I've read conflicting ideas regarding tire pressure for wet conditions.

from an active.com article:

decreasing tire pressure does indeed help. By decreasing pressure, you
increase the size of the tire's contact patch on the road. The lower the pressure, the more tire is touching the road, and the more grip you will have.

from a motorcyclecruiser.com article:

A slight increase in tire pressure also improves the wet-weather traction of any tire. Increasing your tire pressure by five p.s.i. or less helps to cut through the film of water and prevent hydroplaning.

These could both be accurate and if so, what is the consensus on tire pressure for riding in wet conditions. City streets and highways vs. race track if applicable.

2 Answers 2


This advice/information comparing car and bicycle tires and their tendency to hydroplane by Sheldon Brown maybe helpful.

My takeaway from reading this is:

  • If you have a "car like" tire with a wide contact patch that can trap water tread and contact area can help with wet weather traction,

  • If you have a "bike like" tire with an essentially round cross section and a small and round contact patch hydroplaning is very unlikely. On a motorcycle, I would expect that even round section tires have a proportionally larger and wider contact patch than a bicycle does, so increasing the tire pressure would help by reducing the size of the contact patch and making the leading edge of the patch rounder.

In the answers to What is the recommended type of tire for riding on wet pavement? from SE Bicycles there is a graph showing the relationship between tire pressure and hydroplaning speed for a number of different tire types. That might also be helpful for sorting out the different points of view.

  • 1
    So hydroplaning is the main concern. Also, the larger contact patch from lower pressure will provide more traction but since it is more likely to hydroplane, is actually worse. Normal or slightly higher tire pressure is ideal. I imagine for track-racing, hydroplaning is an acceptable risk and the greater traction from lower pressure may is desirable.
    – xst
    Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 22:38
  • I would think so – on the track you know what the weather is going to be like and also probably have a good idea of how often and where you will encounter standing water. Not sure I agree with hydroplaning being an "acceptable risk" but it does seem like a much more manageable risk on the track than in general riding.
    – dlu
    Commented Dec 23, 2016 at 23:05

On the streets, it's not worth changing the tyre pressures for conditions. While a change might help a little with the water, anything more than 1 to 2 psi will affect bike handling.

Changes to handling from increased/decreased pressure will be more dangerous than the slight extra grip is worth. Easier and safer to just slow down a little.

On the track, somewhat different rules apply, since you're not so likely to be dodging less aware drivers. I can't make a recommendation for track. On the track, it's worth considering tyre temperature as well, A stiffer (higher pressure) tyre won't warm up as fast, as there's less sidewall flex.

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