How Long Do Bike Tires Last In Storage: Protecting your tires from dry rot


Many riders wonder how long you can safely store a bike tire. I for one have often considered getting a good pair of tires while they are on sale and storing them in my closet, but something has always stopped me. I wanted to take a deeper look into the technicalities of storing bike tires, particularly how long they last in storage?

Bike tires can last between 3 and 6 years while in storage, however, the exact amount of time that a tire will last will depend on the way it is stored, the type of cycling that you plan to use the tire for, and how often the tire is being used while in storage.

So, bike tires can last up to 6 years while in storage provided they are being kept in the right conditions, but what is the right place to store a bike tire, and how do you know when a bike tire has been stored for too long? I take a look at these in the rest of the article.

How long do bike tires last in storage?

Tire manufacturers tend not to set strict time limitations on how long you should be storing their tires. However, they often indicate that a tire can be safely stored for between 3 and 6 years. With tires at the lower end of this spectrum experiencing some performance losses and tires at the end of this time period becoming “less safe”.

However, these numbers are very dependent on multiple different factors. In general, there are 3 main ways that tires become damaged over time while being kept in storage, and the way you store the tires themselves will impact how much of an effect each of these has on the tire as a whole.

Damage from UV light

UV light is found in sunlight. Over time, this UV light can wear away at objects, causing them to degrade and break down. This is particularly true for certain materials such as the rubber that makes bike tires, which will wear down over time when exposed to sunlight.

Damage from ozone

Ozone is a special type of oxygen that can be formed during chemical reactions. There are two main types of ozone. The ozone that is at the edge of the earth, protecting us from the sun (the good ozone), and the ozone down here at the level that we breathe (the bad ozone).

Bad ozone can have harmful effects on both humans and objects. In particular, ozone can cause the bonds holding together rubber to break down more quickly.

Down here, bad ozone can be produced by certain consumer products such as washing machines (or anything with an electric motor).

This means that storing your bike tires near these types of objects will cause them to break down more quickly. Interestingly, it also means that tires stored in a large city with lots of pollution will last less time than ones stored in the countryside.

Damage from high or low temperatures

At particularly high temperatures, the chemical reactions caused by ozone and UV light are both accelerated and thus tires will break down more quickly.

On the other hand, at lower temperatures, you risk damage to the tires from freezing water droplets or water vapor. This can cause cracks to the sidewalls of the tires where they have not been designed to be as durable.

Overall, keeping your tires at an overly high or low temperature is not good for the longevity of your tires.

Other factors

Apart from the causes of tire damage above. There are also a few other points you will want to consider when deciding how long you plan to store a tire.

Firstly, you need to consider whether or not the tires are being used at all while in storage. Tire manufacturers add special waxes and oils to their tires to help protect against UV and ozone damage. However, over time these will dry out unless the tires are being used (the action of riding the tires spreads out the remaining protective chemicals across the wheel). Therefore, tires being used, even infrequently, will last longer than those not being used at all.

Secondly, you need to take into account the type of riding you are doing. If you are riding on very fast descents or dangerous mountain biking routes, then you will likely want to store your tires for less time. This is because the risk of storing a tire increases over time, and if you cycle in such a way that a damaged tire could cause you serious harm, you may want to reduce this risk as much as possible.

The final point to consider is why you are storing the tires in the first place. Many people will see a set of tires on sale and purchase multiple pairs with a plan to store them for the future. It is important to remember that technology in the bike world changes very rapidly. What is a good tire now may be a mediocre tire in 5 years’ time.

How long does it take for bike tires to rot?

Many riders worry about their tires getting “dry rot”. But what is dry rot and what can you do to stop it from occurring?

Dry rot is a fungus that infects certain types of objects made from wood, paper, or cotton. While many riders will tell you about their tires becoming damaged by dry rot, this is in fact not the case.

Dry rot does not affect rubber, and in reality, it is the damage caused by the UV and ozone we talked about above that riders are seeing when they think their tires have been damaged by dry rot.

What is the best way to store tires?

So you’ve found the sale of a lifetime, and want to store your new set of tires in the best way possible. What should you be doing?

Wash and dry the tires if they are not new

First of all, make sure any tires you are planning to store for a considerable amount of time have been cleaned and dried properly. Over time any grime will cause the tire to wear down more quickly, and any damp areas can increase the chance of mold.

Store the tires somewhere that limits damage

After this, the most important step is picking the right location to store your tires, somewhere that will limit UV and ozone damage while remaining at a good temperature.

To limit UV damage you want somewhere that has limited sunlight, for example, a closet, basement, or under a bed.

To limit damage from ozone, you want to ensure that the location you pick is not near to any large electrical appliances, for example, keep them away from the tumble drier or washing machine.

Finally, you want to pick somewhere dry, that has a nice stable temperature. Somewhere between 5 °C and 35°C is perfect.

Hang the tires up

Hanging the tires up helps to limit any extra pressure that would be put on the tires over time. Ensuring that all areas of the tire wear down at the same rate and that no “flat spots” develop.

Some riders even hang their tires on a pair of wheel rims if they have enough space. This again helps to limit any damage to the sidewall of the tire.

Keep the tires inflated

Keeping the tires partially inflated is another good idea for storing your tires. This helps to ensure the tire keeps its shape over time and limits the development of cracks if the tire folds in on itself for too long.

Naturally, if you plan to store the tire for many years you will need to occasionally re-inflate the tires to ensure they are keeping their pressure.

Consider using a protective spray

While most manufacturers advise that these are not required, some companies sell protective sprays such as this 303 protective spray found on amazon.

These are designed to help maintain the protective waxes already in the tire, and also add another level of protection from UV light.

How to check if a tire needs replacing?

So you’ve been storing your tires for a couple of years now, how do you know if the tire is still good to use? The most important thing to do is to closely examine them for any signs of wear. This can be done with the steps below:

Inspect tire tread

Many tires come with tire tread indicators. You can look at these to ensure that the tire tread is still deep enough to be effective. If your tire does not come with tread markers and simply look at the tread over the tire and see if it appears even throughout.

Monitor the air pressure in the tires

Try inflating the tires and monitoring them for a period of time (for example overnight). This can be a good way to check if the tires are able to keep their pressure, or if any cracks may lead to punctures.

A change in the shape of the tire

Look around the tire once it has been inflated, ensure that the tire looks even throughout and does not show any signs of “squaring off” which can occur when a tire has worn down too much.

Cuts or cracks in the tire

Finally, make sure to look for any obvious cracks or tears in the tire. The best way to do this is to pinch the tire in between your fingers as this will help to expose any hidden cracks in between the rubber.

Also, make sure to look for any visible tire threads that can become exposed when the tire gets damaged.

If you want to take a more detailed look into whether or not you should be replacing your tires, take a look at my article here.

Overall

As you can see, the amount of time that you can store a tire will depend on the way you are storing it, as well as other factors such as the type of riding you are doing.

Overall, a well-stored tire should be able to last a few years, however, manufacturers will advise that once you get up to 6 years you should be getting rid of them.

If you are thinking of storing your bike tires, take a look at my article here, where I talk about how long you can store bike inner tubes.

Mark Holmes

30-year-old doctor with an interest in cycling, bikepacking, and statistics.

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