Bicycle

Finding the right tire pressure for cycling

Finding tire pressure for bikes and bicycles

Why correct tire pressure is important

Your tire is the only surface your bike comes in contact with the road. That’s why your tire is more important than any other part of your bike. How do you know what the ideal tire pressure is? Because there are so many factors involved, it’s not easy to answer that. The type, purpose, inner tube and terrain: they all play a role. The weight of the cyclist is also important as is whether or not there is additional luggage

Manufacturers’ advice varies widely. After all, diameters and profiles differ, so each tire is optimized for a specific purpose. 

The purpose of ideal tire pressure?

To determine the perfect tire pressure, we give you some tips and tricks, but above all: dare to experiment.

Guide to perfect tire pressure

1. The inscription on the flank of the tire

On the side of the tire, the minimum and maximum pressures are indicated. They are guidelines, but you better stick to them. The rubber of the tire can be damaged if you don’t inflate your tire enough. The sidewalls thus come under pressure and can crack. Too high a pressure is also not good and can cause the tire to crack. The perfect tire pressure is somewhere between the two extremes. There is an art to finding the perfect tire pressure.

2. Specific tires with width expressed in mm

Below are guidelines in Bar for specific tire types. The values are based on a 75 kg rider. You can increase the tire pressure by about 1% per extra kg (also for extra luggage) and the pressure can be lower with less weight. With this basis and if you take other factors such as the terrain into account, you get pretty close to the ideal tire pressure. 

Please note that you must respect the minimum and maximum tire pressure indicated on the tire.

3. The impact of the size

The terrain and surface you ride on has a huge impact on your tire pressure. Are you going to ride on the track or off road, it makes a world of difference. Mountain bikes are another story, as tire pressure is much more complicated.

On smooth surfaces, choosing the right tire pressure is relatively easy. Good roads allow the tire pressure to be maximized to the indicated value on the tire. Here the tire will roll perfectly without too much resistance. If there are holes in the road or signs, lower the pressure a bit. Every tire has cushioning and it is not always completely related to the pressure. Know the lower the pressure, the greater the rolling resistance. 

If you ride on sandy roads then it becomes more difficult. The more gravel and pebbles, the more comfort with lower tire pressure. However, it also increases the chance of punctures if you ride through a hole or hit a sharp object. Before you know it, the inner tube is gone to the sharks. 

If you ride a lot on sand or gravel roads, lower the tire pressure. If you have a lot of punctures, increase the pressure. Be aware that on slippery roads you also experience more rolling resistance with softer tires. On gravel this reduces the rolling resistance because gravel and gravel are deflected.

Special tire: tires for touring

Touring tires are very versatile, they can handle a lot of surfaces. Although most bicycle tours will take you along good roads, you may also have to overcome gravel roads and cobblestones. There are tires for all conditions, including extreme conditions such as riding to the top of the Himalayas or traversing Iceland.

The weight you take on the bike should also be considered in determining your tire pressure. Extra luggage certainly plays a role. On many long distance treks you take on quite a bit of extra weight. This can easily amount to 20 kg. Even with that extra weight a tire has to provide comfort and grip. 

This type of tire has to handle a lot of conditions. You will have to do a lot of testing to determine the correct tire pressure. The manufacturer’s information can serve as a starting point. No two treks are the same, so you have to play around with your tire pressure.

4. The weight factor

The higher the weight of the bike, rider and luggage, the higher the tire pressure. There are two reasons for this. The weight compresses the tire, making it run less smoothly, and on the other hand, because otherwise you are more likely to get a flat at the back. After all, that’s where the greatest pressure is

5. The factor size of the tire

Wheels for touring are available in different types. From narrow to thicker or even extremely thick. The size varies, so does the tire pressure. The basic rule is: the thinner the tire, the higher the pressure. A narrow tire needs 6-8 bar, while for a fatbike tire 0.5 bar is sufficient. These are of course two extremes and you should respect the extremes indicated on the tire. For standard tires the ideal pressure is somewhere around 3-4 bar. The rear tire may have slightly more pressure than the front tire. There is more pressure on the front tire.

6. Reduce rolling resistance without leaks

The trick is to find the right tire pressure without increasing drag, still have comfort and minimize the chance of punctures. The rougher the terrain, the lower your tire pressure should be. This is how you minimize rolling resistance. That way, the tire can flex around rocks and the tire doesn’t have to go over them. But beware: when the tire pressure is too low, you firmly increase the risk of punctures. On flat ground, you can inflate the tire to the maximum pressure specified by the manufacturer. In this way, you reduce rolling resistance.

7. The system of tire sizes

The size of your tires is important to find the correct tire pressure. Choosing the right tire is difficult because there are different sizing systems. 

Traditional systems work with the outer diameter in inches or millimeters and combine this with the tire width. The latest trend, however, is to indicate only classifications, without actual dimensions. 

There is also the ETRTO system, a new standard also used by the International Standardization Organization (ISO). This system is concerned with both tire width and diameter, whereby the inner diameter expressed in mm is decisive.

8. Tire size expressed in inches

One of the most popular ways to indicate tire size is still the outer diameter, expressed in inches. The following table shows what size is usually used for each type of bicycle.

9. The French system

The traditional French metric system contains two components. The outer diameter and an ordinal system to indicate the width. A stands for small and D for wide. The importance of tire width is minimized because rim and tire are now matched.