Presta VS Schrader? What’s the difference between Presta and Schrader bike valves?
I know that this is one of the things that confuses beginner road riders because it confused me when I started cycling. Presta VS Schrader, what is the difference between the 2 types of valves and which ones have I got? And what are the advantages of Presta valves, or the advantages of Schrader valves? Lets see.
Modern road bike valves can be particularly confusing to older riders who have spent some time cycling in the past, perhaps on a mountain bike, and do not recognise the valves that they find in their modern road bike wheels.
That’s because there are 2 different types of valve found in bicycle tubes, and one of them is much more common in road bike wheels/tubes.
People who have not been road cycling are much more familiar with the “car” valve. These are much more commonly found on cheaper bikes and on mountain bikes or kids bikes, and you can usually blow them up at your regular gas station.
However the valve found much more commonly in road bike tubes is quite different. It is narrower, it is often taller, and can be slightly more difficult to inflate, and you often need to take more care when doing so. And you can’t blow them up at the gas station.
The “car” valve is called a Schrader valve, and it is found on kids bikes, mountain bikes and others, but rarely on higher quality road bikes.
The valve found on road bikes is called a Presta valve (above).
A Schrader valve is easier to use. Simply removed the cap, apply the pump and pump up your tire. This type of valve is bombproof, rarely suffering from any damage, and works beautifully.
The Presta valve, on the other hand, is narrower, more difficult to use and if handled roughly can break either at the rim or the pin inside the valve can break or bend.
To use a Presta valve it is necessary to unscrew the small screw up fitting on the top, and often you need to depress that screw to loosen the valve so you can pump, inflate the tire and then screw up the valve again.
Presta valves are more commonly used because they are narrower, and therefore require a narrower hole in the rim, and the valve hole is the weakest part of the rim. They also come in different lengths, so if you have deep rims you can purchase tubes with valves that are long enough to be accommodated in your rims. However you’ve got to remember this when you buy your tubes, if you get tubes with valves that are too short all you can do is to give them to someone else.
I know because I’ve made that mistake.
Presta valves also take a higher pressure, which is commonly used in road bike tires.
Schrader valves have a removable core, so if you have a problem with the valve at any time you can remove the core, (if that is the problem), and replace it, whereas with a Presta valve you can’t remove the core, so must replace the tube.
Sadly, Schrader valves are tougher, easier to use and more reliable than Presta valves, but it’s highly unlikely that your road bike will accommodate Schrader valves. However if you have a foot pump that you have used in the past for Schrader valves then it may well have a fitting that accommodates both valve types, and if it doesn’t you can buy a cheap adapter that works fine.
So, to sum up. The advantages of Presta valves are that they allow a higher air pressure, require a smaller hole in the rim and can be purchased in various lengths to suit the profile of your rims. Disadvantages are that they are less robust, and if you break them you have to throw away the tube.
The advantages of Schrader valves are that they are tougher and more reliable, you can remove the core and in an emergency you can blow them up at any gas station. Disadvantages are that they can be a little more difficult to inflate due to the spring inside the core.
It’s very unusual to see Schrader valves used on road bike tubes and wheels. Almost universally Presta’s are used, and for this reason there is a very good likelihood that Presta’s are what you’ve got. So the argument about Presta vs Schrader is immaterial, you’re unlikely to find a Schrader on a road bike any time soon, though plenty of people want to.
5 Tips for Using Presta Valves
Here’s a few tips for anyone using Presta valves, and that’s almost every road cyclist.
1. It’s very difficult to inflate your tires to the required pressure, commonly around 120 psi, using a hand pump. So buy yourself a good floor pump. But when you do make sure that it has a universal fitting that fits both Schrader and Presta valves. Even if you have Presta valves the day will come when that universal fitting is used. I use mine either blowing up the Schrader valves on the kids bikes, or blowing up the wheelbarrow tire.
2. Take real care when inflating a Presta valve, they’re easier to break or bend than you might imagine. (You can see a slight bend in the Presta valve image above, that’s my current tube.)
3. You know that little lock nut that comes on the bottom of the Presta valve? You don’t need it, throw it away and save yourself a little time when you’re changing a tube on the side of the road with all your buddies watching, (and critiquing your effort, loudly, as happens in our bunch).
4. Ditto with that little plastic cap, though not on a Shrader valve which can clog up if you leave the cap off.
5. To make sure that you buy tubes with Presta valves of the correct length measure the ones you’ve got now before you buy, and make sure you buy that length or longer. Don’t order till you know your valve length exactly. But don’t buy them too long, there’s no advantage to extra unnecessary length.
Today’s quick tip. If you use a CO2 canister on the road to blow up your tires, (regardless of valve type) then always deflate the tire when you get home and inflate again with a floor pump. CO2 will slowly leak out of a tube, and next time you ride you’ll find your tires aren’t up to the job, they’re flat, or at least lacking the required pressure.