Thursday, January 3, 2019

TIRES: Let out some air pressure already!!!

Tire Pressure: the key to happiness?

Everyone who knows us understands our personal bikes are made from steel. We go on at length about the great ride of steel, but the truth is, the tires you ride on and how much air you put in them can have far greater effects on the ride-quality you enjoy than your frame's material.

Nowadays it seems everyone has finally caught-on to something Uncle Larry (and plenty of others!) have been saying for years: Bigger (fatter) tires are better! Years ago he was suggesting our clients mount up some 25 mm tires - if they could find them! This assumes we're talking about a good quality, folding tire rather than some hardware store, wire beaded fattish tire.

23 mm was sort of the standard and good quality 25's were rare but it wasn't that long ago that the pros would turn up their collective noses at anything marked with a width greater than 22 mm unless they were riding on the pave at Paris-Roubaix. That has finally changed!

We suggested 25's because they would fit on most any high-performance road bike and put more rubber on the road, which is usually a good thing. We used the idea from automobile and motorcycle racing where they run the fattest (widest) tires the rules allow and tune the ride via the air pressure for optimum performance.

Now of course most new bikes come with tires wider than 25 mm and some even sport widths in the 40's! But we believe something is still missing..

...which is the optimal air pressure. Too many still believe the old-school mythology that more air pressure is always better. 

Click HERE to read why this is wrong, wrong, wrong! You won't get much benefit from those wider tires if they are over-inflated. While we're on that subject, another old-school myth is the ritual of pumping your tires up before each and every ride.

Just as you don't need to lube your chain every time you're going to ride your bike, you really don't need to get out your pump and inflate the tires either. Modern butyl inner tubes as shown above (or tubeless road tires filled with sealant) lose air pressure very, very slowly. 
Latex tubes (which we think are a waste of time) DO lose pressure so you'll need to keep the old ritual going with those - a ritual that started with tubular tire with latex tubes sewn inside.

Once you've determined the optimal pressure, which we've come to believe is as low as you can go until pinch-flats become an issue (for us with 25 mm tires that's around 80/70 psi rear/front) give the tires a firm squeeze the next time you get ready to ride rather than going right for your floor pump. We'll bet you can go a couple of weeks this way before you need to get the pump out again and that you'll see a very small loss of pressure when you do get the pump out and check the pressures more accurately. Soon enough you'll have that thumb and forefinger calibrated so you can know when to get out your floor pump.

We certainly agree with the blogger about supple tires as well! If you haven't tried a top-of-the-line set of tires in awhile, treat yourself and enjoy the smooth ride. If the higher costs put you off, shop for the brand's previous top-of-the-line tire (like we do) which is often heavily discounted.

Examples would be VIttoria's pre G+ tires or Michelin's PRO4 rather than their current Power range. If you are riding on current tire models that are not top-of-the-line we'll bet you'll find the ride superior, especially if you fit tires that are a bit wider than you've been using and use less air pressure.

When you find a great deal on a tire you like, buy some extras! Seal them in plastic and they'll last almost forever. Same with inner tubes.

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