Tire pressure is as simple or as complicated as you make it, but this episode gives you a 6 step plan that takes into consideration all the factors associated with getting your tire pressure right in every situation.
You already know there are a bunch of options out there whether we’re talking road bikes, let alone mountain bikes, but I’ve chosen to focus on road clinchers. I believe that covers the majority of competitive cyclists. If you don’t race on them, you will at least use them for training. Singles, tubulars whatever you call…maybe next time.
An interesting note is the slow shift towards clinchers. not that anyone is using them in the bunch yet, but the mass market is flooded with options. And while the hold-up is mainly due to rim technology and weight of the ‘hooks’. Tubeless will make its move – which can only be better for Semi-Pros. By the way, I say mainly because tradition is a hard thing to break in road cycling.
Tire pressure is a little underrated and if you’re anything like me, a little neglected. But it really is a critical component to getting the most out of your bike. There are a bunch of different variables that go into figuring out what your ideal pressure should be, for any given situation.
Personal taste is a large factor here, but as a starting point I thought it would be handy to go through 6, yes 6 things to consider when searching for that the holy grail of pressures that will make the dead roads turn into the hot mix and hot mix into flying. That doesn’t really work, but you get the picture.
Six things to consider when searching for perfect tire pressure
1. Rider Weight: How a tire performs at a given pressure is relative to the rider’s weight
2. Tire Volume: Tire volume and pressure
3. Road Surface: What are the roads like?
4. Riding Style: How you ride is as important as where you ride
5. Rim Width: Ride em wide
6. Weather Conditions: Really the only adverse conditions that we get in road riding is wet weather
Wrap up and final notes
After all that you should have a solid starting point to go out and test. Remember don’t be afraid of higher rolling resistance when running lower tire pressures, be more afraid of your rims wearing down and exploding.
While we’re on the subject of pumping up tires. Do you keep the valve cap and washer screw thingy? I’ve never kept them, it is just easier dealing with flats that way. I found something that might change my mind on the valve cap front though. If you ride without valve caps, dirt can get inside the valve or even the tube, later returning to the valve and getting stuck between the valve’s sealing surfaces. The only way to get rid of the dirt is by inflating to max pressure and deflating quickly a few times. If this doesn’t work, you will need a new tube. I will have check out my bike to see if it’s a legit problem.
How to measure your weight distribution front to back.
I haven’t mentioned this yet but there is a 7th consideration. Weight distribution. Effectively the difference in pressure on the front and back of your bike.
Do you account for this already? What percentage difference do you run? There is a lot of noise out there regarding what a standard weight distribution of a bike and rider is. 50-50, 60-40, 70-30…you get the idea.
It’s hard to guess if you have no experience in this area. So I have pinched a way to measure your weight distribution from Lennard Zinn. Even if you just do it once, you will have a better understanding when making the final tweak to your tire pressure.
Step 1: Put a bathroom scale under one wheel and a wood blocks the same thickness as the scale under the other wheel.
Step 2: Weigh yourself standing on the scale while lifting the bike off of the ground.
Step 3: Sit on the bike perched on the scale and block and hold yourself up by touching an elbow against the wall. Have somebody else read off the scale reading.
Step 4: As a double check, turn the bike around so that the wheel on the scale and the wheel on the block are reversed, and take the measurement again.
Step 5: Calculate. Take your weight from step 2 and work out the percentage using the figure from step 3 or 4.
One will do.
This will give you an idea of where your weight sits. How does affect the final pressure? Drop the pressure on the front wheel because it holds less weight. By how much? You could get exact by using the numbers you just produced – or you could just use the Vittoria tires app. Either way, it’s going to come down to personal preference from testing.
Photo Credit: TchmilFan on Flickr