24 July 2015

Tire Pressure is CRITICAL

If you come to Việt Nam or go anywhere else with even the slightest thought of renting or buying or riding a motorbike/motorcycle, take a tire pressure gauge with you.

Tire pressure is VERY important. If it is low, the bike will not handle properly. If it is very low, you are likely to have a blowout. The tire could also roll over enough that the rim contacts the road in a turn, causing loss of control and a likely crash.

Low pressure also affects tire wear and fuel mileage—in case those are more important to you than safety.

Tire pressure that is too high is relatively safer than too low, though you will still have negative effects on performance, handling, comfort, and tire life.

I'm sure tire pressure gauges are sold somewhere here (probably Saigon), though the only Vietnamese I have seen using them are the few to whom I've gifted them—and they use them irregularly.

This is today's topic because I just returned from the local tire dealer/repair shop.

The rear tire of my Steed had a s-l-o-w leak and I was topping it off every two or three days. Yes, in addition to at least four tire pressure gauges, I also have a small compressor powered from a pigtail installed on each of my bikes.

This leak was especially frustrating because less than 400 km ago I had brand new tires and tubes installed.

It took two rear tubes because the first one was improperly installed, the tube got pinched, and in less than 3 km went flat with a big tear—tear, not puncture.
That yellow line is only on brand new tires
Definitely NOT the preferred riding position!
One of the advantages of using Hein Moto in Saigon is they have a pick-up service.
This slowleak was due to a bad "weld" and is irreparable.
Great! The BRAND NEW TUBE is shit.

The closest new 170/80-15-PV78 tube might be in Saigon—or it might be in Bangkok. Fortunately, I was ready for an un-fixable tube. I had a relatively new, low kilometer, one-patch tube in my pannier. I carry spare new or one-patch tubes for both wheels of the bike I'm riding EVERY time I ride between cities, off-road around Dalat, or to the tire repair shop. Even I wanted to ride tubeless, my spoke wheels require a tube to keep the air from escaping through the spoke/wheel interface. With non-tubed tires, I would still carry a tube for each in case the tire couldn't be plugged.

Click here for good information on plugging vs. patching tires, fix-a-flat, and more.

This post started out recommending that, if you plan on riding on two wheels, you take a tire pressure gauge with you.


The amount of air pressure in your tire is NOT something that you or anyone else can guesstimate accurately enough. Since arriving in VN eight months ago, I have had air put in my tires by "mechanics" at least seven times. When each pronounced the tire ready to roll (by putting away the compressor hose), I used my tire pressure gauge to check the pressure. In tires that call (on the sidewall) for 38 psi, the mechanic-supplied pressure ranged from 15-54 psi. The closest any of them got to 38 was 34.

Close, but no ceegar.

The other day, My came by when I was checking tire pressures. I put the gauge on her motorbike and found that the rear tire that should be at 42 psi was at 15. Out came the compressor...

How long since you checked the air pressure in your tires? If it's as long as it'd been since you checked your oil level (you know who you are ;-) when I wrote about that, close the computer and go check them now. Yes, even especially if you drive a car! The recommended tire pressure is on the sidewall of every tire, though cage (four-wheeled vehicle) owners should use the recommended tire pressures on the sticker inside the driver's side door, usually on the B pillar (the vertical piece next to the door handle). Check the cold (it's been sitting for at least 30-60 minutes) pressure on every tire on every vehicle and get them right.

Remember... it's only two or four very small patches of rubber between you and the road and between you and potential disaster. On large SUV tires, I can cover the area of one tire's contact with the ground with my spread-open hand. Respect your tires, keep an eye and the occasional gauge on them, and they will serve you well.


  1. Good advice. Had a mechanic in Seattle fill my tire and swore it was at 34 psi. I used two different gauges and only got 28. His hose had a faulty gauge. Mechanics can be stubborn.

  2. My husband has been a biker for many years before we even got married and I am always concerned about his safety. A friend of ours was in a terrible accident a few weeks ago due to low tire pressure. I am doing some research about getting him a tire pressure monitoring system for his motorcycle so that I won't have to worry about something similar happening to him. Thank you for the information.

    1. Thank you for the nice note, Jesse... I have the Garmin Zumo 590LM GPS. Both it and my previous Zumo 390LM have optional tire pressure monitors that communicate through Bluetooth and give you a warning on the GPS screen if the pressure in either tire gets lower than you set it for. The only downside is that you have to be using the GPS for it to tell you. Please let me know if you find another, easier method.

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