Ask FGG: Am I in danger of deflating the tires on my bike?
Posted by Toni in Ask FGG,Sports + Recreation
Morning Commute by Richard Masoner

Last month we received a great question in response to our Fat Girl's Guide to Cycling.

Emily asked:

I won a new bike at my company picnic and Iíd love to ride it, but Iím extremely afraid of breaking it (or popping all the tires) at my weight!!! I canít figure out if the tires flattening out when I sit on it are because theyíre not inflated fully (they feel like it to the touch) or if itís because Iím too big for it! How do I figure that out?

Toni (hey! that's me!) responded:

Emily, I do notice a distinct difference between inflation to the touch vs. when I get on my bike (I ride a hybrid bike w/knobby tires and weigh around 230). Do you have a tire pressure gauge? Note the max tire pressure on your tires (it should be listed in raised print right on the tires) and avoid going above that so you donít get a blowout.

Then I asked our expert from the guide to cycling, Georgena Terry, founder of Terry Precision Cycling for her advice:

Here's something to remember: a car that weighs 4000 pounds is supported by four tires with inflation pressures of about 35 pounds per square inch (psi). Granted, car tires are a lot bigger, but this will give you an idea of the capabilities of the pneumatic tire.

In a nutshell: Emily should take the bike to her local dealer for a lesson on keeping the tires inflated properly. Tires will deflect, no matter what the rider's weight is. It's very important for a heavier rider to keep the tires fully inflated so they don't "drop" to the point that they are prone to flats. Buy a floor pump and check the tire pressure weekly. Here's a handy guide to how much weight a tire can carry by manufacturer.

Thanks, Emily for posting such a great question and thanks again to Ms. Terry for offering up practical insights we can use.

EDITED TO ADD--Richard Masoner (whose photo is featured in this post) left a comment on this entry with a suggestion for a great web site and I wanted to be sure our readers saw it:

Thereís a bike dealer I know who specializes in bikes just for larger people ó Super Sized Cycles. I know the owner, Joan, and sheís a super nice gal. She has a lot of good advice about cycling at her website.

Thanks, Richard!

Has anyone tried out their bicycles since reading our guide to cycling? If you do, tell us about it in the comments section or post your pics in our FGG Flickr Group (where we're already up to 43 members!) and we'll send you a prize.