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How to Choose Your Tyre Pressure

By Christopher Ashley

Ask two cyclists what pressure you should pump your tyres to, and you’ll get 10 answers. Let’s cut the nonsense and keep it simple…

Picking up the groceries?

You’ve just fitted new Continental tyres to your shopper bike, now take a look at the sidewall. Written next to psi, it gives you a minimum of 58 and a maximum pressure of 70.

Add the two figures together and divide by two, then pump your tyres to 64 psi. Don’t overthink it, it’s that easy.

A bridge over a the Singel canal and brickwork houses in Amsterdam.

Are you a speed freak?

If you’re after speed, you want a lower rolling resistance, and higher pressure means higher speeds. I’m going to assume you’ve spent a fortune on a set of Zipp 202 NSW Carbon Clinchers. Read the manual and you’ll notice the max tyre pressure for those wheels is 125 psi.

Now buy tyres that go to that pressure, and pump your tyres to 125 psi. Bear in mind that if you have a higher BMI than a grand tour cyclist and you pump just 1 psi over that limit, you risk the tyres coming free of the rims when you corner at 25 mph.

Release the pressure off road?

If you venture off tarmac, it goes without saying that you’ll endure irregularities to say the least. Tree roots, rocks, and just general erosion make even the most well-worn trails unpredictable. Ignore the upper limits of tyre pressure – you want traction as well as comfort.

Henry Horrocks, a Schwalbe sales manager, confessed that tyre pressure warnings on MTB tyres was a, “lawyer thing, for sure” and many MTB pros will ride their tyres below minimum pressure if it means increased bounce to alleviate pressure from the joints.

What’s your BMI?

If you’re pushing the upper or lower limits of tyre pressure, a key factor to consider is your own BMI. This doesn’t mean you have to aim for a certain body weight – it just means you need to be realistic about what your weight to height ratio will let you do to your tyres.

High BMI is great if you’re going to get out the saddle and sprint in a straight line, but it will put pressure on the contact between tyres and rims. Don’t flirt with excesses of high or low tyre pressure. Look at the limits and keep a good 10 psi within the boundaries set by the lawyers.

Road bike cycle club leisure ride?

Pump your tyres to 100 psi. Don’t ask questions. The answer is always 100 psi. Now go and have fun!