Getting the perfect tire pressure is, arguably, the cheapest way to improve the ride of a bicycle. It is, unfortunately, also the trickiest one to get right. Depending on who you ask, the answer can be conflicting. Ask road bike comrades, and they’ll most likely tell you to pump the tire as hard as a rock; ask mountain bikers and they’ll tell you to put low pressure that you better ditch the inner tube and convert to tubeless. Even worse, they’ll tell you vastly different numbers, all without any solid argument and calculation to back it up. Is there a way to determine the optimum tire pressure without resorting to rumors and wild guesses?
What size should my bicycle wheel be? If you’ve been following the trend in mountainbiking world, you would surely have heard the relentless, exhaustive mantra spelled by journos and brand spokepersons: “bigger is better”. They’re referring to 29 inches mountain bike tyres, which they claimed to be faster than smaller wheels. If it’s true that bigger is better, however, why don’t we all ride 36-inches monstrous wheels? And why don’t automobile and motorcycle industry adopt the same philosophy? They were quick to point out the strengths of bigger wheels… is there something they didn’t tell us?
Back when I was a newbie and decided to upgrade my drivetrain, another customer in the bike garage laughed at me. Why blew away so much cash for the new shiny drivetrain while keeping the shabby stock tyres? Honestly, I had no clue. I thought that the derailleur would improve the quality of a bike. He told me then, empathetically, that tyres are a lot cheaper, and will improve the ride quality better. It took me months until I swapped to kevlar-beaded aftermarket XC tyres, and I realized, he was spot on.
Back when I was new to cycling, I thought of available speed as a gauge of bike’s quality. My first bike had 3×8 drivetrain, and soon after a family cycling trip in Pekalongan, I upgraded the drivetrain to 3×10 speed Shimano SLX. I believed it wholeheartedly that I was baffled when I saw Scott’s top range XC bike was sold with 2×10 drivetrain. Why 20 speed, if you can have 30? For the past 2 years, however, I rode 1×10, and didn’t ever think of going back.
There was a moment in my cycling history when I spent my days reading Bikeradar’s Mountain Bike Reviews and was sold to the idea that longer, slacker means better. That was the moment I traded my 100 mm cheap coil suspension fork with an adjustable air one and set the travel to 120 mm. Later, as the longer & slacker mantra sank deeper on my mind, I set the fork’s travel to 140 mm and slackened my hardtail’s headtube angle further. That moment, however, has come to and end.