For most people, the common thought is that tires need as much air as possible. Higher pressure is supposed to equal a lower rolling resistance, but that only matters on flat surfaces. When going off-road, fine-tuning tire pressure a bit can make a big difference.
What is the best tire pressure for gravel biking? There is no concrete answer out there, but with a little bit of trial and error, people will find what fits their riding style as much as possible depending on the terrain and type of tire you’re riding on.
As soon as a person purchases a gravel bike on their own, it is time to fill the tires with some air. The more air that goes into a tire, the harder it becomes.
As one can imagine, tire pressure has a significant impact on how the bike feels and how it performs overall. Although most people riding gravel bikes are not trying to go as fast as possible, it is still vital to get the right fit for the right ride. It should never be a struggle to ride on a gravel bike.
With any bike out there, the recommendation is to go with lower tire pressure first and increase when necessary.
This is especially true for a gravel bike since people want to have a little bit of leeway when they are riding. If tires are overinflated in the beginning, they can feel very uncomfortable, and they might even pop.
A typical gravel bike is going to have a recommendation of 40 psi to 80 psi. This is a huge range, but starting at the lowest number is what makes the most sense.
A person can adjust a little bit depending on their weight, as heavy riders might need slightly higher tire pressure, while lightweight riders will need lower pressure.
Keeping Up With Optimal Tire Pressure
Tires start to lose a little bit of air as soon as they are filled, so do not think that pressure should be ignored. In fact, some people will check the tire pressure before every single ride to ensure they are starting at the right point. This is especially true for gravel bike riding, since most people are going on pretty long trips.
Having a gauge to go off of that is accurate helps out a lot. It is one thing to have a feel with a tire and guess the pressure, but most people want to get the same type of feel every single time.
The only way to do that is to have a tire pressure gauge that works well and is used often. It only takes a few seconds to check, so it is not too much of an inconvenience.
After a little bit of trying different options, most people are going to find a tire pressure that works best for them. Once that happens, simply get to that level every single time before taking off, and it will be a very consistent ride.
Knowing When To Tweak The PSI In Gravel Bike Tires?
Riders can become creatures of habit in many different cases, and that means some reluctance to change. The good news is that with every change, a person can make adjustments so that they still get the right air pressure inside the tires.
These are just a few factors that go into tweaking the tire pressure for a gravel bike. Do not be afraid to adjust a bit from general recommendations to figure out what works.
Wider tires will have more volume for air, which means that they can go a little bit lower with pressure. Some people love to go as wide as possible with their gravel bike since it gives them a more comfortable
and laid-back ride. The drawback is that they are probably not going to go as fast as a skinnier tire, but not everyone is looking to accomplish fast speeds. When making a sacrifice, plenty will pick comfort over top-end speed.
The important thing is to make sure that the tires never bottom out on the rim. This can not only feel very uncomfortable, but it can damage the bike in numerous ways.
There is no reason to go that low with tire pressure, as it becomes a rough experience instead of a comfortable one.
Most psi recommendations are based on the average weight of males and females. If a person is on one extreme or the other, it can affect how the tires perform.
It is more important to pay attention when riding at a heavy weight, because it can put too much pressure on the tire that is already under-inflated to the point that it does not damage.
The general rule is to look to add anywhere from 3 to 5 psi for every 20 pounds over the norm. For men, an average weight of 180 is generally used with most measurements. If a rider weighs 260 pounds, go anywhere from 12 to 20 pounds more with tire pressure.
Adjusting For Terrain
No two trails are exactly alike for gravel bike riders, and that means trying different tire pressure to see what works. There are no set of instructions with tire pressure when riding off-road since it is impossible to predict just how challenging a particular course is.
The trails that tend to need more air pressure include flat, harder surfaces where speed can be picked up. It is also important to have enough air pressure around any hard surfaces that could contribute to smashing a rim on a tire.
Most people will be able to tell if they need to make some adjustments based off of the overall comfort. It can feel tough dealing with a gravel bike that is overwhelmed by the different terrain. Make some adjustments with everything and see what happens.
Some people ride their gravel bike on paved roads most the time, and they should go a little bit higher with psi if that is the case.
Not only will they see an increase in speed, but there will be no sacrifice for comfort. It is basically turning a gravel bike into more of a hybrid or even road bike type of options.
There are a lot of advantages to tubeless tires, and one is that they require a little less air pressure. Part of that is because there is no inner tube, but people can feel comfortable about not doing any damage because a pinch can’t flatten the tire either.
A lot of people like the fact that with tubeless tires, they can get better traction and comfort without overinflating. It also makes the bike a little more lightweight and modern for that matter.
It is a performance improvement for sure, and one that more and more people are leaning towards.
A great performing gravel bike is going to have the proper amount of traction, good rolling speed, and overall comfort from the tires.
Adjusting the pressure here and there can provide that perfect balance, and advanced riders are looking for every edge possible.
Do not ever underestimate the value of having traction on gravel courses. It is a common mistake from some new riders, as they do not understand the challenges of cornering and climbing with a gravel bike on this type of terrain.
It is better to have too much traction and a little bit of a slow down feel, instead of skipping out.
Another performance factor many overlooks is that they try to go as low as possible with the psi, making the tires too soft. When a tire is too soft, it can kill rolling resistance, and the bike feels slow.
It will be very cumbersome to go up an incline, and it just does not make for the most enjoyable experience on the bike.
Ultimately, it comes down to whether a person is comfortable or not when they are on their gravel bike. It can seem very challenging to get the perfect fit, but it starts to feel right once a person eases in everything.
Nobody wants to be the person who is wasting a ton of time calculating tire pressure and hoping to get every edge possible, so go off of feel and that should do the trick.
Remember that it needs to feel close to a mountain bike, but a little more pressure, especially in the front tire. Riding in a gravel bike means that most people are going to have less weight on their front tire, and that helps with traction and cornering in general.