The right tire pressure is one of the most important components of a great bike ride. Proper inflation provides optimal comfort and performance during your excursion while reducing the risk for a flat. From beach cruiser bikes to road racers, here’s how to fill your tires correctly before setting off on your bicycle.
Buy the Right Pump
Most bike tires are compatible with either Presta or Schrader valves. The Presta features a locking nut that you have to press to release air, while the wider, flatter Schrader valve lacks this feature. If you use the wrong pump, you won’t be able to inflate your tires. Both types of valves may have either a screw-on mechanism or locking lever to seal the pump to the tire before you begin inflating. If it seems like the air isn’t going into your tire, remove the pump and readjust the seal.
Know Your Numbers
Check your tire pressure before every ride and top off tires with air if necessary. To determine the correct tire pressure for your specific bike, start with these guidelines:
- 25 to 35 PSI for mountain bikes
- 40 to 70 PSI for hybrid bikes
- 80 to 130 PSI for road bikes
PSI is a measure of tire pressure that stands for pounds per square inch. In general, the wider your tires, the less pressure you need for a smooth, safe ride. Heavier riders will need higher pressure than individuals who weigh less, even on the same bike. When in doubt, check the sidewall of your bike tires to find the recommended PSI for your model. Never exceed the maximum PSI for your tires, as this can lead to a blowout.
Test It Out
Even when you get into a routine of checking and inflating your tires, the same PSI may not be appropriate for every ride. When riding on slick roads after a recent rain, try reducing your PSI a bit to improve traction and prevent skids. When you’re planning a trek on bumpy terrain, lower PSI will result in a smoother, more comfortable ride. Some riders carry a travel pump so they can fill their tires on the fly as needed.
Get It Right
Keep in mind that when you fill your tires with a floor pump, the integrated PSI gauge isn’t the most accurate reading of tire pressure. That’s because it is measuring the PSI inside the pump, not the pressure inside the tire itself. For best results, invest in a separate gauge to get a truly dependable measurement.
As you become more experienced, try experimenting with tire pressure to find out what works best for you. Because of weight distribution, many riders feel more comfortable when the front tire has slightly less pressure than the back tire. Note the pressure for your current ride, then try deflating by 5% on the next ride to see how it feels. When you have the proper tire pressure, you’ll experience a smooth, comfortable ride with firm, confident turning.
Whether you prefer hybrid bicycles or love riding rugged trails on your mountain bike, the right tire pressure will make your experience that much better. With this guide, you’ll be on the road to an incredible ride.