By Adam Wilson
Many bikers are always trying to find ways to enhance the performance of their bikes. From electronic shifters to lighter wheels, bikers tend to try them all.
One aspect of bike performance that is sometimes overlooked is your tire pressure. Mountain bike tire pressure is about filling up your tires with just the right amount of air for the kind of riding you do.
If you have ever experienced flat tires while riding on a trail with significant drop-offs, you would have felt considerable discomfort. So, here are some tips for finding out and maintaining the ideal tire pressure for your mountain bike!
All about mountain bike tire pressure
Proper tire pressure benefits your bike in a lot of ways. It helps the tires to roll swiftly and ride smoothly. Mountain bikes are supposed to help you cycle on wobbly, bumpy terrain. But if your tires have too much air, it can create too much bounce and result in a jolty ride.
On the other hand, tire pressure that is too low could result in higher rolling resistance, and even punctured tubes. The ideal tire pressure should be able to support you in shock absorption and provide a tougher grip.
And that is why mountain bike tire manufacturers usually suggest a pressure of between 30 and 50 psi (pounds per square inch) on most products. This range tends to give you a suitable balance between grip and shock absorption.
If you commute or ride on paved roads, your tire pressure should be near the higher end of the range, while off-road riding requires a pressure around the lower end of the range. Here’s a look at some other factors to consider.
How a tire will perform at any specific pressure is related to the rider’s weight. If a 170lb / 77kg rider rides a bike, he will feel 35psi in a 26 x 2.25 tire is too tough, and lacks grip. To find your perfect pressure, begin from the middle of the range recommended by the bike or tire manufacturer. Next, look at your body weight. The higher you weigh, the higher your tire pressure should be.
For instance, if you are a 165-pound rider (75 kg) and use 100 psi on your road bike, then a rider who weighs 200-pounds (90 kg) should choose pressure closer to 120 psi. A 130-pound (59 kg) rider should then use 80 psi for her road bike.
A tire’s volume and pressure are indirectly proportional to each other. A tire’s volume will also decide and regulate how your tire’s pressure feels when you ride.
Let’s take the example of 35 psi in a 700 x 25mm tire. It will make you feel flat. Meanwhile, 35psi in a 26 x 3.8in model will feel rigid and solid. The wheel is going to bounce off rocky terrain instead of absorbing most of the impact.
You need to figure out what are your regular trails like. Are they smooth and intended for fast riding? Or are they technically-challenging, with a collection of lumpy rocks and roots? For rocky terrain, you should contemplate adjusting your pressure to fight side wall destruction and pinch flats.
The way you ride is equally significant as where you ride. The more aggressive your style is, the more expected it is that you will require a bit more pressure than usual to run.
If you are a casual biker or commuter, you tend to ride your bike lightly. You might pick the safest, smoothest route through city roads. But if you are a serious mountain biker, you might love to ride on rocky and bumpy trails instead. So ask yourself- Do you prefer to keep your tires on the ground, or do you prefer hocking off drops and jumps?
A broad rim does an excellent job of bearing and keeping up a tire. A broader rim will permit you to run lower pressures by not making the tire squirm and fold beneath you for the specific tire size.
A wider rim will also possess a much higher volume and provide the tire more bracing so that you can go for lower pressures. That is why these wide rims are becoming increasingly popular nowadays.
The way your mountain bike’s tire casing is constructed will affect how it feels at specific pressure points. You may need to increase your tire pressure when changing from a relatively low TPI (threads per inch) tire to a tire with a higher TPI count and vice versa.
Tires with high TPI casings are usually more flexible than those with low TPI counts. Tires with stiff and thick sidewalls might require a lower pressure range compared to those with thinner sidewalls. Tubeless tires are also able to run on lower pressure, due to their puncture-proof nature.
Make sure to keep all these factors in mind and take your time to test everything. If unsure, you could bring a pump and a gauge with you while riding.
Should I inflate my tires to the pressure written on the tire sidewall?
Generally, you should follow the guidelines specified by the tire manufacturer. But it will take some testing to choose the perfect pressure that works for you and suits your riding style.
Any tire’s optimum pressure range depends on features such as its volume, rims, and construction method.
For mountain bikers, following the optimum pressure rating is usually a good place to start whenever you get a new set of tires. You could also ask your local bike store for advice based on the type of terrain you ride on most often.
Although the ideal bike tire pressure varies from individual to individual, knowing about all the distinct factors will help you make important adjustments to get a better ride.
This process of trial and error would surely take time, but it permits you to maximize your technical riding and avoid flats. Keep testing, and hopefully you’ll find the sweet spot soon!
Images: Unsplash/ Egor Myznik, Slon V Kashe and Tim Foster
Adam Wilson started cycling when he was five years old. In his years of riding, he realized that choosing the most suitable cycling equipment and tools is not easy for most people. He has since ventured into reviewing the top cycling products on his blog, Bike Reviews Hub.