Are you planning to buy a new set of bike rims? You are most likely going to consider Presta vs Schrader.
Nowadays, almost all bikes come with an inner tube that is air-pressurized to inflate the tire. The inner tube comes in several materials, but the commonest is latex and natural rubber.
These materials only get air-inflated thanks to a valve that is likelier to be a Presta valve or a Schrader valve. There could be other bike tire valve types, but the two are the most popular.
Now, how do you choose between the two inner tube valves? Which is better for you? To help you decide, let’s look at the Presta valve vs Schrader valve.
Presta Vs Schrader Valve – What Are They?
- What’s a Presta Valve?
Presta is a term with a French origin. So, sometimes Presta valves are referred to as French valves.
The valve comes in a small diameter, thus narrower and features a removable core (small inner part).
These valves feature a nut that closes them after inflating and so they do not require a cap. The other notable absent feature is a spring.
Thanks to their small, slim profile, Presta valves are an excellent pick for high-end bikes.
- What’s a Schrader Valve?
Unlike Presta valves, Schrader valves are not just developed for bicycles. They are quite versatile also to fit car tubes.
Schrader valves have a large diameter and are thicker than Presta valves. They also feature a spring linked to a steady pin. Usually, it’s the spring that facilitates their inflation.
Their unique construction means that you need a pump with a pin to forcefully open the spring and keep the valve shut when inflating.
Comparing Presta Vs Schrader
Let’s look at the difference between Presta and Schrader valves under the following elements:
1. Valve Length
Presta valves generally have a smaller diameter, about 6mmm, and so they are narrower. Also, their valve stems come in varying lengths for varying rim depths.
So, if your bike’s rims are more in-depth, then you have to buy long-stemmed Presta tubes. If you mistakenly purchase valves with shorter stems, then you’ll not find them useful unless you use extenders, which can be expensive.
Schrader valves have a bigger diameter, about 8mm, thus slightly broader. They are also somewhat shorter than Presta valves.
But unlike Presta tubes, the stems of Schrader tubes cannot be removed.
If you have to inflate your Presta tubes at a gas station, you’ll need an adapter to covert its valve to a Schrader bicycle tire valve. Without the adapter, it’ll be impossible to pump up the tube there.
But to save yourself from such a scenario, buy a pump with a twin head to suit both Presta and Schrader tubes.
Generally, you don’t need an adapter to inflate your Schrader tube at a gas station. You can do it just the way the inner tube is.
Since Presta valves have a smaller diameter, they are generally hard to pump.
The valve requires you to unscrew its head before you can place the pump and inflate the tube. And when it comes to removing the valve’s head, you have to be gentle as it could easily bend.
The good thing is that Presta valves are more adaptable to high pressure. Also, it’s easy to find replacement Presta tubes, in case you blow one.
You’ll need to insert an object into a Presta tube to check its pressure.
Given that Schrader valves have a spring closure, they are easy to pump. You only need to place the chuck to inflate a Schrader tube.
Unlike a Presta tube, you can quickly check the pressure of a Schrader tube easily with a car tire gauge.
4. Bicycle Pump – Presta Vs Schrader Valve Pumps
Bicycle pumps come in different designs to suit various valves. Generally, a Presta valve pump features a rubber gasket on its chuck or head that makes it easy to fit on Presta tubes.
A Schrader-specific pump, on the other hand, features a pin on its chuck to depress a Schrader valve when inflating. Such an air pump cannot fit on a Presta valve because of the design.
The good news is that a majority of bicycle pumps come with dual head designs, which allows them to fit on either a Schrader or Presta valve.
Here are the most everyday pump head designs for Schrader vs Presta:
- Dual head (twin head) – This head design is found on floor pumps. Here, the chuck has a separate gasket for both valves. So, the head design works fine on both Presta and Schrader valves.
- Clever head (smart head) – This head design fits both valves without the need to swap any of the internal parts. All you have to do to mount it on the valve is to press the head firmly and flip over the lever before inflating.
