What tire pressure do you run in a gravel race? It's not cyclocross, but it's not road either. Jukebox Cycling’s Alexey Vermeulen, Adam Roberge and Dylan Johnson sat down and chatted with us about how they’re heading into gravel racing season. You can watch the full video below, or just read their best advice for setting their tire pressure before race day.
Tire pressure is fun to joke about when you've been riding for a long time, but if you're new to gravel racing or even cycling in general, you may not even know that tire pressure is a metric that matters. Your tires have air in them, so you're good to go, right? Not really. Tire pressure varies depending on the style of ride you're doing. On the track, you might have 110 pounds of pressure (PSI) in your tires, while on a fat bike, you may actually be down to 8 or 9 PSI. "I think it's important for people that are starting out to understand how important it is and what a big difference it can make for your ride," says Adam.
"A lot of people think that tire pressure is about making your bike. Having the right tire pressures only about making your bike handle better, or making it more comfortable," says Dylan. "People think, 'If I if I have less pressure, I'm going to have a more comfortable ride over the gravel or I'm going to have maybe a little bit more traction in the corners.' But it actually also affects your efficiency. So for example, if you were to ride a gravel bike at 90 PSI and then ride a gravel bike at 30 PSI, you are putting out less watts to go the same speed in the bike with the tires pumped up to 30 PSI."
"There is an optimal pressure for everyone and every tire," says Dylan. To find it, first things first: Knowledge is power. Start logging what pressures you're running on each ride that you do. If you want to really get into it, create a spreadsheet that notes the type of ride that you're doing (really tough gravel, smooth gravel, etc.), the tires, and the tire pressures you ran. After the ride, note how it felt and whether you'd want more air (if you were bottoming out on any big rocks) or if you want a bit less (if you felt uncomfortably bouncy). Eventually, patterns will start to emerge!
Silca actually has created a tire pressure calculator available online that takes into account things like weight, speed, tire type, road surface and several other factors. For example, a 160 pound man with an 18 pound gravel bike on gravel roads with 35mm wide tubeless tires on a group ride would run around 46.5 PSI in the rear, 44 PSI in the front. Of course, you may want to adjust for personal preference, but it's a great place to start. "This is usually what I use on race day to figure out what tire pressure I'm going to run," Dylan says. "And it really does vary depending on the race and what tires I'm running!"
If you're new, you may want to take advice from riders who are roughly the same size as you, if they have similar tires. But at the end of t he day, one guy's tire pressure may not be the right tire pressure for you. "Trust your gut and know your preference," says Alexey.
Borrowing a buddy's pump? It may not be exactly the same as yours, so expect slight variations. That's why our riders like having a digital pressure gauge handy that they can use to check the pressure regardless of what pump they use. "If you're getting into gravel, invest in a pressure gauge, don't just rely on your pump," Dylan adds.
Watch the whole gravel chat video here:
Stay tuned to find out how each rider fuels for gravel racing, as well as their top tips for race day prep, dialing in tire pressure, and adding strength training to a training calendar throughout the year.
Feature Photo by Avery Strumm