Bike tire pressure is a very important concept to understand and apply to your everyday riding endeavors. It’s important to know what PSI should bike tires be.
Let’s discuss the ins and outs of bike tire pressure, including the benefits and drawbacks of overinflation/underinflation, and how to determine what tire pressure is best for you.
Bike Tire Pressure Explained
Any vehicle with pneumatic tires is supported by pressurized air in an airtight chamber. Higher PSI (pounds per square inch) effectively makes the associated tire more inflated and harder.
A lower PSI conversely makes the tire less inflated and as a result softer or more squishy. Tire pressure or PSI has a significant effect on how a bike performs, regardless of what type of riding you are doing.
PSIRegular checks and regulation of your tire pressure is the most simple, yet arguably the most important thing you can do for the quality of your riding and the health of your tires.
Different styles of riding and different types of bikes will have different recommended tire PSI range.
Manufacturers will often provide a convenient stamp on the rubber sidewall of the tire that has the recommended PSI for that particular tire so that riders have an easily accessible reference point.
Finding the ideal tire pressure for your riding activities is crucial, and will often depend on adjusting it to the environmental conditions (riding surface, temperature, etc..).
Here are some approximate PSI recommendations based on the style/purpose of the bike you are riding:
- Mountain Bikes: 30 PSI tires
- Gravel Bikes: 45 PSI tires
- Road Bikes: 90 PSI tires
Benefits & Drawbacks Of Overinflation
Obviously, finding the perfect PSI is the ideal situation for any rider on any style of bike. However, overinflation or underinflation of bike tires is something that happens often, especially when PSI is not being monitored constantly.
Here are some of the pros and cons associated with bicycle tire overinflation:
Pros (there aren’t many)
- The most significant, and arguably the only benefit to overinflated tires is the fact that you will experience reduced rolling resistance.
- With a high PSI, there will inherently be less surface area of the tire tread touching the road, which will create less rolling resistance and promote better acceleration and top-speed potential.
- Overinflation can cause significantly more wear and tear on tires
- Less tread surface area contact with the road will lead to reduced handling and control of the bike
- Overinflation will also allow for more vibrations to travel through the tire and bike frame which will inherently cause the ride to be less comfortable and smooth in some cases
- Irregular terrain with bumps and ridges paired with overinflated tires will also lead to reduced forward momentum
- Potential to “slip out” when turning tight corners with little traction
Benefits & Drawbacks Of Underinflation
Pros (if underinflation is not excessive)
- The increased surface area of the tire tread touching the ground will improve relative control and handling
- Reasonable underinflation of bike tires will also help reduce the transfer of vibrations from uneven terrain to the rider’s body, as the soft tires will be able to absorb some of the vibrations
- The most significant drawback to underinflated bike tires is the considerable increase in rolling resistance. Rolling resistance will reduce speed and increase the need for energy expenditure, which will significantly affect road bikers and other long-distance cyclists
- Underinflated tires will pick up more debris from the terrain
- Underinflation increases the risk of the inner tube squeezing between the road and the rim, which will lead to a pinch flat
- Underinflated tires can lead to damage to the wheel rim itself, which can be expensive to fix or replace
How To Determine What PSI Should Bike Tires Be
In general, bike tires can be kept at a PSI of anywhere between approximately 80 and 140 PSI. The tire manufacturer will always have a specific PSI range printed on the tire, that corresponds to that type of tire and its purpose.
It is a rule of thumb not to go above or below this specified range, but how do we find the perfect pressure within that range?
Here are some basic guidelines for ideal tire PSI on two of the most popular bike styles:
Road bike tires are designed for speed and good handling on smooth terrain. These tires are meant to have a higher air pressure than other tires, as this will reduce rolling resistance and allow for more speed.
A typical sweet spot range for these tires is somewhere between 90 and 130 PSI, however, some experienced racers have tires as high as 160 PSI.
Mountain bikes are meant to ride effortlessly through bumpy, uneven terrain. If their tires have too high of a PSI, they will not absorb bumps the way they should and the rider will be experiencing an excessive amount of jolting vibrations.
Low-pressure tires will help with shock absorption and provide more traction thanks to increased surface area contact with the ground. The recommended PSI range for mountain bike tires is between 30 and 50 pounds per square inch.
Understanding the ins and outs of proper bike tire air pressure is very important for being able to have the most effective ride possible.
In this article, we discussed the basics of bike tire PSI, as well as provide some insight into overinflation, underinflation, and how to determine the ideal PSI for your bike tires.
Last Updated on July 18, 2023 by Danijel Cakalic