta valves tend to cost a bit more than tubes with Shrader valves. Probably because they’re considered more high-end. If you don’t have a Presta compatible pump, you’ll need to buy one if you switch to Preta tubes. Not all pumps are cross-compatible with both valve types. If you’re on an extremely tight budget, the extra costs may be an issue.
- You can’t use standard automobile tire pumps with Presta valves- This is one of the biggest drawbacks. Standard automobile pumps only work with Schrader valves. They are not compatible with Presta. This means you can’t just go down to the local gas station to air up your bike tires. You can’t use a normal air compressor. You need to have a pump that is compatible with Presta valves. This means you need a bike pump that is designed for Presta valves. Most modern bike pumps are cross-compatible. If you own a bike pump, there is a good chance that it will work. If you don’t have a Presta compatible pump, you can use a Presta to Schrader converter.
- Presta valves are slightly harder to use- Non-cyclists may not be familiar with Presta valves. There is a small learning curve to using them. To pump up your tires or check the pressure, you must first loosen the locknut on top of the valve by turning it counter-clockwise with your fingers. You can then attach your pump or gauge. If you forget to loosen the nut, the valve won’t allow air to pass through. After removing the pump, you must remember to tighten the locknut back down so the valve doesn’t open and allow air to leak out. Schrader valves are a bit easier to use because they have an internal spring that closes them automatically.
- You can’t fit Schrader tubes in a rim that has been drilled for Presta Valves- The hole is too narrow to accommodate them. If you want to use Schrader valves in your Presta rims, you’ll need to drill the valve hole out so it’s larger. This can compromise wheel strength. It’s not a good idea if your bike has narrow road rims. If your bike has wide mountain bike rims, you may be able to drill larger valve holes and switch to Schrader valves if you choose. If your rims are drilled for Presta valves, it’s best to stick with them.
- Some Presta valve cores cannot be removed- Older Presta valves do not have removable cores. This can be a problem if you want to add puncture-resistant sealant to your tube, if the valve gets gummed up with dirt, or if the valve gets damaged. You can’t just remove and replace the core. It’s important to note that almost all modern Presta valves have removable cores.
Schrader Valve Pros
- Schrader valves are more durable- There are two reasons for this. First, the valve core is housed inside of Schrader valves. The valve body protects the fragile valve core. Presta valves have an exposed valve core. These can get damaged more easily. Schrader valves also have a shorter and thicker design than Presta valves. This makes them a bit more robust. You don’t have to worry as much about bending the valve when removing your pump. You don’t have to be quite as gentle with Schrader valves.
- Schrader valves are more universal- Schrader valves are the world standard. They are used on pretty much every motor vehicle. You can find spare tubes with Schrader valves in pretty much any country. This is important for bicycle tourists who often find themselves traveling through the developing world or rural regions. If you need a replacement tube you’ll almost always be able to find one if your rims are drilled for Schrader.
- You can inflate Schrader tubes anywhere- With Schrader valves, you can go to any gas station or auto shop to inflate your tires. You can also use any air compressor. Pretty much all bicycle pumps are compatible with Schrader valves. They are all compatible with Schrader valves.
- Schrader valves are more reliable- Schrader valves have fewer exposed parts. The valve is housed inside of the stem. The cap seals the valve and prevents dirt and grime from making their way in. Schrader valves also have a thicker and sturdier design. If you accidentally catch the valve on something or if your pump gets stuck, you are unlikely to bend or break the stem. This all increases reliability.
- Tubes with Schrader valves are cheaper- For whatever reason, Schrader tubes tend to be slightly cheaper than Presta tubes. This probably has to do with the fact that Schrader valves are much more widely used across many industries. The lower price saves you a dollar or two every time you have to buy new tubes. You also won’t have to buy a Presta compatible pump. You can use any old bicycle pump.
- Schrader valves are easier to use- Pretty much everyone knows how to inflate a tire with a Schrader valve. There is no learning curve. You simply remove the cap, press the pump head onto the valve, and start inflating. When you remove the pump, the internal spring seals the valve automatically. Presta valves are a bit more complicated due to the top locknut. Non-cyclists may not be familiar with Presta valves.
