There are two main bicycle valve types, which are Presta valves and Schrader Valves. Here's a look at the difference between Presta and Schrader valves, and which are best for bike touring.
So, you thought that all types of bicycle valve stems were the same?
Think again, because there's two different bike valve types out there!
Bike Valve Types – Presta and Schrader Valves
There two main bike valve types used on bicycle inner tubes nowadays, are Presta and Schrader Valves. You can go bike touring with either bicycle valve stem types.
Most of the time, no choice or thought is involved. A bicycle will simply come with wheels that are pre-drilled for either Presta or Schrader valves.
Anyone considering building their own wheels for bicycle touring, replacing wheels, or working out the specs for a new expedition or touring bike might like to think a little more about bike valves though.
Sometimes, choices made regarding the seemingly simplest of things can make life harder or easier when out on the road.
This is definitely the case with Presta and Schrader valves.
Here, as part of my bicycle touring tips series, I outline the technical and practical aspects of the bicycle valve types, along with the pros and cons of each.
As always, I would love to hear about your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.
The Difference between Presta and Schrader Valves?
Well, it all comes down to size. Apparently, it does matter after all! Schrader valves are fatter, and Presta valves are thinner.
This means that the hole diameter in the wheels rim will also be different, and although you can use Presta valves in Schrader drilled wheels if you have to, you can't do it the other way around.
So, what is the point of having bicycle valve typeswith two different diameters? It onlyconfuses people when it comes to buying bicycle inner tubes! Is there something else that makes them different?
Theseare most commonly used on racing style road bikes with 700cc wheels. They have also carried over to 26 inch wheels used on mountain bikes and specialised touring bicycles.
The most noticeable feature of a Presta valve, is that the top section must be unscrewed before air can be put in or out.
Presta valves also come with a locking nut which holds it tight against the rim of the bicycle. It is often commented that the main reason to use this style of valve, is to allow higher pressurised inner tubes, and whilst this is true, there are other attributes.
Presta Valves – Pros
- The skinnier Presta valve needs a smaller hole in the wheels rim. This means that the rim strength will be greater than it would be if it had a larger hole for the Schrader valve. As most touring cyclists carry quite a lot of weight on their bikes, this could be quite significant in the long run. Something worth considering.
- They are available in different valve lengths, which can be quite a bonus if you are running deep rims.
- As the Presta valve is one way, the inner tube will not lose any pressure when a pump is taken off it. This is one of the reasons that it is used when high pressures are needed. Whilst this is perhaps not significant for the vast majority of bicycle tourers, there is a certain irritation factor. Pumping up a tyre, only to find that it loses a bit of pressure when you remove the pump from the valve is annoying!
- Presta valves keep their tyre pressure, as once the screw has been tightened down, air will not leak from the valve.
- They are easier to pump to higher pressure with a hand bicycle pump (allegedly!)
Presta Valves – Cons
- You need to be careful when pumping up tyres which have a Presta valve, as the valve itself can be quite fragile, and they can break.
- Whilst you can find Presta inner tubes in most western countries, they are a real rarity everywhere else. Bicycle tourers heading off into less developed countries should ensure they have adequate spares.
- They are marginally more expensive.
This style of bicycle valve is found on practically every type of car and motorcycle worldwide. Itis most used on bicycles where lower tyre pressures are required.
Known as the car type valve, it is commonly found on mountain bikes, BMX's and kids bikes. Many touring cyclists roll with this type of valve simply because it was on the bike when they bought it.
Schrader valves areconsidered to bemore sturdier and robust.
Schrader Valves – Pros
- Being the most common bicycle valve type, Schrader inner tubes can be found in virtually any part of the world.
- It is possible to inflate these tyres at a garage if for some reason a hand pump is lost when bicycle touring. When doing this, it's important to keep an eye on the pressure. Inflating via a pneumatic car pump can be a great way to wreck the inner tube, tyre, and even rim!
- Having less exposed parts than its Presta counterpart is one of the reasons Schrader valves are considered to be sturdier.
Schrader Valve – Cons
- This type of valve requires that a larger hole is drilled into the rim. This might reduce a wheel rims overall strength over time, especially on the cheaper ones.
- Whenever attaching or removing a pump, the inner tube will lose a small amount of air due to the nature of the valve. On a fully laden touring bicycle, this can mean that the tyres never get quite hard enough for road cycling. This may lead to considerable to energy loss throughout the day.
- Inner tubes which have Schrader valves will leak air through them over time. The reason for this, is that if a cyclist rides across bumpy road, the valve will open up ever so slightly when it is at the top of the wheel rotation. Over a day on rough road, this can lead to a cyclist thinking that they have a flat. Even if they don't, they will need to pump the tyre up all the same.
- Although this type of inner tube might be readily available throughout the world, there is a minor problem. Its mass produced nature can lead to lower quality levels, requiring more frequent replacements.
Which type of inner tube did I Choose to Use?
Choosing betweenPresta and Schrader bicycle valve types, I picked Presta valves for the inner tubes for my next bicycle tour around the world.
The main reason for this, came down to keeping the strength of the wheels rim with the smaller diameter hole. The longervalve stems alsomake inflating them easier.
Bicycle Valve Stem Types
From experience, I know that the one main drawback to choosing Presta, is that sourcing new inner tubes may be nigh on impossible in certain parts of the world.
Now, that said, it is extremely difficult to get any parts of a high quality in some parts of the world anyway. With that in mind, I may have to arrange several parcels of parts to be sent out to me when needed.
Including a few inner tubes in the parcel is neither here nor there, and I always have a lot of patches to fix punctures during the mean time!
