Tire Gauges to Dial In the Right Pressure For Varying Riding Conditions
Keeping your tires properly inflated is key to speed, control, traction and avoiding pinch flats. Colder temperatures can cause tire pressure to decrease as much as 2% for every 10° F drop, so checking your tires to ensure proper inflation should be done before each ride, especially in winter. Fatbike tires with their large air volume are designed to run very low pressure and need to be adjusted depending on the riding conditions. A change of as little as a pound or two of psi can make a huge difference to how a fatbike tire reacts to the conditions you are riding. I had a chance to test two gauges recently that will do the trick for fatbike tires and one works with any bike tire.
SKS Airchecker Digital Pressure Gauge is so compact, it is easy to carry with you in a tool pack, seat bag or jersey pocket. It weighs only 45 grams and works with Schrader and Presta valves so it can be used on everything from road bikes to fatbikes. After using it for both my mountain bike and fatbike tires, I have come to like the handy features of this little device. The head swivels to get into a variety of positions for an easy reading. The large backlit display is easily seen in low light conditions. Bleeding off a few pounds of air pressure to achieve a desired reading is done by simply pushing the orange deflate button on the head. It automatically shuts off after each use and even with the low psi of my Hüsker Dü tires, the Airchecker had no problem reading single digit air pressures.
The only negative that I came across when using the Airchecker was during extreme cold conditions. I brought it along in my frame bag on a below zero day and later tried to get a reading on my fatbike tires and could not get a result. This can be avoided by keeping it in a jacket or pants pocket to protect it from the cold. Other than that, it's a convenient gauge that works with all bike tires to get a quick and accurate reading.
The SKS Airchecker Digital Gauge comes with a carrying pouch and is available from Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $24.99.
G.H. Meiser Low Pressure Presta Valve Dial Gauge reads tire pressures from 0 to 30 psi and is tested for accuracy to within .25% of the scale. This gauge is an excellent choice for fatbikers looking to dial in that that precise inflation psi for the conditions, whether they be soft or hard pack snow, trail or on-road/urban riding. It will give very accurate readings for fatbike tires which typically have very low inflation psi. Most fatbike riders will run 6-8 psi for softer conditions, 10-15 psi for trail riding and 20-25 psi for on-road/urban riding. With this gauge and a little experimentation you will be able to set the pressure exactly to your liking. I found running 6 psi in the front and 8 psi in the back for snow pack and 10-12 psi for dirt singletrack works best for me. This gauge helps me "tune in" my tires to find that perfect balance between float and bounce.
Because it is made with a Bourdon tube movement, it is not affected by temperature, humidity or altitude changes making it a great choice for winter riders. What I like most about this gauge is the large easy to read 2" dial that holds a reading until the button is pressed and its ability to bleed air from a tire by holding the button. Once the button is released after an air bleed, the gauge will display the pressure. With temperature changes and differing riding conditions, I really like this gauge for fine tuning my fatbike tire pressure before or during a ride. It definitely helps me achieve the proper roll.
The G.H. Meiser Low Pressure Presta Valve Dial Gauge is available from Penn Cycle and other fine bike shops for $19.99.
Disclosure: SKS USA and G.H. Meiser provided the review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.