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Old 09-01-08, 08:17 AM   #1
TromboneAl
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Gauging Tire Pressure Without a Gauge

Any tricks to estimating tire pressure without a gauge? I pretty much pump my 115 psi rated road tires as hard as I can with my old-style frame pump, and check that they feel rock hard.

I'll be buying another frame pump for my wife, and have to decide whether I should get one that includes a gauge.
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Old 09-01-08, 08:27 AM   #2
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Any tricks to estimating tire pressure without a gauge? I pretty much pump my 115 psi rated road tires as hard as I can with my old-style frame pump, and check that they feel rock hard.

I'll be buying another frame pump for my wife, and have to decide whether I should get one that includes a gauge.
Id get a floor pump with a gauge. In practice its nearly impossible to get close to 100 Psi with a hand pump. You are probably only hitting about 60.

Floor pumps with gauges can be had for $20 at your LBS....
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Old 09-01-08, 10:04 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
Any tricks to estimating tire pressure without a gauge? I pretty much pump my 115 psi rated road tires as hard as I can with my old-style frame pump, and check that they feel rock hard.

I'll be buying another frame pump for my wife, and have to decide whether I should get one that includes a gauge.
Time to enter the 21st century and buy a real pump like the road morph. Frame pumps are good for the classic look, tearing valves off and weighing a lot.



This is as close to having a portable floor pump as you're going to get.
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Old 09-01-08, 10:06 AM   #4
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Just get a gauge and be done with it.

The trick is feeling the tires and seeing if they feel firm enough. Worked great when I was a 100 lb kid riding around the block on balloon tires. It worked great because anything between 15 psi and 60 psi was still rideable under those conditions. But I'm not a 100 lb kid riding around the block any more.
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Old 09-01-08, 10:09 AM   #5
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You might be able to calibrate your fingers so that you can get reasonably close by feel, but you'll have to get and use a gauge in order to learn what the proper pressure feels like.
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Old 09-01-08, 05:30 PM   #6
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Time to enter the 21st century and buy a real pump like the road morph.
Absolutely love that pump.
When I'm at the co-op I'll actually use this guy and not the big floor pump they have because it works Better.
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Old 09-01-08, 05:54 PM   #7
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I can't accurately estimate tire pressure without a gauge. I don't know anyone who can. Motor vehicle tires, having much more volume, can be aired up until they "look about right" with no noticeable ill effects over the short term. Not so with bike tires.
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Old 09-01-08, 06:00 PM   #8
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I can't accurately estimate tire pressure without a gauge. I don't know anyone who can. Motor vehicle tires, having much more volume, can be aired up until they "look about right" with no noticeable ill effects over the short term. Not so with bike tires.
It's easy, ride the bike, if it feels squishy add air till its comfortable.
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Old 09-01-08, 06:11 PM   #9
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That still doesn't tell you how much pressure you're running. If it's so easy why do you use a pump with a gauge?
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Old 09-01-08, 06:17 PM   #10
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Is there any documentation/data supporting the assertion that it is possible to accurately determine bicycle tire pressure by using only fingers?
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Old 09-01-08, 06:18 PM   #11
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That still doesn't tell you how much pressure you're running. If it's so easy why do you use a pump with a gauge?
I use that pump because it has excellent seals, it's made of quality material, and pumps a suprising volume of air for it's size. It's much better than half the floor pumps I run into. Make's patching tubes on the road a breeze.
I couldn't care less that someone stuck a guage on the head.

Tho this thread isn't really about recommending favorite frame pumps... so sorry for the side-track.

Really, don't worry so much about getting the your pressure to match a specific number. Just adjust it till its comfortable. In the middle of a ride I'll sometimes stop and let a random amount of air out because the road's gone gravelly and I want traction, or put more in because its smooth and I want to go faster. Its not an exact science so don't worry about it.
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Old 09-17-08, 01:17 PM   #12
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Got my road morph the other day. It shows that I was at 90 psi with my old style frame pump. I now have them at 120 psi, and the ride is much harsher on non-smooth pavement.
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Old 09-17-08, 01:38 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by CommuterRun View Post
I can't accurately estimate tire pressure without a gauge. I don't know anyone who can. Motor vehicle tires, having much more volume, can be aired up until they "look about right" with no noticeable ill effects over the short term. Not so with bike tires.
In case anyone takes this seriously, this is not true about car tires. Over inflation leads to premature wear. Underinflation can lead to blow outs while driving. "Looks about right" can be a very wide range and is a dangerous habit. Thing is, schraeder valves can be checked with gauges you can get from the dollar store, so there's NO excuse for not getting the right pressure in your car tires or schraeder equipped bikes.

Presta valves can't be checked that way. The only gauges I know of are on the pump. So if you go ahead and connect the pump to check the pressure, might as well pump it up to the right psi. If you're stranded with a flat and a frame pump, just get it to the highest PSI you can. If you're strong enough to pop a tube with a hand pump, a blowout in your face should be nothing.
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Old 09-17-08, 01:49 PM   #14
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Presta valves can't be checked that way. The only gauges I know of are on the pump.
Presta gauges are available.

Example here--this is actually a dual Presta/Schraeder gauge.
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Old 09-17-08, 03:13 PM   #15
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Please buy a good reliable gauge, not the cheapest, one in three good reading, gauge.