- You can install Presta tubes in your Schrader drilled rims- The only difference between rims designed to be used with Schrader vales and Presta valves is the size of the hole drilled for the valve stem to pass through. You can put the skinnier Presta valve through a wider Shrader valve hole. It is not possible to fit the wider Schrader valve through the narrow Presta valve hole. I should note that installing a Presta valve in a Schrader drilled rim should only be done as a temporary fix. The skinnier Presta valve can wiggle around in the valve hole and cut the tube eventually.
- Schrader valve cores are easily removable- Pretty much all Schrader valves have removable cores. You can use a valve core remover tool to take the core out. There are several benefits to removable valve cores. You can add a puncture-resistant sealant to your tubes or tires if you’re riding tubeless. You can also replace the valve core if it fails. Removable valves are also easier to clean if they get clogged up with debris. Presta valve cores are usually removable but sometimes not.
Schrader Valve Cons
- Schrader valves make weaker wheels- The valve hole creates a weak spot in the rim because. This is because there is simply less material in that spot. A larger valve hole makes a weaker wheel. Schrader valves require a larger diameter hole than Presta valves because the valves are wider. Schrader valves need an 8mm hole while Presta valves only need a 6mm hole. The extra 2mm in hole diameter weakens the rim. How much this matters depends on rim width. An 8mm hole in a 20 mm wide wheel is significant. The same 8 mm hole in a 40mm wide rim is less significant. Schrader valves aren’t an issue for wide mountain bike rims. For narrow road rims, you need all of the wheel strength you can get. If your wheels measure less than around 28mm, you should avoid running Schrader valves to ensure that your wheels are strong enough. Weak wheels can go out of true easily. They can also bend or break more easily if you hit a big bump in the road.
- Schrader valves are harder to inflate- Schrader valves have a valve spring that you have to overcome. This takes effort. Pumps have a built in valve depressor to help you overcome the spring.
- You need to use valve caps with Schrader valves- Due to the design, Schrader valves can get clogged with dirt and debris if they are left uncapped. If enough debris gets in the valve, it can move the valve pin and cause air to begin leaking out. The debris eventually ruins the valve. To prevent this, you need to make sure that your Schrader valves always have a cap. The valve cap is particularly important if you ride in dirty or muddy conditions.
- Schrader valves are too short for some wheels- Standard Schrader valves measure 32mm in length. Some rims are deeper than this. They would hide the valve stem. This is the case with aero rims and many carbon fiber rims. They require a longer valve stem so the valve sticks out far enough that it can be accessed. In this case, you’ll have to use extra-long Schrader valves, a valve extender, or Presta valves.
- Flat tires are harder to inflate- When your tire is flat, Schrader valves can move down into the rim while you’re trying to attach your pump. You have to grip the base of the valve with one hand and press the pump on with the other. This can become tedious. Presta valves have a locknut that eliminates this issue.
- You may lose a bit of air when removing the pump- This is one of the biggest annoyances of Schrader valves. When you remove the pump from the valve, a bit of air can rush out. Sometimes the pump gets stuck momentarily while you’re trying to remove it. You may lose a few PSI when this happens. This makes inflating high-pressure tires a bit more challenging. It can also be a problem when inflating heavy touring bike tires.
- You need a tool to let air out of Schrader valves- You can’t let air out with your fingers. You need to press the valve core pin down to open the valve and let air out. To do this, you could use your pump, pressure gauge, or even a screwdriver. This may be necessary if you overfilled your tires or if you need to reduce the pressure for extra traction while riding on a slippery surface. Letting air out of a Schrader valve in a controlled manner is a bit more difficult. It’s easy to let too much air out then have to reinflate the tires a bit.
