Keeping the right amount of air in your tires is one of the most important (and most frequently overlooked) aspects of basic bicycle maintenance. By properly inflating your tires you will:
- Have fewer flats - Properly inflated tires help you avoiding what are known as "pinch flats" which occur when your tube gets pinched up against the rim when you ride over a pothole or railroad tracks. You'll know these by the distinctive "snake bite" mark, twin punctures on the tube.
- Have easier riding - Ever tried to bounce a flat basketball? It doesn't work. Too much energy is lost in the transfer, and the same thing happens when you ride on under-inflated tires. A whole lot of your work goes into just overcoming the rolling resistance offered by your flattish tires. Tires that are properly inflated are like a basketball with the right amount of air. They roll more smoothly and a greater portion of your energy goes into moving you forward.
- Prolong tire life - Riding on tires that don't have enough air causes wear on the sides and makes them vulnerable to damage that would otherwise be avoided. You'll find yourself replacing them much more frequently that you would otherwise.
- Protect your rims - Having tires with the right amount of air protects your wheels from getting bent or dented should you hit one of those nasty aforementioned potholes when you are out riding. The right amount of air allows the tires to absorb the shock, rather than having the metal rims take the brunt of the impact.
- Maintain more control of your bike - Tires filled to their intended pressure allow you to have more control of your bike. Under-inflated tires can feel slippery and sloppery and cause you to lose the tight contact needed to hold the road surface in sharp and fast turns.
It's easy to make sure your tires are properly inflated. Simply look for the recommended air pressure for your particular tire. It will be printed on the sidewall of the tire in both english and metric units. When you know what that number is, inflate the tire, check the air pressure as you go to ensure that you're on target. You'll need a tire gauge, either built into your pump or else separate to measure air pressure of the tires, and then adjust as necessary. Be sure to check the pressure frequently as you pump up the tire so that you do not overinflate your tire.
Also, take a quick moment to check your tires for proper inflation before each ride and add more air if needed. It is not uncommon for tires to gradually lose air over several days, even without having a flat that needs to be replaced. Taking just this simple and easy step will prove to be a valuable one to you in the long run.
Image: Jennifer Purcell