While upgrading bike components like wheels and gearshifts can lead to minor performance improvements, getting tire pressure ride can have a radical effect on speed, comfort, and safety.
Paying improper attention to inflation can lead to serious issues developing. Putting the wrong amount of air in bike tires can increase the frequency of flats and can significantly reduce performance and comfort.
As a general guideline, less air in bike tires results in a comfier ride, while more air promotes more speed. That said, the appropriate tire inflation for optimal performance hinges on many variables, including the rider and the bike.
What Should My Bike Tire Pressure Be?
If you choose the right tire pressure:
- Your bike will roll quickly.
- Your bike will ride smoothly.
- You will reduce the occurrence of flats.
Broadly, narrow bike tires require more air pressure than wide bike tires. Again, this is only a general pointer.
Different types of bikes demand different tire pressures. The main options are as follows, all expressed in terms of psi (pounds per square inch):
- Road bike: 80 psi to 130 psi.
- Mountain bike: 25 psi to 35 psi.
- Hybrid bike: 40 psi to 70 psi.
A good way to dial in the ideal pressure is to start in the middle of the above ranges, depending on the type of bike you are riding.
Next, you need to account for your body weight. The more you weigh, the higher the required tire pressure for optimal performance. Where a 150-pound rider might use a tire pressure of 100 psi for a road bike, a 200-pound rider may benefit from road bike tire pressures closer to 120 psi.
Regardless of any other variables, do not go above or below the tire pressures recommended by the manufacturer. These will be listed on the tire’s sidewall.
Do You Need Different Tire Pressures for Different Bike Types?
Yes, different types of bikes require different tire pressures for best results. Three of the most popular types of bikes are:
- Road bikes
- Mountain bikes
- Hybrid bikes
(For a more complete list of bike types, check out our handy guide right here.)
1) Road bikes
Road bike tires are designed to encourage high speeds over smooth surfaces. This is maximized by inflating the tires to high air pressures.
While a typical range of pressures for road bike tires is 80 psi to 130 psi, racers sometimes have their tires inflated to 160 psi.
To give you a rough indication, inflating a bike tire to 100 psi means you can hardly compress it using your thumb.
2) Mountain bikes
Typically, mountain bikes are ridden over loose and bumpy terrain. If you inflate mountain bike tires with too much air, this leads to excessive bounce and an uncomfortable, jolty ride.
Low tire pressure for mountain bike tires help to improve shock absorption on challenging terrain. Additionally, more of the tire will be in contact with the ground, optimizing traction on the trail.
If you ride a mountain bike on the road, inflate your tires to around 50 psi. If you mainly take your MTB off-road, inflate the tires closer to 30 psi.
3) Hybrid bikes
For hybrid bikes, tires should be inflated to pressures between those required by road bikes and mountain bikes, usually between 50 psi and 70 psi.
What Else Should You Consider When Determining Bike Tire Pressure?
In addition to the type of bike in question, the following factors all influence tire pressure:
- Rider weight
- Tire volume
As mentioned above, the heavier you are, the higher the tire pressure you should consider. Regardless of whether you are cycling recreationally or competitively, you will need more air in your bike tires if you are heavy.
There is no fixed scale for reducing or increasing tire pressure to mitigate weight. Experiment in increments of 5 psi and monitor the results for speed, comfort, and performance. You will soon dial in the optimum tire pressure for your weight.
Temperature influences air pressure. Hotter weather calls for more air in bike tires.
Additionally, if you continuously brake using rim brakes, this can generate intense friction and increase the temperature inside the tube. Although cooling occurs rapidly, this can be problematic on lengthy descents.
If you decide to swap up your bike tires for beefier alternatives, be sure to reduce tire pressure correspondingly.
Do You Need Different Pressures for Front and Rear Tires?
It is possible to inflate both front and rear bike tires to the same pressure.
Regrettably, your balance is likely not equally split between front and rear. Road bike riders have roughly 40% on the front and 60% on the rear.
As a rule of thumb, front tires usually run better at pressure 15% to 20% lower than the back tires on the same bike.
What Is the Best Bike Pump?
There are two main choices when it comes to choosing the best bike pump:
- Floor pumps
- Hand pumps
1) Floor pumps
A floor pump is the choice of professionals. This type of pump is easy to attach and use. You can also inflate tires much more rapidly than when using a hand pump.
Some floor pumps are equipped with pressure gauges. This allows you to pump up tires without needing to switch between using a pump and a third-party pressure gauge. It also eliminates guesswork for those without a tire pressure gauge in their toolbox.
On the flipside, some integrated pressure gauges are imprecise. Accuracy varies considerably between manufacturers and models, but in some cases can be off by 10 psi or more.
2) Hand pumps
A hand pump is harder to use and will take more time and effort to inflate bike tires.
The key selling point of these pumps is that you can take them with you when you ride, meaning you shouldn’t get stranded far from home with a flat and no means of reinflating your tire, even if you have a puncture repair kit in your bag.
You should avoid the temptation to skip buying a pump in favor of using the pump at your local gas station. These are designed for car tires not bike tires and you could easily end up overinflating your tires.
Now you know what the right tire pressure is for your bike, how often should you check the tire pressure?
How Often Should You Check Bike Tire Pressure?
Over time, bike tires will leak air. Tubeless tires and any tires that utilize butyl tubes are much less prone to leaking than lightweight tubes made from latex. Air will still escape, though. The exact rate of pressure loss will depend on ambient temperature.
Make a habit of checking the tire pressure regularly, whether before every ride or once a week. The most important thing is to find a routine that works for you and to stick to it.
Checking the tire pressure does not take long and you might not immediately fall small drops in pressure. When you hit the road, though, especially on a road bike when you’re looking for maximum speed, you might be surprised at the noticeable dip in performance you experience with improperly inflated tires.
Parting Shot: Underinflation vs Overinflation
Using too much or too little pressure when inflating your bike tires is inadvisable.
Overinflation carries the immediate risk of blowing the tube while you are pumping. Even if the tire survives the initial pumping, any sudden impact when you are riding could cause the tire to blow.
Underinflation may not cause the same immediate effects of overinflation but putting too little air in your bike tires can trigger pinch flats. This type of flat occurs if the tube is squeezed between the tire and the rim. Hitting a bump with an underinflated tire can cause this. Not only will this damage the tire, but it will also damage the rim.
Beyond this, flat tires slow you down and force you to pedal harder.
Well, if you arrived here at Florida Cycling today stuck for idea about what your tire pressure should be, today’s guide should have cleared up any confusion.
The main differentiating factor when inflating bike tires is the type of bike. Road bikes are built for speed and have highly-inflated tires to achieve maximum speed. Mountain bikes, on the other hand, need the tires inflated with less air to promote superior comfort.
Don’t forget to factor in your weight when calculating the right tire pressure and pay attention to the other pointers in our guide to enjoy stress-free cycling.
And remember – it’s just as bad to put too much air into bike tires as too little air, so take the time to get it spot-on!
Bookmark our blog before you head off today and be sure to pop back soon.