I threw the question out there a little while ago…”what PSI are you running?”…with the hope that it would create some conversation around mountain bike tire pressures in relation to other outside variables. While I could have included all of the different variables in the poll, I wanted to stimulate discussion around the topic and what better way than to leave things out? See…there is method to my madness!

Anyway…all you had to do was check two boxes. The first box told us what PSI range you are currently running in your mountain bike tires and the second box was for the specific tire size range you currently have mounted to your trusty steed. The results were pretty much what I was expecting, but the discussion behind it absolutely blew me away. Thank you for all of the input you guys provided in the comments section of the article. You really provided great feedback on the subject as it relates to your riding style and individual variables as they relate to mountain bike tire pressures. Ok…onto the results…

What PSI are you running?

What mountain bike tire pressure are you running?

The results (if you subtract the less than 25 lbs.) are pretty evenly distributed with 30 – 34 PSI edging out the rest of the top spot. This is pretty much what i had expected as far as distribution goes. What I did not expect is the amount of riders that run 40+ psi in their tires. With new sidewall technology and higher volume tires, even hard Clydesdale riders should not have to run pressures that high unless they are extremely worried about pinch flatting.

What size tire are you currently running?

What mountain bike tire size are you running?

Again, these result are pretty much what I was expecting and if you would have asked this question 5 years ago…the median tire size for mountain bikes would have been much smaller. As mountain bike tire companies continue to bring out higher volume tires at lower weights, we are going to continue to see recreational riders using larger tires for their on trail benefits. 2.00 – 2.25 completely stole the show and I would imagine that most of those riders are on 2.25 tires. If you add in 2.30 – 2.35, the rest of the results barely show up on the grid. In a year or two, that 2.30 – 2.35 number will continue to grow in size as more fast rolling, light, high volume tires hit the market.

So what does all of this mean?

After reading through the comments and looking at the overall results of the poll, there are several things we can conclude. Before we do that, I do want to point out some normal truths about mountain biking tires as they relate to pressures.

  • Heavier riders typically have to run higher pressures for obvious reasons.
  • Higher volume tires allow you to run lower pressure.
  • 29er’s can run lower pressures than 26er’s given same tire and width due to the larger volume.
  • Lower pressures soften the ride and provide more grip.
  • UST tires can run lower pressures than tubed. (thicker sidewalls, less friction between to competing materials, no tube to pinch flat)

After reading through the comments, I can come to several different conclusions that may be right or wrong…they are strictly my opinion.

  • Mountain bikers are testing different tire pressures more than in the past due to the multitude of options available on the market. No two tires act the same with the same PSI, so riders are fine tuning it to their needs. This is a good thing.
  • The typical mountain biker will run slightly higher pressures than they may like to in an attempt to prevent pinch flats on the trail. In other words, they give up some ride quality to prevent on trail maintenance hassle.
  • There is a balancing act between rider/bike weight and tire pressure. I would like to see heavier rider/bike combo’s going to faster rolling, high volume tires to be able to keep the PSI range under 40…above 40 really just knocks you around.
  • Riders are experimenting with larger tires and UST systems more than ever before (another good thing).
  • There is a little confusion on where to start testing your PSI range (the need for the chart…which I can try to put together at a future date given more poll questions).

I really like where the tire industry and mountain bikers are heading as it relates to volume and PSI ranges. Higher volume tires at lower PSI can drastically improve your bikes handling on the trail.

What was my vote? On my 5.5″ travel rigs, I typically run tires in the 2.30 – 2.35 range at 26 psi and my riding weight is 190 lbs. On larger DH tires (2.4 – 2.6), I can run down to 23 PSI depending on tire/compound/brand. My rigid 29er on 2.25’s gets 26 PSI as well.

20 comments

20 comments

Ant April 1, 2011 - 4:42 pm

I know this thread is long dead, but I’m going to drop my two cents anyhow! I used to run 30 front 35 rear tubed.. I’m running 20 front 25 rear tubeless on 2.4″ UST tires right now. I weigh 200 lbs.

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bill November 7, 2010 - 7:25 pm

Why all the double posts?

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198 November 7, 2010 - 8:01 pm

There was an error in the comments that is now fixed. Thanks for the heads up!

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Sean Godoy July 27, 2010 - 8:42 pm

I would wager that most “pinch flats” are really a by-product of being too rough on the tube with tire levers and also not making sure your tube isn’t twisted or stuck in between the tire and the rim from the get-go.

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Jack in NorCal July 1, 2010 - 4:27 pm

I finally decided to ignore all contemporary advice and do it my way. On my hardtail 29’er with 2.10 tires I am down to 20psi and am really enjoying the improved ride. Going downhill at speed over fist size and larger rocks with no pinched tires. I weigh 160 and the bike weighs 28. It all boils down to factors, so what works best for you is the best.

