Ultimate Guide to Dirt Bike Tire Pressure

Jump aboard as we explain how dirt bike tire pressure affects traction and performance and reveal the ideal tire pressure for different riding conditions as well as cover available solutions against flats and punctures.

In this post, you will find:

Setting the correct dirt bike tire pressure for different trail and track conditions is important and often overlooked by beginners. While there are several factors affecting how much tire pressure you should set to your dirt bike front and rear tire, some basic knowledge goes a long way.

Let’s get started!

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6 Ways Dirt Bike Tire Pressure Affects Performance

The ideal tire pressure in both the rear and front tires greatly varies by the tire used, the chosen inner tube options, the terrain and weather conditions.

The dirt bike tire pressure directly affects:

  • Available traction
  • Stability and tire rolling
  • Punctures, flats and snake eyes
  • Suspension performance
  • Rider feedback

Next, lets discuss each of the areas in more detail.

Dirt bike rear tire inflated to 5.5PSI for technical trail riding
Dirt bike tire pressure set to 5.5 PSI on a Shinko 525 Cheater rear tire with Tubliss tire system installed.

1. Correctly Set Dirt Bike Tire Pressure Increases Traction

Dirt bike tire pressure greatly affects the overall traction available. Specifically, the more air the tire has, the less surface area is touching the ground. Whereas a lower tire pressure allows more of the tire to hug the ground and flex to grip the surface better.

For example, if you fill the rear tire to 12 PSI and sit on the dirt bike, you will notice how only few of the knobs are touching the ground and the tire remains round. Additionally, dropping the dirt bike rear tire pressure to 5 PSI, you will notice how the tire is touching the ground more flat and with a much bigger area hugging the ground. More knobs are simultaneously grabbing the obstacles and allowing much bigger area to contact the surface area at any given time.

This increased surface area with lower dirt bike tire pressure can be used to increase traction, especially with rear tires.

In short, you should know that if you run stock inner tubes, you will need to keep the dirt bike tire pressure above 10 PSI even in the rear tire at all times to avoid punctures and flats. Later on this post, we cover how to prevent flats with lower air pressure.

2. Tire Pressure Affects Dirt Bike Stability

Obviously, dirt bike tires come in many different sidewall thicknesses and strengths and in various rubber compounds. We will not go too much into details on the tire compounds in this post. However, it is good to understand the different main principles as to how tire compounds affect dirt bike stability, so that you can diagnose different behaviour on your dirt bike performance and fine-tune the performance with adjusting the dirt bike tire pressure.

Softer tires compounds, especially the ones with thin or flexible sidewalls, offer great traction at low tire pressure levels, but can be unstable at higher speeds. This is due to the sidewall thickness or strength. This behavior is greatly affected by the tire pressure. Furthermore, the harder sidewalls eliminate some of the instability and allow less air pressure to counter the high speed instability without much compromise to traction.

Additionally, if you feel like the tire is rolling at higher speeds in cornering, it is usually a result of a soft sidewall tire and/or low air pressure. Rolling means that when going into a corner at higher speeds, you feel like the rear or front wheel is rolling over the edge of the tire. This typically feels like the tire is floating and not stable, it slides out more than it should. Furthermore, adding slightly more air pressure can help fine-tune this feeling at the cost of traction.

Now with most tires, adding more dirt bike tire pressure negatively affects traction, but also increases stability at higher speeds, and vice versa. So, finding a compromise for each tire type and trail/track conditions is crucial. If the trail consists of mostly very slow technical riding, lower dirt bike tire pressure is better.

Don’t forget that adjusting the dirt bike tire PSI is a quick and easy way to find the best settings for each trail. Write it down too, so next time you don’t have to relearn the settings for the same trail.

3. Correct Tire Pressure Prevents Punctures

Obviously, getting a puncture sucks. Surprisingly, it happens quite frequently. Furthermore, many flats are self caused by using incorrect dirt bike tire pressure.

There are several ways to protect your dirt bike tires from punctures and flats. Solutions like heavier inner tube, Tubliss tire system or the Nitro Mousse effectively eliminate all flats, but setting the correct tire pressure is still important for all riders. We will explain these alternate options later in this post.

There are basically two common scenarios how flats happen: direct impact against the rim/wheel causing inner tube to puncture or puncture by a sharp object such as a rock, nail, cacti or similar that punctures the tire as well as the inner tube.

In the first scenario, tire pressure has a big impact on protecting the inner tube from flats and snake eyes (when the wheel hits an object like a rock at high speed pinching the inner tube between the wheel/rim and tire. This results into two identical cuts in the inner tube on both sides, looking like a snake bite.)

