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  1. #1
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    Is tire age important?

    I just got a new set of Conti GP4000's and was looking at the multi-language instruction page that came with them and was suprised to see a statement that "Any tire over 3 years old should not be used".

    My initial impression was to immediately think this is a "good for business" statement, but later I started wondering if there is any truth to it?

    Anyone know?
    Last edited by bccycleguy; 05-07-06 at 11:33 AM.
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    Bike tires are thin and light so there is not much rubber to withstand deterioration from light, ozone, etc. and very light "race tires" are more vulnerable than heavier touring tires.

    That said, a tire that has been stored away from light and heat and not near electric motors should be good for several years and the 3-year warning is very conservative. I have a pair of Specialized Armadillo Sport 700x23 tires on one bike that has been in my garage for almost six years. The bike isn't ridden much so the tread is still good but the sidewalls are getting a bit hard and brittle feeling. I'll replace them this summer before taking the bike on tour but they are WAY over the 3-year guideline and they were not stored under ideal conditions either.

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    Professional racing teams "age" their tires for quite some time, several years as I recall. They are stored away from light, however.

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    if they're pliable and don't make crackly noises if you bend them, they're probably fine. i've ridden on 30-40 year-tires with no trouble.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bikewer
    Professional racing teams "age" their tires for quite some time, several years as I recall. They are stored away from light, however.
    Where did you hear somethin like that?
    "Send lawyers, guns, and money"

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    Watching Le Tour this last year. They were doing the little specials on the Discovery team, and Lance's equipment manager was showing how he stored the tires and would not use them until they were properly aged.
    Note, this applies to the tubulars that the pros use.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Old Hammer Boy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bikewer
    Watching Le Tour this last year. They were doing the little specials on the Discovery team, and Lance's equipment manager was showing how he stored the tires and would not use them until they were properly aged.
    Note, this applies to the tubulars that the pros use.
    I saw the same special, and I think they are aged something like 5-7 years or more before use. It's also my recollection that Lance had none, or very few flats. At any rate, it was a remarkable record.

  8. #8
    DocRay
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hammer Boy
    I saw the same special, and I think they are aged something like 5-7 years or more before use. It's also my recollection that Lance had none, or very few flats. At any rate, it was a remarkable record.
    there is no material scientific reason for this, other than selecting for tires that have fewer manufacturing defects by seeing if the hold air after a few years.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bikewer
    Professional racing teams "age" their tires for quite some time, several years as I recall. They are stored away from light, however.
    That's because their mechanics know more tradition than chemistry.

    Decades ago when natural rubber, cotton or silk casing tubulars were used, high quality racing tires had their tread strips hand applied and latex glued in place and were not heat vulcanized. Aging these tires allowed the glue to set and harden. Even then cheaper tires were heat vulacnized so aging had no benefits.

    Modern tires, both clincher and tubular, are all heat vulcanized and are ready for use the moment they cool down from the mold. Aging has no benefits at all but this tradition, like many, persists well after it has any reason to.

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    The equipment manager did appear to be a rather elderly European fellow, so perhaps tradition is at work here.
    On the other hand, racing tends to be quite pragmatic as well, with it's long history of trial-and-error. I don't have any information one way or the other.

    As I recall, the guy would separate groups of tires to be "aged" for the specified period, so that he always had a group ready for racing.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bikewer
    As I recall, the guy would separate groups of tires to be "aged" for the specified period, so that he always had a group ready for racing.
    As long as the tires are stored reasonably well, aging them this way has no real downside except it ties up money and storage space so the tradition persists. Doesn't help but doesn't hurt either.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bikewer
    The equipment manager did appear to be a rather elderly European fellow, so perhaps tradition is at work here.
    On the other hand, racing tends to be quite pragmatic as well, with it's long history of trial-and-error. I don't have any information one way or the other.

    As I recall, the guy would separate groups of tires to be "aged" for the specified period, so that he always had a group ready for racing.
    No team seems more scientific and pragmatic than Discovery: if Armstrong or Bruyneel had any doubts at all about this process, I can't imagine Discovery continuing it, regardless of tradition or the elderly Eurpoean fellow.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lrzipris
    No team seems more scientific and pragmatic than Discovery: if Armstrong or Bruyneel had any doubts at all about this process, I can't imagine Discovery continuing it, regardless of tradition or the elderly European fellow.
    As I noted, if the tires are stored under good conditions, there is no downside so there is no reason to "have doubts" or annoy the "elderly European fellow" unnecessarily. He is happy following the old tradition and there is no harm. The fact that it isn't doing anything useful is conveniently ignored.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Old Hammer Boy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HillRider
    As I noted, if the tires are stored under good conditions, there is no downside so there is no reason to "have doubts" or annoy the "elderly European fellow" unnecessarily. He is happy following the old tradition and there is no harm. The fact that it isn't doing anything useful is conveniently ignored.
    The OP was questioning the viability of 3+ year old tires based upon instructions from Continental. The point is, if stored correctly, tires can be older and still function in an excellent manner. The key seems to be apporpriate storage. Again, it seems I recall that Team Discovery had a very good (perhaps the best) record regarding flats. Can anyone substantiate this?

