Updated March 18th, 2023
There are 2 air valves you can find on bike wheels these days. This leads us to the Presta valve versus Schrader valve debate. Which tire valve is better for biking? If you bought an expensive bike in the last few decades it almost certainly came with Presta valves. If you bought an inexpensive bike it has Schrader valves.
Should you put Presta valve tubes onto your bike if it didn’t come with them? You have a bike with Presta valves and hate them. Can you replace them with Schrader valve tubes? Let’s explore which is better in the battle of Presta valve versus Schrader valve.
Presta valve versus Schrader valve. Which is better?
The Presta valve
The Presta valve became popular on bikes because it is smaller diameter. It needs a smaller hole drilled into the rim. Bike rims can be made thinner and lighter with Presta valves than Schrader valves. Presta valves became common on every more expensive bike. It is rare to see Schrader valves on any bike (road or mountain) over about $600.
Presta valves have an extra step to inflate and deflate. You must unscrew the top of the valve first and tighten after you are done. You don’t need a tool or anything to push the pin to deflate them. Just push the top of the valve after unscrewing it. An adapter is required to use a pump meant for Schrader valves.
Advantages of Presta Valves
- Smaller diameter
- They hold air with the top broken off
- The core is easily removable
- You can inject tire sealant through the valve
Disadvantages of Presta Valves
- You need a special pump or adapter to inflate
- The valve base is metal and can bend and break
- You have to unscrew the valve top to inflate and deflate
- The valve core can come unthreaded and fall out if not tightened enough
The Schrader valve
The Schrader valve is the generic air valve seen on every car wheel in existance and many bikes wheels. It works. You can find it on most bicycle shock absorber air springs. Everyone is familiar with Schrader valves whether they knew the name of them or not. The valve is spring loaded and you push the pin in the center to let the air out.
Advantages of Schrader Valves
- They are more common
- Any tire pump will work
- The core is replaceable
- The stem is flexible and won’t break
Disadvantages of Schrader Valves
- Larger diameter requiring a bigger hole in the wheel
- A broken valve won’t hold air
- Slightly heavier than Presta valves
- Lower max air pressure than Presta valves
How can you tell the difference between a Schrader valve and a Presta valve?
The Schrader valve is the same valve as car tires. It is a rubber tube with a spring loaded pin in the center. The Presta valve is thinner than a Schrader Valve. It has a metal threaded stem. It has a small knob top that has to be unscrewed to open the valve for inflation and deflation. The below video shows the difference between the 2 valves.
How do you convert a Schrader valve to a Presta valve?
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. Over time, the Presta valve will move and rub against the larger hole and can become damaged. If your wheels are set up for Schrader valves there isn’t really a great reason to remove them.
Can I replace Presta with Schrader?
Schrader valves are larger diameter than Presta valves. They will not fit in the holes drilled for Presta valves. You can drill a larger hole in your bike wheel to fit a Schrader valve. This is not recommended since it will make your bike wheel weaker. You are better off sticking with Schrader valve tubes unless you want to get better wheels for your bike. If you are interested in learning about getting better wheels for your bike see my article on getting custom bike wheels made.
You can leave a Presta valve inflator adapter screwed onto your Presta valves all the time. They will act like Schrader valves then. To inflate you just have to hook up a Schrader valve pump and go.
How do you inflate a bike tire with a Presta Valve
The basics. You have to unscrew the little knob at the top of a Presta valve to inflate or deflate the tire. After it’s unscrewed you can deflate the tire pushing in the knob.
To inflate a Presta valve you put a pump designed for Presta valves onto the top of the valve, lock the pump on and pump. When you are done pull the pump off and tighten the knob at the top of the valve.
If you don’t have a Presta valve pump, don’t worry. You can get an adapter that screws onto the Presta valve that lets you inflate it with any Schrader valve pump. Unscrew the knob at the top of the Presta valve and screw the adapter on. Pump it up like you would any wheel with a Schrader valve.
If you have a bike wheel with Presta valves I highly recommend you get a bike pump that can work with Presta valves. It saves you putting the adapter on every time. If you set your bike up with tubeless tires, you need to top off the air every ride. This makes life so much easier if you have a pump that works with Presta valves.
You should always carry adapters with you just in case. Gas station pumps can inflate your bike tires only if you have Schrader valves or Presta adapters.
Bike Bits Brass Presta Valve Adapter
- CONVENIENCE: bicycle tire can be inflated using standard Schrader pump and car air compressor
- BE PREPARED: adapter can be left on the tire stem so it is always available to inflate your tires
- USE GAS STATION PUMP: conveniently inflate your bike tires and check air pressure at the gas station
- EASY TO INSTALL: screw on the Presta stem of your road fixie hybrid MTB 29er trail Fat bike
Do Presta valves need caps?
No. The little plastic cap does nothing at all. Most people remove them and dispose of them properly before they fall off and pollute the trail or road somewhere.
Can you put slime in a Presta And Schrader valves?
You can put slime or tire sealant into your tube or wheel through both Presta and Schrader valves. Use a valve removal tool to take the core out of the Presta valve and squeeze sealant in. For a Schrader valve you do the same thing. You remove the valve core, add sealant, and replace the valve core. After adding sealant you can reinflate your tire.
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Co-Founder & Biking Editor
I have been riding bikes and messing with them my entire life. I have always loved the thrill of riding whether it’s down the street or in the woods on a trail. I have a Master’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering and Reliability and am a complete gear nerd. I have 20+ years of product development engineering experience and a lot more years of biking. I currently reside in Michigan but grew up in Pennsylvania.