Presta vs Schrader Valves for Bicycle Tires

Presta vs Schrader Valves for Bicycles

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Presta vs Schrader valves – which one is better? What decides when one type should be used instead of the other? Can I switch from using Schrader to Presta valves or vice versa? Find out more about these two valve types.

Schrader Valves

Schrader Valve

Schrader valves are the larger of the two bicycle tire valve types. The nominal diameter of the stem is 8 mm (0.31 in). They are identical to the valves on car tires. You can inflate a bike tire with Schrader valves with the same pump used to inflate car tires. Be careful inflating these tires with compressed air at the neighborhood gas station. The tires will fill very quickly, causing a blowout.

What Bikes Use Schrader Valves?

  • Mountain bikes
  • Beach cruisers
  • BMX bikes
  • Kid’s bikes
  • Just about any bike you buy in a department store

Presta Valves

Presta Valve

Presta valves are smaller in diameter. The nominal diameter of the stem is 6 mm (0.24 in). They have a locknut that you must loosen to inflate the tire and tighten again after inflating (see photo and inset).

What Bikes use Presta Valves

  • Road bikes use Presta valves because they can handle higher inflation pressures.
  • Sew-up tires used on racing bikes use Presta valves.
  • The only valve type found on deep dish road bike rims are Presta valves, which come in a variety of stem lengths.

You can’t use a pump designed for filling Schrader valve tubes without using an adapter.

Presta and Schrader Valves can be Found on All Bike Types

The above information about Presta vs Schrader valves is generally accurate but there are many exceptions to the rule. You’ll frequently find Presta valves on Mountain bikes today. Road bikes in the USA used mainly Schrader valves in the past. There are many other exceptions that exist as well. Which valve type goes on what bike isn’t cut and dried.

Adapting Rims for Presta and Schrader Valves

Rubber grommet installed to convert rim drilled for Schrader valves to Presta.

To adapt Schrader valve rims to Presta valves, you’ll need to use rubber grommets made specifically for that purpose. You may be wondering why anyone would want to adapt a Schrader rim for Presta valves. I recently had to do this on my road bike after a crash that bent the front rim beyond repair. The replacement rim was drilled for a Schrader valve stem. I installed a rubber grommet to adapt the new front rim for Presta valve stems.

If you want to use Schrader valves on a rim originally drilled for Presta valves, you’ll need to drill the valve stem hole to the larger Schrader valve size. Drill the valve stem hole with a 5/16″ or 8mm drill bit. Be sure to de-burr the hole after drilling with a small fine cut file or a rotary tool like a Dremel moto tool. Danger – drilling your rim can weaken or damage it substantially.

Avoid Mixing Presta and Schrader Valves

Avoid mixing bicycle tire valve types on the same bike. You’ll want one or the other to make flat tire repairs easier. If you have one Presta valve tire and one Schrader valve tire on your bike and have a flat, you only have a 50/50 chance of having the right tube with you for replacement.

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About Greg Dickerson

I got my first 10-speed bike at the age of 14 and have been addicted to cycling ever since. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I've ridden the Seattle to Portland (STP) and Providence Bridge Pedal rides several times.  Due to having a traveling job, I've had the opportunity to ride in several states when away from home as well.

View all posts by Greg Dickerson →

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