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simon June 20, 2010 - 2:09 pm

I run 2.35 Maxxis DHR front & 2.35 Kenda SB8 rear. Neither are UST branded tubeless BOTH are running tubeless – Stans with stans fluid, pressure both approx 32 – 35. UST is a MAVIC marketed brand STANS ZTR rims mean ANY tyre can be used tubeless never burp air NEVER roll on the rim. Try big air (like SB8 which blows up massive) for awesome rear traction, small block tread = low rolling = fast & low wear. Maxxis DHR (NOT DHF!!!!) allows all sorts of front end abuse FAB

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JM March 22, 2010 - 1:25 pm

I was really glad to stumble upon this survey in a search for ideal tire pressure. I’ve got Kenda Komodo 26 x 2.10 on a Jamis Durango 3 and had been riding it on dirt, gravel, and some singletracks for like 2 weeks from the shop.

I got a bike pump with an average gauge and was shocked to find the pressure was around 21 psi in both tires. And I wondered why I was struggling to get speed, but the handling on rocks was good. I’m amazed that low I didn’t get a pinched tube.

I played around a bit and set about 36psi in the rear and 33-34 in the front. I weigh about 165. Haven’t had a chance to ride it out yet, but based on this survey I’m gunna try running them at about these numbers.

I’m also confused as to why Kenda lists the pressure range from 40 to 65 on the tire wall. I’d imagine at 65 they’d pop or you’d be bouncing right off the road.

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Pops March 14, 2010 - 3:39 am

This is really interesting to me, since I’ve just bought my first MB and I was wondering what to set the tires at. It runs 26″ 2.20s and I chose 33 as a kind of feels good rate but the tires recommend 35-80.

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dman January 11, 2010 - 2:42 pm

According to the gauge on my pump, I run ~25psi on my 26″ full suspension bike. Narrow rims, 2.35″ wide small block 8 tires.

On my new rigid 29er, I’ve found 25psi to be way too high. Arch rims, 2.4″ Mountain King front tire @ 18psi, 2.1″ small block 8 on the rear @ 21psi.

Of course, one very big and important variable I haven’t seen mentioned yet – where are you reading air pressure? Gauges on pumps are not accurate at all. They really only serve as a way to set your tires the same each time…whatever the real pressure may be.

Interesting article/poll by the way. Just recently stumbled onto this site, and now it’s bookmarked.

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198 January 12, 2010 - 4:01 pm

Thanks for the support!

You are 100% right about the pump. I had a friend of mine’s floor pump read 25 and it felt like it had 50. It’s a good idea to use the same pump every time as a reference.

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pedaldown August 15, 2009 - 7:06 pm

Tire pressure? If the trails are dry and dusty and the front wheel slides out on the corners let a little out – damp and the tires are biting add a little – I would like to see a new pole – I have just bought the ’09 Mavic SLR wheel set – tubeless, yet I run the lunar light tubes and a set of Michelin dry XCR dry2 (non tubeless). – why less rolling mass. Any one else doing this? biting

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Colin Gray August 4, 2009 - 12:13 pm

I always run a little higher than I probably should, around 40-45PSI, simply because I can’t be bothered fixing flats every second ride. Drops my traction though so I really should lower it a little….

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cRASh August 1, 2009 - 10:30 pm

It’s not unusual for us to get repair bikes in from more casual riders with psi at 45+++. The common response is, “That’s what it says on the tire!” We’ll try to coach them into lower pressures but I can see the skepticism on their faces. Only trying is believing.

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Paul July 30, 2009 - 7:19 am

Silly poll isn’t it?

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198 July 30, 2009 - 7:23 am

It provided answers I was looking for with great discussion on the subject…so I don’t think so.

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tenbsmith July 30, 2009 - 6:00 pm

Silly post isn’t it?

Clearly not a scientific poll, just a fun poll and ensuing discussion.

I was running over 40 psi a few years back, as an over-reaction to multiple pinch flats.

Since this is a poll of people who clearly read up on their mountain-biking, I bet that a poll of all mountainbikers would show you even greater proportions running high pressure.

P.S. I’m definitely looking to move to a larger volume, easy rolling tire… Also looking for one that is cost effective…

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Doug Brummett July 29, 2009 - 3:19 pm

That 40psi number is an odd one. Even at 240lb I only have to go over 40psi on sub-2.0in tires or if running a standard xc tire converted to tubeless.

You mention UST as a positive for running lower pressure. I have my concerns. With more manufacturers going tubeless-ready and discarding the heavier duty sidewalls these tires are actually weaker and require higher pressures. It is unfortunate for heavier riders who actually need those thick sidewalls.

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198 July 29, 2009 - 7:54 pm

I found the 40+ psi odd too…that is way too much pressure for a MTB tire.

Technically…as long as you do not rip the sidewall…there is nothing to pinch flat. So as long as the sidewall is sealed…you should be ok. I tend to like how thicker sidewalls ride better anyway…so I tend to stay away from thin UST tires.

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Weaky6 August 13, 2009 - 9:45 am

I run 42 psi on my SS 29er all rigid. Why? I ride 2 miles on the road to get to the trails and love the speed on the flats. I am 5’8 and 205lbs. I just started experimenting some with PSI, but if my tires have decent tried, I can take the corners and work it nicely around the bends and climb. NOT a silly survey.

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Corndog July 29, 2009 - 9:11 am

Great information! I always wonder about this type of stuff, and tend to inflate my tires to 40, but after reading this, I am going to take them down a couple of .psi and see how it feels. Thanks!

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