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Bike Tire Pressure Guide for Beginner Cyclists

by Zach Nehr

Blog ▸ Bike Tire Pressure Guide for Beginner Cyclists

Zach Nehr

Zach Nehr

Zach has a degree in Exercise Science and Psychology. He is a certified coach, Cat 1 cyclist, and is a freelance writer having been published in many of the worlds largest endurance sports publications.

Bike tire pressure is one of the essential parts of your bicycle, though, at most times, you can’t even see it. The pressurized air inside your tires allows you to ride. Without bike tire pressure, cycling is impossible. 

But as simple as it sounds – Just put air in your tires – bike tire pressure may seem like a complex issue. The ideal bike tire pressure depends on many factors: tire size, rider weight, weather conditions, type of bike, and more. 

This guide will break down bike tire pressure and tell you everything you need to know. First, we’ll discuss the essential inner workings of bike tire pressure and how to measure your tire pressure. 

Finally, we’ll discuss the different types of bike tires and wheels and how they affect your ideal pressure.

Road/Triathlon Gravel Mountain

Road/Triathlon

Rider WeightClincherTubeless
50 kg / 110 lbs80 psi75 psi
60 kg / 132 lbs85 psi80 psi
70 kg / 154 lbs90 psi85 psi
80 kg / 176 lbs95 psi90 psi
90 kg / 198 lbs105 psi98 psi
100 kg / 220 lbs120 psi110 psi

Gravel

Rider WeightClincherTubeless
50 kg / 110 lbs30 psi25 psi
60 kg / 132 lbs33 psi28 psi
70 kg / 154 lbs37 psi32 psi
80 kg / 176 lbs43 psi37 psi
90 kg / 198 lbs45 psi40 psi
100 kg / 220 lbs48 psi43 psi

Mountain

Rider WeightClincherTubeless
50 kg / 110 lbs30 psi25 psi
60 kg / 132 lbs32 psi27 psi
70 kg / 154 lbs34 psi29 psi
80 kg / 176 lbs37 psi32 psi
90 kg / 198 lbs39 psi34 psi
100 kg / 220 lbs40 psi36 psi

Complete Guide to Bike Tire Pressure:

  • What is Bike Tire Pressure?
    • Bike Tires
    • Inner Tubes
  • How to Measure Bike Tire Pressure
    • Bike Pump
    • Pressure Gauge
  • Types of Bike Tires and Wheels
    • Clinchers
    • Tubeless
    • Tubulars
  • Narrow Tires vs. Wide Tires
    • Why Higher Tire Pressure Isn’t Always Better
    • Cons of High Tire Pressure
  • What is the Best Bike Tire Pressure?
    • Road Bikes and Triathlon Bikes
    • Gravel Bikes
    • Mountain Bikes

What is Bike Tire Pressure?

In the simplest terms, bike tire pressure is the amount of pressurized air you pump into your bike tires. Bike tire pressure keeps your tires inflated, which always allows you to ride fast and comfortably. Before we get into the details of bike tire pressure, we’ll quickly explain how bike tire pressure works. 

Bike Tires

bicycle wheel

Bike tires are the rubber casings that mount onto your wheel’s rims and are the only point of contact between your bike and the ground. Tires absorb impacts from the road, cushion your ride, and provide grip in corners. 

Inner Tubes

Inner tubes are circular casings that sit inside the bike tire, between the inside of the tire and the rim. These tubes are found in clincher tires (more on different types of bike tires below), which are the most popular kind of bike tires. Tubeless tires are catching up fast in popularity, but inner tubes are still #1. 

When you pump up a clincher bike tire, you are pumping air into the inner tube rather than the tire itself. The inner tube inflates inside the tire, helping seal the tire to the rim. 

How to Measure Bike Tire Pressure 

You may be wondering how pressurized air gets inside your bike tire. That’s where pumps and valves come in. Beginner cyclists needn’t worry about the inner workings of Schrader and Presta valves. We’ll save that for another post. 

There are two main ways to measure bike tire pressure. And, no, the “thumb test” doesn’t count. 

(The thumb test is an inaccurate way of measuring your tire pressure by squeezing the tire with your thumb and taking a wild guess.)

Bike Pump

A bike pump, or floor pump, is one of the most popular and vital accessories for cycling. Every cyclist needs a bike pump. Otherwise, they’ll be heading into the bike shop every few days to get their tires pumped. 

