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Tires: How old is too old?

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Tires: How old is too old?

Old 02-11-19, 03:10 PM
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kross57 
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Tires: How old is too old?

I just picked up a pair of bikes from the mid-late 80s that I don't think were ever ridden. They still have the original, like-new tires. Normally, tires this old are fossils - dry, cracked, stiff, and useless. But these are still flexible with no sign of rot or cracking. Should I ride them, or am I just asking for trouble?
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Old 02-11-19, 03:23 PM
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Depends on how the tire/bike was stored/used. More exposure to UV light and ozone= shorter tire life.....
Five years, if the tire is not worn out from mileage, would be a good benchmark to start really inspecting the tire for dry rot and other damage.
I'd say anything longer will be taking a big chance, as some damage might not even be visible at the tire's exterior.
But watch out for ozone exposure though, as that will accelerate tire aging a lot. I remeber ruining my motorcycle's tires just within 3 years after regularly parking it next to an apartment basement parking mechanical room door with a vent on it. The mechanical room had a big air handlers with big electric motors that emitted lots of ozone gas. The gas dry rotted my tires way before their treads were worn out.
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Old 02-11-19, 03:36 PM
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For sure, its iffy.

But its according to what kind of riding you do. If you just kind of putter around the neighborhood, and stay close to the house, and the tires look good fully pumped up, then I would go ahead and take a chance. But if you ride far and ride fast, then I would put those tires on the side and get some new ones.

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Old 02-11-19, 03:43 PM
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I would feel safer on a older fat tire than I would a skinny tire, either way if you keep your eye on it, fill slightly lower pressure and avoid long rides in the extreme heat, (hot tar etc), you should get good use while you shop for your replacements. If it looks scary, ride it to the bike shop to get the last mile and you'll feel good on your new o's
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Old 02-11-19, 04:45 PM
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Having had a sidewall of an old tire go- but the tube didn't- I feel like I dodged a bullet. If it looks sketchy, I'm out.
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Old 02-11-19, 04:55 PM
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I'm replacing them to stay on the safe side, but I never had tires this old look so good.
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Old 02-11-19, 05:18 PM
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If @crank_addict and @rhm won't use them, they're too old.
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Old 02-11-19, 06:22 PM
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My garage-entombed '86 Nouvo Sport had dead solid perfect original tires, almost zero miles and no drying or cracking. I rode them for a couple hundred miles the first year I had the bike. But the next four years exposure to heat and light has dried them up pretty badly, even as the bike was literally just sitting on the shelf. I sold a Sears (Austrian) 3-speed with the original 60 year-old tires on it and they were supple and solid. I think the OO somehow managed to keep pressure in the tires even though she wasn't riding it, as a there was no flat spot or cracks in the sidewalls. Amazing. The lady I sold it to was a roadie with serious miles on her judging from her gams. She bought it from me for "a new experience in cycling."
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Old 02-11-19, 06:55 PM
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Originally Posted by RobbieTunes View Post
If @crank_addict and @rhm won't use them, they're too old.
I should probably put my name into Robbie's list here, since I definitely have some very comfortable 20 year old Continentals on my bikes, not mention some classic Vittoria and Clement tubulars.
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Old 02-11-19, 07:06 PM
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I pay attention to the tire, not the age of manufacture.

How are you planning on riding the bikes? Occasional Sunday rides? Hardcore commuting? Century rides?

I do find that modern tires are more flat resistant than anything I've ever had in the past.
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Old 02-11-19, 09:01 PM
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Those tires are probably 25 or 30 years old by now. Make sure your medical insurance is in good standing. A blow out resulting in a bad injury from slamming into the pavement will cost you far more than a pair of replacement tires.
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Old 02-11-19, 09:03 PM
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Pass here. Not worth it.
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Old 02-12-19, 12:32 AM
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When I purchased my 1987 Free Spirit Pinnacle at a garage sale, it still had the original "Golden Boy" tires mounted on it. I aired them up and went out for a ride.

It wasn't long before the front tire let go. A rock hit it and popped the original tube. The front tire and both tubes were changed. I actually got quite a few miles on the original rear tire before I replaced it after it was worn down to the nylon cords. Seriously, when I replaced it, probably about 45% of the tire was just the nylon cords. But it still held air, and somehow I didn't pop any tubes.

Oddly enough, it seemed like I had more flats after changing that original rear tire than before.

But I'm a bad example, so I'd say change them unless you stay fairly close to home and don't go very fast. And even then go ahead and order new tires... they're not super expensive.
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Old 02-12-19, 02:46 AM
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IMO, on any vehicle, tires are one of those things that are hard to compromise on. They provide the grip, and generally failure can be catastrophic. In the wrong part of a turn, on a bike it can lead to injuries.

If you've got a classic and want to keep it that way, that's fine. But consider going with brand new tubes and tires, just for the safety value. Tires are fairly inexpensive. You can always remove the "classic" old tires from storage if you ever decide to show it or sell it. Keeps you safe, and retains the value of the thing.
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Old 02-12-19, 07:23 AM
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I'm not a speed demon by any means, but when i spend a half hour climbing a big hill, i see it as an investment, and i expect a nice return on that investment in the form of a thrilling decent. Especially when there's good visibility, clean roads, no traffic... spin the pedals, work up to a high gear, what can possibly go wrong? With a well maintained bike and a little nerve it's easy to get up to 45 mph, and heavier riders often claim speeds over 50 (I never have).

I keep a sharp eye out for black ice, potholes, deer, tuck into an aerodynamic position and get set to hang on for the ride. But at some point, somewhere around 35 -40 mph, my rational approach goes out the window, and irrational fears take over. How old are my tires? Can I trust that tyvek boot I put in last month? At 40 mph it becomes difficult to distinguish between rational and irrational fear... but either one is enough to limit my speed.

