Have you just purchased your first gravel bike and have no idea what the ideal tire pressure should be? Then you are not alone. Many people have had issues deciding the ideal tire pressure, with some claiming higher is better while others say lower is better.
Fortunately, we have put together this guide to help you determine the ideal pressure for your gravel bike. But first, what is the impact of air pressure on your tires? Let us find out.
Impact of Air Pressure on your Tires
Your gravel bike air pressure can have an impact on the bike and its overall performance. Low, normal, or high pressure will make a lot of difference in a bike. However, if your tire pressure is not ideal, the following are a few areas it can affect:
- Speed: The wrong tire pressure can impact the speed of your bike in many ways. For instance, if you don’t put enough air in your gravel bike tire, it will be unable to take in the impact from the uneven road properly since the suspension won’t perform at peak capacity, thus affecting bicycle speed.
- Power: Using the wrong tire pressure in your gravel bike will take up more energy from you when riding. This is particularly evident when you put in much lower air pressure than needed. As the wheel rotates, the tire changes shape with ease, and some of the peddling power is absorbed by the low-pressured tire shape, causing you to use more energy.
- Control and Traction: Traction is the tire’s friction on the road surface. The better the tire’s surface sticks to the road surface, the more it will clinch to the road. Anytime you are going through a corner, the tire tends to change shape, ensuring the side of the tire gets more contact with the surface. But if your gravel bike’s tire pressure is too low, the tire knobs will tread deeper and not properly bite the road surface. What’s more, anytime you want to brake, the tire rubbers must bite the road to ensure the wheels stop fast. If the air pressure is too much, it can result in less tread touching the road and a stiff tire, which can cause a tire slip.
Knowing the impacts of using the wrong tire pressure for your gravel bike, what then is the ideal tire pressure? Let us find out below.
The Idea Gravel Tire Pressure
The fact is that there is no specific number stating the ideal tire pressure. Many things influence the ideal tire pressure, and one person’s ideal tire pressure may not be the right one for you. Every individual needs to find his/her ideal tire pressure level depending on their requirements.
Before we proceed to the optimum tire pressure in gravel bikes, let us look into some factors that can help you determine your optimum tire pressure.
The Weight of the Rider
The weight of the gravel bike rider, baggage, and bike have an impact on the bike tires. This means that the more load on the bike, the more air pressure it will require. The rider will have to regulate the air pressure so that when it gets a load within the capacity the bike can handle it; the bike tire won’t run around. This means if a rider weighs 80kg and is cycling with a 35psi air pressure, with a load of 5kg, then it is important that the rider adds an extra 3-10psi to the tire pressure. In gravel bikes, the weight of the luggage and passenger is more than the bike, which is why doing this is very important. Therefore, every rider needs to measure the tire pressure of their gravel bike differently.
Type of Tire
All types of tires do not need the same pressure. For instance, if you use a tubeless tire on your gravel bike, you can use lower air pressure. This is because it is more puncture-resistant than your typical tire. What’s more, a tubeless tire has a lower resistance than the standard tires. This implies that the ideal pressure for non-tubeless and tubeless tires on gravel bikes is not the same.
Width of the Bike Tire
The width of the gravel bike’s tire will determine the volume of air it can accommodate. This means that narrow and wide tires will both need different air volumes. Wide tires can take in lots of air, making them okay for riding when the tire pressure is slightly lower. However, in bikes with narrower tires, low tire pressure may not be a good idea.
If you will be riding off-road, you need to note that the route may occasionally be uneven and unpredictable. Sometimes, when you are riding through a specific route, you may begin feeling the bike is not comfortable anymore and may require adjustments. The same applies if you go on a smooth road and the bike feels like it is spinning or slipping. This could be an indication that your tire pressure is not low enough. The terrain greatly affects the tire pressure of your gravel bike.
The Rider’s Cycling Style
This is also an important factor to consider when determining your air pressure. When riding your gravel bike, do you prefer crushing anything you come across, or do you like jumping over obstacles? The answer to this question will help you proceed.
What is the Recommended Gravel Bike Tire Air Pressure?
If you check the side of your gravel bike’s tire, you should find a label for the tire alongside the max air pressure acceptable. This is usually in psi units or bars. 14.5psi is equivalent to 1 bar. The max pressure is the safe limit of the tire placed by the tire developer, and going beyond this by too much will cause the tire to pop or bend.
As a guide, you can use the following:
- 35 – 38mm tire width – 35 to 40psi
- 40 – 45mm tire width – 25 to 35psi
- 50mm tire width and above – 20 t0 30 psi
When determining the ideal tire pressure, it is important to find a balance between comfort and resistance. To do this, begin from the max PSI range of your tire and gradually go from there till you locate it.