Poll Results: MTB Tire Pressure – What PSI are you running?

by Robb Sutton

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.

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