What is the correct tyre pressure for my bicycle?

2023-08-17
bike tyre pressure
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Have you ever wondered what the exact tyre pressure for your bicycle should be? Whether you’re a seasoned cyclist or a beginner, have been pedalling for years or just started, this is a question you’ve surely asked yourself before. Precisely for that reason, we, being professionals in this field, are going to give you the key information on this topic. Throughout this article, you will find the answers to all the key questions related to bike tyre pressure. Let’s dive in!

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Why is it important to have the correct tyre pressure?

The best way to understand the importance of wheel pressure is to know what happens if you ride with incorrect tyre pressure. If you have a pressure that’s too high, you will experience the following:

  • Reduced grip on the ground, leading to more insecure handling and a higher likelihood of falls.
  • Greater sensitivity to surface imperfections, causing you to feel even the tiniest bumps, making for a very uncomfortable ride.
  • Increased risk of punctures, as the tyre tension is higher.

On the other hand, if the pressure is too low, then the following will occur:

  • At high speeds, it’s easy to lose control of the bicycle because the contact with the ground isn’t right.
  • Surface imperfections can end up hitting the rim, causing serious damage.
  • Increased rolling resistance which means you’ll have to exert more effort to move forward.
  • Premature tyre wear.

PSI and BAR

psi bar

From the previous section, it’s clear that maintaining the correct tyre pressure is crucial. And the appropriate pressure is, simply put, what the manufacturer recommends. In this context, it’s essential to be familiar with the two primary pressure measurements:

  • PSI: Pounds per square inch is the pressure unit commonly used in Anglo-Saxon countries.
  • BAR: The bar is the pressure measure typically used in European countries except for the UK.

Depending on your tyre manufacturer, the recommended pressure might be indicated in one unit or the other. What’s vital is to know their equivalence:

  • 1 PSI = 0.07 BAR.
  • 1 BAR = 14.5 PSI.

Other factors influencing tyre pressure

If there was a golden rule regarding the appropriate tyre pressure, it would be the manufacturer’s recommendation. However, even a golden rule can have nuances. There are some factors that allow for fine-tuning the exact BAR (or PSI) pressure you should input into your wheels.

Tyre size

The tyre size, its width, and diameter largely determine the pressure it should have. A wider tyre will have greater rolling resistance than a narrower one, so it requires more pressure to compensate.

Following this line, there are some general guidelines:

  • In MTB, subtract 0.2 bars from the manufacturer’s recommendation for every 0.2 inches of tyre width reduction.
  • For road cycling, reduce by 0.5 bars from the manufacturer’s recommendation for every millimetre of width reduction.

Difference between the front and rear wheel

The rear wheel, which drives bicycles, requires more pressure due to its higher rolling demands compared to the front. It requires greater stability and grip. It’s also more exposed to obstacles and surface irregularities. Typically, wheel pressure is distributed at 60-40, with the 60% for the rear wheel.

Cyclist’s weight

The heavier you are, the more tyre tread will be in contact with the ground. So, if you don’t adjust the pressure accordingly, it would reduce speed and increase wear, much like having underinflated tyres. As a guideline, based on the manufacturer’s recommendation, add 0.1 bars for every 5 kilograms of weight.

Weather and temperature

Weather and local temperatures clearly impact how the air behaves inside a bicycle’s tyre. To counteract these effects, take the manufacturer’s recommendation and add 0.1 bars for every 10 ºC below 25 ºC. So, if you’re riding at 0 ºC, inflate the tyres 0.25 bars more than the manufacturer suggests, compensating for the compression of the air in cold conditions.

Type of terrain

As touched upon at the start, most of the consequences of incorrect tyre pressure relate to its connection with the ground. Therefore, consider the type of terrain you’ll be cycling on:

  • The smoother and firmer the terrain, the better it is to have slightly higher pressure than recommended, to increase speed.
  • The rougher, bumpier, obstacle-filled, and slippery the terrain, the better it is to slightly decrease the pressure to improve grip.

Frequency

While experts may not always agree on this point, generally, the ideal frequency to check your tyre pressure is as follows:

  • If you use your bike daily (or at least several times a week) and your tyres are in good condition, checking the pressure once every two weeks should suffice.
  • If you’re a sport cyclist who only goes out on weekends or every two weeks, simply check before each ride.

Remember that leaving a bike unused for a long time usually results in a drop in tyre pressure.

Bicycle tyre pressure equivalence table

    Rider 70 Kg Rider 80 Kg
Type of bike Tyre width Pressure BAR/PSI Pressure BAR/PSI
Road 25mm 7.0 / 100 7.2 / 104
Road 28mm 6.0 / 87 6.2 / 70
Trekking/Urban 35mm 4.5 / 65 4.7 / 68
Trekking/Urban 40mm 4.0 / 58 4.2 / 61
Trekking 50mm 3.0 / 44 3.2 / 46
Gravel 35mm 2.5 / 36 2.7 / 39

Which type of pump should you use to inflate your tyres?

