How to Choose the Right Tire Pressure for your Bicycle

Having the right amount of pressure in your bike tires is one of the most overlooked components of every ride. But getting your tire pressure correct is one of the most important ways you can improve your speed (for free!) and prevent flatting out on the road or trail.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic number that represents the perfect tire pressure for every ride. The tire pressure you need depends on a wide range of factors, including your tubes and tires, the type of bike your riding, your weight, and the surface of the road or trail you’ll be riding on.

In this guide, we’ll explain exactly how to figure out the right tire pressure for every ride.

Upper Limits

The first thing to consider when figuring our what tire pressure is right for your ride is the upper limit of pressure you can safely ride. For most cyclists, this is determined by the tires you’re riding on, rather than the style of bike you’re riding on. So, if you are riding a commuter bike, the tire pressure will differ depending on whether you put road, hybrid, or mountain wheels on your bike.

The best way to determine your upper tire pressure limit is to check the sidewall of your tires for their rated maximum pressures. These truly are maximums and you shouldn’t pump more air in than the tire is rated for, or you’re very likely to pop a tube.

For road tires, this upper limit is usually around 100 PSI. Hybrid tires usually top out around 70 PSI, and mountain bikes around 35 PSI.

Tire Width

Tire width is also an important consideration. If you have 28 mm tires, you’ll want to ride at a lower pressure than if you have narrow 23 mm tires. The same goes for mountain bike tires, which commonly vary between 2.1 and 2.8 inches wide.

For road cyclists, a good rule of thumb is to reduce your tire pressure by approximately 15 PSI for every 3 mm of width your tires have beyond the standard 23 mm width. That means that with a 28 mm tire, you’d want to run your tires around 70 PSI.

For mountain bikers, a good rule of thumb is to drop about 5 PSI for every 0.2 inches added to a 29-inch tire. If you run wide 27.5-inch x 2.8-inch tires, you’ll want to nearly cut your pressure in half to around 18 PSI.

Tubeless Tires

If you have tubeless tires, you’ll want to reduce your tire pressure even further. After dropping your tire pressure from the maximum recommendation based on the width of your tires, you can subtract another 10-20% in a tubeless setup. That’s because there are no pinch flats to worry about when riding tubeless.

Road and Trail Surface

All of the above calculations should hold constant for figuring out what tire pressure you need as long as you keep your bike setup the same. However, keep in mind that the tire pressure you’ve figure out is the ideal for a perfectly smooth, dry road or a relatively packed dirt or gravel trail. The surface of the road that you’re riding on can vary depending on your route and with the weather, so you need to adjust pressure for that as well.

Road cyclists will generally want to run about 5-10 PSI below their calculated pressure if the road is wet from a recent rain or if it’s bumpy with gravel or chip sealing.

Mountain bikers will have a harder time figuring out the exact right pressure for every trail since conditions can be extremely variable. Try playing around with the pressure in increments of about 3 PSI to see if you can get better grip on turns without exposing your tire sidewalls to damage from rocks and branches.

Conclusion

Tire pressure is supremely important to riding with less rolling resistance and more traction, which is why it’s so surprising that many cyclists ignore their tire pressure when setting up their bikes. Dialing in the proper tire pressure for your bike and riding style takes some work at first. But once you get it right, you’ll get better speed and grip from your wheels no matter what road or trail you’re riding on.



How to Choose the Right Tire Pressure for your Bicycle
was last modified: June 29th, 2019 by George

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