Presta or Schrader bike valves – what's the difference and which is best?
Everything you need to know about Presta and Schrader valves on your bike.
Though not the most eye-catching component on your bike, the bicycle valve is vital as it lets air be pumped into your tyres, allowing you to ride. Whether you ride a road bike, mountain bike, electric bike or a gravel bike, your bicycle will typically have a Presta valve or occasionally a Schrader valve sticking out of the wheel rim. In order to inflate your chosen valve, riders will use a pump with either a Presta adapter or a Schrader adapter.
What is the difference between Presta and Schrader valves?
The most common bicycle valve type is the Presta valve. Whether as an inner tube valve type or as part of a tubeless system, the Presta valve is thinner than a Schrader valve and tapers towards its head. Presta valves have a textured nut at the top, which can be opened to allow air to enter.
Presta valves on tubeless systems have a removable core to allow tyre sealant to be poured in. Presta valves are ideally suited for bicycles because they are light, require a smaller hole in the wheel rim, seal using only air pressure and can be extended for use on deep section rims.
A Schrader valve is usually found on cars and less expensive bikes. It is wider than a Presta valve and has the same circumference from top to bottom. A Schrader valve has a threaded upper section, allowing a pump head to attach to it. These valves have a spring-loaded pin in the centre, acting as a check valve to control airflow. This valve type requires pressure on the pin to ensure air is pumped into the tube or tyre. Schrader valves are generally heavier than Presta valves.
How to pump a bike tyre with a Presta valve
First, ensure your bicycle pump is intended for use on your chosen bike valve type. In the case of Presta valves- untwist the textured nut at the top of the valve to open it then press the head of the pump onto the valve. Once in place and depending on your model and style of pump, twist it into a snug position or open a lever.
You can now proceed to pump your inner tube or tubeless tyre. Smaller pumps require more strokes and energy to inflate tyres, whereas larger floor or track pumps need fewer strokes and are therefore easier to use.
Can you use a regular pump on a Presta valve?
Simply put, no. A Schrader valve bike pump, for instance, contains a pin in the pump head to be inserted onto the check valve. If you try to place it on a Presta valve it won’t fit. When pumping a tyre with a Presta valve it is essential you use a Presta-specific pump.
What is better- Presta or Schrader?
Neither a Presta valve nor a Schrader valve is necessarily better. Both work well for their intended purpose. However, given Schrader valves only appear on cheaper bikes, you can assume that a bike using Presta ds will offer superior performance.
An important point to remember- the majority of cyclists carry pumps compatible only with Presta valves. So, if you’re on the road or trail, suffer a puncture and need help from a fellow rider, you will require a Presta valve to get your tyre pumped up and get you back riding. It’s better to be safe than sorry, so always carry a pump and make sure it’s compatible with your valve type. Happy riding!