The Snowden Forest is a popular mountain biking area near Campbell River which has hosted the BC Bike Race in the past as well as the more-local Snowden Challenge. Mirror file photo.

Under pressure

What is the cheapest, lightest, and most important part of your bike?

It’s certainly not those $1,500 carbon wheels! Actually, it’s the air in your tires! At the risk of getting a little techy, we need to talk air pressure because instead of coming to the bike shop to fix your flat, you should be out riding.

Paying attention to your tire air pressure is the simplest form of bike maintenance. At the shop, we explain to our customers every day that it’s also the most important thing you can do to ensure a good ride. Every ride should begin with you grabbing your trusty floor pump and checking air pressure.

We measure air pressure in PSI which stands for pounds per square inch. All tires will give you a helpful pressure range printed on the sidewall. Unfortunately, that range is often too wide to be overly helpful so it’s important that you learn more precisely what air pressure is your sweet spot. To find yours you need to account for three important factors: your weight, the terrain you’ll be riding, and tire width.

The idea is to find the balance between supporting your body weight while also allowing for some squish in the tire. Too hard and you’ll feel every bump, too soft and you’ll wreck your rim. On a mountain bike, we often throw around a starting point of around 25 PSI so you can start there and add or remove air in small 1 or 2 PSI increments in order to hone in on your sweet spot.

Next, consider the terrain you’re about to ride. Heading to rough and rocky Snowden to ride the revamped Pretzl Logic trail? Or are you going to cruise the much flatter and smoother Beaver Lodge? It takes some trial and error but if you hear your rim smashing into rocks because the tire compresses too much, you need more air pressure in those tires! If you’re roughly bouncing over rocks or sliding out in corners, you probably need to lose a couple PSI.

The wide tires seen on mountain bikes today allow for riding at much lower air pressures. This maximizes grip and comfort as you float over the rough stuff. On the other side, a narrow mountain bike tire or skinny road tire must be ridden at higher pressure so that it does not bottom out on the rim. Just because you always rode at 35 PSI on your old bike with 2.0 inch wide tires doesn’t mean that’ll work on your new bike with 2.5 inch wide tires.

Hopefully, that helps you find that air pressure sweet spot, and if you only want to remember one thing from this it’s this: keep your floor pump handy and check your air pressure before EVERY ride! Enjoy the ride.

– Courtesy of Pedal Your World

Campbell RiverCycling