Increasing the dirt bike tire pressure helps avoid these types of flats, but can cause a harsh ride and lost traction. Technique is also important. Most beginner riders get snake eyes in the front tire, usually hitting the obstacle with incorrect technique causing a hard hit and a flat.

4. Tire Pressure Fine-Tunes Suspension Performance

Dirt bike tire pressure also affects your dirt bike suspension performance. Additionally, the suspension works in conjunction with your dirt bike tires. Therefore, the tire pressure can be used to fine-tune suspension performance and rider feedback.

Too high tire pressure can be felt in the handlebars and through your dirt bike frame and seat. Additionally, the ride feels harsh and impacts are rough and felt in the handlebars. Your suspension likely needs to be adjusted but you should also experiment with the tire pressure.

Setting 20 PSI in your dirt bike front or rear tire will definitely be noticeable in lost traction, harsh rider feedback as well as poor suspension performance. Try testing a one PSI difference in your front tire, for example drop 13 PSI to 12 PSI and go test it out. These small changes in dirt bike tire pressure can drastically change how the tire performs and how well it fits your suspension settings.

As a general rule, the suspension clicker adjustments affect 95% of the total suspension performance and the tire pressure about 5% of the total suspension performance. Therefore, the dirt bike tire pressure can be used to fine-tune otherwise perfectly working suspension to different riding conditions.

5. Tire Pressure Affects Rider Feedback

The dirt bike tire pressure also affects your feeling of the dirt bike. This is often referred as rider feedback.

As you get better with riding dirt bikes, you start noticing even the smallest of changes on how to dirt bike behaves. For example, how quickly you notice a low tire pressure or a flat or when the rear tire loses traction or locks in braking. These small indicators help you fine-tune the dirt bike performance with suspension settings as well as adjusting the dirt bike tire pressure.

A typical example of rider feedback when it comes to tires and tire pressure is the rolling feeling while high speed cornering. Another example is how the front tire feels when hitting a rock or a ledge.

Adding or lowering dirt bike tire pressure can help remove, hide or dampen some unwanted rider feedback together with correctly set suspension settings. For example adding more tire pressure helps eliminate rear tire rolling and the dirt bike oversteering in high speed cornering with soft sidewall tires.

In Summary

Okay, so by now we have established, that the dirt bike tire pressure is always a compromise among several factors. Therefore the goal is to:

  • find the lowest possible tire pressure for the riding conditions that will maximize traction AND
  • fine-tune the suspension performance AND
  • match tire sidewall thickness and rubber compound WITHOUT
  • compromising safety and durability (to prevent flats).

The most common variables are the trail type, speed and type of tires and flat protection used. If you make a habit of setting the correct dirt bike tire pressure each time before the first ride, you will start noticing how even small changes to the tire pressure affect the riding performance and rider feedback.

5 Tips To Maximize Traction for Trail Riding

Let’s imagine you already have a favorite best dirt bike tires for trail riding. If not, read our recent post on the best dirt bike tires for trail riding.

Now to increase traction, we need to focus on the dirt bike tire pressure and how to maximize traction without compromising the other aspects, such as suspension performance and durability.

Stock inner tubes in dirt bikes basically means, that you need to run minimum of 12 PSI to avoid flats. Some tires and in some trails you can get away with 11 or sometimes 10 PSI, but you are already risking snake eyes or punctures. Well, then how can we increase traction? The answer is simple, you need to ditch the inner tube to something more durable.

Typical trail riding conditions greatly benefit from much lower dirt bike tire pressure, especially with the rear tyre.

Undoubtedly, setting the dirt bike front tire pressure to 11.5 PSI and the dirt bike rear tire pressure to 5 PSI greatly increases traction.

To be able to lower the dirt bike tire pressure safely below 12 PSI, you need to choose one of the options below.

1. Set an Optimal Dirt Bike Tire Pressure for Stock Tubes

If you are running normal tubes and tires, the primary concern and limiting factor to tire pressure is flats.

Normal factory tires with tubes (the bicycle style rubber inner tube) can break, either by puncture or pinching the tube against the wheel. This is sometimes called as snake eyes. Basically, running into a rock, root or ledge at speed causes the wheel to hit the obstacle and picture the inner tube on both sides.

For normal trail riding, without harsh obstacles, you should start with setting the front tire pressure to 12 PSI. This usually protects the inner tube from pinch flats and can still perform very well.

You can lower the dirt bike tire pressure down to 10 PSI for easy trails and increase slightly depending other factors, such as rider skills and different weather conditions.

Muddy conditions usually lower the average speed and require more traction, so you can start with 10 PSI and increase if the trail has any sharp rocks or if you ride fast enough for flats to be a major concern.

With stock inner tubes, our recommendation is to set the dirt bike front tire pressure to 12 PSI and dirt bike rear tire pressure to 10 to 12 PSI.

