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Road Bike Tire Pressure Tips and Recommendations

Updated on December 28, 2014
CyclingFitness profile image

Liam Hallam is a sports science graduate. A keen cyclist, runner, and obstacle racer, he ran his first ultra-marathon in 2016.

Floor Pumps Help Inflate And Monitor Bicycle Tire Pressure

A good floor pump is an excellent investment for inflating and monitoring bicycle tire pressures
A good floor pump is an excellent investment for inflating and monitoring bicycle tire pressures | Source

Bicycle Tire Pressures Can Make a Big Difference To Your Ride

Your bicycle tires are the main interface between your bike and the road and therefore there are a number of factors which affect the level of control between yourself on the bike and the road

  1. Tire Used
  2. Tire Width
  3. Bicycle Tire Pressure


Tires, Tire Width And Road Grip

As your tires are responsible for the between their tread and the road you ideally need the right tires for the purpose of your riding. Make sure your tires are well looked after and replaced if they become damaged or the tread becomes heavily worn.

Most road bike tires have tread widths of around 23mm. The tire width affects the amount of the tire surface which comes into contact with the road. Effectively, the wider the tire the higher the contact area with the road and the greater road grip.

Bicycle Tire Manufacturer Recommendations

On the side of any tire you'll see the manufacturers recommended tire pressures for that particular tire. This takes the guesswork out of calculating what pressure to inflate your tires up to.

These are particularly important for users of clincher bicycle tires. This is because the pressure within the tire is responsible for holding the tire in place on the hooked rims. Too little pressure and the tire will not stay in place. Too much pressure can actually damage a bicycle rim or cause the tire to potentially want to lift away from the rim. Both of these circumstances could be dangerous while riding therefore it's imperative to follow the manufacturers tire pressure regulations on the tire sidewall and in some cases as noted on the wheel rim.

Check the box or the side of the tire for manufacturer recommendations

Manufacturers will always add pressures on the box and tire sidewall so you have the right numbers to inflate to
Manufacturers will always add pressures on the box and tire sidewall so you have the right numbers to inflate to | Source

Old school tire pressure wisdom- more pressure equals faster

Old school logic has always dictated that a well inflated tire will lead to a smaller contact area between tire and road. Thus leading to a lower rolling resistance and faster riding speed.

Sadly this leads to a number of scenarios

Over inflated tires mean the rider feels every bump on the road

Your bicycle tires aren't just a thing of speed. They're also heavily important to your cycling comfort

Over-inflated tires will skip over the road surface

At the right inflation pressures your tires will connect well with the road surface for effective grip and control. Over-inflation can effectively cause the tire to skip and bounce over the road surface leading to decreased road grip.

Over-inflated tires will reduce cornering grip

When you go round a tight corner in a road race you put a huge amount of trust in your tires to perform their job and get you round the corner. In the wet or dry. Over-inflating your bicycle tires will limit the amount of tire that can remain in contact with the road- Limiting cornering grip.

What if I under-inflate my bicycle tires?

Under inflating your tires can be as bad for your road cycling performance as over-inflation.

Under-inflated bike tires can lead to tires unhooking from the rim

The lack of air pressure within a poorly inflated clincher (hooked rim) tire can actually lead to the tire bead unhooking from the rim. This can be extremely dangerous.

Under-inflated tires can lead to pinch flats

What is a pinch flat? Under-inflated tires can lead to problems with pinch-flats. Pinch flats are caused when the level of air pressure within a tire is too low. When the tire hits a rock or pot-hole leading to the edge of the rim 'pinching' the inner tube and leading to two separate punctures to either side of the inner tube. Pinch flats are also often known as 'snakebites'. The simplest way to avoid pinch flats is to ensure you ride a sensible tire pressure.

Excessive road grip and steering issues

Under-inflated bicycle tires will feel excessively spongy under pressure. This is particularly true when braking and steering. Steering will not feel direct and precise. The rider will feel they have a distinct lack of control.

Choose a pump with a built in pressure gauge and check your tire pressure regularly

Schwinn Steel Floor Pump with Gauge
Schwinn Steel Floor Pump with Gauge

A track pump with a pressure guage is a great investment for at home for easy bicycle tire inflation and checking bike tire pressures

 

How to make sure you have the right bicycle tire air pressure

  • Always check your tire sidewalls and keep to the manufacturers recommended PSI
  • Check your tire pressures regularly
  • Have a pump at home or on your bike with a built in pressure gauge
  • Never over-inflate your bike tires
  • Replace worn tires for safety

Wishing you safe cycling

Cycling's great with the right tire pressures. You'll be comfortable and have all the grip of the tire.

Liam Hallam (CyclingFitness@Hubpages)

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