If you’ve ever had a blowout during a trail ride, it’s probably because you were riding with incorrect tyre pressures for the trail. You need to research the optimal pressures for your tyre model and the type of riding you will be doing. Using a digital tyre pressure gauge is an essential bit of kit which will save you a lot of trouble.
It’s well known that checking the pressure in your car tyres is important, but what you may not realize is that pressure gauges are even more important for cyclists. Did you know that bike tyres are often filled to a higher pressure than the ones in your car? This means that, under certain conditions, they can be more likely to blow. When you have a blowout on a vehicle, you’ve still got three wheels to steer you to the side of the road. But on a bike, there is nothing to fall back on. Improperly pressurized tires can put you in harm’s way.
Fortunately, mountain bike tyres don’t require specialized gauges. Accuracy is of a little more importance, but automotive and cycling gauges are mostly interchangeable. This means that if you buy a good tyre gauge, you can use it for both your vehicle and your bike. It also means that they’re widely available.
What Types of Pressure Gauges are Out There?
There are three different types of pressure gauges on the market. Each has their own set of advantages and disadvantages, although certain types are in more widespread use than others.
|Dial Pressure Gauge|
Dial gauges were, historically, the most accurate models you can buy. They resemble a pen with a small clock on the top. You place them on your tyre, and the dial rotates to indicate the pressure. You’ll find a lot of high-end dial gauges on the market, many of which include accessories such as an extension hose, multi-unit scales, and a bleed valve so you can drop your tyre pressure. Check out the Meiser Acco below.
|Rod Pressure Gauge|
These stick type gauges are what most people think of when they imagine a tyre pressure gauge. Place the inlet on your tyre, and a stick slides out. Like a ruler, it measures the pressure in your tyre. These are cheap to produce and readily available, but have a limited span and are somewhat inaccurate.
|Digital Pressure Gauge|
As the most modern and powerful gauges on the market, these are often our first choice. They use a compact, single-line LCD display, much like that of a calculator. The pressure is calculated by a digital sensor, which provides a higher level of accuracy than mechanical sensors. These gauges are often a little bulkier and require batteries, but they are our number one choice.
Why Choose a Digital Pressure Gauge?
There are two key advantages to a digital gauge: accuracy, and range. Although dial indicators are often promoted as being much more accurate than rod types, this is simply not the case. When you’re reading an analog gauge, there is only so much accuracy you can get.
Your eye will never read it perfectly, and the gauge will wear out over time. But digital gauges won’t fade out of calibration over time, and they provide the highest level of accuracy possible. Additionally, you’ll be able to use your gauge for both your bike and your car tyres, so you only need to make a single purchase.
In this roundup, we’ll be taking a look at the 9 best digital tyre pressure gauges on the market. We’ll show you our top picks to find out what they have to offer. After, we’ll help you decide which one is right for your needs.
What You Need to Know About Mountain Bike Tyre Pressures
A common misconception is that you simply throw a little air in your tyres, give em a squeeze, and ride off. If you fill them too much, or too little, your ride quality can be negatively impacted. Additionally, your pressure will change throughout the day, depending on how you’re using your bike.
The two most important factors in tyre pressure are temperature and volume. Your pressure will change with the weather. When it’s hot, your pressure increases. When it’s cool, it decreases. Friction also factors into this.
If you’re riding downhill through rough mountainous terrain, the additional friction will warm up your tires, and increase the pressure. Have you ever noticed that your bike feels a little bouncier after ripping down a dirt hill? The cause is most likely friction and temperature.
The volume of your tyre is also an important factor. The larger the tyres, the less pressure you need.
- Road bikes are typically inflated to a pressure between 125 PSI and 75 PSI, as they have very thin and compact rubber.
- Mountain bike tyres, on the other hand, should be inflated to around 30 PSI. Larger and more aggressive models may have an even lower pressure.
- Hybrid tyres average 60 PSI, but this depends heavily on the model.
The exact specifications will be found on your tyre, but this general guideline should give you an idea of what you need out of a digital tyre pressure gauge.
Check out this complete guide to mountain bike tyre pressures from our friends over at the Global Mountain Bike Network. Scott talks about the type of tyres you have and the pressures required, along with different compounds, tread patterns and durability required. He talks about the different pressures for cross country and downhill and gives some handy pro tips – like having different pressures between the front and back tyres.
Here’s our new updated list of digital tyre pressure gauge reviews, this post will be continually updated as we test new products.
Topeak Smartgauge D2
Topeak has been making bike tools for 3 decades. At this time, the brand has been developing its products with methodical testing in the field and feedback from riders. Smartgauge D2 is a small, lightweight, and durable device, which gives exact readings of tire pressure for a perfect ride.
The gauge can check tires, suspension forks, and shock absorbers with great precision. Uncertainty in the gauge’s values is a low 1%. It is possible to fine-tune the readings by pressing a bleed button, which releases some air to calibrate the machine.
