Mountain Bike Tire Pressure | Everything You Need to Know (2023)

(Last updated on January 17th, 2023)

I bounced off every root and rock and slipped on every patch of mud. The final moment of frustration happened when I just about slipped off the trail and down the embankment into the river. I was done. I got off the bike and walked the final tenth of a mile of trail, disappointed in myself.

Mountain Bike Tire Pressure The Complete Guide
The right tire pressure prevents you from bouncing off of roots. Image Credit: RawPixel.

I thought my new chunky tires were the answer to mastering this trail, so what could have gone wrong? It was my tire pressure. I learned the hard way that every rider, trail, and set of tires has a ‘sweet spot’ for tire pressure. But unfortunately, my pressure was just way too high for the terrain. Since then, I’ve done a lot of work to master the art of tire pressure.

In this article, we’ll clear up some of the confusion around mountain bike tire pressure. First, we’ll tell you why it’s important and why it’s challenging to figure out. Then, we’ll give over some of the variables surrounding tire pressure and give you some guidelines. Let’s get started. 

Why A Mountain Bike’s Tire Pressure is Both Important and Mysterious:

Tire pressure has evolved over the years just as our bikes have. For example, in the 80s and 90s, road bikes had super skinny tires pumped up to 110 PSI – now, the pros are running tires as wide as 28s with much lower pressure. Yet, the roads are the same -so what changed?

We realized that there is a sweet spot to tire pressure. Too high, and it bounces off every little crevice in the pavement. Too low, and you risk pinch flats. The same is true for mountain bike tires but at an exaggerated level.

If your mountain bike tire pressure is too high, like mine was, you’ll bounce off every tree root, rock, or bump in the road. As a result, you’ll fatigue quickly because your body will absorb every lump, bump, and vibration, too. And it will slow you down and make you more tired because you’ll use more energy to compensate for bouncing off the terrain.

Related Article: How to Choose Best Bike Tires For Your Bike

The right tire pressure makes your ride more comfortable
The right tire pressure makes your ride more comfortable. Image Credit: Javier Carro

On the other hand, if your tire pressure is too low, you’re at risk for pinch flats. The rim of your bike will ‘pinch’ the tire and tube when you roll over something hard. It can slice your tire and even damage your tire rim, ruining your ride.

There are several considerations you need to take when you are thinking about your tire pressure.

Special Considerations for Your MTB Tire Pressure

Rider and Bike Weight

When figuring out tire pressure, one of the first considerations is your weight. If you’re a lighter rider, you can go with less tire pressure because you don’t put as much force on the tire. On the other hand, if you’re heavier, you’ll need a little more tire pressure. If, for example, you’re going bike packing and loading down your bike with tons of gear, you’ll want even more.


The tires you use will also affect your tire pressure. If you have extra wide, chunky boi tires (also known as wide, knobby tires), you can run a lower pressure than if you have smaller tires. So, for example, if you got 2.5-inch tires on your bike, you can run a bit lower pressure than if you’re sticking with 1.9 inch.

Tubes or Tubeless

Tubed tires are more likely to get pinch flats, especially on a mountain bike. So you’ll need a higher pressure to protect the tube than if you’re running tubeless, which can go a little bit lower.

Rim Size

Larger rims might be a little bit heavier, meaning you can run lower tire pressure. Conversely, thinner rims, which are lighter, need a little bit higher pressure.

Skill Level

How good are you at mountain biking? If you pick great lines and can avoid puncture-causing obstacles, you can run a lower pressure. On the other hand, if you just send it and hope for the best, you might need a little bit higher pressure to protect your tire from punctures.

Rolling Resistance

There’s always a balance between speed and rolling resistance. Lower pressures may make you roll a little bit slower, while higher pressures may help you roll a little bit faster, as a general rule. However, there is a point of diminishing return in either direction – too high, and you lose speed because you bounce off of everything. Too low, and the tire deforms so much that you get much more rolling resistance, which slows you down.

Ride Feel

How do you want your ride to feel? Do you want it to be a little cushier? Do you want a little extra grip? Go for lower pressure. Do you want it to feel fast, hard, and even slippier? Then, go for higher pressure.


The terrain is a pretty big piece of the tire pressure puzzle. Practically speaking, the harder and firmer the terrain, the higher the tire pressure should be. Conversely, the sloppier, rougher the terrain, the lower your pressure should be, but it still needs to be high enough to keep your tire from bottoming out on the rim.

On the other hand, if you’re hitting lots of rocks, you might want higher pressure because too low can cause a puncture. Lots of mud calls for lower pressure to increase grip, while a hard, dry trail can mean you need higher pressures.

