Bikes are not always as straightforward as you might think. Although the concept of a frame with two wheels and some gears is pretty simple, there are a lot of different standards and parts that can differ.
A common question we get asked is about valves, Presta and Schrader in particular. Although these valves do exactly the same job, they are very different and operate in a very different way.
In this article, we will be telling you everything you need to know about Schrader and Presta valves, and which is for you, we will discuss:
- What Is A Presta Valve?
- What Is A Schrader Valve?
- How Do I Use A Presta Or Schrader Valve?
- Presta Vs. Schrader Comparison
- Which Is Better, Presta Or Schrader Valves?
What Is A Presta Valve?
The Presta valve has been rumored to have been around since the 1920s and was originally called the Scaverland valve after one of the inventors. It is also known as a road bike or a French valve in some places.
They are generally seen on all types of bikes but always on bikes requiring higher pressures, such as road, time trial, and gravel bikes. They are excellent when it comes to adjusting pressure and very simple to use even on the go.
They are small slim valves with a small screw piece on top and a lockring to hold it in place. They come in all different lengths and can be as short as 40mm or as large as 80mm.
A Presta valve can come on the end of inner tubes or can be a stand-alone valve on a tubeless system.
What Is A Schrader Valve?
In 1891, the Schrader valve was invented by August Schrader. This was the original valve designed to be used on bikes. The Schrader valve was by far the most popular valve for many years, and the Presta valve was designed to compete with it.
Unlike Presta valves, Schrader valves are seen on many different vehicles, not just bikes. They are what you will see on cars and many and even wheelbarrows. They are very durable, easy to use, and very reliable even after many years of use.
Schrader valves are short, wide valves. They are generally covered in a rubber coating and have a small pin on the inside, which you use to release the air and also insert more. It’s a very simple design but also very effective.
How Do I Use A Presta Or Schrader Valve?
Before we go into the comparison between them, it’s important to understand how they both work. Here’s what you need to know:
To release air from a Presta valve, you need to unscrew the top, then, if you push down, the air will release. If you want to add air, all you need to do is add a pump on while the valve is unscrewed, and then insert the air with the pump and screw it up when you are done.
A Schrader valve is a little simpler. All you need to do is remove the cap if it has one. Then, to release air, you will want to push the pin in. To add air, you’ll want to just attach a pump and pump it up.
Presta Vs. Schrader Comparison
Now for the exciting exciting part, let’s start running through the comparison of Presta and Schrader valves. Here’s what you need to know:
The first thing to mention is the design. A Presta valve is long and thin with a threaded shaft and a screw top.
A Schrader valve is short and thick with a rubber-coated shaft. They look completely different, and you can tell which is which quickly.
Next, we have a function, as we have mentioned before, a Presta valve, you need to unscrew the top to release and add air. A Schrader, you can just chuck a pump straight on, and you’re good to go.
One And Two Piece
Another important thing to mention is the fact that on bikes, generally, the Presta is a two-piece valve. This means the valve is separate from the shaft where it sits and is removable. On the Schrader, you generally have a single-piece valve where everything is together.
When it comes to pressures, you will typically find that Presta valves are used when the tires or tube require very high pressures, a good example is a road bike. When it comes to lower pressures in the past, we have seen companies opt for Schrader instead.
It’s also worth mentioning its popularity. Years ago, Schrader valves were the most popular then it was pretty equal between Schrader and Presta, but in modern times, the Presta is by far the most popular valve and is completely taking over.
I have always found that Schrader valves are much more durable than Presta valves. The rubber coating and extra thickness of the Schrader valve seem to give it much more protection than the two-piece unprotected Presta system.
When it comes to different sizes, the Presta valve has many more options. Not only can you choose the size of the inner tube attached, but you also have the length of the valve, which is vital if you’re using aero wheels. Schrader, you get the inner tube size, which can be limited with rim options.
Although not many people worry about reliability regarding tubes and valves, as you typically carry a spare, but it is an important factor.
Presta valves can go wrong more, but being two-piece valves, they can be serviced. Schrader which go wrong much less, when they are broken, they need to be completely replaced.
Which Is Better, Presta Or Schrader Valves?
When it comes to which is better, there’s very little in it. Schrader valves are very durable, but Presta valves come in more sizes and are serviceable. I think there’s very little in it, but we must recommend Presta over Schrader.
The reason why Presta is going to be the way forward is because that is what companies are designing components around in modern times. If you want to be able to use modern components, you will need Presta valves for many of them.
Using a Presta Valve Adapter Video Guide
Robbie Ferri has spent years working in a bike shop, has worked with industry leading brands on product creation, has been a semi pro athlete, and is a fully qualified strength and conditioning coach. He has broken World Records, bikepacked all over the World and raced ultra distance at a top-level.