One tip, one tool, and one resource this week.
What's the contact point between your bike and the ground? Tires, of course. I figured I'd stick on this most important topic for one more week.
One very simple tip this week, and it's something that almost everyone does unless someone else does it for you: Check your tire pressure. Are you diligent and check it before every ride? Or do you do the old tire squeeze and "yeah, that feels good" that I've been guilty of when in a rush or feeling lazy.
To cut to the chase:
1) Check your tire pressure before every ride. Maybe mid ride with extreme elevation or temperature changes.
2) Carry a small pressure gauge with you when traveling without your pump so you're using a reliable tool and not the gauge on an unfamiliar pump.
I've used the digital ones, but about 5 years ago I bought three analog types like this one to the right:
I bought one that goes to 15 psi, one to 60, and one to 120, for fat bike, 'cross and MTB, and road, respectively. Some gauges don't start reading until 15 psi or even higher, and the little fine tuning button is great. Presta compatible and ready to go.
3) Check out this site:
Silca Tire Pressure Calculator
for a cool tire pressure calculator. It will at least give you a great place to start.
Remember that with 'cross tires, even 0.5 psi can make a big difference, and mountain bike tires could be 1 psi that really changes your ride.
On to my musings...
I was installing some new tires on my road wheels that I use for training this past weekend, and it got me thinking back to 2001 when I participated in the Tour of Colorado with three buddies. As a side note, it was one of the most amazing experiences I had on a bicycle. Three days of riding, one rest day where we went rafting on the Colorado River, and then three more days of riding. Huge mountain passes, 60+ MPH descents, and great company. The icing on the cake was that we were raising money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation (whatever you may think of the man, the foundation does some amazing things) and ended up being able to make a sizable donation.
There was around 1300 people in the event, and over the course of the days, we were able to chat with many of them. One thing we heard over and over again was about all the flats folks were getting. We also so them on the side of the road making repairs. There was rough pavement, cattle guards, some dirt and gravel sections, and many miles. Between the four of us, we had (knock wood) zero flats. One thing we were very diligent about was checking out tire pressure EVERY SINGLE MORNING. Didn't matter how early or late the roll out, we were hitting the neutral support pump. And there was never a line to get to the pump. Did that save us 100%? Probably not, but it certainly helped to avoid pinch flats over the rough terrain.
In those conditions with the extreme elevation changes, the pressure can be drastically effected especially in a low volume road tire. The temperature will impact it too, of course, as well as just slow leakage. I was listening to a podcast where a very experienced mountain biker was doing some epic rides in the mountains with some climbs going up several thousand feet. Before the gnarly descents, he would check tire pressure to set himself up for success.
Tire pressure is super important to help keep you rolling, but also improve your ride both for comfort and performance. I'll be doing a post in the near future referencing Leonard Zinn and great information that was certainly eye opening for me.
Until then, check that pressure every ride. And go ride!
Coach B.L. is the head coach at BJL Coaching and an avid racer and cycling enthusiast himself.