Schrader Valve vs Presta Valve: An Explanation of the Difference

So you’ve just bought a bike, and you’re looking to do some basic maintenance. You go to fill up your tires with air, but when you take the pump out of your back pocket, it’s not working.

Why?

It turns out that there are two types of valves on bike tires: Schrader valves and Presta valves. Either one will work for filling up your tire, but they have slight differences in how they operate, which is worth understanding before you make any purchase decisions.

In this blog post, I’ll discuss the difference between Schrader valves vs. Presta valves and how each type works so that you can make an informed decision about what kind of valve is right for your bike!

Presta Vs Schrader – Bike Tire Valve Types Comparison

Before telling you the exact differences between these two popular valve types, let’s talk about a little of their background. This information will help you understand their history and where you’ll typically find each type of bike tire valve.

Presta Valve Overview

A Presta valve is a threaded, thin-walled brass stem that attaches to the bike tube. The knob at the end of this type of valve can be unscrewed and pulled off for easy filling or changing tires. It also has a lock nut that allows you to secure the Presta valve stem at the rim.

The Presta Valve is a very popular type of bike tire valves, and they are typically found on high-performance racing bikes where the rims are normally more narrow.

Who and when was the Presta Valve invented?

There are no exact dates online as to the exact year the Presta valve was invented. However, it was invented by Sclaverand, who worked at a French company. It has been around for a little more than 80+ years. Previously this type of bike tire valve was known as the Sclaverand Valve or French Valve. But today, we all know it as the Presta Valve.

Schrader Valve Overview

A Schrader valve is the most common type of valve on a bike tire. It is a type of valve mostly found on cars worldwide as well as most standard bicycle tires.

The Schrader valve consists of a valve stem threaded with a valve core tube with an opening at one end, connected to the inside of the tire via a stem or shaft. You can see an image of the Schrader Valve below so that you can easily identify it in the future. 

When Was the Schrader Valve Invented?

The Schrader Valve has been around since 1844 and was created by August Schrader. Later on, it was patented in the US around 1983 and became the most commonly used valve for many tires.

With the overview of both valves in mind, we can no get into the main question:

What’s the difference between Presta vs. Schrader valves?

The Schrader valve is designed differently than the Presta valve. The Schrader Valve has a wider and more even valve circumference, it is wrapped in rubber from the base, and it has a threaded top. On the other hand, Presta valves are about half as wide as a Schrader Valve; they are made entirely of metal with threading from top to bottom and no rubber coating.

The Schrader Valve also differs from the Presta because its spring-loaded pin is used as the check valve. The valve controls the air coming in and out of your tires. A Presta Valve doesn’t have a check valve because it is sealed based on the pressure in the tube.

Which is better Schrader or Presta?

Presta Valves are generally considered better and more high-end because they have fewer issues with pressure loss and require less air to fill up. They increase the structural integrity of your rims. Moreover, they will require less maintenance than the Schrader. In contrast, Schrader Valve is cheaper and more reliable for use on commuter bikes. They can be pumped on the fly anywhere with a standard air pump and don’t require any adapters. Furthermore, they are more commonly seen and easy to replace if you have any issues.

The best valve type for your bike is very different depending on what you are doing. Most people will not need to worry about it because their bike manufacturer already picked a good one. But if you want to make changes, or want to upgrade to a different type of wheel, here are the pros and cons of both types:

Pros of the Presta Valve?

  • You can get different valve lengths to suit your needs.
  • It has more controlled air release when pumping or removing the pump head.
  • Presta valves allow you to release pressure with only your finger, so there’s no need for a pump.
  • Presta valve systems provide a higher air-tight seal than Schrader valves.
  • Due to their association with higher-end bikes (e.g., cycling bikes) seems more reliable and trustworthy.
  • You can use an adapter to convert the Presta valve to a Schrader valve if you need one for the bike tire you already have.
  • Presta valves are a more suitable fit for narrower rim than Schrader.
  • May maintain pressure better than Schrader valves.
  • It stays straight when inserted into the rim.

Cons of the Presta Valve?

  • Presta Valves are considered to be more fragile.
  • They cost more than Schrader Valves.
  • You won’t be able to use a standard pump on a Presta.
  • Replacements and tubes aren’t as easy to find.
  • Bike wheels built for Presta won’t accommodate Schrader tires.

With the pros and cons of the Presta, let’s now compare the Pros and Cons of the Schrader:

Pros of the Schrader Valve?

  • They are more reliable for use on commuter bikes.
  • Standard in the automotive industry.
  • It comes standard on many brands of bicycles.
  • Easier to install than Presta valves.
  • Schrader Tubes are cheaper.
  • Any random pump you find will work on a Schrader Valve.

Cons of the Schrader Valve?

  • Schrader Valves require valve caps.
  • It is harder to pump air into since it lets air out whenever you put on or take off the pump.
  • They may get bent in the rims from time to time.
  • They tend to lose pressure over time.
  • The length of a Schrader valve may be an issue depending on the type of rim you use.
  • Schrader Valves create a bigger weak spot on your rims.

FAQ

Why do bikes use Presta valves?

As a bike rider, you’ll often find yourself needing to inflate your tires with a Schrader valve. Furthermore, it takes longer to get your tires to the right pressure if your bike has Schrader Valves. Presta Valves are more reliable, and they prevent air from escaping from when you pump them. Presta Valves are also more reliable, and since they are narrower than Schrader, they increase the integrity of the rims and are available in different sizes. So high-end bikes use the Presta valves because of the type of rims they have.

How do I know if I have Schrader or Presta?

Knowing if you have a Schrader valve or Presta valve is very easy to do. All you need to do is look at their design. Schrader valves have a rubber stem and an even circumference with threading at the top, while Presta valves have a full metal stem and are narrower with a fully threaded stem in most cases.

Can you fill a Presta valve at the gas station?

You can’t fill a Presta valve at a gas station unless you or the station has an adapter. This feature is one of the downsides to owning a bike with Presta valves.

Can you fill a Schrader valve at the gas station?

Schrader Valves are the standard valve type found on most bikes and cars, so you will be able to pump it up at any gas station.

Can I replace Presta with Schrader?

You can use a tube with a Presta valve in a wheel that is meant to use a Schrader valve. However, you can’t install a Schrader Valve on a bike wheel that is meant to use the Presta Valve unless you widen the hole in the rim.

Do I need a special pump for the Presta valve?

You don’t need a special pump for a Presta valve. You can use the same pump for Schrader valves, and it will work just fine on your bike tire with the Presta valve. However, you WILL NEED to have a Presta Valve adapter in order to use your regular pump.

Final Thoughts

If you’re anything like me, you have a preference for one type of valve over the other. Schrader valves are more robust, in my opinion, and I don’t worry about breaking them whenever I go out. That said, Presta valves do tend to be less hassle since they also require slightly less energy when pumping. 

Still, the inconvenience of not finding a pump that works without having an adapter is something no commuter needs to deal with. So for the average biker, a Schrader valve is all you need. While, if you’re going for performance riding with a high-end bike, you can go with the Presta.