There is a power button on the front of the tire pressure gauge, which will power off after 30 seconds of inactivity. An LCD screen makes the readings clear and simple to read. And by pushing the mode button, you can scroll through the units of Bar, PSI, or kg/cm2.
To make the display easier to read from different angles, you can twist the display on the pressure stalk. And this gauge is versatile with the ability to switch between taking readings from the bike valves of Presta or Schrader to a SmartHead™.
Battery Powered: 1 × CR2032
Accuracy: ± 1%
Max. Pressure: 17 Bar (250 PSI)
Weight: 0.14 Pounds
Dimensions: 1.8 × 4 × 1.4 Inches
Schwalbe Airmax Pro
Made with German manufacturing competence and Schwalbe’s keen attention to detail. The Airmax Pro is one of the most exact portable bike gauges on the market. The gauge will fit on a range of valves, which includes Presta, Schrader, and Schwalbe’s valves.
This gauge will also display readings of up to 11 Bar on the small display to two decimal places. Accuracy is beyond what you could achieve, with a hand-pump — with a near-perfect 0.06% discrepancy. The pure data accuracy of this little machine makes it a favorite choice, even without considering its other benefits.
To switch the gauge on, the user needs to push a single button on the gauge. The Schwalbe is a small and simple device with a single button to scroll through readouts of PSI, KPA, kg/cm2, or Bar. A single watch battery powers the LCD screen — the battery will last a long time with this type of display.
The unit comes with a brass adaptor to get the readings from a Schrader valve. There is even a small loophole in the side of the machine to thread a keyring through. This is a small and accurate tire pressure gauge, which does not over-complicate pressure readings.
Battery Powered: 1 × CR2032
Accuracy: ± 0.06%
Max. Pressure: 11 Bar (160 PSI)
Weight: 0.11 Pounds
Dimensions: 1.8 × 3.7 × 0.8 Inches
Tekton 5941 Digital Tyre Gauge
For most consumers, something fancy isn’t necessary. That’s why our first choice is affordable, reliable, and easy to use. The Tekton 5941 digital pressure gauge is both durable and ergonomic. It’s molded plastic shroud has grooves for your fingers. This allows you to keep a tight grip while pressing it onto your valve stem. It has a loop on the bottom corner, so you can quickly tie it to your tool bag or air pump, and keep it easy to access at all times.
The tip of the pressure gauge is illuminated with a soft LED glow. It’s bright, easy to see tip allows you to pump your tyres up even under cover of darkness. The digital display is backlit as well, using a soft blue light that won’t wreck your night vision.
Although this pressure gauge uses batteries, you’ll get several years out of them. It shuts off automatically, only measuring pressure when you’ve got your finger on the trigger. This means that, unless you’re holding it in your hand, it’s impossible to leave on. When you do need to replace the batteries, they’re readily available. It uses CR2032 button cells, which are the most popular type. You can find them inexpensively at any department store, making the cost of ownership low.
Sure, there might be cheaper options on the market. But for the money, you’re not going to find better build quality out there. It’s well made, easy to use, and simply an excellent choice. They are available in multi-unit packs so you can keep one at home, in your glove box, and on your bike.
HFAN 9-in-1 150PSI Digital Tyre Gauge
Although a tyre pressure gauge is a necessary tool, it’s certainly not the only thing you need to have in your kit. If you’re really looking to ensure that your bike is roadworthy at all times, you need a full toolkit. This is where the HFAN digital pressure gauge comes in handy. Outside of the standard features, it’s designed to be used as a multi-tool, providing you with 9 different compact tools that can help you solve almost any bike issue.
The bonuses are certainly a nice extra, but it’s important that the gauge itself is high quality. Luckily, it doesn’t disappoint. The display is large and easy to read, and you can change the units with the touch of a button. It supports PSI for those of you who prefer imperial measurements; and KPA for those on the metric system. For speciality tyres, it also provides readings in BAR, KPA and KG / CM2. It has a range from 2 to 150 psi, making it suitable for all bike types.
What else do you get? It also has a bright white LED flashlight built-in, a glass breaking hammer, and a pair of scissors. Those are great in emergency situations, but the most useful part of the tool is the Allen keys. These are incredibly helpful for adjusting the tension on your chain or setting your brakes. When used in conjunction with the mini-pliers, you can do virtually any repair roadside, ensuring that your favorite ride will always be roadworthy for the way home.
If that’s not enough for you, it measures the current temperature as well! Serious racers know that hot or cold weather can impact the pressure in your tyre, so the temperature sensor allows you to plan for the future, eliminating unwanted surprises.
Accutire MS-4021B Digital Tyre Pressure Gauge
Getting your tyre pressure right isn’t an exact science. Professional riders like to experiment and see how different pressures affect their ride. If this sounds like you, then the Accutire MS-4012B is the gauge for you.