- Swappable head – This pump head features a gasket with one narrow side to suit Presta valves and another broader flank to suit Schrader valves. You’ll have to unscrew the chuck cap, however, to access the gasket.
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Pros and Cons of Presta Vs Schrader
Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of each inner tube valve.
Pros and Cons of Presta Valve
- Suit narrow rims –Presta valves are slenderer, and that makes them ideal for slimmer wheels.
- Stronger wheels – Given that Presta valves are narrower, their valve holes are smaller, and the shape doesn’t interfere with the wheel strength.
- Pressure maintenance – The valve is designed in a way that pressure is contained once it closes. So, you won’t lose air pressure after you stop pumping.
- Easily converts to a Schrader valve – All it takes to turn a Presta valve into a Schrader valve is an adapter. That lets you use a Schrader-specific pump.
- Lighter design – Their narrow and small sizes make them lightweight, though by a few grams if compared to Schrader valves.
- Varied lengths – Presta valves come in an array of sizes to suit rims of different depths.
- No need for a valve cap – Presta valves come in a design that saves them from clogging when uncapped. Thus, a cap is not necessary.
- Great for high-end bikes – Presta valves give bikes a premium look, thus great for high-end bicycles.
- Sits straight – The valve’s narrow shape also makes it easy for it to sit squarely within the rim.
- Fragile – Due to their narrow shape, Presta valves are more delicate. So, they are more likely to break than Schrader.
- Slightly costlier – Compared to Schrader tubes, Presta tubes tend to be somewhat expensive.
- Hard to use –A majority of bikers know how to use Schrader valves but have a problem using Presta valves.
- Don’t work with standard car pumps – Unless you have an adapter, you cannot pump up a Presta tube at a gas station.
- Core not removable
Pros and Cons of Schrader Valve
- More robust valve – Schrader valves are thicker and slightly shorter. The design makes them less fragile.
- Locally available – It’s okay to argue that Schrader valves are the standard valves, given that they are found almost everywhere.
- Inflate anywhere – You can quickly pump up your Schrader tube at a gas station without using an adapter.
- Less costly – Compared to Presta valves, Schrader valves are less expensive.
- User-friendly – Schrader valves come in a straightforward design, and so they are generally easy to use. Almost all bikers are familiar with their usage.
- Removable core – Their inner part is easily detachable to seal it against punctures.
- Sturdier – Schrader valves don’t just come in a more robust design but a sturdier one too. That’s because its parts are not exposed.
- Weaker wheels – Given that the valve is thicker, it creates a weak point in the bike’s rim, resulting in an overall more fragile wheel.
- Slightly heavier – Though by a few grams.
- A valve cap is necessary – Unless you use a valve cap, the valve can clog with debris, and that can destroy it.
- Can sit crookedly – Unlike Presta valves, Schrader valves can sit crookedly against the bike’s rim and so are likely to fail over time after frequent rubbing.
- Can lose pressure after some time – Doesn’t hold air for long like Presta valve.
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My Verdict – Which Valve is Better?
In all honesty, there’s no straight answer to this question. I cannot say that a Presta valve is better than a Schrader valve or vice versa because both have pros and cons.
So, it’s a matter of compromise, which means that some bikers may find Schrader valves to be the better choice, while others may incline towards Presta valves.
But if I have to pick a tiebreaker in the Schrader vs Presta valve contest, I would look at the effects they have on the rim. Given that Schrader valves are thicker and that they can weaken the rims, I would pick Presta valves on this basis.
But again, Schrader valves are thicker and less fragile than Presta Valves. So, if it’s about reliability and sturdiness, then Schrader valves take the day.
In conclusion, refer to my list of pros and cons for Presta Vs Schrader to decide between the two.
Alex Mwangi is the creator of Outdoor Right and an outdoor enthusiast. During his free time he enjoys riding his road bike or traveling the world looking for his next adventure.