Bad tires, whether worn out or defective or just old, are a rational fear. When I have irrational fears to deal with, I have no need for rational ones. Nuts to that, gimme new tires.
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Old 02-12-19, 08:10 AM
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When I buy tires I buy good ones. I top them up before rides, take a look at the sides and tread, and watch them spin so I can catch any "python growing inside" situations which mean the carcass is breaking or the bead is coming loose. On the tubulars I especially notice the adhesion to the rim and condition of the sidewall carcass threads. That attention lets you see how well the tires are aging and what, if anything, is degrading beyond the normal wear of rubber due to abrasion.

I think I'm a lot better protected against tire failure than most riders. I've had more tire failures due to valve failures and my own errors than with cheap tires. Not all cheap tires are garbage, for examples these tubulars: Yellow Jersey Servizio Corse: very good. Continental Giro: garbage. Vittoria Rallye: sometimes garbage. Gommitalia Champion: really good.

If I have good tires, I tend to take the bike anywhere on them. Example: a good but not fresh pair of Servizio Corse 22 mm road tubulars on my lightweight Mondonico. Mr. and Mrs. Road Fan went out for a 40 mile afternoon toodle and as is our wont we improvised the route so we could see Hell, Michigan for the first time. One of our bridges in the National Forest was out, forcing us to go south on an alternate route that was gravel with big, sharp, nasty stones. I continued to ride the Mondonico a little slower, and with my butt off the saddle. It was rough but not slippery. We reached the end of the gravel, about 5 miles, and took the 2-lane state highway back about 12 miles to the town where the car was parked. No torn treads, no separations, and no sidewall damage or punctures.
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Old 02-12-19, 08:21 AM
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But the question is, at what age do tires become "bad"? 5 years? 10? Is there a definite age, or are there just too many variables?
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Old 02-12-19, 08:31 AM
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If there is no cracking, or fine lines on the sidewall or the tread when you inflate to it's max rated psi on the sidewall it's good to go. Sometimes the tread may be a bit shiny in appearance, if so simply take some 600 grit sand paper and a spray bottle of water then while spinning the tire dampen and sand the tread to remove the shine, this will expose fresher rubber, just don't sand the sidewalls. Of course riding on the tire will eventually remove the shine but in the meantime handling and emergency stopping may be affected somewhat till it does wear off. Don't forget to reduce the psi to your riding PSI when your done checking.
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Old 02-12-19, 08:32 AM
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Doesn't Sheldon say that if the threads in the carcass are intact, you're good to go?
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Old 02-12-19, 09:16 AM
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I had a nice, fast rolling, 320 tpi set of tires that I felt "gave up", probably due to age. What I mean by that, is they just didn't roll well anymore. I could feel a difference. When I took them off, they just felt soft and didn't hold their shape. I put new tires on and the bike rolled well again..

So even if the tires looked good, maybe there is a point where they lose there riding characteristics.
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Old 02-12-19, 09:41 AM
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More than 5 years seems good as a general rule, but I admit to exceeding that # fairly often. See last Summer's Clunker Challenge 100, beginning at post #28 for probably the oldest I've ridden: C&V Clunker Challenge 100 #4

They rode fine for 100km, but I kept my speed down on descents. I then mounted the new Kenda's on alloy rims and rode another 100km. The 45 y.o. Michelins had a better ride(on steel rims) than the new Kenda tires on alloy rims. Those ancient Michelins are leaning against my shop wall now, still holding air. Non-fixie tried some old sew-ups but had a side-wall failure. Don
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Old 02-12-19, 09:46 AM
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For what it's worth, in the last few years I can only remember two tires that failed catastrophically. Both were front tires, and both tore at the sidewall-bead interface. Luckily neither one caused a crash, but it's still scary. One was a fairly cheap Michelin, the other a Panaracer Col-de-la-vie 650b. And both were basically new tires, less than a month old, and neither showed any wear or signs of other damage.
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Old 02-12-19, 10:55 AM
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I would say based on experience that tires, as they age, become ever less suitable for anything near full inflation pressure, and that the tread becomes faster wearing.

The bond between plies, under the tread where the plies overlap, weakens with age, even if stored in a sealed package. This affects the tire's ability to contain high pressure without suffering "outer-ply failure", or loss of tension in the outermost ply. This becomes apparent when the centerline of the tread appears S-shaped and where some bulging is apparent.

Perhaps not always the case, but I've had new-looking, aged tires wear out within a few hundred miles.

And as greatscott mentioned, the tread surface can become shiny, squeeky and slippery, requiring a serious scrubbing-in before they feel safe.

As a lighter rider, running far below maximum pressures, I probably get away with what others shouldn't try.
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Old 02-12-19, 10:59 AM
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Originally Posted by kross57 View Post
But the question is, at what age do tires become "bad"? 5 years? 10? Is there a definite age, or are there just too many variables?
IME, waaaaay too many variables to just pick an age limit and call it good.

On the Sears bike I mentioned above, thick, heavy rubber tires on rims meant to be inflated only up to 40 lbs or so, on a bike meant to be ridden slowly by a small person. I'm sure the lady I sold the bike to doesn't put lots of miles on it, but I wouldn't be surprised if she kept the original tires on it.

On a racing bike? With really skinny tires at 120psi? Maybe some really fast descending? Whole different story.
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Old 02-12-19, 12:54 PM
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One thing I always think of (besides damage to myself) is possible rim damage when the tire lets go. I'd rather replace the tires and tubes than risk damaging a nice rim.
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