- Schrader valves can sit crooked in the rim- If you install your tube slightly off-center, the valve can sit at an angle. Over time, this can cause the valve to fail if it rubs against the edge of the rim for too long. When this happens, you’ll have to replace your tube. Having your valves sit at an angle also looks kind of sloppy. Presta valves solve this issue by using a lock nut to secure the valve perpendicular to the rim.
- Schrader valves are heavier- The weight difference is minimal. Probably just a couple of grams per valve at most. If you really care about weight, this might be a consideration. Schrader pumps are also heavier. The pump needs to have a valve depressor.
- Schrader valves are too wide for some tires and rims- Some racing rims and tires are too narrow for Schrader valves to fit. The valve would rub against the beads of the tire. In this case, you won’t be able to use Schrader valves.
- Schrader valves may not be able to hold as much pressure- Road bike tires need to be inflated to pressures up to 125 psi. Some Schrader valves are only rated up to 65-100 psi. If you need to run your tires at high pressure, you’ll need to make sure your Schrader valves are designed for it. High-pressure models Schrader valves are available that can handle well over 200 psi. All Presta valves can handle the high pressure that road bike tires need.
- Schrader valves may lose pressure over time- Some cyclists claim that Schrader valves don’t hold air as well as Presta. Personally, I don’t buy this claim but I’ll throw it in so you can decide for yourself.
- Schrader valves are associated with lower-end bikes- If you are the type of rider who cares about looks, you may want to avoid Schrader valves. They tend to look low-end. Most entry-level bikes come with them.
More Cycling Pros and Cons Analyses from Where the Road Forks
- Drop Bars Vs. Flat Bars
- Flat Pedals Vs. Clipless
- Disc Brakes Vs. Rim Brakes
- 700c Vs. 26 Inch Wheels
- Belt Drive Vs. Chain Drive
- Internal Gear Hub Vs. Derailleur
- 1X Vs. 2X Drivetrain
- Steel Frame Vs. Aluminum Frame
A Third Option: The Woods or Dunlop Valve
There is a third type of valve that is much less common than Presta or Schrader. This is the Dunlop or Woods valve.
Dunlop valves look kind of like a cross between Presta and Schrader. They are threaded all the way down like Presta valves but have a stem that is the same diameter as Schrader valves. They also use the same size valve hole as Schrader valves.
You can inflate Dunlop valves with a Presta compatible pump. One nice thing about these valves is that you can remove and replace the valve cores without any special tools. They can also be placed in rims drilled for Schrader valves without any modification.
Dunlop valves are the least common type of valves used on bicycle tires. You may find them on city bikes and trekking bikes in Western Europe, South Asia, or East Asia.
How to Inflate Presta Valves
Presta valves are a bit more cumbersome to use because it uses a locknut closure instead of a spring. To inflate a Presta valve:
- Remove the plastic valve cap- Some Presta valves have a cap and others don’t. If yours don’t, skip this step.
- Unscrew the small locknut on top of the valve- Gently turn the locknut counterclockwise to loosen it. Unscrew the locknut until it is level with the top of the valve.
- Press the chuck (pump head) onto the top of the Presta valve- Try to do this gently so you don’t bend the valve.
- Lock the pump to the valve- Most pumps have a lever that you lift to secure the pump head on the valve. This prevents the tire pressure from blowing the pump off the valve. Some pumps screw onto the valve instead of attaching with a lever.
- Pump your tire to your desired pressure- If your pump has a built in gauge, use it. Otherwise, you’ll have to remove the pump to test the pressure with a gauge.
- Remove the pump- Push the pump lever back down or unscrew the pump to release it from the valve. Gently lift the pump straight off of the valve so you don’t accidentally bend the tip.
- Tighten the Locknut- Screw it clockwise until it is moderately firm. It needs to be tigh enough that no air can escape.
- Screw the plastic valve cap back on the valve- If your valve has one.
How to Inflate Schrader Valves
Schrader valves are simple to use. To inflate a Schrader valve:
- Remove the plastic valve cap- Place it somewhere safe so you don’t lose it.
- Press the pump head onto the valve- The valve depressor in the pump will compress the valve’s spring and open the valve. You must press firmly to overcome the resistance of the spring.
