My cycling friends at times find it odd that I am a NASCAR fan. But frankly, I am amazed by the parallels between stock cars and bicycles. One such aspect is that of air pressure in our tires. Even if you’re not a big race fan, tune in to a NASCAR race some time, wait for the pit stops to start, and listen to the conversation concerning pressure. Tire pressure is just as, if not more so, important than the adjustments made to the suspension. In fact, tire pressure on both stock cars and bicycles has become part of the suspension adjustment.
Up until the last decade adjusting the tire pressure on your bike to achieve more comfort was thought to sacrifice speed. But recent research is debunking that myth. Yes, if we always rode on perfectly smooth surfaces, the harder the tire the better, would be true. However, consider the surface you ride on. At least on my routes, even the paved surfaces can be quite bumpy. So what PSI should you run? For the purpose of this conversation, I’m talking road bike, but I encourage all to adjust your fatter tires also.
Of course every tire comes with a PSI range written on the sidewall. For safety sake never go above that high mark. The low mark however, according to your weight, can be cause for some debate. Not to geek out on you with the science, here’s the bottom line: every vibration from the road surface is not only uncomfortable, but you’re also losing forward momentum, in addition to control and braking power. The layman’s term would be “grip.” By lowering the tire pressure, the tire compresses and more of the tire comes in contact with the road, thus more power transfer, control and braking ability. So although it looks somewhat strange, the tire should actually flatten out as it comes in contact with the road surface. More contact, more grip, well you get the idea. So again, what PSI should you run? It does take some experimentation. I weigh about 200 lbs. On my road bike I’m ruining 105 psi in the back and 100 psi on the front. Thus, for most of you, running the tires limit of 110 psi or more, in my opinion, is much too high.
So give it a try and do your own research. A good place to start is the YouTube channel from the guys at GCN (Global Cycling Network). Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sDX54zNmxY . And do your body a favor, lower that tire pressure.