Without getting too technical, bike pumps are a type of air displacement pump specifically designed for bike tires. Bike pumps work like most other pumps in the world. You connect the pump to the valve (which sticks out of the inside of the wheel’s rim) and pump. 

Bike pumps vary in quality from super basic pumps costing $40 to professional grade pumps that cost more than $300. We recommend a basic bike pump for beginner cyclists that costs around $40-50. 

You can also find bike pumps at bike stations along public trails and in parks.

Pressure Gauge

A pressure gauge is an external display that shows you how much air pressure is inside your tire or tube. As you pump your bike tire, you can watch the number increase on the pressure gauge. 

You don’t necessarily need a pressure gauge for most types of bikes, such as road, gravel, mountain, or triathlon bikes. This is because a traditional bike pump (see above) is used with these bikes and has its own pressure gauge.

The exception is fat tire bikes, which are typically pumped up to such a low pressure (5-25 psi) that traditional bike pumps won’t be able to measure it accurately. If you own a fat bike, we recommend getting a pressure gauge.

Bike tire pressure is measured in pounds per square inch, commonly called psi. As we’ll see below, all bike tire pressures are referred to as “100 psi,” for example. 

Sometimes, bike tire pressure is measured in bar instead of psi. You can easily convert bar to psi, or vice versa, using this formula:

1 bar = 14.5 psi

Example: 6.9 bar = 100 psi

Types of Bike Tires and Wheels

Clinchers 

Clinchers are the classic road tire that uses a tube inflated inside of the tire to help seal it against the rim. This type of tire is straightforward to use and fix, making it ideal for training in case of a puncture. 

Clincher tires are typically cheaper than tubeless or tubular tires, which makes them an excellent choice for beginner cyclists. Unsurprisingly, clinchers are the lowest-performing tire of these three types, and you risk getting a pinch flat. This type of flat happens when the tire compresses (in a pothole, for example) and the tube gets pinched between the tire and the sharp rim, with the rim puncturing the tube. 

Tubeless

Tubeless tires are made from a tubeless-specific tire paired with a tubeless-specific rim. The tubeless tire is mounted to the rim, and sealant is poured inside the tire to help protect against punctures. Once the tubeless tire is mounted, it is typically seated to the rim using an air compressor. 

Tubeless tires are a relatively new technology, but they have become one of the most popular tire choices in all cycling. That’s because they have excellent rolling resistance and superb puncture protection. They can be used at very low pressures, which is ideal for off-road riding and wet weather cycling. 

Tubulars

Tubulars are made of a circular tire glued to the rim’s inside. In this case, you are pumping pressurized air into the tire rather than a tube. Tubulars are typically lightweight and fast compared to clinchers but can also be cumbersome. 

We don’t recommend tubular tires for the average cyclist because they are expensive and difficult to maintain them. It is a pretty big project to service and replace tubular tires compared to clinchers and tubeless tires.

It is best to avoid training with tubular tires because it is almost impossible to fix a flat without completely removing the tire. And once you remove the tubular tire, you must glue it back on. Not easy to do on the side of the road using the tools in your pocket. 

However, tubulars are popular for racing because of their weight, speed, and handling. Tubular tires can be run at slightly lower pressures; thus, they handle well in corners. 

Narrow Tires vs. Wide Tires

Along with lower tire pressures, there has also been a trend towards wider tires in the last 5–10 years. Road bike tires, for example, used to be 19mm or 21mm wide for racing and perhaps 23mm for training. 

Modern road bike tires are typically 25–28mm wide, which is better for speed and overall performance. Wider tires offer more cushioning against the road and better grip in the corners. 

At the right psi, wider tires have less rolling resistance than narrower tires, which means wider tires are also faster in a straight line. 

For beginner cyclists, we recommend 27mm or 28mm wide tires. These offer the best balance of cushion, comfort, and performance. 

If you’re not sure about your tire width, you can check the sidewall of your tire. Just like the recommended tire pressure, the tire width will be printed on the sidewall.

Why Higher Pressure Isn’t Always Better

It was only ten years ago that most cyclists believed that more pressure was better when it came to ideal bike tire pressure. Higher pressure means a harder tire, which means less squishiness on the road. In theory, cyclists believed tires pumped up to their maximum recommended pressure was the fastest. 

They were wrong. Very wrong. 

