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Setup Guide

So you’ve got yourself a shiny new steed, now it’s time to turn it into your own personal workhorse—dialing in your ride is the first step. From suspension setup to saddle height, this guide will show you the basics of bike setup.

Setup Guide

So you’ve got yourself a shiny new steed, now it’s time to turn it into your own personal workhorse—dialing in your ride is the first step. From suspension setup to saddle height, this guide will show you the basics of bike setup.

Setup Guide

So you’ve got yourself a shiny new steed, now it’s time to turn it into your own personal workhorse—dialing in your ride is the first step. From suspension setup to saddle height, this guide will show you the basics of bike setup.

Tire Pressure

Now that you’ve got your suspension dialed, it’s time to move on to the next most important thing—tire pressure. Unlike suspension setup, where sag numbers rule the roost, finding the “perfect” tire pressure is more of a dark art than a science equation. The reason being so many factors go into finding the correct pressure—rider weight, riding style, tire construction, tire size, terrain, personal preference, and more all add variables to this equation.

Tools of the Trade

Before we start, one tool makes finding the perfect pressure much easier—a digital tire pressure gauge. Use it before every ride to check your pressures, as tires can quickly lose a few PSI, taking you from perfect to too little pressure.

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Tire Pressure Calculator

So, where to start? A good way to get started is to head to a reputable tire pressure calculator like SRAM’s. While calculators like these give you a good starting point, they aren’t the end-all-be-all. Conditions and riding style will significantly affect these numbers, so start on the high side and lower from there.

Tire Pressure Calculator

So, where to start? A good way to get started is to head to a reputable tire pressure calculator like SRAM’s. While calculators like these give you a good starting point, they aren’t the end-all-be-all. Conditions and riding style will significantly affect these numbers, so start on the high side and lower from there.

A mountain biker riding the Santa Cruz Hightower 3C
A mountain biker riding the Santa Cruz Hightower 3C

PSI By the Numbers

For example’s sake, let’s take Garen with his new Hightower and find his recommended pressure. Garen weighs 185 lbs. and his Hightower with XO1 AXS Reserve build weighs about 33 lbs. He runs Maxxis EXO+ tires front (2.5-inches) and rear (2.4-inches) on Reserve 30|HD wheels and rides aggressive, enduro-style trails in his hometown of Santa Cruz. According to SRAM’s calculator, Garen should run 22psi in the front and 25 in the rear when the conditions are dry.

CAVEATS

Like noted above, selecting tire pressure has many variables. SRAM’s calculator is a good place to start, but you may need to go up or down in pressure depending on your riding style, the trails you ride, or if you use a tire insert. To dial in the pressure, bring your new digital gauge along for a ride. Pick a section of trail that you know well and represents the riding you usually do, start with a high pressure, and go for a lap. Then, drop the pressure by one or two PSI and repeat.

You’ll know you’ve let out too much when your tires squirm under hard cornering or burp (when the tire's bead breaks away from the rim, letting air out) on landings or if you’re constantly pinging your rims on rocks and roots. Conversely, if your bike starts to skate around, and you feel like you don’t have much traction in loose or muddy sections, you’re likely over-pressured.

CAVEATS

Like noted above, selecting tire pressure has many variables. SRAM’s calculator is a good place to start, but you may need to go up or down in pressure depending on your riding style, the trails you ride, or if you use a tire insert. To dial in the pressure, bring your new digital gauge along for a ride. Pick a section of trail that you know well and represents the riding you usually do, start with a high pressure, and go for a lap. Then, drop the pressure by one or two PSI and repeat.

You’ll know you’ve let out too much when your tires squirm under hard cornering or burp (when the tire's bead breaks away from the rim, letting air out) on landings or if you’re constantly pinging your rims on rocks and roots. Conversely, if your bike starts to skate around, and you feel like you don’t have much traction in loose or muddy sections, you’re likely over-pressured.