How To Determine The Right Tire Pressure For Fat Bikes

Since many people are new to fat biking, they are trying, learning, and experimenting with numerous things. Fat bike tire pressure is one thing most people struggle to get right. Determining the correct tire pressure for fat bikes is crucial because it determines control, handling, and traction. People new to fat bikes find it hard to believe that the tires are inflated to very low pounds per square inch (PSI). In fact, a regular bike pump cannot register air pressure below 10 psi. Determining the right tire pressure for fat bikes is tricky because it depends on the type of ride you plan on doing that particular day. If the tire pressure is off, it can affect performance and safety.

How Much Air Pressure in a Fat Tire Bike?

Knowing the right tire pressure for fat bikes should be a fundamental skill. Unlike other maintenance practices, you would waste time and energy taking your fat bike to the shop for tire pressure adjustments. That being said, you cannot determine the right air pressure without experimenting.

How To Determine The Right Tire Pressure For Fat Bikes

If you know how the tires feel at varying air pressure, you can easily select the right tire pressure in the future. Remember, you will bounce off objects with too much air pressure, while insufficient air pressure will affect your rolling resistance. The following tips can help you determine the air pressure to use in a fat bike:

Use the Right Pump

The first thing you should consider is investing in the right pump. Typically, fat bikes have two main types of valves, i.e., Shrader and Presta Valves. It is essential to understand that if a pump is designed for use in a Shrader valve, it cannot work in a Presta Valve and vice versa. Alternatively, you can buy a pump with an adapter for ease of use and to save money if you have more than one bike and they have different valves.

Air pumps vary in price, and it is tempting to buy a cheaper one. However, professional and experienced bikers invest in a good air pump to get an accurate reading. Purchasing a cheap air pump could prove costly in the long run. A slight difference in air pressure can affect your riding experience on a fat bike. After buying the right pump, a handheld air pump or separate air pressure gauge could prove vital because you can check the tire pressure while on the trail and adjust accordingly.

Attaching the Air Pump Correctly

Air pumps can be attached differently to bike valves. Fat bike owners should understand how different bike pumps work. Some bike pumps have a switch that flips up and down. After flipping the switch, filling up the air becomes easier. Other pumps have a top that screws onto the valve to facilitate air filling. As a rule of thumb, thorough research is recommended before purchasing a pump to avoid making a mistake.

Adjusting the Air Pressure

If you are using the right pump, the only thing remaining is adjusting the air pressure. If the PSI is low, you need to pump up, but letting air out is recommended if the air pressure is too high. The process of letting air out depends on the type of the valve. Here is what you should know:

  • With a Shrader valve, remove the rubber cap on top and then use your fingernail or a piece of metal to push the valve’s stem down. When letting out air, you will hear a hissing sound.
  • Presta Valve – The external stem valve makes it easier to let out the air. Just unscrew the brass cap and press on the external valve stem until you hear a hissing sound.

Fat Tire Pressure Chart

For an average rider (approximately 170 lb.), the chart below can help you determine the tire pressure for your fat bike:

Riding Area Tire Pressure(PSI)
Loose sand 4 to 6 psi
Wet beach sand   6 to 8 psi
Rocky trails 6 to 10 psi
Pavement 10 to 12 psi
Fresh snow 1 to 4 psi
Packed snow 2 to 6 psi
Groomed snow 1 to 4 psi

Try to experiment with different terrains and adjust the tire pressure accordingly. Remember, heavier riders should use more air pressure. We all have different riding styles and preferences, and every fat bike rider must determine what works best for them. While this might take time, once you figure it out, it will help you enjoy and improve your fat bike riding.

FAQs About Fat Tire Pressure

Although it is easier to pump or deflate fat bike tires, riders always have questions about tire pressure. Curiosity for a rider is good because it can help you enjoy the ride and gather vital information. Some of the FAQs include:

Should I travel with my tire pump?

Yes. Anything can happen to your bike tires, or a fellow rider might need help. Besides using the pump for emergencies, you can use it to make adjustments. It is prudent to buy the main pump and a smaller one that can fit in a bag or get attached to the bike.

Can I use the same pump to inflate a fat bike and other types of bikes?

Yes. You do not need to buy different pumps for different bikes because a Presta valve pump will work on a bike with the same valve, while a Shrader valve pump will work on bikes with Shrader valves. However, if you want versatility, buy a pump that can accommodate both valves to save space and time.

Should both tires have the same psi?

Although this might depend on the terrain and the rider, most riders prefer having more air pressure in the back wheel because that’s where most weight lie. If the psi of the back wheel is slightly higher, it translates to better maneuverability and comfort.

Final Verdict

Tire pressure determines a rider’s experience on a fat bike. Ergo, deciding on the right tire pressure is crucial for safety and comfort. Although numerous recommendations exist, determining the right air pressure for a fat bike comes down to trial and error. Try out different air pressures depending on the terrain, ask other riders, and do thorough research until you know the tire pressure that provides the best ride.

Last Updated: July 10, 2022

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