Getting the best gravel bike tire pressure is a bit of a black art and depends on lots of considerations, some dependent on your set-up, others on the conditions where you ride.
The optimum tire pressure is also important for your ride quality, grip and even safety, so it’s something you want to get right. Cyclocross racers who, like gravel bike riders, are also riding drop bar bikes off-road, are experts on tire pressure, obsessing about their tire tread and pressure before a race.
To some extent, getting your gravel bike tire pressure right is a matter of trial and error, so it’s worth experimenting. You also shouldn’t get fixated on only one value for your tire pressure on your gravel bike; it’s likely to vary with where you’re riding and will certainly be different if you swap tires to use the best gravel bike tires for the trail conditions.
This guide will run through the factors to consider when dialling in the best gravel bike tire pressure for your rides, but first let’s look at what happens if you get it wrong.
What are the symptoms of the wrong gravel bike tire pressure?
It’s easy to get your gravel bike tire pressure wrong. If it’s too low, you risk sidewall damage, pinch flats (see below) and potentially damage to your wheel rim. Worst case, your tire can partially dismount from the rim.
Even if you don’t suffer these ride-busting problems, your ride quality might be poor, with the tire squirming under you as you ride, which can slow you down. It may burp, where the tire bead comes away from the rim letting air escape and losing you even more pressure.
If your tire pressure is too high, you’ll get bounced around a lot as you ride, which isn’t just uncomfortable, it will probably slow you down too. Your contact patch with the ground will be smaller, so you’ll get less traction, which may result in wheel slippage, and your tire will be more prone to sliding out, possibly increasing the risk of a fall.
A key consideration to take into account is how much you weigh. Finding the best gravel bike tire pressure is a balancing act and you need to avoid the pitfalls of either under- or overinflation.
A heavier rider will need to run increased tire pressure to account for the extra weight that their tires must support, which is equally true for road bike tire pressure.
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