Related Article: How to Change a Bike Tire: Step by Step tutorial


There’s a sweet spot when it comes to mountain bike tire pressure and speed. If you took your mountain bike on a road ride, you would find that your speed feels a lot slower than your friends on a road bike. On the other hand, if you tried to take your road bike on the trails, you’d have to go extra slow (and walk a lot) because the thin tires and high pressure don’t grip as well.

So when it comes to mountain bike tire pressure, if your pressure is too high, you’ll actually end up going slower and wasting energy because the tire won’t grip properly, you’ll bounce off of obstacles, and slide around. If your pressure is too low, the tire will have too much friction and will catch on obstacles, slowing you down and putting your rim and tire at risk of damage and puncture.

But when you find that sweet spot in the middle, you’ll have just the right amount of grip on the surface of the trail to give you both speed and traction.

Use the terrain type to determine the best PSI for you
Use the terrain type to determine the best PSI for you. Image Credit: Cornishfactor

So What Should Be Your Mountain Bike’s Tire Pressure?

You can use this mountain bike tire pressure chart as a handy guide to get you started on the road.


How to Figure Out Tire Pressure

Stans NoTubes offers a simple formula to determine your recommended tire pressure for tubeless tires. This gives you an easy starting PSI for XC riders.

Take the rider’s weight in pounds and divide by 7. Add 2 PSI for the rear tire pressure and subtract 2 PSI to get the front tire pressure

For example, imagine your rider weighs 140 pounds.

140 divided by 7 = 20. So you’re front tire pressure would be 18, and the rear pressure would be 22, although this might be too low for the recommended pressure on the sidewall of your tire.

Real-World Examples of Tire Pressure

GMBN Tech demonstrates a range of tires, tire pressure, and situations in their video.

On the other hand, recommends that new riders start with 27 PSI in the front with 30 PSI in the rear when running tubeless. But if you have tubes, try 32 PSI in the front and 35 PSI in the rear to protect against flats.

Related Article: 7 Crazy Giant Mountain Bikes to Buy in 2023

How to Find Your Ideal Tire Pressure

If you look at the tire’s sidewall, you’ll see a range of tire pressures. The manufacturer recommends you always stay within these pressures for safety and performance. And while people do go outside of these recommendations, you do so at your own risk to yourself and your equipment. Failing to follow the recommendation can cause injury and violate any warranty on the tire itself.

That being said, you can find your ideal pressure by starting in the middle of that range. Then, it’s time to experiment!

You can go up or down a little bit based on the following:

Increase Tire Pressure If:Decrease Tire Pressure If:
You have smaller tiresYou have bigger tires
You have smaller rimsYou have wider rims
You have tubesYour tires are tubeless
It is dry and hard packedIt’s wet and muddy
You’re a heavyweightYou’re a lightweight
You’re cornering aggressivelyYou’re riding on loose rocks
You’ve got a hardtailYou have full suspension
You got mad skillsYou are a slow and cautious rider

Do some test rides and take notes on the tire, rim size, terrain, etc. Once you find a pressure you like (or that you can’t stand), use a digital tire pressure gauge to measure it. 

Your front and rear tires can be slightly different pressures
Your front and rear tires can be slightly different pressures. Image Credit: Sylenius

Final Thoughts on Best Mountain Bike Tire Pressure

There are no hard and fast rules to finding just the right tire pressure. It all just depends on the rider, the terrain, and the tires. Now that you understand the basics, you have a great starting place. Then go out there and experiment until you find the tire pressure that makes you feel confident and in control of your ride.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you just pump your tires up to the pressure recommended on the sidewall?

Generally speaking, you should try to stay within the minimum/ maximum tire pressure listed on your tire’s sidewall. If you use a different pressure than what is stated, you do so at your own risk to yourself and your equipment.

What happens if your tire pressure is too high?

You’ll bounce off every rock and root if your tire pressure is too high. As a result, your ride will feel slippery and out of control, and you’ll fatigue quickly.

What happens if your tire pressure is too low?

If your tire pressure is too low, you’re at risk of puncture, pinch flats, and rim strikes which could damage your wheels. In addition, you’ll feel sluggish, like the bike is heavy, and you’ll run out of energy quicker than expected.

What’s the best way to measure your tire pressure?

A good pump will have a pressure gauge built in. However, if you use different pumps, you might get slightly different readings on each pump. For best results, use the same digital pressure gauge every time.

How do you know if your tire pressure is right?

Here are a few tips to know if you need to adjust your tire pressure or if it is just right.

Too HighJust RightToo Low
It feels harsh and skittishTire feels stableThe ride feels sluggish and soft
Traction feels less when braking, cornering and acceleratingYou have just the right amount of tractionYou feel rim strikes or knocks when you hit a root or rock
Bouncing off roots and rocksYou don’t have rim strikesDecrease in acceleration
Slides off roots uncontrollablyThe ride feels under control, and the bike responds predictablyTire folds when cornering
You can’t hold the line when you ride off-camber  

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