2. Use a Heavy Duty Inner Tube to Lower the Tire Pressure

The stock inner tubes are thin and because of this need higher dirt bike tire pressure to prevent from pinching and causing flats.

They work well in many conditions but adding a heavy inner tube, you can lower the dirt bike tire pressure slightly and be safer from impact punctures. Nails, sharp rocks and cacti will still cause issues but some heavy tubes are better at protecting punctures even in these conditions. You can run as low as 10 PSI front and 8-10 PSI rear.

With heavy inner tubes, our recommendation is to set the dirt bike front tire pressure to 11.5 PSI and dirt bike rear tire pressure to 9 PSI.

3. Change to Nuetech Tubliss Tire System To Prevent Flats

The Tubliss tire system is very common and excellent option to preventing punctures and adding more flexibility to adjusting the dirt bike tire pressure.

The inner tube system incorporates a very thick high pressure inner tube wrapped into a protective outer rim protector that also works as a rim lock. Together, they form a high pressure chamber inflated to 100PSI. This allows you to run the dirt bike tire at very low pressure, or even at 0 PSI. Even when you puncture the tire, the inner tube allows you to keep riding and patch it later without damaging the wheel or tire.

So, the benefits of this system is to ability to separately set the dirt bike tire pressure to anything you like, from 0 PSI up. At the same time the inner tube stays inflated to effectively prevent punctures or pinch flats. You can still puncture the actual tire, but in this case you can keep riding and use a worm to plug the tire and keep riding without removing the tire from the wheel or dirt bike.

Dirt bike rear tire almost flat against the ground for maximum traction
A lower dirt bike tire pressure creates a bigger tire surface area to contact ground for increases traction.

With Tubliss, our recommendation is to set the dirt bike front tire pressure to 11.5 PSI and dirt bike rear tire pressure to 4-5 PSI, depending how soft the tire compound and sidewalls are.

We recommend the Tubliss system for all beginner and advanced riders. The affordability compared to Nitro Mousse or other foam tubes, the long-lasting protection to eliminate flats and punctures plus the benefits of increased traction make this an easy choice.

This is also the only durable option that allows you keep the ability to change the dirt bike tire pressure, which is not the case with Mousse. Check out how easy it is to change a tire with a Tubliss system installed.

4. Use Nitro Mousse for Ultimate Flat Protection and Maximum Traction

The Nitro Mousse system is basically a foam inside the tire. It replaces the need to use inner tubes or air inflation.

Instead of air pressure, you control the tire softness and traction with different Nitro Mousse foam compounds. They act similarly to different dirt bike tire pressure settings, from soft (Plushie) to intermediate (standard) and hard. They can also be tuned with drilling holes or making cuts.

Surely, the greatest benefit to using a Mousse is no flats. The fact that you have no air in the tires completely eliminates the need of having to adjust the dirt bike tire pressure or worry about getting a flat.

The drawbacks are cost, installation difficulty, no ability to adjust air pressure and size match to tires sizes. The installation is also messy as you need to lubricate the foam well. They also do not last long, typically the lifetime equals the tire lifespan, which makes this option expensive option of the four options.

Many pro level riders prefer Mousse since it is basically the only solution that is flat free and offers the greatest traction opportunities.

With Mousse, our recommendation is to use a standard foam tube in the front tire and the plushie for the dirt bike rear tire.

5. Learn Better Clutch Control

Okay, so you now have the same tires and tire protection system as the pros use, so how come I spin the rear wheel and do not have the same level of rear wheel traction I need? It comes down to skills.

Using the clutch correctly and being able to feather the clutch to avoid rear wheel slippage in all condition takes time on the seat and regular exercises. Take a look at our 5 tips to improve dirt bike clutch control, to learn how to get better at using the clutch to gain more rear wheel traction.

Dirt Bike Tire Pressure Chart

All right, so at what PSI should I inflate my dirt bike tires to?

Below you can find our dirt bike tire pressure chart with recommended tire pressure for different trail conditions and with different tire protection setup. Please note, that these are highly affected by the tire you use.

Use these recommended tire pressures as a starting point and adjust based on your personal preference.

