Should Your Bike Tires Look Flat When Riding?! Tire Pressure Guide For Any Ride


There are few things worse than getting a flat – especially during a race. Tires can deflate for a number of reasons, from pinch flats to drops in temperature. On top of that, there’s a wide range of tire pressure you can ride on. It’s important to know what to look for when it comes to this important part of your bike.

But is it okay for your bike tires to ever look flat when you’re riding? One should avoid riding their bike if the tires look flat during the ride. Riding on deflated tires does not only slow the rider but can also impose risks to both the rider and the bike as it increases the potential of the rider slipping and falling and may damage the bike components such as the rims.

There is a lot to watch out for when it comes to tire inflation. It’s important to maintain your tire pressure either by checking the PSI before each ride or doing a weekly and monthly tune-up. However, a low tire doesn’t necessarily mean a flat tire. More on this at a later stage of this article

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Can You Ride a Bike with Deflated Tires?

Technically, one can ride a bike with deflated tires, but it is best avoided. Riding a bike with deflated tires puts the rider at serious risk for injury, significantly increases the risk of falling when hitting rocks and bumps. This is a result of the tires not having the right connection to the road, creating conditions that could lead to sliding out of control.

You will also likely start using bad bike form to compensate for the, putting tension on your ligaments and joints.

You will also be damaging the tubes and rims of your bike this way. This can lead to a costly repair, which is definitely something you want to avoid if you’re training for a triathlon on a budget!

Even if your tires are only slightly deflated, you will likely experience slower rolling speed, regardless of how much power you’re putting out.

How Flat Should Bike Tires Be when Riding?

Tire pressure for bikes can range from anywhere between 25-120 PSI so it’s important to know what kind of tires you’re riding on. Most triathletes will be using some form of a road bike, so you’ll generally want to be running around a 90 PSI. However, you should always check your exact tire specs to see what you should be riding on. Sometimes this will be listed on the tires themselves, but other times you’ll need to look at the manufacturer’s website.

Bike TypePSI RangeRecommended PSI
Mountain bike25-5025
Gravel bike40-8040
Road & Triathlon bikes80-14090
Recommended Tire Pressure for Bike Types (PSI)

You may also want to use this helpful tire pressure online calculator provided by SRAM. It takes into account everything from ride weight to rim width so you’re sure to get the perfect PSI for your needs.

Keep in mind a slightly lower pressure may result in better handling of the bike while a slightly higher PSI can increase speed. You can play within the PSI range to find the sweet spot for the riding you like to do.

Can a Bike Tire Go Flat without A Hole?

Tires can go flat for a variety of reasons, not just due to getting a hole in the tube. Here are some of the common, non-puncture culprits:

Temperature Changes

The air in your tires will respond to the temperature – in colder months, the air will contract, causing your tires to lose pressure. So if you left your bike in the garage all winter, chances are you’ll need to pump them back up.

This shouldn’t happen too often in day-to-day weather because your tires will acclimate, but it’s still important to check on this if there are major temperature changes (especially if you’re traveling).

Time / Aging

Tires are technically porous, even with the rubber, so over time, some air will naturally release. It shouldn’t be a significant difference over the course of days or weeks, so if your tires are looking especially low, it may be a sign of a bigger problem like a leak. This is why it’s important to check your tire pressure before every ride, even if your tires look fine at first glance. The difference between 80 and 90 PSI can be significant, but you are unlikely to see it with just the naked eye.

Tubeless Tires Burping

Tubeless tires are just as susceptible to punctures as non-tubeless tires, but another way they can deflate is by “burping.” This is when the tire loses its seal with the rim. Tubeless tire setups aren’t very common for triathletes, but it’s something to keep in mind if you decide to go this route. Fixing a “burping” tire takes a lot more work than swapping out a tube mid-race, so choose wisely.

Of course, if you do have an obvious hole in your tire, it’s important to figure out if it’s in just the tube (a slow leak) or through both the tube and tire (a puncture). This will help you determine what you need to do to fix it. It’s important to always carry the tools you’ll need to fix a leak or swap out a tube at any time.

Is There a Weight Limit on Bicycle Tires? Can You Be Too Heavy to Ride a Bike?

Cycling is accessible to riders of all sizes and weights, but there are certain factors to take into consideration when choosing the right tires.

  • An average bike can support a rider up to 200 pounds (100 pounds per tire), with many being able to support riders who weigh even more (often up to 300 pounds). Fat bikes, for example, can hold up to 400 pounds (Source).
  • One way to make for a safer, more enjoyable ride is to increase the tire pressure. In the table above, we mentioned that the recommended PSI for road bikes is 90. If you weigh over 200 pounds, you may want to experiment with higher tire pressure, however, make sure you do not go overboard and blow up the tire.
  • Also, consider using wider wheels and rims. While it may result in a slightly slower ride, the difference in comfort and stability will make up for any loss in time.

As always, always double-check with your exact tire make and model of your tires to make sure you’re within a safe limit for your bike.

Can You Overfill a Bike Tire?

It is very easy to overfill a bike tire, especially for road bikes. Because the tire pressure range is so large, it can be tempting to fill over the recommended amount. A lot of riders think this will result in a faster ride (the harder the tires, the faster they roll).

Unfortunately, filling a tire too high is a dangerous risk to take. It will make punctures and holes more likely because the high pressure means firmer wheels that are easier to burst.

It can also lead to a greater risk of injury because you’re more likely to get airborne when you hit a bump in the road. Any time your tires lose contact with the pavement is a chance for a major accident.

In general, your best bet is to stick to the recommended amount and make only minor tweaks from there based on your size and comfort level.

Aprill Emig

Based out of Duluth, MN Aprill loves to write about the outdoors, education, and all forms of adventure. You can find her mountain biking, running, or playing roller derby.

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