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It is standard for road bikes to adopt Presta, whereas nearly all else use Schrader.

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I personally think Schrader are better:

  • I've had fewer Schrader valves break on me than Presta
  • No problems if needing to use car pumps
  • Have also seen long Schrader valves for deep rims
  • Less fiddly
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  • 4
    related although not duplicate? bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/59/…
    – jakc
    Feb 19, 2012 at 6:55
  • 2
    interesting. I have had more schrader issues and breakage than i have with prestas. Personally i love prestas, and use them even in schrader drilled wheels.
    – Matt Adams
    Feb 19, 2012 at 22:39
  • 1
    I'm curious as to what problems Matt and Brian have had. I've never really had problems with any valve. Feb 22, 2012 at 13:01
  • 3
    Is there a question? What is the question?
    – kmkaplan
    Dec 5, 2012 at 23:10
  • 1
    This question should be reopened and protected, as it contains some valuable discussion (that does not need to be repeated elsewhere). Jul 18, 2014 at 12:04

10 Answers 10

49

The main thing is that the Presta valve is thinner, and takes less of a bite out of the rim. This is quite important as the rims get narrower.

Further, the Presta works better with hand pumps in that there's no spring that the pump needs to overcome to get air into the tire. Also, the Presta always has the fully-threaded body (which is possible with Schrader, but rare), so a nut can be used to hold the valve in place -- again, quite important with hand pumps.

Never had a bike valve stem break on me, that I can recall.

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  • 20
    This. Presta valves are purpose-designed for bicycles. Feb 20, 2012 at 2:24
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    Not all presta valves have a fully-threaded body. Most do, but I've picked up lots of long stem presta tubes at kraynick's bike shop with threading only on the top 1cm or so.
    – Benzo
    Apr 20, 2012 at 19:36
  • 4
    You can get presta's that are NOT threaded, those of us with push on pump heads appreciate that. The threads and that little nut that screws down on the rim are not really necessary.
    – Angelo
    May 10, 2012 at 14:37
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    The threads and nut prevent you from pushing in the valve when you push on the pump head. Makes things much easier (and helps prevent tube damage) when inflating a totally flat tire. May 11, 2012 at 11:05
  • 2
    Presta valves work much better in the cold as well. I've seen Schrader valves stick open when not intended and lose all the air in a tire. Prestas you can actually pull the pin back out with your fingers. When it comes to airing down in cold weather, prestas are also superior in that respect and require less fiddling. Apr 2, 2015 at 16:40
31

This primarily comes up as the pressures in the tires get higher.

With lower pressure wider tires, Schrader makes the most sense, if only because you can hit a gas station for some air pressure.

Presta makes more sense on higher pressure tires, since it allows you to pump in higher levels with a floor pump. Per the comments let me try and clarify. When you use a Schrader stem the valve is depressed by a thingy in the pump head the whole time. With a mechanical constant pressure pump (like at a gas station) this is fine.

But with a floor pump where there is a pause between pumps, Presta works better because each time you release pressure, the valve head closes. Then as you build pressure in the pump, when it exceeds the tires current pressure it forces the value to open, allows air in, and repeat. Thus you can pump to higher pressures with it. (Or at least with poorer quality pumps.

But if it bothers you, get the little one dollar adapters, and you can use a car pump with no issue.

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    How does a Schrader limit tire pressure? Semi-trucks run 100PSI plus on Schrader valves.
    – DQdlM
    Feb 19, 2012 at 21:55
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    Maybe limit pressure is the wrong word? Make it easier to pump in higher pressure would be more correct. In Presta, the valve stem is pushed in the whole time, so the pump chamber has to maintain pressure or lose it. In Schrader, each pump builds pressure till it pushes the stem in, then air flows.
    – geoffc
    Feb 20, 2012 at 13:12
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    I believe he's saying that Schrader valves are harder to get to high pressures with mechanical pumping, which is periodic, as opposed to having a continuous stream of air provided by a compressor. Feb 20, 2012 at 19:09
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    @Jahaziel, how do you know that the center bit is being pushed down all the time? I suppose one way to check would be to inflate the tire and then leave the pump connected. If after a few minutes the tire loses pressure, then the center bit is being pressed down by the pump head. I believe that the old Silca pump heads do not push down the center bit.
    – Angelo
    May 10, 2012 at 14:30
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    +1 for mentioning the $1 adapter. With presta + the adaptor, you never have to worry about being stuck with a pump that won't work on your valves.
    – Angelo
    May 10, 2012 at 14:34
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Schrader valves are more robust, this is the reason why you see them universally in use for vehicle tires. With Presta, you have to be more careful when putting in or taking off the pump nozzle or you might bend or even break either the rotating (locking) tip of the valve. You could also go to literally any gas station to pump air to your tires if you are using a Shrader valve.

