Presta Valve vs Schrader Valve: Which One Should You Use? 2023 Guide

An age-old bike questions is should I use Presta vs. Schrader valves on my bike? If you are new to biking, this debate might be unfamiliar to you. Eventually, though, a bike will have the value you don’t have a pump forπŸ˜’

What Is a Schrader Valve?

Schrader valve cross section

This is one of the two most common valves used on bicycle tires throughout the U.S. and the world. (A third type, the Dunlop, is far less common and won’t be covered here.) Many people are familiar with this valve because it is the same one used on most car tires. It is also likely to be the valve on most bikes for children.

The Schrader valve is made of several components:

  • A rubber or plastic cap that goes over the threaded top of the valve
  • A top portion of metal threads
  • A lower portion wrapped in rubber
  • A spring-loaded check valve in the center
  • An inner pin in the top middle

This common valve type is usually found on the tires used on less expensive mountain bikes, city bikes, and many hybrid bikes. It is a simple and effective way to regulate air pressure in bike tires.

What Is a Presta Valve?

Presta valve

These handy valves are made completely out of metal. They are typically tall and thin, are completely threaded, usually, and look something like a narrow wood screw. They tend to be seen on high-performance and more expensive bikes, and they are a little trickier to use⚠️ , especially if you are unfamiliar with them.

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Mt Bike Tire in store ready for the trail

They have a few more components than a Schrader valve. This includes these additional pieces:

  • A removable valve core that can be replaced in case of a malfunction
  • A lockring that holds the valve in place on the tire
  • A locknut that sits atop the valve and holds the valve core together  

What Are the Differences Between Presta & Schrader Valves?

FeaturePresta ValveSchrader Valve
Diameter ⏺️ 6mm8mm
Length πŸ“40mm60mm
Stem πŸ”ThreadedNon-threaded
Air pressure ⏱️Up to 120 PSIUp to 90 PSI
Usage 🚲 High-end bicycles, racing bikesMountain bikes, hybrid bikes,
commuter bikes, kids bikes

The Presta valve is much slimmer than the Schrader. It is also made of metal and has a chrome appearance with a little bit of brass coloring near the top.

The Schrader is typically dark black since much of it is wrapped in rubber. The Schrader is wider, making it more robust and less likely to snap in half or bend. Many of the differences between the two valves have a little more to do with function than with form.

How Do You Put Air Into a Schrader Valve?

One of the nice things about having a bike tube with a Schrader valve is the convenience of being able to inflate it at a variety of places, such as gas stations, car washes, or train stations. This makes things easy for you if you are low on air and happen to pass a gas station. The process is simple. You stabilize the bike with the kickstand or place it against a solid wall. It is nice to position the valve so that it is just above the ground. Then place the pump head over the valve and allow air to stream into the tube.

With a hand-held pump, the process is similar. It is critical, of course, that the pump is designed for Schrader valves. Once the pump head is securely on the valve, you can operate the pump as intended until the tire has the appropriate air pressure. Now you are ready to continue your bike ride.

How Do You Put Air Into a Presta Valve?

The process for inflating a tire with a Presta valve is very similar, though with an added step or two. First, get your bike in the proper position and follow these steps:

  • Unscrew the plastic cap on the top
  • Unscrew the locknut counterclockwise
  • Stop when the locknut is level with the top of the threaded shaft
  • Place the pump head over the valve
  • Pump to the desired pressure

Because the Presta Valve is more fragile than the Schrader valve, special care should be taken when placing the pump head on the valve and when removing the pump head. It is not super uncommon for Presta Valves to break if the treatment is too rough. If this happens, you will likely have to replace the innertube. 

It is also possible to unscrew the locknut too far⚠️.

When unscrewing a presta valve, proceed cautiously so as not to accidentally loosen the entire valve , resulting in a loss of air pressure. With just a little bit of practice a, you can quickly acquire the necessary techniques for inflating your tire efficiently.

πŸ” What Are the Advantages of a Schrader Valve?

The Schrader valve type is widespread and easily recognizable.

  • Compatibility: Schrader valves are compatible with a wide range of pumps, including hand pumps, floor pumps, and air compressors.
  • Durability: Schrader valves are relatively durable and can withstand a lot of wear and tear.
  • Ease of use: Schrader valves are easy to use and can be inflated quickly.
  • Cost: Schrader valves are typically less expensive than other types of valves.

They are pretty robust and are unlikely to break, though they could develop a slow leak at the base over time. Since most pumps found in public places and at gas stations are compatible with a Schrader valve, this offers an additional level of comfort in the case of a leaking tire. We recommend this for communing, cruiser, beach, and all kids bikes.

What Are the Benefits of a Presta Valve?