Trail conditionsFront tire pressureRear tire pressure
Dry woods trail
(fast pace)
Stock tube: 12 PSI
Heavy tube: 12 PSI
Tubliss: 11.5 PSI
Mousse: Standard
Stock tube: 12 PSI
Heavy tube: 10 PSI
Tubliss: 6.2 PSI
Mousse: Standard
Wet woods trail
(fast pace)
Stock tube: 11.5 PSI
Heavy tube: 11 PSI
Tubliss: 10.8 PSI
Mousse: Standard
Stock tube: 11.5 PSI
Heavy tube: 10 PSI
Tubliss: 5.5 PSI
Mousse: Standard
Technical woods trail,
wet or dry
(slow to medium pace)
Stock tube: 12 PSI
Heavy tube: 11 PSI
Tubliss: 11.2 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Stock tube: 11.5 PSI
Heavy tube: 10 PSI
Tubliss: 5 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Dry rocky river bedsStock tube: 12 PSI
Heavy tube: 11.5 PSI
Tubliss: 11.5 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Stock tube: 11.5 PSI
Heavy tube: 10.5 PSI
Tubliss: 5.5 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Wet rocky river bedsStock tube: 12 PSI
Heavy tube: 11.5 PSI
Tubliss: 11.2 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Stock tube: 11.5 PSI
Heavy tube: 10.5 PSI
Tubliss: 5.0 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Loose rocky
technical trail
Stock tube: 12 PSI
Heavy tube: 11.5 PSI
Tubliss: 11.5 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Stock tube: 11.5 PSI
Heavy tube: 10.5 PSI
Tubliss: 5.0 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Hill climbs, technicalStock tube: 12 PSI
Heavy tube: 11.5 PSI
Tubliss: 11.5 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Stock tube: 11.5 PSI
Heavy tube: 10.5 PSI
Tubliss: 5.0 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Deep sand, sugar sandStock tube: 12 PSI
Heavy tube: 12 PSI
Tubliss: 12 PSI
Mousse: Standard
Stock tube: 11.5 PSI
Heavy tube: 11 PSI
Tubliss: 6.5 PSI
Mousse: Standard
Mud and slimeStock tube: 12 PSI
Heavy tube: 11.5 PSI
Tubliss: 11.5 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Stock tube: 11.5 PSI
Heavy tube: 10.5 PSI
Tubliss: 4.2-4.5 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Hard enduroStock tube: 12 PSI
Heavy tube: 11.5 PSI
Tubliss: 11.2 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Stock tube: 11.5 PSI
Heavy tube: 10.5 PSI
Tubliss: 5.0 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Snow & IceStock tube: 11 PSI
Heavy tube: 11 PSI
Tubliss: 10.5 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Stock tube: 10 PSI
Heavy tube: 10.5 PSI
Tubliss: 3.0-4.0 PSI
Mousse: Plushie
Recommended dirt bike tire pressure chart for different trail conditions

Best Dirt Bike Tire Pressure Tools

Checking and adjusting the dirt bike tire pressure should happened at the beginning of each ride day. Because all dirt bike tires lose air pressure, much like any other tires, they need to be checked frequently. Additionally, things like the outside temperature, elevation and the chosen flat protection systems, can greatly affect the dirt bike tire pressure and how quickly it changes.

Dirt bike front tire inflated to 11.5 PSI for trail riding
11.5 PSI dirt bike tire pressure is a good staring point for the front tire for most trail riding.

Interestingly, the 12 PSI air pressure set yesterday at 75 degree Fahrenheit at sea level, will drastically change at 50 degrees couple hundred feet above sea level, when measured today. This is why it is very important to check the tire pressure each day before riding.

Essential dirt bike tire pressure tools we recommend for all trail riders:

Okay, so this means that we need to measure and inflate the dirt bike tires daily. So, it’s best to invest into good and easy to use tools. Having the correctly set dirt bike tire pressure is your safest bet against issues such as flats.

Firstly, you need to have an accurate tire pressure gauge. Furthermore, don’t trust the small plastic pen size push bar style car tire pressure gauges, they’re not accurate. Instead, buy an accurate and easy to use digital tire pressure gauge that you can trust, as you will be using it a lot. Check the max PSI pressure the gauge supports to make sure you can measure the maximum of 110 PSI the Tubliss system requires if you choose to run one now or later.

Secondly, invest into a good floor air pump. The floor pump is easy to use, requires no force and fills the dirt bike tires quickly. Additionally, if you plan to use Tubliss system, make sure the pump can inflate and measure up to 120 PSI with ease as the inner bladder needs 110 PSI pressure to work properly against flats.

Thirdly, please note that the handheld pumps are great if you need to carry them with you, however there are smaller and better options for your trail bag, such as these tire repair kits with air cartridges. In summary, they are lighter and easier to carry with you and can be used trail side to fix a puncture, even with Tubliss system without taking the tire off the wheel. It only takes 15 minutes.

Conclusions

Setting the correct dirt bike tire pressure is an easy, quick and effective way to ensure optimal traction, performance and avoid flats on the trails. Additionally, you have few great options to increase traction by using much lower tire pressure with wither using heavy inner tubes, installing a Tubliss tire system, or using Mousse’s.

Keep the rubber side down and air inside the tires!

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Last updated: November 11, 2022