Countless tests have shown that higher pressure is not always faster. Instead, ideal tire pressure is the fastest in certain conditions. Many factors influence the ideal tire pressure, mainly the rider’s weight, weather conditions, and temperature, plus the material and width of the tire. 

While this may seem overwhelming, the hard work has already been done for you. Below, we’ve compiled the data and laid out our tire pressure recommendations for cyclists. 

You can also compare one tire to another or the same tire in different widths or at different tire pressures. There are countless charts for road bike, mountain bike, gravel, and e-bike tires on bicyclerollingresistance.com

Cons of High Tire Pressure

Not only are high tire pressures slower in many circumstances, but they are also worse for cycling in general. High tire pressures risk getting a flat tire, and they can even hinder your cornering. 

High tire pressure also makes your tire harder and less forgiving, making your ride much bumpier and less comfortable. 

What is the Best Bike Tire Pressure?

Now we get to the good stuff. Below, we’ll run through tire pressure recommendations for all bikes and riding conditions. These are the answers that you’ve been waiting for. 

Before we dive into our guide to bike tire pressure, it’s important to note that every tire has its recommended pressure written on its sidewall (the side of the tire). On a road bike tire, you may see “60–100 psi” written on the sidewall. This is the manufacturer’s general recommendation for the tire’s pressure and the safe minimum and maximum pressure for this tire. 

First, we’ll start with a table, and then we’ll explain our recommendations in the paragraphs below.

Road/Triathlon Gravel Mountain

Road/Triathlon

Rider WeightClincherTubeless
50 kg / 110 lbs80 psi75 psi
60 kg / 132 lbs85 psi80 psi
70 kg / 154 lbs90 psi85 psi
80 kg / 176 lbs95 psi90 psi
90 kg / 198 lbs105 psi98 psi
100 kg / 220 lbs120 psi110 psi

Gravel

Rider WeightClincherTubeless
50 kg / 110 lbs30 psi25 psi
60 kg / 132 lbs33 psi28 psi
70 kg / 154 lbs37 psi32 psi
80 kg / 176 lbs43 psi37 psi
90 kg / 198 lbs45 psi40 psi
100 kg / 220 lbs48 psi43 psi

Mountain

Rider WeightClincherTubeless
50 kg / 110 lbs30 psi25 psi
60 kg / 132 lbs32 psi27 psi
70 kg / 154 lbs34 psi29 psi
80 kg / 176 lbs37 psi32 psi
90 kg / 198 lbs39 psi34 psi
100 kg / 220 lbs40 psi36 psi

Road Bikes and Triathlon Bikes

Most road and triathlon bikes share the same wheels and tires, which means that our tire pressure recommendations are the same for both road and triathlon bikes. The general range for road or triathlon bike tires is 80–100 psi. 

Of course, the ideal tire pressure varies based on several factors. We cover these details below in Golden Rules for Adjusting Your Tire Pressure. 

Clinchers have the highest ideal tire pressure at 80–100 psi which helps protect against pinch flats. With tubeless tires or tubulars, the ideal tire pressure is lower, around 65–85 psi for road bike tires. 

woman biking during daytime

Gravel Bikes

This is the trickiest category of ideal tire pressures because it is almost impossible to define “gravel” in cycling. A gravel road could be anything from a local unpaved path to a rocky descent in the desert or the gravel farm roads of Kansas. 

Gravel tires are one of the most diverse sets of equipment in cycling. For example, smooth gravel tires are basically oversized road bike tires. And there are knobby gravel tires for muddy conditions that are basically narrow mountain bike tires. 

As a general recommendation, gravel bike tires should be pumped up to 30–50 psi. Make sure to adjust your tire pressure based on the width and type of tire and gravel riding terrain. The gnarlier the gravel roads, the less tire pressure you should run. 

Mountain Bikes

Most mountain bike tires are twice the width of road bike tires, if not wider. They are designed for gnarly, slippery, and rocky trails, plus fast descents and bermed corners. 

Mountain bike tires should be run at 20–30 psi, with minor adjustments for weather and trail conditions. For wetter, slipperier, and more technical trails, lower your tire pressure by about 5psi to increase grip in the corners. 

Zach Nehr

Zach Nehr

Zach has a degree in Exercise Science and Psychology. He is a certified coach, Cat 1 cyclist, and is a freelance writer having been published in many of the worlds largest endurance sports publications.