Pressured to resolve tire pressure debate

What’s the ideal tire pressure? It depends. More may not be better.


Recently I’ve been reading that cyclists are running their tires with too much tire pressure, believing that the higher the tire pressure, the lower the rolling resistance.

The late Jobst Brandt, bike expert, believed this axiom to be true and never questioned its validity. He had another reason to keep his tire pressure high. He weighed a lot and that made him prone to pinch flats. He also rode on bumpy trails.

One lab study in 1999 shows that running higher pressures on tires decreases rolling resistance. The exception is riding on rough surfaces or gravel.

A wider tire running at a lower pressure will do better on rough roads, according to test results reported in Velonews and elsewhere.

Tires themselves have been thoroughly tested for rolling resistance by brand on bicyclerollingresistance.com.

Off The Beaten Path beats the debate into the ground with its analysis. A study done by Frank Berto in the 1990s is cited and is pretty much the first published word on the wisdom of lowering tire pressure for reduced rolling resistance.

Wider tires might improve rolling resistance. That’s another hot topic. At issue with running wider tires is that narrow rims and wide tires are not a good combination, as the tire squirms on the rim much more than on a wider rim. I’m guessing that they mean a rim less than 23 mm outside diameter qualifies as narrow.

GCN, the YouTube bike channel, has run several shows on the topic, so that’s what prompted me to look into it and try out lower tire pressures.

I’ll share my results in a future blog, once I’m done testing.

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