Most people, especially homeowners, know about dry rot and how it affects wood and the damage it can cause.
Tires can also suffer from a type of dry rot that motorcycle riders must keep an eye on especially when leaving their bike in storage or sitting for long periods of time. Tire dry rot breaks down the integrity of the rubber and ages the tire similar to how wood dry rot breaks down the fibers of the wood and leaves it a crumbling mess.
However, wood dry rot comes from an actual fungus because of excess moisture, tire dry rot results from a lack of proper storing methods and handling. In many respects, by not using the tire you make it susceptible to dry rot. Once tire rot starts, eventually the tire fades, starts to crack, loses its sheen and just looks old and weathered.
How To Prevent Tire Rot
Tire dry rot occurs for a number of reasons the primary culprits being exposure to sunlight, age, low inflation and lack of use. Motorcyclists who regularly ride and take care of their bikes have a far less chance of dealing with tire dry rot than seasonal riders and those who fail to properly care for the tires. If you have dealt with tire dry rot in the past or take winter's off from riding follow these tips to keep the tires on your motorcycle ready to roll the next time out.
Avoid Prolonged Sunlight Exposure
Keep tires in a cool, dark area of the garage and avoid temperature extremes. Don't leave them outside or near a windowed door where the sun's rays can shine through. Obviously, when you ride, especially in the summer, tires get lots of sun exposure so look for shade when parking outdoors and this leads us to the next tip...
Take Tires for a Spin
You'd think keeping motorcycle tires covered in the garage away from the sun and elements would greatly extend their life, however, a prolonged lack of use prevents the additives and waxes manufactured into the tire from doing their job. These protective substances squeeze out during normal operation and recoat the tire keeping it fresh and maintained. If left in a sitting position for too long the protective additives dry up along with the uncoated sections of tire.
Maintain Air Pressure
Preventing tire rot offers another reason to ensure proper inflation of the tires. Underinflated tires crumple the sidewalls causing cracking which in turn leaks air. Once this process has started you can't turn back time and eventually the tires age quicker as a result of the cracks.
You have no control over the age of the tires. Even well-kept tires age which leads to fading, cracking and rot. You can prevent premature aging by maintaining the tires and following the tips above but eventually the rubber and protective additives in the tire break down rendering it useless.
Keep Tires Clean
Tires battle all the road has to offer so leaving caked on mud or even a light dusting of dirt can degrade the embedded protectants and promote dryness. Wash the tires using water and avoid harsh chemicals and soaps as these also break down the rubber.
Proper Motorcycle Tire Storage Tips
If you ride seasonally or take extended absences off your motorcycle then store the tires appropriately in between rides. Keep tires off the ground by using a motorcycle stand and keep them properly inflated. You should check the air pressure once a month or so, inflate as necessary and always check prior to riding. Tire covers might not be a bad idea especially if you live in extreme hot and cold regions.
If possible, go for a ride, get the tires warm and under pressure. Doing this just a couple of times during the off-season with proper inflation levels probably helps sustain the life of tires more than anything else.
Lastly, don't use cleaners or shine products made from oil, normally labeled as petroleum distillates. While these sharpen the look of tires in the short run, in the long run the waxes and protective additives break down, age the tires and increase the chance of tire rot. If you see the beginnings of cracking along the sidewall, a water-based protectant can help extend the life of the tire but start thinking about some replacements.