How To Tuesdays: Finding your perfect tire pressure

Cycology 371

Finding the perfect tire pressure can be an absolute nightmare and then having tires pumped too high or too low can have a major effect on your riding enjoyment. Below are the pro’s and con’s of different tire pressures:

High pressures:

  • Reduces the chance of pinch flats.
  • Reduce rolling resistance .
  • Reduce traction (cornering/climbing /braking).
  • Increases trail feedback (rougher ride).

Low pressures:

  • Increases the chance of pinch flats.
  • Increases rolling resistance.
  • Increases traction (cornering/climbing /braking).
  • Reduces trail feedback (smoother ride).

 Pinch Flat: Having your tire pressure so low that it is possible for the tube to get pinched between the tire casing and the rim when riding over an obstacle. Also referred to as a ‘Snake Bite”  due to the two small slashes left on your tube.

Finding the perfect balance can be quite a task but once you have settled on a specific pressure that is suitable for your weight, riding style and type of tire you will never go without checking your pressures before every ride.

1.) Start by going out and getting a tire pressure gauge or a floor pump with a built in pressure gauge, pump your tires to approximately 3 bar (2 bar for tubeless).

2.) Mount your bicycle and lean it up against the wall so your entire body weight is placed on the tires, they should compress (distort) slightly for tubes and quite a bit for tubeless. If there is no compression reduce your pressures slightly.

3.) Go for a ride at a local trail that you are familiar with so you can put your current set-up to the test. Take it easy at first because you are probably not used to the amount of traction you currently have. Test out your braking , cornering and climbing ability as well as tackling obstacles (roots and rocks) at speed. How does it feel?

Increase your pressures if:

  • your rim is hitting obstacles or if you are getting pinch flats.
  • your tubeless tire is burping air or pulling off the rim.

Decrease your pressures if:

  • you are sliding out on corners/not finding traction on climbs or during braking.
  • your ride is ridiculously bumpy.

Tire pressures need to be as low as possible without risking pinch flats or burping the tire.

 Burping: A tubeless tire burps when the pressure is so low that the tire is able to gap from the rim during cornering so that either air or sealant is able to escape.

Adjust your pressures after a short ride and ride the same section again until you have found that sweet spot, try playing with different front and rear pressures too. Once you have the perfect pressure you can experiment with riding in the wet, through mud and over loose surface rock to give yourself a better idea of how to adjust your pressures according to trail conditions.

Tubeless tires offer an added benefit of not having a tube that is able to get pinched when running lower pressures. Although tubeless tires do require more maintenance but the benefits in terms of traction, trail comfort and the ability to easily repair punctures is well worth it if it suites your budget.

Do you take note of your tire pressure? What benefits do you feel this adds to your riding experience?