Bike Tyre Pressure Explained

When it comes to bike tyre pressure, the bottom line is that air is being lost constantly. However, this air is being lost at a very slow rate which means you may not have even realised that your bicycle tyre is deflating. In this article we are going to be discussing the basics of bike tyre pressure. Some of the topics we cover include how much pressure you need in your tyre, what the risks are if the pressure is too low or too high and how to fix it.

Why is bike tyre pressure important?

The tyre pressure of your bike plays a significant role in your cycling performance, including your speed, grip, puncture resistance and comfort. Put simply, bike tyre pressure is important because it will make your rides easier and less risky. 

How much bike tyre pressure do you need?

This information can be found, etched in small writing on the edge or sidewall of the tyre. The most common unit in the UK is PSI (pounds per square inch). It will be expressed as a range such as 50-80 PSI. The range allows for different situations, the most important being the rider’s weight and the cycling terrain. 

We recommend aiming to start roughly in the middle of the range and then adapt it from there to suit you. An example of when you may want to run a higher PSI is if you are carrying heavy loads.

Risks if bike tyre pressure is too low 

  • You can get pinch punctures. This is when the deflated tyre squashes against the rim and nips the tube.
  • The ride can feel sluggish.  This is because more tyre surface is touching the road causing rolling resistance 

Risks if the tyre pressure is too high: 

  • Cycling will feel very harsh. There will be very little give in the tyre and the ride can be very uncomfortable.
  • It can cause a tyre blowout. A massive over inflation will likely result in the inner tube bursting and the tyre being forced off the rim.

How to rectify incorrect bike tyre pressure

Now let’s pump the tyre to the correct pressure. The easiest way is to buy a pump that has a gauge built in so that you can not only check the pressure but also pump the tyre to achieve the correct pressure.

Start by being roughly in the middle of the range and adapt it from there to suit you.  For example If you are carrying heavy loads, then run a higher PSI.

If you don’t have a pump with a gauge, pinch the side walls of your tyre to get the best indication of how much air is needed. If it’s ‘Soft like an orange’ then the pressure is most likely too low and you need more air in the tyre. Pump in air and keep checking until it’s hard ‘like an apple’. 

Tyres with a low pressure recommendation.

These are tyres that are designed to travel over very rough and technical terrain. They are often wide and the surface of the tyre will be knobbly to encourage the tyre to grip the rough surface to keep the rider stable.  The low pressure increases the surface area touching the terrain and further encourages the tyre to grip the surface. Here speed is not the most important factor. Example – mountain bike tyres.

Tyres with a high pressure recommendation.  

These tyres are designed to travel along smooth terrain such as tarmac. They are narrow and the surface has a shallow tread so that the tyre doesn’t grip the road more than necessary.  By running high pressure, less of the surface area of the tyre touches the terrain, allowing a fast and efficient ride. Example – road bike tyres.

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