  15. #15
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    There's no way a tire can improve by being "aged". And there's no way a tire can be stored "correctly."

    All tires contain some VOCs. --- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapour pressures under normal conditions to significantly vaporize and enter the atmosphere.

    As these compounds "evaporate", the tire materials harden and lose some of the qualities that make the tire compliant and resistant to cuts and bruising. Old tires are inherently weaker than "fresh" tires.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Cranium
    There's no way a tire can improve by being "aged". And there's no way a tire can be stored "correctly."

    All tires contain some VOCs. --- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are organic chemical compounds that have high enough vapour pressures under normal conditions to significantly vaporize and enter the atmosphere.

    As these compounds "evaporate", the tire materials harden and lose some of the qualities that make the tire compliant and resistant to cuts and bruising. Old tires are inherently weaker than "fresh" tires.
    You might want to send that on to just about every pro racing team. In "Lance Armstrong's War", author Dan Coyle documents how every team ages their tires - some as long as five years. Maybe it is different for sew-ups or something. Maybe it is supersitiion or just an old habit. Or maybe it makes a better tire for racing

    But, I cannot believe that people spending millions of dollars on racing each year would do something that would in any way harm a racer or his chances to win. These are the world's top wrenches and I would bet they know what they are doing.

  17. #17
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    I to have ridden very old tires. My '72 raleigh with orig tires which took me to work today is one such example.

  18. #18
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    RE: comments in Lance's War book. --- That's a good point, if in fact it IS true. Yet, I think my statements, and the conclusion that tires cannot get stronger with age is true.

    There must be some mysterious tire qualitiies, that are not measurable, and aging must produce these resulting qualities so consistently that my simple logic and knowledge of chemistry does not apply.

    Perhaps, the Pro staff of many teams have learned that old tires are easier to work with. And perhaps, they do not value a tire's material strength as much as these other characteristics.

  19. #19
    DocRay
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ozrider
    You might want to send that on to just about every pro racing team. In "Lance Armstrong's War", author Dan Coyle documents how every team ages their tires - some as long as five years. Maybe it is different for sew-ups or something. Maybe it is supersitiion or just an old habit. Or maybe it makes a better tire for racing
    Yes, but the other point in that PR book is that several teams follow strange superstitions with no basis.

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    To add to the debate:

    In an interview posted on Pez.com, Team Discovery Channel’s wrench Alan Butler was asked:

    In these days of synthetics and man-made fibres is it still a valid notion to mature tubulars?
    “Definitely, we get 400 tyres a year from Hutchinson but because we have so few punctures we always have some left over, those that are matured are definitely better; they say a tube is not at it’s best until you no longer get a smell of rubber from it.”

  21. #21
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    honestly, as long as there are no holes and the tire can hold air then you are fine.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by 11.4
    Tubulars today are manufactured by a variety of methods and in a variety of materials. One of the basic distinctions to make for this thread is whether they're vulcanized or not. Vulcanized tires use high heat to more or less melt the tire tread onto the casing. If the treads are vulcanized, they use a rubber compound high in sulfur that doesn't gas off meaningfully (i.e., cure). Consequently, there's no improvement from storage, and they are best off used as soon as possible. If you spent under $50 for a tire, it's probably vulcanized, but you can tell by looking at the edge of the tread -- if it looks like it's melted or squashed into the casing, it's vulcanized. If it sits on top of the casing at the edges and looks like there's a glue holding it on, it's not.

    If it's a nonvulcanized tire, it's made by a more expensive method and may be made of a high-grade natural rubber, which in turn is made of a mixture of solvents, stabilizers, and the molecules that make up rubber per se. This is all sort of like a jello -- and like jello, if you let it dry out a bit, it toughens up quite a bit. Unlike jello, this treatment actually improves most tubulars made of such rubbers. Not all nonvulcanized tires use natural rubber treads, but natural unvulcanized rubber is more supple, which creates the more comfortable (and more grippy) ride that is the holy grail of good tires. When the rubber dries out a bit, it doesn't reduce the suppleness meaningfully, but it dramatically improves the cut and puncture resistance of the tire, increases wear resistance, and actually improves wet weather performance slightly.

