Riding your mountain bike with the appropriate
amount of tire pressure can make a huge difference
in how much control you have over your bike.
Setting your tire pressure too high will make for
poor contact with the ground and also make your
bike less controllable. Setting your tire pressure
too low will make your tires unpredictable and also
make them susceptible to pinch flats.
The appropriate amount of tire pressure in a
mountain bike will vary between rider to rider and
tire setup to tire setup. The conditions of your
trail and the type of terrain your riding will also
greatly impact what tire pressure you should be using
in your tires.
The trick here is to find out exactly what mountain
bike tire pressure works for you and your setup during
normal conditions. After doing this, you can learn
to adjust your pressure for different trails and types
of terrain as needed.
You should start by finding a reliable pressure gauge
or a pump with a pressure gauge. Then, use this same
gauge or pump anytime you are making adjustments. A
gauge can be very inaccurate, so if you switch around
it you can make things much more difficult.
You should start with a higher pressure of around 40 –
50 psi. If you have a tubeless system, you should
start lower, 30 – 40 psi. The more you weigh, the
higher pressure you should start with. Try this
pressure for a while and get a feel for how the tires
take corners and loose dirt.
Drop the pressure by 5 psi in each tire and get a feel
for how this new setup rides and how it compares to your
previous setting. You should notice some improvement
in stability, and if you don’t, drop the pressure by
another 5 psi.
You want to find the lowest pressure you can ride with
without sacrificing pinch flat resistance. A pinch flat
occurs when your tire rolls over an object then compresses
to the point where the tire and the tube get pinched
between the object and the rim on the wheel.
With tubeless tire systems, you can run much lower air
pressure, as you don’t have to worry about getting pinch
flats. If you start to dent your rims, burp air out
along the bead, or feel the tire roll under the rim
during hard cornering, you’ve taken the pressure much
Once you’ve found a comfortable setting for your tire
pressure, learn what your tire feels like when you
squeeze it with your hands. Once you know what your
tires feel like you can always get the right air
pressure – with any pump.