How Much Air in a Bike Tire?

Mountain biking is all about enjoying the trails on two wheels. This is why it’s important that you have good balancing skills as well as the technical capability to traverse rock sections and tricky cambers and berms.

Good thing there are many ways to do that. But one of the best things you can do is to put the right amount of air on your tires.

You see, mountain biking needs the right balance. In this case, weighing things out in terms of speed and grip. The faster you want to go on your bike, the less grip you’ll have. On the other hand, you can get a better tire grip if you go slower.

That’s where proper tire air pressure or PSI comes in.

This article is going to dive deep into the ideal tire pressure your bike needs to have, depending on the kind of riding you do.

We are also going to discuss the different factors that affect the amount of air you need to put in with regards to the riding style, weather, and type of ground.

What is the ideal tire PSI for every discipline?

Cross-country

Cross-country is all about tackling long distances on the bike which usually spans 30 to 100 miles or even more.

This is why you need to focus more on speed and fast rollover when you’re a cross-country or XC rider.

One good way to do that is by putting a high PSI or air pressure on your tires. The recommended PSI for cross-country mountain biking is 35 to 50 tire pressure.

You can go beyond 50 PSI, but you risk slipping from your bike because it doesn’t cover enough ground coverage. The catch, though, if you have a high bike tire pressure is that it’s easier to go faster because the rubber won’t stick to the ground.

Trail

Trail riding is mountain biking on trails that have rough roads composed of loose gravel, sand, or mud.

Hence, we recommend you go for around 20 to 30 PSI. 20 PSI is the sweet spot in mountain biking especially if you’re the kind of rider who wants to have fun on the trails.

Doing jumps, skids, and flicks on your bike is easier if you have a low tire pressure of 20 because you get a good grip.

Meanwhile, 30 is the ideal air pressure if you’re the more conservative kind of trail rider and you just want to cover as much distance as you want. This makes you go fast enough without compromising grip and tire punctures.

Enduro

Enduro is just like downhill mountain biking, but you also need to climb a few steep uphills. However, you can expect that most of the trails you are riding on will be sketchy and technical.

Thus, you need to have the right amount of grip. And what better way to ensure grip than by going for low tire pressure.

The ideal tire pressure for enduro riding is around 15 to 25. But you can still go to as high as 30 if you want to cover long distances fast. Or if there’s a lot of uphills.

But you risk your tires sliding or crashing because you don’t get enough grip on low tire pressure. Enduro riding is also more about skills, which is why you need to get a good grip on your tires.

Downhill

Downhill riding is the most aggressive form of mountain biking which requires high skill levels so still ends up in one piece.

Go for 10 to 25 bike tire pressure if you’re into downhill because you need to get as much grip as you can so you don’t crash.

Just make sure that you have tire inserts so you can avoid punctures and flat tires. The best tire inserts out in the market are CushCore and Nukeproof ARD. CushCore is more expensive than Nukeproof ARD, but the two brands work very similarly with each other.

What is the best tire PSI depending on trail conditions?

Autumn mountain bile competition

Loose sand

You will have a hard time maintaining grip and balance on loose sand, especially if you are always braking.

We suggest you go for 15 to 25 tire pressure if you ride on loose sand so you can still gain enough traction without compromising speed.

Also, remember to lessen your braking because constantly doing this can make you skid which can eventually lead to you sliding off your bike and crashing.

Wet muddy

Wet and muddy trails are the most difficult to ride on because they are very slippery. Add in the possibility of having roots and rocks underneath the mud and you end up crashing.

You can, however, avoid this as long as you put low tire pressure around 10 to 15 on your tires. What’s great about this is that your mountain bike tires cover a lot of ground contact which lessens the chances of sliding.

Anything above 20 PSI puts you at risk of crashing. But then again, see to it that you have tire inserts because the risk of punctures and flat tires are high if you have low PSI.

Tire inserts function like an additional layer of defense that protects your rims from being damaged and your bike tires from ripping off.

And if worse comes to worst and you still get a flat tire, you can still continue pedaling and riding your mountain bike because your tire inserts will take the shape of your bike tires and allow them to continue moving with less hassle.

Dry gravel

We recommend you maintain a bike tire pressure of 30 to 40 if you ride on dry gravel. Although it might be a bit slippery, it’s still not that technical compared to muddy trails.

Pavement

Riding your bike on the pavement is the easiest and requires the least amount of skill. You can go for 40 or even 50 tire pressure so you can maintain enough speed with large 29er mountain bike tires without exerting less effort.

Anyway, you’re less likely to slide with high tire pressure because you’re just riding on smooth pavement.

Also, make sure to use a tire gauge or tire pressure gauge so you get the correct tire pressure on the pounds per square inch measurement of your bicycle tires

Conclusion

Knowing the right and proper tire pressure to put on your bike tire is important if you want to stay safe and have fun when mountain biking.

There are many factors to consider such as terrain, kind of trail, weather, and riding discipline. Consider all of these things and factor them into your decision and you’ll surely have the best ride of your life.

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AUTHOR
Jomar Teves
A writer by day, a tech enthusiast by night, and a mountain biker at the weekends. After four years in business school and working for multinational clients, Jomar believes he can improve the world through his writings. Jomar has six years of experience as a writer and has a degree in entrepreneurial marketing. Some of his works have been published on Blokt, Clutch Points, and iTech.