Road bike tire pressure has become a big subject amongst cyclists in the past few years.
Some say tire pressure doesn’t make that much difference and are happy if it’s roughly right. Others think every single psi counts and must be adapted to every ride.
When it comes to road bike tire pressure, it has changed a lot in the past decade. With new tire sizes and data telling us that lower pressure can make us faster, it’s important to revisit the subject.
The right tire pressure can be the difference between winning and losing a race or even finishing a long-distance ride comfortably.
In this article, we’re going to be telling you everything you need to know about road bike tire pressures.
We are going to be discussing the following:
- What Is Tire Pressure?
- Why Is The Correct Road Bike Tire Pressure Important?
- What 6 Factors Affect Your Optimum Tire Pressure?
- How To Get The Correct Road Bike Tire Pressure
- Road Bike Tire Pressure Tips And Tricks
Let’s jump into it!
What Is Tire Pressure?
Tire pressure is the amount of air pressure inside your bike tires.
The amount of pressure is measured in psi, which stands for pound-force per square inch. The more pressure, the harder the tire will be. The less pressure, the softer the tire will be.
Generally, road bike tires will have anywhere from 60 to 110 psi. As far as bike tires go, they typically require more pressure than mountain bikes, gravel bikes, and fat bikes. This is due to the smaller, skinnier size of the tires and the more solid terrain.
Generally, cyclists use different tire pressures depending on many factors, such as the terrain they are riding on and the bike’s load.
Why Is The Correct Road Bike Tire Pressure Important?
Road bike tire pressure is important for so many reasons and, in the past decade, has been overlooked by many cyclists when it comes to improving the cycling experience.
Here is why having the right road bike tire pressure is so important:
If the pressure in a tire is too high, then you risk a blowout. If the pressure is too low, then you can cause yourself to have pinch flats.
Tires are only designed to work at certain pressures, and it’s important to be in that range.
It’s not rare for a professional cyclist to stress over the pressures in their tires. That’s because it has such a big impact on performance.
Too much pressure could cause them to lose traction, and too little could make for a laggy sprint, losing them a race.
Comfort is also a very important part of tire pressure. Many riders, such as myself, have less psi in their tires to create more cushion and a much more comfortable ride.
Although you *might* lose a little speed, for a long-distance endurance cyclist like me, comfort matters just as much.
Running your tires at the correct pressure will also improve their lifespan.
If tires run too high or low, you shorten their life, and they are much more prone to slits and punctures. It could be the difference between 1000 miles and 3000 miles.
What 6 Factors Affect Your Optimum Tire Pressure?
Many factors affect tire pressure, and it’s good to discuss them so you know exactly what you need to be putting into your tires.
Here’s what you need to know:
#1. Tire Size
The tire size makes a very big difference when it comes to the tire pressure you might run.
A 23 mm road bike tire would generally run around 100+ psi because the volume is very small inside, while a 30 mm road tire could be run lower at 70 psi.
#2. Rim Width
On older road bikes, the rim width was very thin.
We would be looking at roughly around 13 mm to 15 mm. On newer road bikes, they are typically 17 mm to 20+ mm. This wider rim creates more tire volume, suiting a lower psi.
- Want to know more? Check out our Ultimate Guide To Rim Width here!
#3. Rider Weight
The rider’s weight is also very important regarding tire pressure.
A heavier rider would want more pressure in a tire so that if they hit a pothole or a bump, there’s less chance of a pinch flat.
#4. Road Conditions
For those rougher roads, a lower tire pressure will give you much more comfort and reliability compared to a higher tire pressure, which will give you the opposite.
It’s not rare to see riders halfway through a ride drop some pressure on a rough section.
#5. Inner Tubes Vs Tubeless
You can run much lower pressures if you are running a tubeless system compared to clincher tires (with inner tubes).
There’s no risk of pinch flats, and you can even use tire inserts, too, which means you can drop the pressure further if required.
#6. Personal Preference
Finally, we have a personal preference.
As an experienced road cyclist, I personally tend to run a slightly lower pressure than others might consider optimum because I value the comfort and traction over the agile feeling of higher tire pressure.
How To Get The Correct Road Bike Tire Pressure
When it comes to finding the correct tire pressure, we have a few methods that work very well.
Here’s what we recommend:
#1: Manufacturer Recommendations
The people who will likely understand the tires you’re using the best are the people who made them.
Checking the manufacturer’s website will go a long way when it comes to helping you find the right tire pressure.
The manufacturers want you to have the best experience possible on the tires you’re using from them and often give handy guides on getting the correct psi. Here’s one from Giant that we thought was worthwhile.
#2. Online Tire Pressure Calculators
Many online websites are going to help you find the correct tire pressure. If you want more in-depth advice, consider a tire pressure calculator from a company such as SILCA.
The SILCA tire pressure calculator doesn’t just take the weight and tire size into account but also the terrain you’re riding on and even the type of tire you’re using. I highly recommend it to find a starting tire pressure, and then adjust it for your personal preference later.
#3. Trial and Error
Our final method is trial and error. This is where you find the correct tire pressure by experimenting for yourself.
We recommend starting by going to your tire and checking the maximum and the minimum psi they recommend. Most tires will have this listed. If not, head to the manufacturer’s website.
Let’s say, as an example, it’s 110 psi, and the minimum is 70 psi. I suggest putting 95 psi in if you are a heavier rider, 85 psi if you are a lighter rider, and 90 if you are average. As you adjust, avoid going outside the recommended range.
Now, here’s how I would focus on adjusting it to fine-tune it for you.
|Ride Feels Harsh||If you feel your spine jangling with every tiny bump in the road, it’s probably worth lowering the pressure.|
|Ride Feels Soft||If the ride feels soft, then you are going to want to add more pressure.|
|Cornering Feels Tight||If the cornering feels tight, then you will want to lower the pressure to relax it.|
|Cornering Feels Loose||If the cornering feels loose, then you are going to want to put more pressure in.|
|Lot of Handlebar Vibration||If the terrain is vibrating the bars a lot, lower the pressure.|
Road Bike Tire Pressure Tips And Tricks
Over the years, I have worked with bike tire brands and have been lucky enough to come away with some amazing advice.
Here are our top tips and tricks when it comes to tire pressure.
Higher Pressure Isn’t Always Faster
It’s so common for people to assume a higher tire pressure is faster when they couldn’t be more wrong.
Lower pressures handle better and are much better at rolling over the imperfect surface of the road rather than bouncing off them, making you faster overall.
In a laboratory environment, higher pressures might appear faster, but out in the real world a little more give over bumps is actually likely to improve your speed and efficiency.
Check Tire Pressures Regularly
Bike tires naturally leak air, and keeping on top of the loss is important.
Checking them before each ride is a good habit as they can go down over time, and it might be slow enough for you to get used to how it feels when it could be holding you back from personal bests.
Have A Good Pump
Road bike tire pressures are much higher than in most other cycling disciplines.
If your pump can’t get the tires high enough, you are fighting a losing battle if you get a puncture while on a ride.
We recommend a decent pump that is going to offer the ability of up to 100 psi.
Front And Back
Feel free to change up the front and the back tire separately. It’s not rare for some riders to have slightly less psi in the front and more in the rear to make it easier on the hands-on bumps without compromising rear pressure.
Now You Know All About Road Bike Tire Pressure…
Having the correct road bike tire pressure will improve the experience on the tarmac, and it doesn’t take long to learn where you need it to be.
We highly recommend investing time in trying online calculators and different pressures on the road!