Tyre pressure for bikes: What to use for different conditions

Working out different tyre pressures to match the conditions can be a headache. Does the length of ride also matter? And what about the type of bike? Here to help is Nik Cook… 

Before setting off, you have to consider rider weight, tyre width and type – tubes, tubeless or tubs and road and weather conditions

People regularly ask what the best tyre pressure for bikes is, but there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for this question, as there are simply so many variables.

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On the road, you have to consider rider weight, tyre width and type – tubes, tubeless or tubs – and road and weather conditions. It’s definitely not a case of seeing what the maximum recommended pressure on the tyre casing is and pumping up to that, though!

Many novices and even some not-so-novice riders make the mistake of thinking that harder is faster, but this simply isn’t true. On the silky smooth boards of a velodrome, rock hard works, but, even on seemingly smooth roads every tiny imperfection will cause overly-inflated tyres to be deflected, skip and lose speed. A less-inflated tyre will deform to those imperfections and roll smoother and faster.

Wider tyres, especially when tubeless, facilitate these faster roller lower pressures and, in conjunction with improved aerodynamics with wider rims, explain why 25mm and 28mm tyres are becoming more and more popular and 23mm tyres, once the go-to, are now found gathering dust in the bargain bucket at your local bike shop.

Best tyre pressure for road bikes

A good starting point for road tyre pressure is to take your weight in kgs and to run that in psi in your rear tyre and 3-5 psi less in your front. See how this feels and tweak until you find a pressure that works for you.

Once you’ve found your set-up, length of ride shouldn’t impact on it but, if the road surface is especially rough or it’s forecast to be wet, you might need to drop it.

Best tyre pressure pressure for mountain bikes

Once we head off-road, whether gravel or MTB, I can almost guarantee that if you come from the road, you’ll be running your tyres far too hard. Even at 80kg, on my gravel bike my pressure will be <35 psi, and on my MTB well down into the mid to low 20’s. I’m a big fan of this online calculator.

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Image credit: Getty Images.