Presta's advantage is that it is thinner and the rim has a smaller valve hole in which case it makes the rim stronger. This can be a factor especially in thin bicycle rims. Another advantage of Presta valves is they can be made longer, a lot longer in fact than Shrader valves. This is especially important when you have deep aero type rims.

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    I doubt there is a limit to the length of Schrader valves. After all, truck tires valves (perhaps with extensions) have to go a long way to be accessible. Maybe they just are not made longer in bike tubes for whatever reason.
    – PositiveK
    Sep 21, 2013 at 4:53
  • It's more that the rims where length is important tend to be skinny and lightweight, making the difference between a 10mm Schrader hole and an 8mm Presta one more important. Plus the extra weight and air resistance of the bigger value count more when you're paying a lot of money to shave grams and trim CdA
    – Móż
    Feb 23, 2016 at 1:18
6

I've also had fewer issues with crap clogging the valve with presta valves; as long as you remember to spin the valve closed you don't need a valve stem cap. This is particularly important if you're riding in mud or dirt. I run presta on both my road and mountain bikes for this reason.

5

To add onto the existing answers, there’s actually several good reasons to switch back to Schrader nowadays!

  • Modern wide rims no longer need the additional strength from a smaller valve hole. Carbon rims can also easily be built stronger specifically around the valve hole, perhaps with a small counterweight on the other side of the rim to balance the additional weight.

  • Schrader is better for tubeless setups. The additional valve width means more air can be flowed, making tubeless easier to set up. There would be no need to remove the valve core to do a dry setup anymore, and it would also lead to fewer sealant clogs.

  • Even though Schrader is perfectly capable of handling extremely high pressures, there’s always been a fear of “Schrader isn’t strong enough!” Modern wide tires and lower pressures mean this is even less of an issue.

  • It would remove a “barrier to entry” for cycling. There would be no need to get a special bike-specific pump. This is also good for emergency situations: you can get air from a gas station or a motorist carrying a portable pump.

  • You can always use an adaptor to use Presta valves in a Schrader valve hole. You can’t go the other way around.

4
  • One caveat of the service station / petrol station / gas station pump is that for liability reasons, many are limited to 60 PSI. I've heard of some sites that are set to no-higher than 32 PSI.
    – Criggie
    Oct 11, 2020 at 7:52
  • On the other hand, 32 PSI is often enough, especially for normal tourists who rarely use anything else than MTBs and hybrids. And tubeless benefits sound like valid ones. Oct 11, 2020 at 12:12
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    @Criggie 60psi will easily get you home on anything wider than 28mm tires, and 32 is probably still better than 0, especially if you’re fortunate enough to be on gravel tires or something. 32psi is also plenty for MTBs as Vladimir mentioned.
    – MaplePanda
    Oct 11, 2020 at 17:44
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    To corroborate the bit about width, consider that in the early 2000s, we were on rims with probably a 14-15mm internal width, and I think MTBs were around 19mm. The 2021 Zipp 303 NSW, a road wheel, has an internal width of 25mm. Roadies from the early 2000s would probably react with either disbelief or scorn if shown a current Zipp 303.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Dec 11, 2021 at 18:50
5

I have used both presta and shrader valves, like neither. I go for Blitz/Dunlop. Easier to use than both others.

Maybe it is just a case of what you are used to, but I think the Dunlop least fussy, easiest to use and least likely to fail.

three different kind of valves with their names

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  • 2
    Dunlop valves used to come with rubber tube but the newer version has a sturdy bit of rubber build into the valve and those hardly ever fail.
    – Willeke
    Apr 3, 2015 at 14:23
  • 2
    Also the Dunlop lets you easily replace the valve itself without having to replace the entire tube.
    – Thomas
    Aug 8, 2021 at 9:30
  • Dunlop works well for low pressures (up to about 3 bar, I'd say), but becomes a total nuisance at higher pressures (like 6 bar): The high pressure will press the sealing ball with such force into the sealing ring that it will seize. The next time you try to top off your tire, you'll need to produce a very highe pressure to unseat the ball. I frequently failed to pump a tire that retained about 3 bar because I was not able to produce that pressure. Only way out is to unscrew the valve to completely deflate the tire before applying pressure. You may need about 5 bar simply to free the ball. Dec 12, 2021 at 8:17
  • Only time I had a stuck ball was on an out of use cycle that had not been pumped in a few years. I keep my current tyres at 5 to 6 bar, I keep check. Now running two dunlop and one schrader.
    – Willeke
    Dec 12, 2021 at 8:56
2

I consider the fully threaded stem and knurled nut a large plus for Presta valves, because it allows you to push a pump onto the valve stem without pushing the valve stem into the rim (as often happens when attempting to inflate a Shrader valve tube, especially at lower pressure).