These valves are made specifically for bicycles. The fact that they are narrower and require a smaller hole in the tire rim means that they impact the structural integrity of the tire at a lower level. They are also designed to hold more pressure, something that is desirable in many high-performance bicycles and tires that call for 100 psi or more. Also, in a sport that values lightness, Presta valves weigh less and improve the rolling resistance of the wheel.

  • Holds more air pressure: Presta valves can hold more air pressure than Schrader valves, up to 120 PSI. This makes them a good choice for cyclists who need to run their tires at high pressure, such as road cyclists and mountain bikers.
  • Thinner and lighter: Presta valves are thinner and lighter than Schrader valves. This makes them a good choice for cyclists who are looking to reduce the weight of their bike.
  • More secure: Presta valves have a locknut that helps to keep the valve closed when not in use. This prevents air from leaking out of the tire.

Additionally, Presta valves have the benefit of adaptability. Through the use of adapters, which can extend the length of the valve, they can be used on a variety of rim types. You can also use adapters to make a Presta valve capable of taking in air from a Schrader pump. This is a simple process that entails screwing the adaptor onto the top of the valve, allowing a tire to be filled from a pump at a gas station.  

What Pump do I need?

No matter what type of bike you’re riding or what brand, at some point, you may want to go for longer rides away from home. Although your phone is always in reach during emergencies, a strategy for dealing with flats or leaking tires is essential. This means carrying a bike pump with you, either attached to your bike frame or in a small pack. When searching for a bike pump, consider the following questions:

  • Does it work on Presta or Schrader valves or both?
  • Does it fit into your budget?
  • Can it get your tire back to the recommended air pressure?
  • Is the pump easy to operate? 
  • Does it stay on the frame when going over bumps?

πŸ›’ What to Consider When Buying a Home Bike Pump?

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Mt bike tire against wall, Boston

As you will be using a pump more often at home, there is no need to carry it on your bike or person. You can opt for a more capable pump, which will enable you to inflate your tires to the recommended pressure quickly. It also allows you to get a pump that can handle both Presta and Schrader valves. This is especially valuable if you have several bikes in your household like we do (Kids, ebike, Mt. Bike). 

Here are some of the most popular types of bike pumps:

  • Floor pumps: Floor pumps are the most common type of bike pump. They are large and heavy, but they are easy to use and can reach high PSI quickly.
  • Hand pumps: Hand pumps are smaller and lighter than floor pumps, but they take longer to inflate tires.
  • CO2 pumps: CO2 pumps are the fastest way to inflate tires, but they are also the most expensive.
  • Air compressors: Air compressors are the most powerful type of bike pump, but they are also the largest and most expensive.

The pump should be easy to operate. It should also be stable and strong. A quality pump will last for many years, so getting one you like is desirable. No matter what type of bike pump you choose, make sure to read the instructions carefully before using it. This will help you avoid damaging your tires or the pump itself. As a heavier rider my self I believe in checking the air pressure in my tires before every ride as its easier than walking home!

Train Station Bike Rack

Which Is Better: Presta or Schrader?

As with many things in life, it all depends on where and how you ride. If you commute, ride with your kids, ride the boardwalk with on a cruiser, a bike with Schrader valves should be perfectly fit. These valves are durable and foolproof. They are also compatible with most pumps found in gas stations and pay per use pumps.

On the other hand, if you ride hard and fast, the Presta valves probably make the more sense. They just take a little getting used to and they offer significant benefits.  At BikeLVR, we want to see you enjoy bicycling in whatever fashion matches your lifestyle.

Learn More: The Ultimate Guide to Bike Wheel Parts for New Bike Owners

🚲 Bike Valve FAQ:

What kind of valve is on an ebike?

The valve type found on an e-bike is dependent on the model and manufacturer. Schrader valves are the most commonly used valve on e-bikes, and for bicycles in general. They are the same type of valve found on car tires. In contrast, high-end models may use Presta valves. Presta valves are slimmer and more lightweight than Schrader valves, even though they might prove slightly more challenging to use.

What kind of valve is on an kids bike?

Schrader valves are the most commonly used valve on kids bikes, and for bicycles in general. The exact valve on a kids bike depends on the manufacturer and model (ie an older kids bike could have tubeless tire or a Dunlop valve but its rare here in the US).

What are bicycle tire valve adapters?

Bicycle tire valve adapters are nifty little devices that let you use a standard pump to inflate Presta valve tires effortlessly. These valves have a narrower opening compared to the common Schrader valves found on bikes. With an adapter, you can inflate your Presta tires without having to worry about damaging the valve or fumbling with special equipment.

How do I use a bicycle tire valve adapter?

To use a bicycle tire valve adapter, screw it onto the pump nozzle’s end before inserting it into the valve. With the adapter in place, inflate the tire as you regularly would.

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