- Lift the lever on the pump head- This locks the pump head onto the valve so the tire pressure doesn’t push the pump off of the valve. Some pumps screw on instead.
- Pump your tire to your desired pressure- Check the pressure periodically to avoid overinflating.
- Remove the pump- Lower the lever or unscrew the pump to release it then gently pull the pump head off of the valve.
- Replace the valve cap- Make sure the inside of the cap is clean so you don’t introduce contaminants into your valve.
Can You Use Presta Valves in Schrader Rims?
Yes. You can use Presta valves in rims that are drilled for Schrader valves. The valve hole is more than wide enough.
One problem you may encounter is that the narrow Presta valve can shift around in the larger Schrader valve hole. This can happen if you run your tires at low air pressure, like mountain bike tires. Over time, the rim can abrade the valve and cause a puncture. The valve could also bend or break.
To avoid this, you should only run Presta valves in Schrader drilled rims temporarily or in emergency situations. Once you find the appropriate tubes, swap them out.
If you plan to run Presta valves in Shrader rims long-term, you can install Schrader to Presta rim grommets. These are rubber o-ring washers that you install in the valve hole to reduce its diameter so it matches Presta valves. This prevents the valve from moving and rubbing against the rim.
Can you Use Schrader Valves in Presta Rims?
No. It is not possible to run Schrader valves in rims that are designed for Presta valves because the valve hole isn’t wide enough. The valve simply won’t fit through the hole.
The only way to make Schrader valves fit in Presta drilled rims is to drill the valve hole out so it’s wider. This is not recommended because it can compromise the structural integrity of the rim. Particularly if you’re running carbon fiber rims or narrow road bike rims.
A Note About Valve Adapters
Presta and Schrader valves require different types of pump heads. You can’t inflate a Presta valve with a pump that is designed specifically for Schrader valves. The opposite is also true.
Many pumps are designed to work with Schrader valves only. Some are compatible with both valve types. Presta-only pumps are pretty uncommon.
Many cyclists carry a Presta valve adapter to solve this compatibility issue when it comes up. The adapter screws on top of the Presta valve and makes it compatible with Schrader-only pumps. It basically turns a Presta valve into a Schrader valve.
The Presta valve adapter is a small brass fitting. You can easily carry one in your tool kit. It weighs next to nothing. This Presta to Schrader Valve Adapter would work well.
If you find yourself in a situation where you only have a Schrader pump, you can still inflate your tires. For example, you could inflate your tires with an air compressor, at a gas station, or at an auto shop.
When you encounter a non-Presta-compatible pump, you can simply take out your adapter, screw it to the top of your Presta valve and inflate it like a Schrader valve.
If you need, Schrader to Presta adapters are also available. These allow you to inflate Schrader valves with a Presta-only pump.
Presta Vs Schrader Valves for Tubeless Tires
Both Presta and Schrader valves are compatible with tubeless tires. You can use whichever you prefer. If you already have rims, you should use the valve type that your rims are drilled for.
If you’re buying new tubeless rims, Presta valves are usually the better choice. There are two reasons for this. First, tubeless specific Presta valves have easily removable cores. This makes it easy to add tubeless sealant through the valve. You can simply remove the core, pump sealant in, then replace the core. This job is more difficult with Schrader valves.
Presta valves also make it a bit easier to pump a high volume of air into your tires quickly and at high pressure. This is possible because there is no valve spring creating resistance. Pumping a high volume of air is necessary to make tubeless tires seat properly in the rim. If you inflate them too slowly, sometimes the beads don’t seal and you have to try again.
For more in-depth info, check out my guide to tubeless tires.
Replacing Presta and Schrader Valves, Valve Cores, and Tubes
If you’re riding a bike with tubed tires, valves can’t be replaced on their own because they are attached to the tubes. If a valve catastrophically fails, you just need to buy and install a new tube. You’ll need to make sure you choose a tube that matches both the valve type that your rims are drilled for and wheel size.
