Many cyclists claim that overinflating their tires makes them “feel faster,” helps them take on corners, and increases the time between pumping. But, while the option to fill your tires to their maximum capacity is tempting, will this optimize or compromise the performance?
Tires that are too full will result in less riding efficiency by increasing rolling resistance and decreasing shock absorption. In addition, they will cause the rider to experience more turbulence from objects on the ground. Having your tires too full can hinder the overall riding experience.
Overinflating your tires may have some advantages, but it is generally not recommended for many reasons. Like most things in life, getting the correct tire pressure requires finding the balance.
What Happens If Bike Tire Pressure Is Too High?
Let’s start with the most significant adverse effect you can experience from over-inflating the bike’s tires. Pumping your tires to their maximum capacity will slow you down.
The reason for this is that it increases rolling resistance by making your tires bounce more when they come into contact with objects on the ground. “Rolling resistance” is defined as the forces that oppose the forward motion of the bicycle.
The following relevant issue is less shock absorption or, to be more precise, more shock to absorb. More shock to absorb means more wear and tear on both the bike and the rider’s body.
Overinflated tires will bounce higher when they collide with objects on the ground. The rider will experience more “turbulence” as a result.
Riders often describe the bike as feeling “jarring” because the increase in tire pressure results in more upward force. Harder tires have less surface area in contact with the ground. The forces are distributed across a smaller tire area, which means the bike’s springs have to do more work.
Overinflating tires can also make them prone to getting punctured. While it seems intuitive that when a tire is over-inflated, it is more rigid, it is not always the case that it is more durable.
The idea of durability relates to the last point about surface area. As over-inflated tires have less surface area in contact with the ground, a greater force is distributed across a smaller area on the tire, which puts more stress on your bike springs as well as the tire itself.
How To Tell If Your Bike Tires Are Over-Inflated:
You may be wondering how to tell if your tires are too full. Over-inflated tires certainly need to be avoided if you want to optimize your riding experience.
First and foremost, you should find out the intended psi range for your bike tires. Usually, the numbers are located on the side of the tires. Of course, it depends on the terrain on which you are riding. In general, for road bikes, the average psi range is between 85- 125 psi.
In general, increasing the tire pressure is better for smoother surfaces and decreasing the tire pressure is better for rougher surfaces. However, if you find that you have increased the tire pressure beyond the upper limit of its intended pressure, it is certainly advisable that you release some air out before going out for a ride.
As well as looking at the suggested psi range, a cyclist can also go by feel. As mentioned before, when your tires are too full, the ride you experience will feel jolting and unnecessarily bumpy. If your body feels beat up after every ride due to the impact, it may be time to lower your tire pressure.
How Should Bike Tires Feel?
The opposite but equally important question: how do I know when my tires need to be inflated more? In general, if your tires are too soft, the ride you experience will feel sluggish and inefficient. So the most imperative question to ask is: how do you find the perfect balance?
A recommended method for finding your perfect balance is to start by pumping your tires to their recommended maximum capacity. However, take great care not to pump them more than the maximum capacity as this causes unnecessary strain on the tires and may even cause them to burst.
Once you have done this, ride around on similar terrain to what you would usually go for rides on. While you are cycling around, take note of how the handling feels. If you think you need more traction, you can decrease the pressure by 5-10 psi at a time.
Essentially you are working with a trial-and-error method. Continue reducing the pressure by 5-10 psi and riding around until you find what works for you and the terrain you will be riding on. The idea here is to pinpoint the amount of pressure that works for you as an individual.
You want to find a tire pressure that feels somewhere in between sluggish and bouncy. Both over-inflated and under-inflated tires can increase the likelihood of punctures and make cycling unnecessarily strenuous for the rider.
Other Factors To Consider
Before ending off, it is worth mentioning some other factors that come into play when determining optimal tire pressure and determining when your tires are too full:
- Weight– The rider’s weight adds pressure to the tire from above.
- Temperature– Generally, the higher the temperature, the more air pressure.
- Terrain– As previously mentioned, rougher terrains require less air pressure, and smoother terrains require more air pressure.
- Performance– You also need to think about what you want to do on your bike. If you want more grip or traction on the road, you aim for lower pressure.
While there are a few factors that need to be considered when it comes to determining optimal tire pressure, one or two things can be sure: your tires can be too full or too empty, and these lead to punctures.
There are certainly reasons to increase or decrease your tire pressure depending on the circumstances and your personal preferences.