FAQ About The Types of Bicycle Valves
Some of the most commonly asked questions about the different types of valve stems for bicycles are:
How do you pump up a Presta valve?
The first step, is to unscrew the locknut on the Presta stem. Once this is done, you will then attach the pump as normal and pump in the air.
What are the different types of bicycle valves?
The two major types of bike valves are Presta and Schrader. There is a third, less commonly found type called a Woods valve which can be found on Dutch bikes.
What is the difference between Schrader and Presta valves?
The Schrader valve is thicker than the Presta one. The Presta one comes with its own locknut, which must be unscrewed before pumping air into the tires.
More Bike Touring Resources
You might also want to check out these other bike touring tips and guides:
- How much does it cost to travel around the world on a bicycle
- Best saddles for bike touring
- How to change the oil in a Rohloff speedhub
- Multi purpose cycling shoes
- Best Bike Handlebar Bag For Touring
- Brooks B17 Saddle Review
- Endura Hummvee Shorts for Bike Touring
Which type of bike valve do you think is most suitable for bicycle touring? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!
– Dave Briggs
Dave wrote this guide to the different bike valves after years spent cycling all around the world.
Check out two of his long distance bike tours here: Cycling from England to South Africa and Cycling from Alaska to Argentina.
Follow Dave on social media for travel, adventure and bike touring inspiration:
1. Schrader valves use a spring-loaded check valve. Unlike Presta valves, Schrader valves use a spring-loaded valve core, called a check valve. Presta valves aren't spring-loaded and instead use a valve core nut that holds the central pin in place.How can you tell the difference between a Schrader valve and a Presta valve? ›
The Difference Between Presta and Schrader Valves - YouTubeWhich valve is better Presta or Schrader? ›
Presta vs Schrader: Which is the superior valve? Because Presta valves were designed specifically for use on bicycles, they are the best. Presta valves are also more narrow, so they require a smaller hole in the rim, with less interruption to the structural integrity of the rim than Schrader valves.Why are Presta valves better? ›
So to sum up, the advantages of Presta valves are that they allow a higher air pressure, require a smaller hole in the rim and can be purchased in various lengths to suit the profile of your rims. It's very unusual to see Schrader valves used on road bike tubes and wheels.How do I know what type of valve is on my bike? ›
There are two basic types of valves that you'll find on bikes: Presta and Schrader. For the most part, inner tubes and tubulars on road bikes will use Presta valves, and mountain bikes will use Schrader valves.
Are Presta and Schrader valves interchangeable? Schrader valves typically won't work on rims that are made for Presta valves, because they're too wide. You can use a Presta valve on rim that's made for a Schrader valve, but it's not advisable. It will work in a pinch, but not good for an extended ride.What does a Schrader valve look like? ›
Presta vs schrader valves - YouTubeWhy are Presta valves so difficult? ›
because the tube valve 'self locks', i.e. only opens under pressure from the pump line, when you stop pumping, it locks. this means the pressure in the pump (which is what is being indicated on the dial) is not the pressure in the tube. sometimes though, it seems to stay open and i get a good (accurate) reading.Which bike valve is best? ›
Presta valves also perform better over time compared to Schrader valves, in that they hold air more effectively and don't degrade as quickly. They can also hold higher pressures, which makes them a must for track cycling where tyre pressures typically exceed 120psi.Do Presta valves hold air better? ›
The main reasons for Presta valve superiority are: Presta valves hold air better – so they say. More tube varieties with Presta valves. The narrow design allows for a smaller rim hole.
To inflate a Presta valve, remove the dust cap, unscrew the brass cap, slide a pump onto the valve as far as it will go and flip up the lever on the pump to secure it in place. Pump away until your tire is inflated. Then, remove the pump, screw the brass cap back into place and replace the black dust cap.Can I switch from Schrader to Presta? ›
You can switch from Schrader valves to Presta valves by switching to Presta valve tubes. Nothing else is required. Bikes supplied with Schrader valve tubes have larger holes drilled in their rims. Presta valves are thinner so they will fit in the hole drilled for Schrader valves.How do I know if my bike is Schrader or Presta? ›
A Presta-only pump has a rubber gasket in the head, or chuck, that will fit snugly around a Presta valve but not a Schrader. A Schrader-only pump has a pin in the center of the chuck to depress the Schrader stem's check valve.What are the 2 types of bike valves? ›
Tubeless valves come in two types: Schrader and Presta. Found on all motor vehicles as well as bikes with wider tyres, the Schrader valve is user-friendly.What are the two types of bicycle tube valves? ›
Schrader, Presta and Dunlop valve cores all work in different ways. Schrader valves are spring operated and allow air to flow freely into or out of the tire/system when the central core pin is depressed. Presta valve cores use a similar central core pin, although it's not spring-loaded.Do Presta valves need a special pump? ›
Presta valves are a lot narrower and are commonly found on higher end bikes with narrow rims. They are a little trickier to inflate as they use a manual locknut to open the valve for inflation. To inflate a Presta valve you'll need a regular air pump and a special adapter.How do you pump up a tire with a Presta valve? ›
To inflate a Presta valve, remove the dust cap, unscrew the brass cap, slide a pump onto the valve as far as it will go and flip up the lever on the pump to secure it in place. Pump away until your tire is inflated. Then, remove the pump, screw the brass cap back into place and replace the black dust cap.What valve do mountain bikes have? ›
What are the two valve types? There are two universally used options: Presta or Schrader. You might not use valves often, but they are working all of the time to keep the air inside your tires. Presta valves are most commonly found on mountain bikes.