I’ve got a post about tire pressure that’s been sitting in my Draft folder for something like four years. Four years. Folks, I’m not afraid of much, but I’m scared to hit the publish button on that post… because tire pressure is a personal thing. It’s incredibly subjective and depends on everything from rider preference to frame and rim material to saddle/heinie comparability, to chamois choice. And anyone who rides seriously will have an opinion about tire pressure – and the angrier the person, the more right they are and the dumber you are for having your opinion.
That said, there is general wisdom to pass along without inflaming the hemorrhoids. Too much. Such as:
- Heavier riders use greater pressure. This doesn’t need to get silly, though. I’m 175 pounds and I roll 115 psi in 23mm tires, 111 psi in 24mm, and 105 to 107 psi in 25’s.
- Lighter riders don’t need all of that tire pressure to avoid pinch flats.
- The balance is; little enough to smooth out the roads, but enough you don’t pinch flat whenever you hit a pothole – or, if you go tubeless, little enough to smooth out the road, but enough you don’t crack your rims on potholes.
- You can use tire pressure to tune your bike in so the ride feels a little more buttery.
That last bullet point is where the cheddar’s at. I’ve got this down to a science on the Trek. With the alloy wheels on the bike, if I go to 114 psi with 24’s, I can feel every bump on my keister. Drop three psi off that and the bike is heaven. With the carbon fiber wheelset and 25mm tires on either my Venge or the 5200, it’s a little less of an imperative to get the pressure exactly right because the wheels do some of the heavy lifting and take a some sting out of the road. Still, I like 105 to 107 psi in the 25’s on the carbon fiber wheels.
Now, as mentioned above, there’s a delicate balance to be maintained here. Too little pressure and you’ll pinch flat every time you hit a decent bump and it’ll feel like you’re trying to ride through mud, and as you can see in the photo above, we’ve got some bumps to worry about and nobody likes riding through mud… err… on slicks… on a road bike. Also, part of that equation is to balance your tire pressure with your weight as well.
The next time you’ve got some solo miles planned, take some time and a handy, dandy hand pump and play with the tire pressure a little bit as you ride. Add a little, drop a little, drop a little more… hit a few bumps to make sure “a little more” wasn’t actually “too much”… Tune your bike in to the road with your tire pressure so you’ve got the perfect balance between fast and smooth.
You won’t regret it.