    At the same time, on that better tire, if it's got a cotton or silk casing, the aging allows the latex on the sidewalls to dry out. This happens in a month or two (versus six months to a few years for the rubber), but it also improves the suppleness and durability of the casing quite a bit. So even if you don't have the time (or money) to store expensive tubulars for years, you still can realize a meaningful improvement just keeping tires in storage for a couple months. Plus that time is enough to make a lot of the solvents gas out of the rubber.

    This is all complicated because you can get weird combinations of materials and assembly methods. For example, the famed Dugast tubular tire works (once located in a little cubicle under the banking of the Gent velodrome, but now in new hands and relocated) will strip the tread off a tire whose tread you happen to like and reapply it to a cotton or silk casing -- they'll put a Conti Steher tread on a Dugast silk casing, or a Michelin Mud cyclocross clincher tread on a Dugast cotton cross tubular. And then you have the inventive Thai who combine newer materials with older assembly techniques on Vittoria's high-end tires.

    So how to store tires? If it's not going to benefit from storage, it's best stored (if it's a nice tubular) in an open circle -- i.e., not folded up or flattened -- in a heavy plastic garbage bag, in a big tire box (to protect it from dings) in a dark, temperature controlled space. I.e., don't leave it in your garage for the summer, or in an attic or anywhere that cooks the tire. Good tubulars hate heat. Keep the tires lying flat if possible (tire boxes, which manufacturers ship clincher tires in, are great for tubulars -- they open on the large flat side so you can lay tires in flat and get easy access to them). You don't have to keep the tires on rims, but plan on stretching the tires on clean, unglued rims for a day or two before mounting. You can put a thin coat of glue on the basetape of a new tubular, brush it in really well so it gets into the fabric, let it dry well for a few days, and then stretch it on a clean rim. You won't get much if any of the glue coming off onto the rim. I usually keep a pair of tubulars of this variety stretched and ready to go.

    If you have some very nice tubulars that merit aging, I'd suggest stretching them for a month or two, inflating regularly to 50-60 pounds and hanging them (letting them sit on their own weight is worse than not aging them). Then put them in a rim box, but don't put a plastic bag around them and cut some holes in the box so it can breathe. If you happen to have a bunch of extra tubular rims around, you can always store the tires on them, but then you have to inflate them regularly, find a way to hang them in good controlled conditions, never let them sit on the ground, and keep them from getting whacked or from getting covered with dust (which is also bad for them).

    Butyl tubes in tubulars will last pretty much forever, but latex tubes will gradually dry out and deteriorate -- they get worse while the exterior of the tire gets better, ironically. Latex tubes used to have a weight and suppleness advantage, but butyl tubes have gotten so thin that the differences are pretty small, and more and more manufacturers have switched to them. I don't mind them and I don't have to worry about aging these tires as much. But be aware that you can't keep latex-tubed tubulars around forever.

    One last thing: If you have bare fabric sidewalls (i.e., no colored rubber painted over them), then the aging process will dry out the sidewalls long before the tread has aged well. This is easy to address. Get a bottle of latex solution for tubulars (Jevelot is the most common brand, but you'll probably have to special order it) and paint it on the sidewalls every six months or so. It protects the casing and keeps it supple. Once you've mounted a tire on a wheel, it's worth using this solution every couple months or so (or more often if your tires get wet regularly). You'll prolong the life of your tires quite considerably.

    Sorry this thread is a bit ambiguous about how to handle tires. You just have to figure out how your tire is constructed, and the materials, and decide whether aging is better or worse for you. It's only in the past few years that tire construction has gotten so diversified that it isn't an easy decision like it used to be.
    This was originally posted in the fixed/SS forum a month ago by a pro racer/excellent source of accurate information. Thread is here: Are Tubular Tires like Aging Wine?

    If you want more info like this, grab a bucket of popcorn and search for posts by user: 11.4
    Consider your day over, but certainly not wasted.

  23. #23
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Aging may be OK or even good for tubulars, but I think it is always bad for clinchers.
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  24. #24
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    All very interesting but hand-made, hand-glued, natural rubber, cotton or silk casing tubulars have all but vanished from production. Aging these was of some value but they don't exist any more. Modern heat vulcanized (it's a reaction, not a melting process) tires are ready for use immediately and not improved by aging. Old myths die hard.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    Okay, so this is a "wine" thing -- only certain tires age well, and then only if you know how to age them well. I'm pretty sure this means "believe the literature that came with the tire."

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