Presta and Schrader are two of the most common tire valves used in bicycles today. While they are a small and trivial part of the bicycle, there is more than meets the eye.
- What are the differences between Presta and Schrader valves?
- Which one should you be using on your bicycle?
- Which is better, Presta or Schrader?
We’ll discuss in detail both Presta and Schrader valves in this guide.
What is a Presta valve?
Presta valve was invented by Frenchman Etienne Sclaverand in the 1880’s. In the past, the Presta valve was also known as the French valve (FV) or Sclaverand valve. Etienne Sclaverand was also the founder of the bicycle accessories brand Zéfal that we know today.
The Presta valve was designed specifically to be used on bicycles. It’s lighter, slimmer (6mm), and half as thick as a Shrader valve. It’s made from metal and is threaded from top to bottom.
With its slimmer design, it’s used in road, gravel, and high-end mountain bike wheels. All tubeless wheelsets use the Presta valve with a removable core. Some inner tubes with a Presta valve also come with a removable core. There is a small locknut at the valve tip that needs to be loosened for inflation or deflation.
Presta valve requires only a small hole in the rim which leads to less interruption to the rim’s structural integrity. Their low weight also doesn’t need to be counterbalanced for the wheels to spin smoothly.
Presta valve comes in various lengths from 40 to 100mm. The ideal valve length will depend on the rim’s depth. The length can also be extended using a valve extension.
What is a Schrader valve?
The Schrader valve was invented in 1891by August Schrader. In the past, it was also known as the American Valve as it was patented in the United States in 1893.
Schrader valves are widely used in automobiles today. It’s the same valve that you can find on your car tires. For bicycles, Schrader valves are used on kids’ bikes, low to mid-range mountain bikes, city, and urban bikes.
Compared to a Presta valve, the Schrader valve is thicker (8mm) and has the same thickness throughout. The tip has a threaded outer wall to accept a cap while the bottom half is usually wrapped with rubber. There is a spring-loaded check valve in the center which allows air to flow in one direction (ingress). The check valve pin needs to be pressed and held down in order to inflate the tube.
The Schrader has three classifications depending on its diameter, material, shape, and length.
- TR-4. 8 mm diameter Straight metal stem
- TR-6. 8 mm diameter Straight metal stem (used on bicycle wheels)
- TR- 87. 10 mm diameter Short 90 degree metal stem
Which valve is better – Presta or Schrader?
Presta valve is the preferred choice as it’s specifically designed for bicycles. It can hold air pressure better because it relies on the air pressure to seal itself, unlike the Schrader valve which depends on the check valve. Presta valve can hold pressure up to 200psi.
Because of their narrower design (6mm vs 8mm), they require a small hole on the rim which has less interference on the rim’s structural integrity. Presta valve is more versatile as its length can easily be extendable using a screw-in valve extension.
On the other hand, the Schrader valve is more convenient as you can inflate them at the service station. You’ll need a Presta to Schrader adaptor to inflate a Presta valve at the service station.
The Schrader valve is slightly easier to use as there is no need to loosen the locknut before inflating/deflating.
Can I use a Presta instead of a Schrader valve?
No. All wheelsets are designed for either Presta of Schrader. Check the valve hole on the rim.
If you couldn’t fit a Schrader valve (8mm diameter) through the hole, then the rim is designed for a Presta valve (6mm). Don’t re-drill the hole to make it larger as it will affect the rim’s structural integrity.
While you can fit the slimmer Presta valve (6mm diameter) through the larger hole for the Schrader valve, you should proceed with caution. If you decide to do this, use a Presta to Schrader Grommet to fill the space around the Presta valve to prevent rattling or puncturing the tube unintendedly.
How do I know if my bicycle pump supports Presta or Schrader valve?
Most bicycle pumps available today support both Presta and Schrader valves unless it’s specifically mentioned.
There are three types of inflator head design,
- Twin head has both Presta and Schrader ports. Choose the right one to choose depending on the valve type.
- Swappable head supports either Presta or Schrader at any one time. You’ll need to unscrew the inflator head and reverse the inner parts (2 to 3 pieces). This can be easily done in 10 seconds without any special tools.
- Adjustable head is the most convenient of all. The inner parts automatically adapt to either Presta or Schrader valve when you attach it.
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Alex Lee is the founder and editor-at-large of Mr. Mamil. Coming from a professional engineering background, he breaks down technical cycling nuances into an easy-to-understand and digestible format here.
He has been riding road bikes actively for the past 12 years and started racing competitively in the senior category during the summer recently.