Tire AGE matters?! How OLD is dangerous?

Like a loaf of bread, the baker wants to provide you with food that tastes good for about 3 -5 days or so..it’s the same with tires, they last longer than 5 days, but they do have a shelf life! (Please do not try eating your motorcycle tires). 

It doesn’t happen quickly, but tires degrade and decompose over time! Simply, as a tire gets older, the rubber loses its softness through natural chemical changes. 

Before we continue…there is some common sense needed when it comes to tire age. Let us say your motorcycle mechanic has put new tires on your motorbike and you check those tire numbers out (see how to read tire age below). To your horror, you discover they are already just over a year old!  (I’ve heard of people getting super upset about this.. ) There is no need to refuse a 1 year old tire, it is still new. In reality it is almost certain you will be replacing those tires long before they get too ‘old’. 

The average manufacturer, usually recommend that a tire performs optimally before it is 5-6 years old. But how long does it take to ‘wear out’ under average riding conditions?

Let us just say an ‘average’ motorcycle tire might last (with regards to tire tread) for between 2500 and 7500 miles of riding. (This will depend on a whole host of factors including, riding style, motorcycle type, the type of tyre you choose (soft sporty tires vs harder touring tires) and lots of other things)

Some of the riders I know ride about 2500 (casual hobby non commuter types) while other who commute ride well over +10,000 per year. Let us take those guys on the low end of the spectrum (riding just 2.5k miles per year) could well be needing replacements after just 2 years of riding! (Long before age will be a factor at all). [Just to be clear, as I said above, there are many dozens of other factors that determine the speed of tire wear, aside from just the mileage you cover, but I’m just trying to present a simplified example.] 

What is important is that you inspect your tires for tread depth, uneven wear, squaring off, colour degrading, ballooning, scalloping, cracking & of course pressure. A thirty seconds visual inspection before you set off could be a life saver. (NB if your inspection reveals the tell tale signs of a puncture repair – get the tire replaced. Do not ride on a temporary puncture plug; while these puncture repair plug kits are excellent, they are designed to get you home safely, not for another 5000 miles averaging 100mph.)  

Most tires have tread depth markers in the rubber, but it’s still a good idea to use a tire tread checker at least once a month and be sure.

Aside from wear, there are lots of factors that can make a tire rubber degrade more quickly too. Higher standing temperatures in your country can accelerate degradation, or, whether you store your bike in direct sunlight or not – direct sunlight can chemically alter your tire making it age faster. Review your tire for subtle changes in colour especially if you store your tire outside (use the quick thumb nail test below regularly). Consider using a bike cover when storing it outside even though it’s dry, it can keep the sun off as well as the rain!

A quick check on the quality of your rubber is the thumbnail check – if you can’t get your thumbnail pressed into the tire at all – get it down to your mechanic and get new rubber. (You need to press your nail into the rubber relatively hard – it’s not a sponge). You are just looking for the rubber to allow you to press your nail into it a little, and for the rubber to ‘bounce back’ from your little nail indent very shortly after your thumb nail is removed.   

So how do you tell what the date of manufacture is?

Look on the outer sidewall for the acronym “DOT,” which should be followed by a series of numbers. The last four digits are what you need to determine when the tire was manufactured. The first two numbers represent the week, and the second pair indicates the year. For example, a tire with the digits 2510 was made in the 25th week of 2010.

As a rule of thumb on age – we suggest tyres should be replaced after 6 years , regardless of how many miles they have done. After 10 years they could be so hard, they may be hazardous. 

Ride Safe Ride Smart