A Guide to Mountain Bike Tire Pressure

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In this article we are looking at right tire pressure for your mountain bike, the mountain bike tire pressure should be at.

A guide to mountain bikes tire pressure

The performance of your mountain bike is dependent on many components. One of the most important is the tires. It’s not surprising, considering tires are the only thing that connects you and your bicycle to the ground. And no matter how expensive other bicycle accessories are, none of them influence how your mountain bike feels more than the tires.

However, a tire needs the correct pressure to perform optimally on the trail. The question is, how do you determine the perfect tire pressure for your mountain bike? This question might be a tricky one. But don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about mountain bike tire pressure.

What is the Right Tire Pressure for Your Mountain Bike?

Unfortunately, there’s no specific perfect tire pressure for mountain bikes. That’s because we’re all unique in how we ride our bikes. Also, your MTB tires may differ from mine and so do the terrains we ride on. There’s also the aspect of personal preference.

But one thing’s for sure. The biggest consideration is balance as you try to find the perfect tire pressure for your mountain bike. You want a tire that remains stable all through and grips well in corners. 

The tires should also provide extra insulation from trail features such as roots and rocks, adding to the grip.

Remember, you also need tires that remain inflated even after suffering big hits. Of course, none of us likes tire punctures. The rolling factor is also an essential consideration. 

In short, mountain bike tire pressure is all about finding a trade-off between rolling speed and grip.

What Factors Affect Mountain Bike Tire Pressure?

Finding the perfect tire pressure for your MTB means finding yourself. That’s because the right tire pressure is something unique to you, the rider. 

That said, several factors influence the most suitable tire pressure for you and your mountain bike. Below are some of these variables:

1. Your Weight

Your weight will determine what pressure is ideal for you and the performance of your bike.

Before leaving for your adventures, check whether your tires have enough pressure. How? Sit on the saddle and observe your tires. Are they holding your weight? Are they deformed, compressed, or too hard? Such conditions are unfavorable. 

Your MTB tire should neither be too hard nor too flat. The ideal pressure should support your weight well while remaining comfortable. 

Bear in mind the tire supports both your weight and the bike. The heavier you and the bike are, the more pressure your tire requires to support and balance the bike on the trail.

For instance, while a 70 kg rider will feel comfortable riding a bike with 35PSI tire pressure, a 110 kg rider might have to increase this to 60 PSI for a better riding experience. 

A rule of thumb is to increase the pressure by 15 pounds per square inch (PSI) for every extra kilo you carry.

Ride Duration is Key

Equally, you have to consider your ride duration. 

If you’re going for a longer ride, chances are you’ll need a backpack to carry extra supplies (such as gear, tools, and clothes)  for your biking. Ensure to add some more PSI to cover for the additional weight of your backpack to avoid pinch flats or tire squirm.

Remember, your body weight tends to shift towards the rear tire when riding. Therefore, it’s recommendable to add at least 10% more tire pressure to your MTB rear tire than the front tire. This extra pressure ensures a good grip and footprint.

It’s All About Balance

If you’re seeking a safe and thrilling adventure, you must balance your weight and bike tire pressure. When the pressure is too low, it can hinder you from achieving the speed and thrills you desire.

At the same time, avoid excess pressure. The tires get rock hard and can barely touch the ground, and who likes a bouncy ride? You also risk a mini-explosion. 

2. Terrain and Weather Condition

You cannot ignore the impact that terrain and weather have on your tire performance. All-weather conditions, whether dry, snowy, or rainy, affect a bike’s tire pressure. So does terrain. 

If you’re riding fast on rooty and super rocky terrain, you’ll probably be hitting these features at high speeds. Such terrain might require you to up your tire pressure a bit. With higher pressure, the chances of puncturing when you hit a rock or root are less. 

That said, be wary of excess pressure. It can result in tire carcass tearing upon hitting a sharp edge.

On the contrary, smoother terrains entail riding at lower speeds. So does riding on a super-steep trail full of mud and soft roots. Here, you’re better off with low pressure. It allows more deformation of your MTB tire. This way, it can better mold to suit the ground’s shape, boosting the tire grip.

Here are other conditions to consider and the kind of tire pressure you would require and why:

  • Dry weather (dusty and hard roads): Increase your mountain bike tire pressure. It helps decrease your rolling resistance.
  • Loose ground: Lower your tire pressure to give them a better grip and traction.
  • Wet and greasy conditions: Reduce your tire pressure by a couple of PSIs to get a better foothold and grip on wet and slippery trails.
  • Sandy and snowy trail: Lower your tire pressure. Wheels can float on the soft ground so reducing the pressure helps increase contact patch too.