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    That is not really a specific feature of Presta valves. Some Presta valves are threaded, some aren't. Some Schräder valves are threaded, some are not. Check the picture in the answer of Willeke bicycles.stackexchange.com/a/29819/21133 for a fully threaded Schräder valve. Oct 8, 2020 at 16:20
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    @VladimirF - Probably 95% of Presta valves are threaded. Probably 98% of Schrader valves aren't. Oct 8, 2020 at 16:27
  • 1
    @DanielRHicks I buy Schwalbes. Pretty sute ther AVs are threaded. That only might make nore than your 2%. Some Decathlon tubes are non threaded (inc. Presta) and those are also pretty common. Oct 8, 2020 at 20:44
  • @DanielRHicks I've never seen a Schrader tube without a fully threaded stem, complete with a slim ring nut to lock the valve in place. Of course, my LBS is rather sane with the products they stock... Dec 12, 2021 at 8:24
  • @cmaster-reinstatemonica - I think you meant to say "Presta". Dec 12, 2021 at 13:59
1

Your rim will be drilled for one of the two. Usually a schrader. A presta (which is thinner) will allows fit in a schrader sized whole, but give more freedom for the valve to move around, often causing a valve wall tear and leading lots of people to think "wow what a useless valve". A typical case of human error. This can easily be countered with a schrader to presta valve converter, a cheap little bit of plastic cushioning which usually costs pennies. Prestas are far more performant in terms of the amount of pressure they can hold, and the rate they can take air in.

Schraders are widely used not just because "they're the best" but because they've become a standard which is hard to break away from.

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    Schraders are used because they are well-suited to auto tires, motorcycle tires, et al. (Though, interestingly, not that well suited to drag racer tires.) For the bikes where Schrader valved comfortably fit it make sense to use them, since gas station hoses can be used to fill them. But for narrower tires Schraders simply aren't a good fit. Dec 6, 2012 at 0:39
  • Schrader valves also have the problem that they require force be applied into the valve to activate the spring. This can push the valve stem down into a deflated tire meaning proper pump attachment can be difficult. Presta fixes this by not requiring force be applied directly to the spring and by having a nut to keep the valve from moving into the tire.
    – gps
    Jul 21, 2014 at 1:21
1

In addition to what others have said, many gas station air compressors won't push the tire pressure past 80 psi. This is fine for cars where the tires are usually inflated to about half that, but no good for a road bike where you probably want 100+ psi. This means that you're stuck using a floor pump, a frame pump, or a Co2 pump alll the time. And as others have mentioned, Prestas just work better with hand pumps. And if you're filling your tires to 100+ psi all the time, you might as well have a valve that works easily with the pump that you'll be using.

2
  • 80 psi at a servo? Not round here! They either have digital pumps that stop at 60 PSI, or the hand ones that are backed by a compressor in the workshop. Many of those stop at around 40 PSI because who needs more for a car ?
    – Criggie
    Feb 22, 2016 at 11:09
  • And then there are other stations that use a high pre-pressure and an automated process that's designed for the volumes of car tires. You may easily explode wide tires with such a station. Dec 12, 2021 at 8:29
0

I personally think Presta are better:

  • I've had no fewer Schrader valves break on me than Presta: I have broken zero Schrader valves and zero Presta valves
  • No problems if needing to use a simple pump design that does not have mechanism for pushing the return spring. In contrast, such a pump used with Schrader would need additional air pressure to push against the return spring, making the pumping effort harder.
  • Have seen so many long Presta valves for deep rims that the amount of long Schrader valves for deep rims is nowhere near comparable
  • Less difficult to deflate a tyre

Seriously, the reason Presta valves are used is that in a high performance narrow road rim, the Schrader valve hole, being large, is the weak point of the rim. It limits the spoke tension you can apply to the rim. This in turn limits the strength of a built wheel, meaning that even a typical 36 spoke wheel might not be enough to support the weight of a heavyweight rider. If you add more spokes, the problem is not solved, as their tensions add together to compress the rim tangentially. In contrast, a Presta valve hole is not much larger than a spoke hole, allowing you to reach a huge spoke tension in a manner the rim can withstand.

Yes, Presta is weaker if you pump it incorrectly. With Schrader, you can get away with pumping against the valve. With Presta, if pumping with a pump that doesn't have a hose, you have to support the pumping force with your other hand to avoid damaging the valve. This is easy once learned.

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    This question already has plenty of correct answers, so I just had to see how you manage to involve 36 spokes. Wasn't dissatisfied.
    – ojs
    Oct 11, 2020 at 12:11

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