The thing is that even small variances in your tyre pressure can create a noticeable change in response. So if you see yourself playing around with different pressures, you want a tyre pressure gauge with superior accuracy. The Accutire MS4012B is a heavy-duty gauge that can measure pressure in half-pound increments. It measures any range from 5 to 150 PSI, making it accurate to within 0.3%. This is among the best in the industry, making it one of our top choices.
But a highly accurate sensor isn’t all this gauge has to offer. It’s got an incredibly durable enclosure, allowing it to withstand much more abuse than your standard gauge. The frame is made from steel, although the handle is wrapped in rubber and angled for comfortable, ergonomic operation. Available in packs of one or two, this option is affordable enough that you can buy one for your car, and one for your bike without breaking the bank.
PI Auto Store Premium Digital Tyre Inflator
Knowing your tyre pressure is only half the battle. If your measurement is out, then it’s time to bust out the pump. If you’re sick of manually pumping your bike tyres, why not find an automated way to do so. If this is something you’re interested in, the best deal on the market is the PI Auto Premium Digital Tyre Inflator.
This unit combines the functionality of a digital pressure gauge and a DC compressor all in one. Just plug the compressor into the AUX outlet of your vehicle, and use the simple controls to set your desired pressure. At the touch of a button, this compressor will automatically inflate your tyres until they’ve hit the correct pressure, then shut off the compressor. This tyre inflator is extremely fast and surprisingly powerful. But that doesn’t come at the expense of precision. You can fill a bike tyre with an accuracy of 1 PSI, which is acceptable for almost all users.
The inflator comes with a free set of valve caps, as well as replacement presta valves. Consumers who’ve upgraded to presta valves know how frustrating it is to be caught with a damaged valve, so having an extra one on hand is nice to have.
Blackburn’s Honest Digital pressure gauge is a useful and compact tool to have at hand for accurate tire inflation. The gauge has a back-lit LCD screen so that you can use this machine in complete darkness. Their front panel boasts a large power button, which you can operate with gloves on and also selects between PSI and Bar readings.
There are two valves on this gauge, Schrader on one side and Presta on the other. The valve nozzle also rotates up to 180o, independent of the screen, for ease of reading. It is possible to calibrate this unit to help adjust it for changes in weather conditions. There is a bleed button, which releases a small amount of air from the tire to zero out the gauge.
Readings: Digital with back-light
Battery Powered: 2 x CR2032
Accuracy: ± 1%
Max. Pressure: 10.3 Bar (150 PSI)
Weight: 0.16 Pounds
Dimensions: 1.5 × 4.75 × 1 Inches
Blackburn’s Honest gauges the pressure to within 1% discrepancy, all the way up to 10.3-Bar. This level of accuracy is more than you would need, and near impossible to achieve with a regular hand pump. The gauge has an audio alarm to tell you when it is ready to begin testing.
The PSI readings are to a high degree, where many units will measure to a whole PSI, this unit measures to half a PSI. Being able to measure two types of bike valves without needing an adaptor is a plus, but a little redundant.
Best Mechanical Pressure Gauge for Old-School Accuracy
If you are looking to take things to the next level with accuracy, you need to go mechanical.
Meiser is well-known in the industry for making robust mechanical pressure gauges. For over 100 years, Meiser has worked hard on improving their dial gauges to be comparable in accuracy to a battery-powered digital gauge. Batteries can go flat at the wrong moment, and watch batteries are not always easy to find.
The dial movement uses the bourdon tube method to gauge the pressure rather than the piston, or plunger, methods you would see in other gauges. Bourdon tubes are superior in that they are unaffected by atmospheric changes such as temperature, humidity, or altitude.
Battery Powered: No
Accuracy: ± 3%, ± 2%, when measuring between 3.3 and 6.6 Bar
Max. Pressure: 11 Bar (160 PSI)
Weight: 0.5 Pounds
Dimensions: 5.9 × 4 × 1.5 Inches
Accuracy of the readings from the dial varies, depending on the range of pressures you are inspecting. For pressures up to 3.3 Bar, the accuracy is plus or minus 3%, which not fantastic. But for the more common zone of tires within 3.3 to 6.6 Bar, the accuracy improves to 2%, which is comparable to some digital meters.
The accuracy decreases again to 3% when reading over 6.6 Bar. And you are always going to get parallax from trying to read a needle on a gauge. The main benefits of this gauge are that it does not need batteries and that the readings will be consistent regardless of the weather.
How to Use Your Digital Pressure Gauge
Before you can select a gauge, you need to understand how to use it. Different gauges are suited for different purposes, and there are several different ways to use them depending on how you like to ride.