You can replace the valve core separately. Schrader valves have removable cores. Most Presta valves made after 2017 also have removable cores. Older Presta valves do not have removable cores. To determine whether or not your Presta valve has replaceable cores, look for flat sections on the sides near the top of the valve. These allow you to unscrew the core.
You may need to replace a valve core if your valves get gummed up with tire sealant or debris. You can also replace your Presta valve core if the locknut breaks off of the top. Sometimes valves simply wear out and begin leaking air.
All you need to make this repair is a new valve core and a tool for removing the core. This Valve Core Remover Tool Kit from Amazon includes everything you would need.
If you’re riding tubeless, you may need to replace a valve if it begins leaking air where the valve meets the rim. Most tubeless valves attach with a nut at the base of the rim. A gasket helps to seal the rim so that it is airtight. If this gasket fails, it’s best to replace the valve.
A note about air suspension systems
Many bicycle suspension components have Schrader valves. These are common on mountain bikes with air shocks and forks. Tire and suspension pumps are generally not cross-compatible because tire pumps can’t reach the level of pressure that suspension parts require. Suspension pumps don’t pump air quickly enough to efficiently fill a tire. You could do it but it would just take forever.
Bicycle Pumps for Presta and Schrader Valves
When buying a bicycle pump, be sure to choose a model that is compatible with your valve type. Most modern bike pumps are designed to work with both valve types these days. Some lower-end pumps and specialty pumps only work with one valve type. Regardless of the valve type that you use, consider choosing a pump that is compatible with both Presta and Schrader valves. That way, you’ll always be ready.
There are three different pump designs including:
- Floor pump- The is the standard bicycle pump that you probably have in your garage. To operate this style of pump, you place the pump head onto your valve, hold the base of the pump in place with your feet, and push and pull the handle to force air into your tire. These pumps are fast, reliable, and can inflate high pressure tires easily. Many include a built-in pressure gauge.
- Hand pump (mini-pump)- These portable pumps are designed to be carried with you while riding. They usually attach to the bike frame with some type of mount. These are great for occasional use when repairing a flat on the side of the road. On some hand pumps, the chuck attaches directly to the pump body. On some models, the chuck attaches to a hose. You operate a hand pump by holding the body of the pump with one hand and pushing and pulling the handle in and out with your other hand. Inflating tires with these is a slow process. Particularly if your tires require high air pressure. Higher end models have a high volume and high pressure settings to make inflating high pressure tires easier.
- CO2 Inflator- This isn’t really a pump. CO2 inflators use a pressurized carbon dioxide canister to fill your tires. No pumping is necessary. The benefit of CO2 pumps over hand pumps is that they are lighter and faster to use. For those reasons, they are popular for racing. You do have to buy CO2 canisters. These can cause problems in wet weather. The CO2 cools as it exits the canister. In some cases, the pump can freeze to the valve. It’s possible to remove the valve core with the pump. To avoid this, pour some water on the valve to thaw it out.
Three different pump head designs are available including:
- Smart head (clever head)- This is the most modern and most common option these days. These pumps simply fit on both Presta and Schrader valves. You don’t need to swap any parts in the pump. They just work. You simply press the pump head onto the valve and start pumping.
- Swappable head (adjustable head)- This style is common on mini pumps and lower-end floor pumps. These pumps feature a reversible gasket inside of the head. One side of the gasket fits Presta valves. The other side fits Schrader valves and features a valve depressor pin. You simply unscrew a cap on the chuck, set the gasket to your desired valve type, then replace the cap. The smaller diameter side is for Presta valves. The larger diameter side with a pin in the middle is for Schrader valves.
- Dual head- This style is common on floor pumps. The chuck has two ports. One for Presta valves and one for Schrader valves.
Bicycle Pump Recommendations
If you can only buy one pump, it should be a mini pump. After all, you’ll need to be able to repair flats. A floor pump is nice to have if you do your own bike maintenance. A couple of pump recommendations include:
This mini pump features a clever head meaning it works with both Schrader and Presta valves right out of the box. No adjustments are necessary.