So before you can leave for your ride, know the area well so that you go with the ideal tire pressure for that specific terrain and weather situation.

3. Tire Volume

Tire volume goes hand in hand with its width and shape. At the same time, it depends on the internal width of the rim your mountain bike wheel has.

The wider the mountain bike tire, the larger the air volume. Similarly, a tire with a wide rim inflates wider than on a narrower rim.

A general rule applying to tire volume is that a tire with a larger volume handles lower pressure before it starts to feel imprecise and move a lot on the rim. Likewise, such a tire can handle lower pressure before becoming susceptible to burping or punctures.

It’s also not advisable to run a higher volume tire at too high a pressure. It’ll feel skittery and pingy. 

A rule of thumb is to always run a higher volume tire at slightly lower PSIs than a lower volume tire.

4. Rim Width

A wider rim goes well with lower tire pressure, primarily due to more volume and surface area. On a fat bike, you’re better off running on tire pressure as low as 5PSI for traction.

If you have a wider MTB tire, it’s better to use a wider rim tool. Using it on a narrow rim gives it a lightbulb shape upon inflation. This makes it prone to rolling from one side of the rim to the other. Subsequently, the feeling as you ride is likely to be quite imprecise.

On the other hand, a narrow tire on a wide rim can get too square. It affects how the tire feels as you lean in a corner as the shoulder treads squirm. It may also result in the reduction of cornering lean angles.

It’s worth noting that rim width designs are so that a certain width serves a particular tire width range. Check the manufacturer’s website always to ensure the rim width corresponds with your tire width.

5. Riding Style

Although the riding style is less measurable, it can influence your mountain bike tire pressure.

If you tend to be precise, riding as you weave through obstacles quite smoothly, a couple of psi less could work for you. 

On the contrary, an aggressive rider, the point-and-shoot style type, might use higher pressure to protect the tire against punctures. Low PSIs can be risky if you’re the latter type of rider.

6. Front Tire and Rear Tire

Of course, the job of the front and the rear tire is different– and this has an impact on tire pressure.

The role of the front tire is pretty much one of grip for cornering and braking. And because lower pressure increases grip, you need lower PSIs on your front tire. But, ensure you aren’t too low such that you induce tire roll. The idea is to increase grip as much as possible because it boosts control.

The rear wheel does all the ‘donkey work,’ so to say. In fact, the chances of this tire suffering a puncture are pretty high. Additionally, this wheel tends to be draggier than the front one because it supports more rider weight.

As much as the relationship between tire pressure and rolling efficiency is complex, it’s advisable to add a bit more PSIs on your mountain bike’s rear wheel than the front one. It ensures the wheel can roll faster. Whatsmore, it increases puncture protection. 

7. Tire Compound

You might also want to consider tire carcass as well as tire compound. A tire compound is the blend of materials that constitute the rubber. Some come while softer than others.

If your tire compound is soft, a certain pressure will give your MTB tire more grip- the rubber boosts traction. You may consider adding a little more pressure to increase stability and protection. This will help retain the much-needed grip.

How Do You Know You Have the Perfect Tire Pressure?

If you’re about to go for a ride and are just fine-tuning your tire pressures, you may want to know how you determine the right numbers for your mountain bike.

First, use a gauge to determine your current tire pressures. It’s also recommended to use the same gauge for your tires because they aren’t equal. Different gauges will bring some variations. Invest in a good gauge and always use it. Looking after it well will result in longtime service.

Now, if you’re riding on fast, high-load tracks or steep, slow technical ones and can feel your MTB front wheel roll when pushing it, it’s time to add more air to your tires. Doing this gives them better puncture protection and stability. It’s the same case if you start feeling uncomfortable dings and knocks through the rim once you hit roots or rocks.

Additionally, if holding a line seems to be a struggle when the trail is off-camber, reduce the pressure for such an area.

Always remember that mountain bike tire pressure is all about balance. So, you need to get out there and experiment to ensure you have suitable pressure.

Conclusion

Finding the perfect tire pressure for your mountain bike is relatively easy. In fact, this is the cheapest and easiest tune-up for your bike. It all comes down to understanding the different factors that affect tire pressure and how different tire pressures influence bike performance. Once you get this, there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy more control, fun, and grip from your mountain bike.

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