Monday, October 1, 2007

Make Your Mountain Bike Ride A More Enjoyable Experience By Having The Correct Tire Pressure

If you're planning to go mountain biking, one of the most basic things you need to be able to do is set your tire pressure correctly. A correctly inflated tire gives you better control and a smoother rise. If the tire pressure is too low, however, you're more likely to get a flat tire, as well as just having to work harder. A high tire pressure makes the bike hard to control and gives you a bumpy ride.

Unfortunately there's no one tire pressure that you should use, because it varies according to your personal preference, the condition of the tire, the type of terrain and the condition of the trail. If you have a good quality bicycle pump you can regulate your tire pressure, and you also need an accurate gauge for taking pressure readings.

Start by inflating the tire to the manufacturer's specifications, and give it a test run. Then you can decide what adjustments are required. Always try and use the same pump and gauge, because using different gauges may give you different readings.

It's often a good idea to start with the pressure on the high side, so around 40-50 psi (3-3.5 bar), then gradually lower the pressure a little at a time until you find the pressure that best suits your bike. If you're a heavier rider, or carrying extra weight, then you should also keep the tire pressure a little higher.

As you're going on your test ride, carefully observe the performance of the bike and the tire behavior. How does it run on the dirt track? Does it slide on the mountain? Does it ride smoothly around corners? Then try the same trail again after you've dropped the pressure by 5 psi in each tire. If you find the bike is more stable and the grip on the ground has improved, then stick with that pressure. Otherwise, drop the tire pressure a little further and try again. Be careful not to go too low, however, or you'll end up with flat tires. A tire goes flat if the tire compresses against an object and gets damaged.

If you're using tubeless tires, you might want to start with a lower pressure, such as 30 to 40 psi. With tubeless tires, occasional rim contact isn't a problem and the risk of pinch flats is greatly reduced. So it's okay to run on much lower pressures. You still need to be careful not to dent the rims or burp air out from the bead. If the pressure is too low, you'll see the tire rolling out from under the rim on hard corners.

Check for rolling resistance when you're using lower pressures. This extra rolling resistance means you have to work harder, but it improves the level of control and gives better climbing traction. Cross-country racers want better efficiency rather than control, however.

You can always resort to old-fashioned methods and give the tire a good squeeze. This is a good way of feeling the pressure and determining if air is required.

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