First, let’s go over the basics. To accurately measure pressure, you need to first remove the cap from the valve stem. You then press the gauge inlet down over the valve stem. You may hear a hissing sound. It’s important to press down hard enough that you don’t hear any hissing. When air is escaping, the pressure is artificially low – so you won’t get an accurate reading. But once the sound has stopped, you’ll have a proper seal and the displayed measurement should remain stable.
You’ll also need to decide when to check your tyre pressure. There are two types of measurements you can take: a cold measurement, and a warm one. This has nothing to do with the weather, but more to do with how recently you’ve been using your bike.
You should take a cold measurement once per week. If you’ve recently ridden the bike, it should be left to cool off for at least one hour before taking a measurement. If there is any discrepancy between the pressure your bike tyres are rated for and the actual pressure, this is when you fill it.
A warm measurement should be taken while you’re riding. Let’s say, for example, you’re tearing your mountain bike down a rough path. Your tyres will warm up, and the pressure will increase. You might notice that your ride feels a little hard, indicating that the pressure is too high. Or, you might notice that your tyres and squishy, and don’t have as much traction as they should. This could indicate a low tyre or not enough pressure.
Warm measurements will tell you how much to fill your tyres next time you top them off. If you’re always 2 PSI too high, you can fill them 2 PSI below their recommended pressure. Some riders also choose to keep their pressure artificially low, or artificially high to get your desired riding style. Taking warm measurements will help you understand how pressure changes when in use, so you’ll know what to apply at the pump to get the desired fill.
Which Bike Tyre Pressure Gauge is Right for Me?
Not sure which one to choose? There are a lot of different options out there, and each of them has its own sets of advantages and disadvantages. But before you choose one, you’ll need to understand how to use them, and what you’re hoping to get out of your pressure gauge.
If you’re just looking for something simple, our first recommendation would be for the Tekton 5941 Digital Tyre Gauge. It’s simple, easy to use, and provides all the basic necessities for checking your tyre pressure. Because of its compact nature, you can carry it around everywhere you go. It’s reliable and easy to use, thanks to the built-in backlight and ergonomic grip. You can use it whenever, wherever, making it a truly universal tool.
If you’re looking for something a little more advanced, you should look and see what other tools you have laying around. For the beginner who might not have a bicycle repair kit, the HFAN Digital Tyre Pressure Gauge is a fantastic choice. Not only does it have an accurate, easy to read pressure sensor; but the handle comes complete with a full toolkit needed for on-the-go repairs. You get an Allan wrench, micro-pliers, a LED flashlight, scissors, and a few other handy tools. Without spending any extra money, you get a ton of additional hardware.
Do you have a portable bike pump that you take with you, everywhere you go? In that case, you should have a digital pressure gauge that is just as portable. Very few can come close to the portability offered by the Toogood Digital Tyre Pressure Gauge Meter. It’s got a metal hook that allows you to clip it to your keys, lanyard, or any other portable clip you’ve got on hand. It’s extremely lightweight; but durable enough to withstand the abuse of even the hardest riders.
Don’t own a pump? Not interested in taking the time to fill your tyres manually? Let the P.I Auto Store Premium Digital Tyre Inflator do the job for you. Using it is simple. Just pull your bike up next to your car, and use your 12V power source to power on the unit. On the main display, set your desired pressure, attach the hose, and press the “start” button. The built-in compressor will automatically fill your tyres to the appropriate pressure, and stop when it hits your set point. This method of filling is extremely accurate, and the fact that it uses a digital tyre pressure sensor means that it’s more accurate than anything else on the market. Alternately, check out our guide to the best bicycle pumps. We’ve covered the best models on the market, so you can find one that best suits your needs.
Looking to step away from the manufacturer’s recommended pressures, and start playing around with how your tyre pressure affects your riding style? It only takes a minimal chance of pressure to make a large difference in the way your bike feels, so you need something with extreme accuracy. In this area, there is nothing better than the Accutire MS-4021B.
This digital tyre pressure gauge is among the most sensitive on the market, letting you take measurements in 0.5-pound increments. This will allow you to get your tyres exactly where you want them, leaving very little to guesswork. To top it off, it’s also built to an incredibly high standard. This means that it’s not going to get damaged, even if it accidentally goes flying during an unintended spill.
Overall, all five of these digital tyre pressure gauges are impressive in their own regard, but the one that you choose depends on your own particular set of needs. By following the information outlined in this guide, we hope that you’ve found the solution that will make your tyre pressure problems a thing of the past.
What is the ideal tyre pressure for a mountain bike?
We recommend starting with 23 psi on the front and 24 psi on the back and see how it feels, then adjust according to your personal preference.
How do you check bike tyre pressure without a gauge?
Use the old fashioned method of squeezing the tyre just above the rim to gauge the pressure. It should have some give.
What happens if you put too much air in your bike tyres?
You will have more chance of a blowout when you start riding, especially on rough terrain.