When it comes to bicycle tube valves, Schrader and Presta valves are the two main options on the market today for road bikes. For beginner cyclists, understanding the difference between the two can be confusing.

What is a Schrader bike valve?


A Schrader bike valve.

Named for August Schrader, who founded the company in 1844, Schrader valves are also called “American valves.” They are the most common valves used on most motor vehicles today, universally used on car tires, motorcycles, children’s bikes and mountain bikes.  Schrader valves contain a spring inside the valve that keeps it closed unless the pin is pushed to open the valve. These valves are compatible with most everyday air pumps, and do not require any sort of adapter to fill them up at gas stations. Thus, they are easily refilled with air. Schrader valves seal decently well at high pressures, but they require thicker tubes and tires. Their valve stems are bigger than Presta valve stems (8mm) and are said to be tougher/more durable than Presta valves. Because they are more commonly used, tubes with Schrader valves can be found at more stores and they are easier to refill with air if you experience a flat because they are so readily available.

What is a Presta bike valve?

Presta valves, or “French valves,” are more commonly found in road bikes. Most high-end bikes carry presta valves because they allow for more customized tire sizes. Because they are smaller than Schrader valves, Presta valves (6 mm) are adaptable to smaller tubes and are better for higher-pressurized tires than Schrader valves. Tubes with Presta valves are easier to pump up because they do not have the spring and pin to overcome like in the Schrader valve.

Which one is better?


A Presta bike valve.

As previously mentioned, there are advantages and disadvantages to both valve types. The most glaring difference is how common Schrader valves are in comparison the Prestas, which allows for easier and cheaper Schrader repair and maintenance. But because most road bicycles use Presta valves, you will certainly use them if you purchase a high-end road bike. As such, please see the tips below concerning Presta valves that are offered by an experienced cyclist:

Presta Valve Tips

The Over Forty Cyclist, a website run by bike enthusiast Peter Crump, offers more information on whether to go with the Presta or Schrader valves. The website also offers some very helpful tips for those who choose the Presta valve (any serious cyclist):

  1. Buy a floor pump. Because it is so difficult to reach the required pressure, hand pumps can make the effort a lot harder than it needs to be. While this is good advice for both Schrader and Presta valve tires, you will most likely need an adapter for your Presta valve.
  2. Be careful while inflating a Presta valve tube because they break easier than Schraders do.
  3. You can throw away the plastic cap and the lock nut that comes with the Presta valve tires – you won’t need them. But be sure to keep the cap on the Schrader valve, otherwise you run the risk of clogging the valve if you leave it off.
  4. Measure before you buy! With Presta valves, the size matters! Measure the correct lengths required for your bike before you buy a Presta valve tube.

Photos obtained from Wikimedia