Presta, Schrader – What Does It Matter?

The other day, my wife and I took an easy ride in the neighborhood. The ride was uneventful, until we approached a stoplighted intersection for a left turn. I looked behind me, and she wasn’t there! That was odd, since the last time I saw her, she was less than 100 yards behind.

I turned around and doubled back. There she was, at the curb under a large shade tree.

“I got a flat tire,” she said.

I immediately broke one of my tire levers trying to pry her 28 mm tire off its rim. The tube came out easily, but when I grabbed its replacement, I saw a problem. Her tubes have Schrader valves. My pump can only do presta valves.

She rummaged around in her seat bag, and came up with four CO2 cartridges and an inflator. Two of the cartridges were used. Why they were still in there, I don’t know. One emptied from the inevitable misfire. Luckily, the final cartridge filled the tire just the way it’s supposed to.

That night, I turned the kitchen table into Bike Tire Central. I had just taken advantage of a sale at Performance, and had stocked up on tubes. I found one, and took it from its box.

Yes, I made sure to leave it spic and span when I was done.

Oh, crap. It had a presta valve. So did the other replacement tube. But the valve holes in Pat’s wheels are large,  to accommodate Schrader valves. I put one of the presta tubes on, and found it wasn’t going to work.

The rim hole for the Schrader valve is large enough that the presta valve lock ring sinks into it.

I must be something of a packrat, because I seldom throw out anything related to biking. Out in the garage, I found two old tubes with Schrader valves that fit her rims. Both needed patching, but I also had three patch kits lying around.

The tire is okay for the time being, and there’s a replacement tube in her seat bag with the correct valve. She rode 28 miles Sunday morning, and didn’t get a flat. But I can see that Bike Tire Central will be busy again soon, when I get new replacement tires for her and mount them — along with Schrader valve tubes — on her bike.


  1. says

    > I put one of the presta tubes on, and found it
    > wasn’t going to work.

    I would work, it would just be a bit loose. You don’t need the lock ring, and being metal even if it did move around it’s not going to get worn down by the rim.

    And if you did want to use the lockring, just leave it as is for now, and stop by Home Depot on the ride home and get a washer to put in there between the lockring and rim.

    • says

      “…it would just be a bit loose.” Problem there, is that it’s on my wife’s bike. She doesn’t know anything about bike maintenance, but if anything is a little bit off, I hear about it.

  2. says

    This is why, on the bike with Schrader valves, I keep a pair of spacers that let you fit a presta tube on a schrader rim without any wiggling. I keep the adapter for pumping a presta tube with a schrader pump in all trunk bags. And, one of these days, I’ll get the adapter for pumping a schrader tube with a presta pump that I saw.

    I also keep an extra set of the presta washer thingies and an extra set of the screw-on tip thingies.

  3. says

    I’ve often wondered about the purpose of the “lock ring thingies”..

    I like presta valves since they tend to leak less and will fit any rim. Personally, I don’t use the lock ring and I don’t even bother to tighten down the valve.

    The cap? Nah.. that gets discarded along with the lock ring.

    Ps: double check your pump, it may have a reversible insert that allows it to accomodate either style of valve stem.

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