The Vibrelli pump offers a unique telescoping design. When extended, the pump enters high volume mode and moves more air per stroke. This helps you inflate your tires faster. When you collapse the pump down, it enters high-pressure mode. This pump can inflate tires up to 120 psi.
This pump includes a mount and attaches to the frame with velcro straps. As an added bonus, it comes with a pocket-sized glueless repair kit. I bought this pump last year and am really happy with it.
This floor pump features a twin-valve design, allowing you to easily inflate both Presta and Schrader valves without making any adjustments to the pump.
The pump includes a large built-in gauge to tell you when you have reached your desired pressure. The maximum pressure is 160 Psi. Large handles and a wide base make for easy pumping. This would be a great pump to keep in your garage or workshop.
Presta Valves Vs Schrader: Which Valve Type is Better?
This decision comes down to rim shape and personal preference. If you ride a road bike with narrow or deep rims, Presta valves are the better choice. If you ride a mountain bike with wide rims, you can go with whichever valve type you prefer.
Presta valves are ideal for bikes with skinny rims, such as road bikes. Because the valves are more narrow, they require a smaller valve hole. The smaller valve hole has less of an effect on the structural integrity of the rims.
Because Presta valves are longer, they are also ideal for bikes with deep rims, such as aero rims or carbon rims. The longer valve is accessible through the deep rim.
Those who are serious cyclists tend to prefer Presta valves as well. Presta valves were designed specifically for bicycles. They are lighter and more aerodynamic than Schrader valves. They also hold air well.
If you ride tubeless tires, you might also be better off with Presta valves because they make it a bit easier to add sealant. They are also slightly easier to inflate.
Schrader valves are ideal for casual cyclists, bicycle tourists and bickpackers, and those who are on a tighter budget. The main benefit of Schrader valves is that you can inflate them at gas stations and with air compressors. Pretty much every bike pump can inflate Schrader valves. They’re universal. They also tend to be slightly cheaper. In addition, they are a bit more common. You can buy Schrader tubes at any bike shop or big box store. Presta valves are often only available at bike shops.
If you are building a new set of wheels for your bike and can’t decide whether to go with Presta or Schrader valves, I recommend you choose Presta. The wheel will be slightly stronger. They’re a bit easier to inflate. Presta valves are also designed for bicycles. They are the standard these days. You can always drill the hole wider for Schrader valves at a later time if you choose.
If you already have a bike, the best type of valves are the ones that are already installed on your bike. There is really no reason to switch from one to the other. Both perform about the same.
My Choice: Presta Vs Schrader
Personally, I prefer Schrader valves. Mostly due to the more robust design. I always feel like I’m going to break my Presta valves, even though I never have. I’m also simply more familiar with Schrader valves. After all, all of the bikes that I rode while growing up as well as all of the cars and motorcycles that I have ever owned had Schrader valves.
I know that I’m in the minority in this preference. Most cyclists prefer the Presta valve design because it is slightly easier to pump. They also don’t easily clog with debris as Schrader valves can.
Final Thoughts About Presta Vs Schrader Valves
At the end of the day, your bike’s valves won’t affect you too much one way or the other. The most important consideration when choosing valves is your rim shape. If you’re running narrow or deep rims, you’re better off with Presta valves. If you’re running wide rims, you can choose either valve type. Both valve types have a long and successful history in cycling and will be in use for many decades to come.
Where do you stand on the Presta vs Schrader valve debate? Share your experience in the comments below!
More Cycling Guides from Where The Road Forks
- Are Dynamo Hubs Worth It? Pros and Cons
- How to Build a Low Budget Bikepacking or Bicycle Touring Setup for Less than $100
- The Ideal Bikepacking or Bicycle Touring Tool Kit and Spare Parts List
- How to Convert an Old Mountain Bike into a Touring Bike
- 17 Types of Bicycle Handlebars
- How to Carry a Laptop While Bicycle Touring or Bikepacking
- 32 Vs 36 Spoke Bike Wheels: Pros and Cons