I use to have a cheapo gauge pump that would give erratic readings after a while, I ended up blowing a few tubes this way. Put down the cash for peace of mind...
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Old 09-17-08, 05:08 PM   #16
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In case anyone takes this seriously, this is not true about car tires. Over inflation leads to premature wear. Underinflation can lead to blow outs while driving.
Big M is correct. Over a longer period of time/miles. Just to get you home from work, or for just a few days until you pick up a tire gauge and get the tire inflated properly "looks about right" does work. Much more so with a larger volume tire, such a car tire, over a comparatively much smaller volume tire, such as a bike tire.

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Presta valves can't be checked that way.
Use a Presta/Schrader adaptor and a Schrader gauge. Works fine.
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Old 09-17-08, 05:40 PM   #17
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Use a Presta/Schrader adaptor and a Schrader gauge. Works fine.
I have one...none of my schrader gauges fit the adapter. My air compressor did, but my gauge couldn't get a read.

In any case, Presta valves are used for low volume tires anyway, so the usefulness of a gauge is kinda moot anyway. I've been a bit clumsy connecting the gauge to the valve, and by the time I get it on, I lost 20 psi. Even if I had a gauge, it would seem pointless.

Regarding the car tires...sure, temporarily, I see what you mean. You can eyeball it to get home, but it's better to be high than low. Except in snow.
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Old 09-17-08, 05:53 PM   #18
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I have found that there are Presta/Schrader adaptors, and then there are Presta/Schrader adaptors. I didn't know this until I picked up a few from a LBS about a year or so ago that didn't adapt Presta to anything I had. These were too long.

I picked up some others from a different LBS that look kind of stubby. Like this:
http://www.performancebike.com/shop/...tegory_ID=5412
Screwed onto the stem, the tip of the valve stem sits flush with the top of the adapter. These have been working well for me.
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Old 09-17-08, 07:17 PM   #19
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Get schraders and a compressor. The only way to go. bk
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Old 09-18-08, 01:46 AM   #20
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Frame pumps are good for the classic look, tearing valves off and weighing a lot.
I have never managed to tear a valve off. I've done a lot of old style pumping for years. Used usually the cheapest tubes too. Keep the fingers on the valve.

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It's easy, ride the bike, if it feels squishy add air till its comfortable.


You will feel when it's wrong. The feel works a lot better than the fingers.

Floor pumps are cheap too
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Old 09-18-08, 04:29 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by xenologer View Post
I use that pump because it has excellent seals, it's made of quality material, and pumps a suprising volume of air for it's size. It's much better than half the floor pumps I run into. Make's patching tubes on the road a breeze.
I couldn't care less that someone stuck a guage on the head.

Tho this thread isn't really about recommending favorite frame pumps... so sorry for the side-track.

Really, don't worry so much about getting the your pressure to match a specific number. Just adjust it till its comfortable. In the middle of a ride I'll sometimes stop and let a random amount of air out because the road's gone gravelly and I want traction, or put more in because its smooth and I want to go faster. Its not an exact science so don't worry about it.
Exactly. What feels right when riding IS the correct tire pressure. The obsessive concern about the correct reading on a gage is equivalent to evaluating/measuring your "correct" weight by placing all faith in a weight scale and ignoring a mirror and personal comfort.
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Old 09-18-08, 04:37 AM   #22
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Planet Bike makes a very good and accurate gauge, but it only fits presta. It measures in both atmospheres and psi, and retains the reading until you press a release on the body of the gauge. Regards the way to tell pressure without - I can tell by the sound it makes when I flick my fingernail at the side of the tire if it's over 100psi. But I needed the gauge to learn to tell this in the first place. Hence I have a good floor-pump (Blackburn) at home. Ting! Ting!
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Old 09-18-08, 05:53 AM   #23
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Presta gauges are available and work fine. Gauges on most carry-able pumps are kind of marginal. I can guess fairly close, but still use a separate gauge on tour and the gauge on my floor pump when at home. When fixing flats on day rides I just guess. If I check later I am usually pretty close.

On our Summer long tour, my daughter would notice just a few pounds difference when riding. She always let me know if I was falling down on the job, since in the distribution of chores pumping tires was mine.
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Old 09-18-08, 08:43 AM   #24
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You could try sitting on the bike and seeing how much the tires deflect. There should be just a small amount of deflection in both. Obviously a lighter person will need less psi to accomplish what a heavier person would need.

I never understood the one pressure fits all when it comes to bike tires. There is also a difference between front and rear when you apply your weight. I think the max psi suggested by the manufacturer is just that, suggested but not necessary.

Just my $0.02
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Old 09-18-08, 10:03 AM   #25
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Planet Bike makes a very good and accurate gauge, but it only fits presta. It measures in both atmospheres and psi, and retains the reading until you press a release on the body of the gauge. Regards the way to tell pressure without - I can tell by the sound it makes when I flick my fingernail at the side of the tire if it's over 100psi. But I needed the gauge to learn to tell this in the first place. Hence I have a good floor-pump (Blackburn) at home. Ting! Ting!

+1 "Ting,ting" Is what you want. If it's more of a "thud" you're too low. AFAIK, this only works for road tires. Having said that, there's really no substitute for a decent floor pump with a gauge.

Also, I agree with the poster who said that proper tire pressure depends a lot on the rider. Obviously, lighter people can get away with (and should run, IMO) a lower pressure than a heavier person. The pressure range printed on the tire is really just a guideline. I tend to run 10lbs. lower on the front as well--takes the edge off the bumps.
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