One of the biggest changes to equipment we've seen in the last few years has been the science and attitude behind tyre pressure. Gone are the days where you'd pump your tyres up as hard as they could go, and think that harder meant faster. There have been many developments and changes including tyre widths and compounds, as well as the introduction of tubeless sealant to road tyres.
When we started riding, most race tyres were 19-22mm wide. Everyone thought narrower was more aero, and therefore faster. It was common to run tyres higher than the pressure recommended by the manufacturer. Nowadays, it is common to run tyres at the lower end of the manufacturer's recommendation.
The reason for running lower pressure is because most tyres, both clincher and tubular, are a wider width with the standard now being 25mm. It's not a huge increase in width, but has really changed the way the tyres function. The wider tyre width coincides with wider rim widths, and has created a much smoother ride for the rider. The wider width means more contact with the road which means more grip for cornering, descending, and riding in the wet.
When riding and racing in the wet, we recommend going 15psi (1bar) lower than you would usually ride in the dry using 25mm tyres (clincher or tubular). This will increase the contact with the road and give you a bit more grip and reassurance. The same would go for rides, races and events that include rough roads, gravel sectors, or cobbles. Not only will the grip increase, you will also have a more comfortable ride.
Reducing tyre pressure will sometimes give the feeling of flat or heavy legs. This is temporary! After 20-30 minutes of riding with the lower pressure, your legs will have adjusted and you won't notice any difference at all except for more comfort on rough sections.
Wondering how to pick the right pressure for you? The simple answer is to experiment. Trial riding with your tyres at the upper range of the tyre's recommended pressure, and trial at the lower end of the range. Ride the different pressures in different conditions. Really try and feel what works best for you. Cornering, climbing, sprinting, bumpy roads. Do you prefer more grip, or does it feel too squishy? Selecting your best tyre pressure and understanding why you've chosen it is a valuable skill to have - there's a lot more to it than just pumping your tyres up to the maximum recommended pressure and riding!
- Check your tyres weekly for any cuts and damage. A damaged tyre is not worth the risk, so keep a spare or two in your cupboard so you can swap out a damaged tyre as soon as you need to.
- Faster and lighter tyres usually have more grip, but they also wear out quicker than a heavier tyre. It will be up to you to determine what suits your needs best. Experiment with light and expensive tyres, as well as heavier, more durable tyres. Some riders find a slightly heavier tyre gives them a bit more confidence on the road, knowing there is very little chance of a puncture.