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Tire Pressure

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    Anonymous (not verified)
    Tire Pressure

    During Dennis J's ride last Saturday, the subject of tire pressure came up. I was surprised to hear that almost every rider seems to think the correct pressure is the maximum listed on the sidewall of the tire (typically 110-120 psi). I've been riding 90-100 psi for several years now and that has resulted in increased tread life, better handling, smoother ride and fewer flats. Below is an article from that seems to sum up this issue - give it a try and I think it will improve your cycling experience:
    The Case for Lower Tire Pressure

    DEAR UNCLE AL: Perhaps you can settle an argument at our bike club. I like riding 20-mm-wide tires inflated to 120-130 pounds. I feel faster because of what I think is lower rolling resistance. Others argue for a 23C width at 100-110 psi, saying these tires are more efficient because they absorb pavement irregularities better. I weigh 175 pounds and ride at an average of 18+ mph on a variety of road surfaces. So who's right about width and pressure? -- Greg C.
    UNCLE AL FIRES BACK: Soften up, Greg!
    Most everyone I know runs too much pressure. Welcome to the club. Over many years of testing and talking to guys who live on their bikes, I'm convinced there is little reason to run more than 95-100 psi -- and there are compelling reasons to run 85-90 psi.
    High pressure, say 100-120 psi, guarantees short tire life, poor cornering and lots of punctures. A rock-solid tire cuts/punctures more easily than it would at a lower pressure. Also, a softer tire can "smear" -- conform better to objects encountered on the road. Why make the ride even rougher on America's ever-crumbling road surfaces?
    Admittedly, I weigh 210 pounds and ride on really poor road surfaces. These things influence my opinions. I run 85-90 psi front and 90-95 psi rear on 700x23C clincher tires. I do not have flats! Plus, bumps are less of an issue, and my bike corners as if on rails on high-speed descents. I get 1,000-1,500 miles out of a rear tire. When I ran much higher pressure many years ago, I got no more than 500 miles.
    So, my advice is never to run smaller than 23C. Use good tubes, air them up before every ride and spend extra for premium tires -- they'll pay you back in extra mileage and better handling.
    One more thing: Don't buy a race-specific tire to train on. If it's advertised to last only 500 miles, they aren't lying. Shaving grams off of training tires is silly and wasteful, and you won't get the low-weight advantage when event time comes if you ride the light stuff all the time. Make gram shaving your secret weapon, if only in your mind, when it counts.
    Do as I recommend and I promise fewer flats, happier miles and no noticeable increase in rolling resistance (the great myth). Plus, you'll waste fewer resources, both financial and natural.
    FEEDBACK FROM ARNIE L.: As a roadie of 20+ years, but a new reader of RoadBikeRider, I was intrigued (and skeptical) of your advice to lower tire pressure. I have been riding at 125 psi or more, concerned about rolling resistance (although the extra 10 pounds around my waist probably matters a whole lot more to my performance).
    Well, I thought I'd try it. I lowered my pressure to 105 psi. What a great difference! I haven't really noticed any change in performance, but what a difference in the ride! One of my usual rides over badly cracked roads (usual Pennsylvania stuff) was sooo much more comfortable. It seemed like the road had been repaved. Thanks for the advice.
    FEEDBACK FROM MICHAEL A.: Recently, a friend told me about your promotion of lower tire pressure. GREAT!
    In the early 1960s, I rode the kermesses around Antwerp for a team sponsored by "Cycles OK." We always rode tubulars at about 90 psi with great results -- fewer flats and better handling, especially in the rain (a frequent occurrence in Flanders).
    I've tried to promote lower pressure as a coach with the New York Cycle Club, with little success. My fellow club members see my gray hair and my inability to keep up with the hormonally besot, and reject my advice. It's great that you're putting out this sound advice.
    FEEDBACK FROM SAL A.: I've been riding for years with high pressures in my 23C tires (120-130 psi rear, 100-110 psi front). I figured since I weigh around 215 pounds I need this.
    I was pleasantly surprised to find out how much better my bike rides after lowering the pressures as Uncle Al recommends.
    I rode over some freshly "chipped" roads on my latest ride. This is where the road is covered with hot tar and then pea stone is spread on top. It makes for pretty anxious riding, especially down hills. I was really happy with the improvement in handling.
    Also, on smooth asphalt the tires now “sing” lightly. They never did that before! I like the sound and it seems to confirm that I'm riding with the right tire pressure.
    I love when I learn something new about bicycling, especially when it's simple and effective. My helmet's off to Uncle Al.



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