For many newcomers to biking, getting the proper tire pressure is often something that is overlooked. To many, a tire is either inflated or flat. However, there is a bit more to it than that. Different tire pressures can have a striking effect on performance, handling, efficiency, and more.
Tire Inflation Basics
Road bike tires should be inflated to a much higher PSI (pounds per square inch) due to physics and design. Road bike tires are much narrower to reduce drag and friction. As a result, they need to be very firm to get maximum efficiency. Road bike tires should be inflated between 90 and 120 PSI.
Mountain bike tires are a different ball game. These tires are designed to improve traction on a variety of surfaces and they accomplish this in two ways. One they increase the surface area; and two the pressure is decreased so often the tire can mold itself around rocks, roots, and other objects on the trail. A typical mountain bike tire is inflated between 25 and 40 PSI.
Hitting The PSI Sweet Spot
If your tire pressure is too high, this can affect your ride and make it bumpy and unenjoyable. However, it can boost performance on fast turns and efficiency. If your tire pressure is too low, your bike handling may be sloppy and efficiency dramatically reduced. Although, it can provide better traction in adverse conditions and generally a more comfortable ride.
In general, riders who weigh more will want to use a higher pressure than those who weigh less, and wheels with tubeless tires will use a slightly lower pressure than average. Don't forget, as well, that many riders prefer to use a slightly lower tire pressure on the front tire. This can provide a more comfortable ride without sacrificing performance. Beyond those general guidelines, proper tire pressure is personal preference.
To get your tire pressure sweet spot, it doesn't take much work. Start by inflating your tire to its maximum pressure (every tire has the maximum tire pressure marked on the side of the tire). Make sure you don't exceed this number! Ride around for a while, then lower your pressure by 10 PSI. Observe the handling characteristics as you ride your normal riding style. Keep adjusting your pressure by five or 10 PSI until you feel like you have found the sweet spot for you, and remember that number for the future. These tire pressure charts provides general recommendations, but we encourage you to experiement and find what works best for you.