This is Your…Tire’s Air

tucson-female-cargo-bike(By Lee Maccormack/Bicycling) Three things you need to know about those molecules jostling inside your tires.

Keep up with your bike’s maintenance and tire pressure by following these three tips.


Proper tire pressure lets your bike roll quickly, ride smoothly and fend off flats. Narrow tires need more air pressure than wide ones: Road tires typically require 80 to 130 psi, mountain tires 30 to 50 psi and hybrid tires 50 to 70 psi. To find your ideal pressure, start in the middle of these ranges, then factor in your body weight. The more you weigh, the higher your pressure needs to be. For example, if a 165-pound rider uses 100 psi on his road bike, a 200-pound rider should run closer to 120 psi, and a 130-pound rider could get away with 80 psi. Never go above or below the manufacturer’s recommended pressures.


Traditional wisdom says that higher tire pressure equals lower rolling resistance, because on a smooth surface hard tires flex less and create a smaller contact patch. But no road is perfectly smooth. Properly inflated tires conform to bumps and absorb shocks. Overinflated tires transmit impacts to the rider, which sacrifices speed and comfort. On new pavement, your tires might feel great at 100 psi, but on a rough road, they might roll faster at 90 psi. In wet conditions, you may want to run 10 psi less than usual for improved traction. And if you’re a mountain biker who rides to the trailhead, keep in mind that while your bike rolls smoothly on the road with 50 psi, it might feel better on the singletrack at 38 psi.


The pent-up air in your tubes wants desperately to join its friends in the atmosphere. If you ride over sharp objects, immediately sweep your tire with a gloved hand to remove debris. For ultimate protection, use tire liners or puncture-proof inner tubes. To avoid pinch flats when you ride over bumps, maintain proper air pressure and unweight your wheels by sharply pushing your bike downward before the bumps then pulling it upward as you roll over them. For each 10-degree-Fahrenheit drop in the temperature, your tire pressure drops by about 2 percent. So if the temperature dips from 90 degrees to 60, your road tires would drop from, say, 100 psi to 94 psi. Those six pounds are noticeable and worth adjusting for. Get in the habit of checking your pressure before every ride.

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