Whether you’re road biking, hitting singletrack trails on a mountain bike, or going for a casual stroll on a hybrid or cruiser, tire pressure is one of the most important aspects to pay attention to, regardless of when or where you’re riding.
Your tires are the only thing between you and the ground, so it's always best to be sure that they are inflated properly for your current riding situation and preferences.
If you ride on even a somewhat frequent basis, you need to be checking your tire pressure on a consistent basis. This almost always includes the use of an actual tire pressure gauge so you can be precise with things.
However, it’s safe to say that you may not always have a tire pressure gauge on you during certain riding situations, so you need to be able to at least provide an estimate without using any kind of tools.
Below, we’ll go over how to check your tire pressure, both with and without a tire pressure gauge.
CHECKING TIRE PRESSURE WITH A GAUGE
Regardless of what type of bike you’re riding, the tires will always have a specific range on the side of them for you to reference. First find this range before using a gauge or inflating.
Once you know the psi range, use your tire gauge by placing it on the valve and pressing down, causing the needle on the gauge to move and display the pressure. Alternate between the air pump and gauge until you reach desired pressure.
To make things easier, get a pump with a built in gauge.
CHECKING TIRE PRESSURE WITHOUT A GAUGE
While you may not be able to get a precise readout of tire pressure without a gauge, there are still some ways you can improvise.
If you are on a road bike, you can simply squeeze the tire on each side. If there is a lot of give, inflate until you can barely squeeze it.
For a mountain bike, get on the bike and look down. If you see the tires protruding out on each side more than a millimeter or two, you’ll need to add air. If they feel rock hard and offer no give, you need to relieve some of the air out.
HELPFUL THINGS TO KNOW
Different types of bike tires require different pressures. As a general rule of thumb, road tires usually need 80 to 130 psi, mountain bike tires require about 25 to 35 psi, and hybrid tires, 50 to 70 psi.
Weather can play a factor in your tire pressure as well. For instance, each 10-degree-Fahrenheit drop in outside temperature correlates to a 2 percent drop in tire pressure. An example of this would be the outside temperature dropping from 90 degrees to 60 degrees, which means your road tire pressure would drop from 100 psi to 94 psi.
Also, the surface you’re riding on plays a factor too. If you’re on a road bike, and you are riding on a very smooth road, you can keep the psi up to a maximum level. Rougher roads will require a slight drop in pressure to offer a smoother ride.
If you’re on a mountain bike and you are going to be tackling some adventurous singletrack that has uneven surfaces and plenty of sand and dirt, dropping your psi a bit can give the bike better traction and grip.
Body weight is another factor. Let’s say that a 165-pound rider uses 100 psi on his road bike. With that point of reference, a 200-pound rider inflate to around 120 psi, while a 130-pound rider could probably ride as low as 80 psi.
In any situation, never go above or below the manufacturer's recommended tire pressures.
It’s worth saying again: Tire pressure is crucial. While we strongly recommend that you purchase a tire gauge, learning how to estimate tire pressure by look and feel can come in handy for the times you may be without. Either way, always be vigilant with your tire pressure.