There was a time when tires with high pressure were believed to be faster as compared to be tires with lower pressure. Nowadays, some cyclists debate that low pressure tires are a better choice.
According to experts, there is no optimal tire pressure unless you are a high performance cyclist or triathlon participant. In fact, the tire pressure depends on a number of factors and may vary according to the terrain. One thing remains unchanged, tire pressure of a road bike is still very important for a smooth bike journey.
Changes in tire air pressure results in a change in your bikes knob footprint; it also cases stiffness and affects the friction of your bike. A slight change in tire pressure can affect your bike’s performance and is a crucial adjustment to make.
Manufacturers only adjust the tire pressure of road bikes, in quarter pound accruals. Beginners are therefore advised to adhere to one PSI variations, so that more pressure can be added within this specified range when required.
Inappropriate tire pressure in your road bike can not only incapacitate your ride but also pose a threat for possible accidents or injuries. In order to maintain the best tire pressure, cyclists should keep some important things in mind.
The recommended pounds per square inch or PSI when you start your ride should be 12 PSI in both the front and back tires. A two pound variation is allowed in special cases as long as it stays within 10 to 14 pounds.
Factors including friction and road heat etc. cause deformation and sidewall flex leading to the tire heating up. Track quality and weather are also major factors contributing towards the bike tires heating up.
Heat leads to an increase in tire pressure especially that of the rear tire. Tire friction increases the rear tire pressure by as much as 6 pounds during the first three laps. This can be a problem for the cyclist especially during competitive racing, making it even more important to maintain accurate tire pressure. The best way to fight heat in the tire is to keep your tire pressure below maximum when beginning the ride.
Heat and tire pressure can be managed by starting with 10 PSI in the rear tire and a little less in the front tire.
The front tire of a bike has higher chances of flattening than the back tires. Although the front tire has a smaller chamber and thus less air volume, the amount of pressure applied while cycling on both front and back tires is equal.
This increases the risk of the front tire getting punctured even at the slightest impact. The solution to this is to have a lighter tire in the front, that is, a tire with reduced air pressure. This will delay, if not avoid the puncturing of the tire and is especially useful during competitive cycling.
Inappropriate air pressure should be detected as soon as possible even during riding. The bike should neither have too much air pressure, nor should it have too little air pressure. The ideal way to measure your tire pressure is with a gauge. You can certainly have a look at our selection of portable bike air pumps, some of which come with an air pressure gauge.
The best indicator of excess tire pressure are loss of grip and an increase in wheel spin. The bike will bump higher than usual in spite of a smooth track. The cyclist must be cautious to immediately detect these changes otherwise this may lead to accidents.
Another way to detect high air pressure is “rim clean”, or tire side walls tendency to roll over the edge. If the air pressure is appropriate, you will be able to see a shiny trip of aluminum along the top edge of the rim. If you don’t see that strip that means that the air pressure is too much.
Less or inadequate air pressure in the tires will be indicated by an uncomfortable ridding experience and trouble in turning the bike at corners. The tires will go limp due to weak sidewalls and will roll off the edge of the rim.
A professional cyclist should know how to adjust the air pressure of tires according to the tracks. A cyclist might encounter muddy or rocky tracks and these tracks might affect the bike performance in different ways.
Usually, deep muddy tracks affects your bike’s speed. But if the mud is not too deep, it might not affect the speed. Wet or sticky mud, on the other hand, makes it difficult to keep the front end of your bike down. A bike with appropriate tire pressure will operate perfectly even in the mud. As a rider, you should know how much tire pressure is best for suited for muddy tracks.
Since deep mud reduces speed, therefore, it is best to reduce your tire pressure to 10 PSI. If the mud is not deep, you can maintain your regular air pressure of 12 PSI. However, sticky or wet mud might require increasing tire pressure to keep the bike going.
Rocky tracks demand higher air pressure as compared to smooth tracks. Whether your track is rocky or it has gravel, in both cases, you are required to increase the air pressure ensuring that the quality of your wheel and frames is optimum. Make sure that your tire pressure is around or equal to 14 PSI when you are cycling on rocky terrain.
I hope you enjoyed this article and it helped you out when understanding tire air pressure and how to maintain air pressure on different terrains. Always have a portable gauge and air pump with you on trips that can prove to be ‘testing’. Have a look at our essential portable bike tire pump collection, you might just find something cool.
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