Everything we’ve discussed up to this point is of no use if we don’t also mention the best tools to ensure your bike’s tyres are always at the correct pressure. In this regard, we will show you the different types of pumps currently available on the market.

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Mini pumps

Also known as hand pumps, they are the most compact, lightweight, and practical. In fact, they are barely noticeable when carried, so it’s always advisable to have one on every trip and route. It’s true that achieving the exact required pressure using these tools isn’t always easy, but they are incredibly useful for initial assistance.

mini pump eltin

The head and body of these pumps tend to be integrated into one piece, so they must be used carefully to avoid breaking the tyre’s valve when inflating. Although they don’t move a lot of air, their size and lightness make up for these shortcomings.

VIEW ALL BICYCLE MINI PUMPS

Foot Pump

Compared to the previous ones, these pumps are known for the fact that they need to be supported on the ground to be used. Typically with the help of the arms, a head is moved up and down over the body which, the longer it is, the more air it can take in.

blackburn foot pump

They often come equipped with a high-precision gauge, allowing the tyres to be inflated to the exact pressure desired. However, their size doesn’t always allow for easy transportation.

VIEW ALL BICYCLE FOOT PUMPS

CO2 Pumps

The CO2 pumps have a truly curious mode of operation. They use a canister filled with pressurised CO2, so there’s no need to operate any pump per se; instead, the CO2 is released through a valve. They tend to be inflators meant as an initial aid if needed but, as a general rule, they don’t come with a gauge that clearly indicates tyre pressure.

co2 pump

Obviously, their main advantage is that they don’t require any effort to inflate the tyre.

VIEW ALL CO2 INFLATORS

Compressor

A compressor is a tool that uses electrical energy (either via a power cord or batteries) to take in air, compress it, and release it at your command. Thus, some are specifically adapted for bicycles, equipped with the necessary nozzles and valves.

Their main advantage is that they tend to be extremely accurate. Some even allow you to pre-set the required pressure, and they will automatically inflate the tyre up to that limit. There are also some portable options, but it’s more common for them not to be easily transportable.

Bead Setter Pump

There’s a very particular type of tyre, called tubeless. Unlike regular tyres, they can’t be inflated in the traditional way, that is, by introducing a small amount of air continuously. What they require to reach the correct pressure is a quick burst of air at very high speed.

Well, bead setter pumps are very similar to foot pumps, but they come with an attached tank that, with each pump, accumulates air at increasing pressure. Once it’s fully loaded, it releases the air at high speed so it can enter the tubeless tyre without any trouble. As the name suggests, these pumps allow you to seat this type of tyre with relative ease.

What types of valves are there?

In the previous section, we directly referred to the tools used to inflate tyres, but what about the air inlet valves on wheels? Are they all the same and identical? Well, no, there are several types and, subsequently, we will show you the 3 most common ones. The vast majority of bicycle tyres worldwide feature one of the following 3 types of valve. Therefore, it’s good for you to be familiar with them. Among other reasons, they will determine the type of pump you should buy.

Presta

These are the slimmest valves. They are typically found on high-end bicycles, especially road ones. They occupy very little space and are as lightweight as possible. They are slightly more sophisticated than the other two, although it’s true that their use is becoming more popular, making them accessible to everyone. They are exclusive to bicycles (that is, they are not used elsewhere).

VIEW ALL PRESTA TUBES

Schrader

These valves, unlike the previous ones, are similar to car tyre valves. They are usually found on the most common and popular tyres. Although bulkier and heavier, they tend to be more versatile when looking for a suitable pump. They can even be inflated at petrol stations.

VIEW ALL SCHRADER TUBES

Dunlop

The Woods or Dunlop valve is very similar in diameter to the Presta, meaning it’s also a slim valve exclusive to bicycles. However, unlike the Presta, its pin doesn’t unscrew from the outside. It’s commonly used on leisure bicycles in Argentina, Asia, and the Netherlands. Moreover, they have a clear advantage over the Presta valve: it’s impossible to bend them accidentally when inflating the tyre, as they lack a lower stem.

In conclusion, you’ve now learned the key points regarding the most appropriate pressure for your bicycle tyres. The next time you inflate them, you’ll have the confidence of adding just the right amount of air. This will result in, as you’ve seen, greater tyre longevity, easier pedalling, and safer riding. In any case, if you have any other questions about this or any other bicycle-related topic, you just have to ask us. We are experts in this, so we’ll know how to help you. Keep pedalling!

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