Presta vs. Schrader, an issue that has tormented cyclists for a long time. Which valve to choose? Are there substantial differences between the two models? Does it really matter which is in your air chamber? This guide aims to answer all these questions, helping you decide between Presta and Schrader.
Understanding Inner Tubes
The wheels are an essential component of the bike. From a functional point of view, your two-wheeled vehicle is not going to go anywhere without them. And one of the most important components of a wheel is the inner tube.
The inner tube is that internal component under the tire that, when inflated, allows the tire to keep its position on the rim, protecting the metallic parts.
The joy and pain of every cyclist, the inner tube is a modern invention. The first models of wheels didn’t have inner tubes. In fact, they didn’t even have tires and only consisted of a rough circle made of wood. The wooden wheels were initially covered with fitted rubber tires which didn’t need any pressure to stay on the rim.
With the development of the wheels and the introduction of metal rims, manufacturers needed to find a better solution. The invention of the inner tube is attributed to Dunlop who decided to improve the functioning of the wheels of his son’s tricycle.
The first inner tube was made of thin sheets of rubber hold by special circles. The smoothness and lightness obtained with this process were incomparable, and Dunlop wheels became famous all over the world.
The modern inner tubes are made of butyl, a type of synthetic rubber that has an elastic body and an increased strength. The tubes are inflated through valves which are incorporated into the tube during the fabrication process. And it’s the valves we’re going to talk about in this article.
As a bottom line as far as the inner tubes are concerned, they are divided into standard, super-lightweight and reinforced. The former type is the most common because of its thickness and it is used on a myriad of bikes.
Presta Vs. Schrader Valves
With a few exceptions, all bike wheels are equipped with an inner tube. Made up of a very elastic material, the inner tube is inflated with pressurized air, to inflate the tire and keep the bike running smoothly. The most common materials used to make modern inner tubes are natural rubber, butyl, and latex.
Inflation is possible thanks to the valves present on the tube. There are several types of valves used, but most manufacturers equip their inner tubes either with a Presta or with a Schrader valve. There are essential differences between the types and most cyclists are wondering which is the best. Before giving a verdict, let’s find out more about each type.
Presta has French origins and, for this reason, Presta valves are often called French valves. This is the most common type used on bike inner tubes, it has a small diameter and consists of a series of inner parts which are impossible to remove.
Presta valves boast a great characteristic. Namely, they don’t need a cap whatsoever because they are equipped with a nut designed to hold the valve closed when pressurized air is not going in. It’s easy to imagine that inflation is facilitated by this feature. Inflation pressure is sufficient to overcome the closing force of the valve and, thanks to the absence of a spring, Presta valves also have a long lifespan.
Presta valves are used on almost all types of bikes and, thanks to their slim profile and small diameter, they are the choice for the bicycles with high-profile rims.
Schrader valves, also known as American valves, were not specifically developed for bikes, are designed to allow the passage of different types of gases, and are often used on cars and other motorized vehicles. The main characteristic of these valves is the construction of the body.
In fact, Schrader valves consist of a shutter that is connected to a pin assisted by a spring in a threaded brass body. These valves have a central core that can be removed with special tools and they are equipped with a spring that allows inflation.
Because of the construction of these valves, they have to be inflated with pumps that are equipped with a pin that forces the opening of the spring that normally keeps the valve closed. This because the simple inflation pressure is not sufficient to overcome the thrust force of the spring.
The cap is also indispensable to prevent dirt from entering the body of the valve and obdurate the inner tube. These valves also have a larger diameter that Presta.
Presta Vs. Schrader: Which Is Better?
A daunting question many ask. In reality, there isn’t a best. Both valves have advantages and drawbacks. Presta is more likely to lose pressure, especially while inflating and when the pump is removed during the inflation phase. Schrader maintains a better internal pressure but is more difficult to inflate, since you’ll have to overcome the force of the spring.
Nevertheless, both valves have high technological standards and guarantee an optimal durability and air-tightness once the inner tube is inflated.
One thing to consider is that Schrader valves make the rim weaker because of their larger diameter. However, once the inner tube is inflated, this type of valve almost never loses pressure.
As a bottom line, we must say that choosing one type of valve over the other is a matter of preference. A thing to remember, however, is that the valves are not interchangeable. Presta has a diameter of 6mm and is too thin to use on rims manufactured for Schrader valves. On the contrary, an 8.5mm Schrader valve will never fit on a rim designed for Presta.
The type of valve will also determine the type of air pump you need. Other than this, in the battle Presta Vs. Schrader, just choose whatever type of valve you like best!