The Importance Of Tire Pressure

Tire pressure is a very important facet of riding any kind of bike, including mountain bikes.  By learning how to set the tire pressure, you can give yourself more control and help to make the ride down the mountain smoother.  If the tire pressure is too low, then you will find that it is much harder to cycle and it can increase the chance of a flat, too.  Tire pressure that is too high can make your ride very bumpy and out of control, as well.

Tire pressure can vary from person to person, because it is dependent upon the personal preference of the bicycler, the tire’s condition, and the terrain that you will be riding on.  The tire pressure can be easily modified simply by using a high quality pump on the tires.  A tire pressure gauge is also an essential part of keeping your tires at the optimum pressure.

The manufacturer of the tire will have a recommended tire pressure for your particular tires and this is where you can start.  You can then adjust the tire pressure as needed from there.  It is best to use the same tire pressure gauge and pump when you check your tires, because you may get different readings depending upon the tire pressure gauge that you choose.

A good rule of thumb is to start with a higher tire pressure for your bike.  This means that you want to be around 40-50 psi (3-3.5 bar), and then lower the tire pressure a little at a time to find which tire pressure is best for your particular bike, terrain, and yourself.  If you are a little heavier, then you will want to use a higher tire pressure for sure.

Taking a test bike ride is the best way to check the tire pressure.  You will want to notice how the tire behaves, how it rides on the terrain, how it slides down the mountain, and how it hooks in the corners.  If you have too much tire pressure, then drop it in increments of 5 psi in both tires.  If the bike gains grip and is more stable at this tire pressure, then you will want to keep it at this standard pressure.  If not, then you will continue dropping the tire pressure in small increments and redoing the test until your bike rides the way you want and need it to.

If you want to determine the lowest possible tire pressure, then gradually decrease the tire pressure until you see how it feels when you ride on almost flat tires.  This will help you to learn how it feels so that you can keep your tubes from getting damaged.

For mountain bikers, the maximum pressure rating generally isn’t the issue, as most riders run well below this number. Many – myself included – often run pressures well below the minimum rating, especially with tubeless setups.

If your mountain bike tires are tubeless, then you will want to stay with a lower tire pressure.  The advised tire pressure for tubeless tires is between 30 and 40 psi.  This is because tubeless tires experience fewer pinch flats and even rim contact occasionally is okay.  This is why you can ride on tires with a much lower tire pressure than normal.  If the tire pressure is too low, you will find that if you are cornering hard that the tire will roll under the rim.

Another thing that you need to be on the lookout for is rolling resistance.  The increased rolling resistance will take more effort, but it will offer you greater control and better traction to allow you to climb easier.  For racers who race cross-country, they would rather have a more efficient bike versus greater control, so you have to take into consideration what kind of biking that you will be doing.

Things to consider:

  1. Weight
  2. Tire Size
  3. Terrain
  4. Riding Style
  5. Rim Width
  6. Tire Construction

Using your hand to squeeze the tire will help you determine what the right tire pressure feels like so that you do not have to rely so much on the tire pressure gauge.