I used to be a squidger. Before every ride I’d grab my tyres with my thumb and forefinger, give them a squeeze and, more often than not, think ‘yeah, about right’.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. A quick poll of riding friends reveals that this is as much attention to tyre pressure as most are willing to give – a bit soft and a few puffs of air go in, too solid a quick tap of the valve to let air out.
I’m no longer a squidger and, in retrospect, I feel a bit ashamed that I ever was. The turning point was halfway down a Scottish mountain. I’d managed to puncture my tubeless tyre on a piece of sharp Highland rock, the sealant inside the tyre failed to seal the hole so an inner tube was fished from amongst the detritus at the bottom of my pack. Pumping up the tube my mate asked me what pressure I had been running. I shrugged, “Dunno, about this much” I did a crab-pincer action with my hand. He rolled his eyes. And what pressure, he asked, was I going to put in now. I shrugged and, again, did the pincer action “That and a bit more”.
“But you don’t know how much you had in the first place, you might end up putting the same pressure in again and just end up puncturing on the next rock!” he exclaimed. He had a point, which I grudgingly accepted, but I wasn’t being let off that easily. “What’s the point in fussing over suspension design, shock settings, tyre compounds and the like if you can’t even get your tyre pressure right every ride?” Yeah, fair enough.
I think we’re all in agreement that nothing makes more difference to the way your bike rides than its tyres – as is oft said they are the only thing connecting you to the ground. But there’s no pointing shelling out for decent rubber if you don’t set them up properly. Just as you wouldn’t just pump some air into your forks and expect them to be set up correctly the same goes for tyres. I apologise for the egg sucking obviousness of this but I think it probably needs saying.
Tyre pressure will affect the way a tyre deforms to the trail, how it rebounds and the likelihood of you getting a puncture. I’m sure some people will say they can’t tell the difference between pressures but the difference in feel, for better or worse, between 21PSI and 26PSI is quite noticeable.
If you want to accurately measure and adjust your tyre pressure you’ll need a pump and a gauge. Which is what we have here…
Unless you’re a downhill racer and can just drop into the pits to make changes to pressures you’ll have to carry a pump and a gauge with you. Some pumps have gauges built in but their accuracy can be taken with a pinch of salt and a good deal of scepticism. That said even larger track pumps can give inaccurate readings and you don’t want to be carting around more bulk than you need. This little combo from SKS does a good job of combining accuracy with portability, meaning you actually don’t mind taking it with you on the trail, working out your preferred pressures and adjusting them to suit.
The SKS Airchecker Duo Head is small enough to slip into your pack without you noticing and weighs in at a meagre 45g. The rotating head works with Schrader and Presta valves, a small orange button allows you to drop pressure in small increments. The digital display is backlit and can show you readings in PSI or bar. If you’re of a road bike persuasion the gauge will go up to 144psi, if you’ve put that much in your mountain bike tyres you should probably back away from the wheel…
The unit feels well made with soft touch plastics but the rubber seal on the inside of the Presta side of the head hasn’t lasted well due to the rasping effect of the threaded valve being pushed in and out. This hasn’t affected the effectiveness of the gauge yet but doesn’t bode well for the medium to long term.
The Airboy XL pump measures in at just 180mm end to end and troubles the scales at 92g. To keep the weight low it does without a valve clamp lever, most of the time this isn’t too much of a problem it just means you have to keep the pump pushed onto the valve. Occasionally when you’ve got mud on your hands, you’ve lost the valve ring in the undergrowth and the replacement inner tube won’t stay put you really wish for that lever to clamp everything in place.The pump uses a double chamber design to try to move as much air as possible. In use this means there’s a definite two stage action which feels a little funny with at first but less time sat on the side of cold Scottish mountains pumping away is usually a good thing.
Overall: If you’re looking to get a bit more technical with your tyre pressures then this combo from SKS is a good place to start and having a portable set-up rather than just something you use in the workshop means you’re more likely to experiment with your pressures.
BEST DEALS ON SKS AIRCHECKER:
|Product:||Airboy XL Pump and Airchecker Pressure Gauge|
|Price:||Airboy XL pump - £24.99, Airchecker Gauge - £19.99|
|Tested:||by Sim for|
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