What Tire Pressure For My Dirt Bike Is Best? (Trails, Hard Pack, and Soft Terrain)
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While there are plenty of people (I’m guilty as well) that ride their dirt bikes with tires that just “feel right,” there is a SURPRISING difference that running the correct tire pressure can make. On top of that, dirt bike tires aren’t designed to be as safe (or effective) as intended when just a couple of pounds of pressure are missing.
So then, what tire pressure is recommended for dirt bikes?
Most dirt bike tires should run at 12 psi. If you’re off by just a few pounds, the bike will not be as safe – or handle as well. However, you can run most tires between 8 psi to 16 psi.
Think about it like this – with a car tire that requires between 30 – 40 psi you really aren’t running a huge risk if you’re down or up a few pounds of pressure. Because 33 psi or 37 psi on car tires rated at 35 psi won’t hurt you all that much.
With a dirt bike tire, though, the loss or gain of a couple of extra pounds of pressure is significant.
Recommended Tire Pressure for Dirt Bikes
As mentioned, the overwhelming majority of dirt bike tires out there today are designed to be run with 11 – 13 psi.
This is especially true if you are going to be taking your bike off-road (I’m pretty sure you will be), but it is still important if you’re running your dirt bike on a flat track or on the pavement.
With off-road riding, the higher pressure isn’t as much about the overall speed as it is about preventing flats. A harder tire is a lot more resistant to damage and flats than a soft one. A softer tire (8 psi, for example) can be easier to puncture than a harder tire in same situation.
Also, traction. Duh.
The tire pressure for dirt bike tires should be set based on the terrain you’re going to be riding on. This is what will determine whether you are able to really hook up, or not.
Dirt Bike Tire Pressure for Hard Pack
Hard pack and flat track riders regularly bump it up to a front tire pressure of 13 – 14 psi.
Just remember, if you are humming along on a flat track, and the temperature outside is pretty hot, your tire pressure may climb.
Soft Terrain and Sand Tire Pressure for Dirt Bikes
If you are running on sand or soft tracks/terrain it isn’t a bad idea to drop your front tire to 11 psi and your rear tire to 11 or 12 psi.
You will hook up (front and rear) a lot better than you’d expect.
Recommended Tire Pressure for Trails
This one gets tricky. But again, it basically just depends on the type of terrain the majority of the trails are going to be ridden on.
Also, time of year plays an important determining factor.
For the most part, I recommend the go-to 12 psi, and then you can go from there. This will cover the basis and you can get a feel for the bike and how it handles while you’re out.
Best Setting for Trial Bikes
Trial tires can sometimes be dialed all the way down to between 5 psi and 6 psi. However, it’s important to remember that these kinds of tires are quite literally the ONLY kind of tires out there for off-road purposes that are specifically designed to be run this low.
It’s also important to remember that these trial tires need to be fitted perfectly on tubeless trial style rims to be effective.
If you’re not running the right wheel and tire set up you’re going to be in a world of hurt if you try to keep 5 to 6 psi going.
Pressure for Faster and Slower Riding
Tires that have heavy duty inner tubes can be run a little flatter and a little softer if you’re looking to maximize your grip. However, you want to make sure that you are keeping your speeds a bit lower.
Also, you shouldn’t try to run too hard and too fast on heavy tubes that have only been filled between 8 and 10 psi.
Pressure ratings of between 15 and 16 psi are really best used exclusively in the world of enduro and with FIM and DOT approved knobby tires.
Anything that goes above 16 psi should only be used with tires that are specifically designed for on-road purposes. Usually the kinds of tires that are going to be used on and off-road will be on dual-sport bikes.
How to Check Tire Pressure
Tire pressure is something you are going to want to check regularly. Before you head out to ride, you should quickly check your dirt bike’s tire pressure.
It’s a good idea to have a quick check of your tire pressure when you’re fueling up (with the best gas only, of course) or when you are warming up your dirt bike.
You should check your tire pressure to see if you’re running too high or too low for the tires you have on the bike, and for the conditions and terrain you are about to tackle.
There are several tools to do so, and it’s easy. Here’s a fancy one I like for dirt bikes…
Check out (and read reviews) on Amazon
If you are a little high (really warm temperatures can crank things up faster than you might think) it’s a good idea to let air out, and if you are a little low it’s not a bad idea to pump things up.
Use the Right Pump to Fill Your Tires
If you do need to fill up your tires a little more, it’s important to make sure that you have total control over the air.
Many tire pumps out there are great when you have to fill large, auto tires up to 30 or 40 psi, but they can be a bit overkill when you’re looking to tackle something like a dirt bike tire.
At the same time, you don’t necessarily need to spend a ton of money on some fancy tire pump made for dirt bikes to get great results.
Believe it or not, your everyday bicycle pumps (I use one like this) and hand pumps are going to do just as good a job as those much more expensive options – all while giving you a quick, effective, and totally controllable tool that lets you dial in pressure levels perfectly.
NOTE: Once you get the PSI settings you’re looking for, check out our blog post on these cool spoke skins for your dirt bike. They’re a cheap way to make your rims/bike look quite a bit cooler. Very important stuff. 😉