Tyres are one of the most important elements and components of a mountain bike, being the only thing connecting the bike to the rough, wet and challenging terrain found when mountain biking. The importance of tyres on the mountain bike, means that mountain bike tyre pressures are also important.
Although tyre manufacturers recommend tyre pressures, there are a number of other factors at play, when deciding what tyre pressure to run on your mountain bike. In this article, we look at some of the things that you can do, to ensure that you run the best possible tyre pressures.
There is a good reason to spend some time figuring out the best tyre pressures for your mountain bike - if you get the tyre pressures on your mountain bike right, you can expect optimal levels of grip and comfort - get them wrong, and you can expect an uncomfortable ride, with grip levels suffering.
What’s the best tyre pressure for my MTB?
Unfortunately, there is no one single answer to finding and choosing the right mountain bike tyre pressure. Whilst there are manufacturer recommendations to choose from, there are also other factors at play, which we run through below.
Weight & MTB Tyre Pressures
Heavier Mountain Bikes, such as downhill mountain bikes - and bikes which are carrying heavier riders, obviously require a higher pressure in the tyres as the tyres will have greater force pressing down upon them. The same principle applies to lightweight riders and bikes, where tyres have less stress placed upon them.
MTB Terrain & Tyre Pressures
The type of terrain you are riding across, is one of the biggest influences on the tyre pressures that you should run. There needs to be the balance between getting a puncture and maximising grip levels. If you are smashing across roots and rocks, think about upping your tyre pressure slightly. Be careful not to over inflate tyres which can see the tyre ripping on sharp surfaces.
If you are travelling on smoother terrain, especially across wet and muddy conditions - lowering tyre pressures can massively increase grip, thanks to a wider surface area of the tread and tyre coming into contact with the ground.
MTB Tyre Pressure & Riding Style
If you ride in a very precise and controlled way, carving your way through and around obstacles - you are more likely to get away with running a lower tyre pressure - if however, you ride like a bull in a china shop, higher tyre pressures will provide greater protection from punctures.
MTB Tyre Width & Tyre Pressure
The wider the tyre, the larger the tyre - and the larger volume of air the tyre can contain. This means that bigger and wider mountain bike tyres can run lower tyre pressures compared to thinner tyres. Avoid running high pressures in larger mountain bike tyres, as this can have a negative impact on performance and handling.
MTB Rim Width & Tyre Pressure
A wider tyre works best on a wider wheel rim, using a wide tyre on a narrower rim can see the tyre balloon - leading to poor handling. Similarly, a narrow tyre on a wide mountain bike rim can become too square, which again has a negative impact on handling and especially, cornering angles.
MTB Tyre Compound & Tyre Pressure
Mountain Bike Tyres are often made from different compounds, a softer tyre compound will provide more grip - and in the case of using a softer tyre compound, increased pressure should be used to provide greater puncture protection.
MTB Front & Back Tyre Pressures
The rear tyre is under a greater load of weight from the rider, so should be run a little higher than the pressure in the front tyre, which does the majority of steering and gripping.
What Tyre Pressure to Choose?
The best starting point for tyre pressures is to run the recommended manufacturer tyre pressures - then either increase or decrease the PSI in your tyres when you ride, by a small amount - such as 5 PSI. If you then take note of the performance and handling of your bike, you can find the right tyre pressure for your riding requirements.