Learn how to adjust your tyre pressure for the type of ride and the conditions, and have a great ride every time.
Does the topic of tyre pressure leave you deflated? This advice should pump up your confidence.
Riding a bike is like floating on air — almost quite literally because all that’s between you and the road is a thin circle of rubber full of air. Tyre pressure affects your speed, traction, and overall ride enjoyment so getting it right can make the difference between a carefree Saturday morning spin and a suffering slog around your favourite loop. When it comes to tyre pressure, you can’t just “set it and forget it” because tyres lose air over time for a variety of reasons. You’ll soon learn that it’s not such a mystery once the truth about road cycle tyre pressure gets revealed.
- What is tyre pressure? – Bicycle tyre pressure is a measurement of the air — calculated in PSI or bars — that’s been pumped into your tyres. PSI (pound per square inch) is a pressure unit resulting from a 1-pound force applied to an area of a square inch. A bar on the other hand, is a metric unit of atmospheric pressure at sea level. You’re likely familiar with PSI if you’re used to the imperial system of measurement, or bars if you measure things in metric.
- How to handle the pressure – Managing tyre pressure is one of the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to elevate your ride experience. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can start incorporating your personal pressure preferences into every ride, all you need is a bicycle pump with a pressure gauge.
- The writing on the (side) wall – Your tyre’s sidewall should have the recommended tyre pressure in PSI or bars printed or moulded into the rubber on one side or the other of the tyre tread. If the text is moulded into the sidewall, you’ll have to look closely because it tends to blend seamlessly with the tyre, which can also make it a bit hard to read.
- Peer Pressure (tip: don’t give in!) – There’s no “one size fits all” tyre pressure because things like rider weight and riding surface affect your ideal tyre pressure. In general, properly inflated tyres are safer and more efficient, and will last longer than over- or underinflated tyres — we’ll get into that more below. Since such variables exist, recommended tyre pressure is usually listed as a range. It helps that most bicycle pumps conveniently have a pressure gauge that measures pressure in both PSI and bars.
- Go lower when… you have too much air in your tyres, and you start to feel like you’re bouncing over the road instead of rolling over it. Overinflated tyres can also cause you to underestimate braking distances and to lose traction, especially if the road is wet. To deflate your tyre, remove the valve cap and press on the valve’s core with your fingernail. Be careful not to deflate it too much, otherwise you’ll run into the problems listed in the next section.
- Go higher when… your tyres are underinflated. Tyres that are too soft will make you work harder to maintain momentum because more of your tyre’s surface area will be in contact with the road, which will take more effort to keep you rolling. Low pressure will also make your tyres more prone to puncturing, and they will wear out faster. This is an easy fix with a floor pump or a ride-along pump, just pump up your tires to within the recommended range and you’re good to go!
To tell you the truth, tyre pressure makes a huge difference in the quality of your ride. Don’t be shy about experimenting with your tyre pressure because ultimately, you’re the only person “under pressure” to make your bike perform at its best!