Cycling in winter is possible, but only if your bike is ready. You can commute by bike to save some gas money or ride it for fun. Whatever the case, you need to have the right tire pressure to prevent slips, slides, and falls.
The correct tire pressure for winter road cycling is 10-20% lower than what you use during summer. Lower tire pressure allows the rubber to get a better grip and reduce slipping. If you usually inflate your tire to 90 PSI, lower it to 72-80 PSI for winter.
This article will explain everything you need to know about tire pressure for winter road cycling. I’ll also touch on how to prepare your bicycle for winter.
Before we get into why tire pressure matters, let’s first talk about tire deformation.
Why Tire Pressure for Winter Road Cycling Matters
Tire deformation happens on the part of your tire that makes contact with the ground. This is completely normal, and it keeps your bicycle more stable.
Of course, too much tire deformation is a dead giveaway that you have a flat tire. We don’t want that for winter cycling.
We want to see about 10-15% more surface area touching the ground than the tire’s width.
You can measure it by sitting in your cycling position and having someone look at the tires. A rough estimate will be good enough.
Optimal tire deformation for winter cycling has the following benefits:
- Reduces the risk of slipping.
- Your bicycle is more stable during rides.
- A more comfortable ride.
- Lower chance of blowing a tire.
So, tire pressure matters for winter cycling for a few different reasons. But the most important one is that you reduce the risk of falling and injuring yourself.
The road in cold mornings is extremely slippery when you walk, let alone cycle. When the weather is freezing, I recommend cycling very slowly and carefully.
Slightly deflated tires will grip the road better, especially when riding slowly. When you ride fast, the tires lose traction. That’s only amplified with fully inflated tires.
How To Inflate Tires for Winter Road Cycling
I can’t give you the exact number of PSI. Bicycle tire pressure ranges anywhere from 25 to 130 PSI. Probably even more for non-standard extra-wide tires.
Thankfully, virtually every bicycle tire tells you the optimal PSI range.
Take a quick look at the side of the tire. You’ll see how much PSI it can take. Most road tires are in the 90-120 PSI range.
On the other hand, mountain bike tires only need about 20-30 PSI. After all, they’re made to crawl over rocks and rough terrain.
The next most important factor is your weight. Heavier cyclists need more tire pressure.
The weight will also cause the tire to deform more. Take that into account when calculating your tire pressure.
You can use 110 lbs (49.89 kgs) as the lightest and 220 lbs (99.79 kgs) as the heaviest cyclist weight. This is a good reference point.
Let’s use an example now:
If a bicycle tire is in the 70-120 PSI range, use 70 PSI for the lightest and 120 PSI for the heaviest cyclist.
Take into account that the front tire should have 10-20% less air at all times. That’s because your weight distribution is always heavier on the rear tire.
After you do all of this, you’ll know the perfect pressure for your bicycle tires. But for summer.
Subtract 10-20% from that number, and you got the correct tire pressure for winter road cycling.
For example, I use 60 PSI on my hybrid bicycle tires in summer. I reduced it to 50 PSI for the winter season.
he more snowfall and ice you have in your town, the lower the pressure should be.
Tires for Winter Road Cycling
Choosing the right tires for your winter trips is fundamental. You need tires that’ll grip the icy road.
The same rules for choosing winter tires on cars apply to bikes as well. You want wide, thick tires with deep grooves.
There’s also the question of studs. Some tire manufacturers use them to achieve better traction in wet conditions.
Studs aren’t essential, but they’re a welcome addition.
If you can find a pair that’s being sold as a ‘winter tire,’ you’re in luck. Just buy one of those, mount them, inflate them, and your bicycle is ready.
The correct tire pressure again varies. But winter tires take this into account, so you can use the pressure that’s written on the tire.
The bicycle you’re riding matters too. If you can get a mountain or hybrid bike for winter, that’s great. Mountain bikes have wider tires than road bikes.
But if you only have a road bike, it’ll be fine too with the right set of tires.
I recommend the Schwalbe Marathon Winter HS 396 from Amazon.com. These are the perfect tires for road bikes. They have deep grooves, and they even got spikes for icy conditions.
Things You Need To Know Before Cycling in Winter
Cycling in winter is completely different than in other seasons.
Even when there isn’t any snow on the road, there could be some dangerous ice. Here are a few tips to get you through winter.
Reduce the Tire Pressure
I can’t stress this enough. It’s the easiest thing you can do to gain more traction in wet conditions.
Simply lower the tire pressure by 10-20%, and you’re good. In fact, you should drop it as much as you can without sacrificing comfort.
Lowering the tire pressure is very easy. Here’s what you do:
- Unscrew the cap on the tire valve.
- Press the metal pin using your finger or a dull object, such as a flat-head screwdriver.
- Slowly release pressure until you get the desired tire pressure.
If you’re an experienced cyclist, you can estimate how much pressure you have by touching it. If not, use a tire pressure gauge.
You can use the AstroAI Digital Tire Pressure Gauge from Amazon.com. It has a digital screen that’ll tell you the tire pressure. Simply put the tire gauge onto the valve and press the button.
Cycling in wet conditions gets very dirty. But rainy weather doesn’t even come close to snow.
The wheel will throw a ton of dirty snow at you from front and back. So, use both front and rear fenders if you don’t want to change when you get to work. Here’s a temporary portable fender you insert on your back seat to save your back from the water being kicked up from you back tire
Wear Warm Clothes
My least favorite part about cycling in winter is winter clothes. Some jackets weigh a ton, making me feel less stable.
It also gets very cold when the cold wind blows on you. I strongly recommend that you wear multiple layers and protect your face with a mask.
Also, get a puffer jacket because they’re very light and keep you warm.
Cycling in winter is possible, but only if you prepare your bike correctly. You should drop the air pressure in your tires by about 10-20% for winter.
You can determine what pressure you need by looking at the side of the tire. It’ll tell you the optimal pressure range. Make sure to take your weight into account too.
Once you have the optimal pressure, it’s easy to determine the correct pressure for winter road cycling.
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