Stage 17 - 21 Days, 21 Tips for Cycling: Tire Pressure.

Tire Gauge

Tire pressure in the Tour de France is a hotly debated topic, and it pits the age-old accepted protocols for inflation against new evidence that has come to light through science and technology in recent times.

Remember that these cyclists are on their bikes, are working hard, and get paid to ride. They have cars full of extra wheels that allow for quick exchanges. Flats are an inconvenience, not a major affair. After 3 weeks of racing, the difference can come down to mere seconds.

You, on the other hand, don't get paid to ride (neither do I, really...), and probably have no follow vehicles when you head out. You want your tires to do three things really well:

  • Allow for safe control of your bike in most conditions.
  • Allow for safe braking, cornering, and acceleration.
  • Allow for comfort without sacrificing too much performance, and vice-versa.
  • But on the question of tire pressure (for a standard road bike), go with this formula. It's provided courtesy of Dr. David Nayer, who built wheels under the name of Nimble, in Austin, for several years:

Start with 110 PSI in your tire:

Add 10psi if you're a Large rider (>170lb rider) - wider tires (25mm) also recommended.

Add 10psi if you're riding track or TT narrow tires (20mm clincher, 19mm tubular)

Add 10-20psi if you have a specialty suspension frame (beam seat, suspension fork)

Remove 10psi if you're a Small rider (<140lbs)

Remove 10psi if conditions are wet - this is also a case where we advise the use of wider tires.

Remove 10psi for Rough terrain - also advise wider tires.

Remove 10psi Challenging handling (mountains, cornering, Crits, etc.).

Remove 10psi for Less experienced riders (improves handling, comfort)
So for a cyclist like me, weighing in at 160lbs, I'll start at 110psi. But my route has a lot of chip-seal on it, so I'll take 10psi out. If it's raining, I'll take another 10psi out. That would leave me with 90-100psi, depending on my route and needs.

My wife Tracy, on the other hand, would start at 110psi, take 10psi out for her weight (125lbs), and another 10 for rough roads.

Again - you can adjust it for your own skillset and needs, but NEVER inflate your tires to maximum pressure. It's not necessary, it doesn't help, it's less comfortable, and it can be dangerous. I once overheated a tire when descending the Alpe d'Huez, and the explosion not only destroyed my rim, it echoed across the canyon like a cannon blast. I was MUCH more careful after that.

Tire pressure should focus on safety, comfort, braking, cornering, and acceleration. There is no ideal tire pressure, just the knowledge that comes from experience. We hope this helps!

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