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  1. #1
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    Preemptive Tube Replacement

    As the recent thread about the disparity between front and back flats bears out, we can go long periods without having an issue with front tubes. What Iím wondering is whether after a certain amount of time itís wise to replace the front tube even if there are no apparent issues with it.

    This has come to mind because of two things that happened this past weekend. I keep records of when I get flats. I knew that the front tube on my Jamis bike had not been changed since 2005. There was a four year period in there when I did no road riding but from 2011-2017, I have used the bike frequently. On Saturday I had a slight sense of squishiness but before I could really react, I had to take a sharp left turn. My front wheel almost went out from under me as the tube had lost most of its air. I wasnít going that fast and despite the sharpness of the turn, I was able to get my weight over the front wheel, stabilize the bike, and come to a stop. Just two miles prior to this, I had done a twisty descent at 40MPH. What if the flat had happened then?

    On Sunday a former workmate of mine suffered a serious cycling accident and had to be air-lifted to a hospital. We still donít know all the details but the latest report said ďHis tire blew, he lost control of his bike and went into traffic and hit a carÖ. He has had 2 rounds of surgery and is expected to have another one. He broke his femur and ankle. In addition he tore a large area in his thigh (muscle) which is pretty bad. He will have a long recovery.Ē If I had to guess, Iím betting it was his front tire that went. Usually you still have a decent amount of control if your rear tire goes flat.

    I got my titanium bike in the fall of 2011. Iíve never even had to remove the front tire despite the bike getting lots of use. So, itís coming up on six years Ė do I replace the front tube even though Iíve had no problems?

    I feel better about my Jamis knowing thereís a new tube in the front tire but Iím thinking it might be a good idea to not wait for something to happen next time. How about everyone else? I donít think rear tubes are as big of an issue because of the comparative regularity of their needing to be replaced.
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  2. #2
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    Nope. Tires wear with use; tubes don't. They don't just give up and develop leaks. I'd bet if you inspect your recent flat to find the cause (did you?) you'll find it was a road hazard (puncture) or pinch flat (can happen from striking a pebble, even if you didn't notice).

    As for that 2011 bike, "lots of use" for six years, and front tire not worn enough to replace? Hmmm. My practice, like many riders, is to move the front to the rear when the rear tire wears, and put the new tire on the front.
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  3. #3
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    I agree with J. Send your "old" tubes to me when you're done with them.

  4. #4
    tlg
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    Or send them to me. Even ones with holes.
    I patch my tubes and use them forever. Or until it becomes unpatchable or the stem becomes defective.
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  5. #5
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    Tubes don't go bad. But it's probably worth $6 to address you concerns be they valid or not.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jay Strongbow View Post
    it's probably worth $6 to address you concerns be they valid or not.
    exactly. there could he a psychological element to this.

    i look at my bikes like my dad looks at his plane. his plane has to look and feel perfect for him to take it up. everything has to be in its place. the smallest detail cannot be the slightest bit off, or it will pull attention away from where it needs to be. this inspires confidence.
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  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCavilia View Post
    Nope. Tires wear with use; tubes don't. They don't just give up and develop leaks. I'd bet if you inspect your recent flat to find the cause (did you?) you'll find it was a road hazard (puncture) or pinch flat (can happen from striking a pebble, even if you didn't notice).

    As for that 2011 bike, "lots of use" for six years, and front tire not worn enough to replace? Hmmm. My practice, like many riders, is to move the front to the rear when the rear tire wears, and put the new tire on the front.
    I track all my rides on an Excel spreadsheet. I have about 10,500 miles on the titanium bike. The front tire barely looks worn at all. Front tires, like front tubes, last a very long time. The front on my Jamis has more miles than that.

    When I got home with the tube, I did check to see what the problem was out of curiosity. It was just a tiny hole. I have no way of really knowing what caused it.
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  8. #8
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    the smallest detail cannot be the slightest bit off, or it will pull attention away from where it needs to be. this inspires confidence.
    there could he a psychological element to this.
    Indeed. It's called "obsessive-compulsive disorder." I'm sure your father's pre-flight inspection focuses on details that matter (or at least could matter, and not on every smallest non-functional thing.

    "I'm afraid to ride my bike because the front tube is several years old, even though I know that tubes don't lose functionality with age." That's not rational thinking. IMHO, the way to deal with that is not to spend six bucks and half an hour fixing a non-problem, but to address the issue rationally.

    But inspect your tires, for sure, frequently.
    We are far from pefect,
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  9. #9
    tlg
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    Quote Originally Posted by blackfrancois View Post
    i look at my bikes like my dad looks at his plane. his plane has to look and feel perfect for him to take it up. everything has to be in its place. the smallest detail cannot be the slightest bit off, or it will pull attention away from where it needs to be. this inspires confidence.
    Does he dis-assemble the engine to inspect the seals before he takes it up? I bet not.
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  10. #10
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    [QUOTE=JCavilia;5166768]Indeed. It's called "obsessive-compulsive disorder."

    LOL!

    OP, you can adhere to whatever tube replacement schedule you want to but you'll still fall victim to the thing that most commonly (by an overwhelming margin) damages an otherwise good tube - road debris.

    If you're worried about tube failures, it would be far more effective for you to pre-walk your rides and sweep the route with a broom. That doesn't sound very fun, does it?

    This is basic risk assessment we're talking about. It simply doesn't make sense to spend any time or $ to prevent something that already has a miniscule potential to occur - particularly when something else (road debris) has a very high likelihood of occurrence and can not be prevented using practical means.

    Edit to add: Kudos on your track record for flats though. I typically get at least one per year on each my road, MTB, and commuter bike. Some years it's FAR worse than that. IIRC, there's only been one year in my decades of riding that I got no flats. I should have bought a lottery ticket that year.

  11. #11
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    Thanks for the feedback about tubes. If a tube was out of its package and exposed to direct sunlight, Iím sure it would degrade with time but I guess if itís sealed in a tire and not exposed to any corrosive influences, its integrity should stay intact.
    2012 Motobecane Le Champion Team Titanium
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by JasonB176 View Post
    I track all my rides on an Excel spreadsheet. I have about 10,500 miles on the titanium bike. The front tire barely looks worn at all. Front tires, like front tubes, last a very long time. The front on my Jamis has more miles than that.

    When I got home with the tube, I did check to see what the problem was out of curiosity. It was just a tiny hole. I have no way of really knowing what caused it.
    Front tires definitely do last a long time. Like all rubber goods exposed to air and light, however, they do suffer aging effects (embrittlement, cracking) unrelated to road wear. That's why somewhat regular replacement of tires makes sense, and a sensible way to do that is the front-to-back rotation when replacing the faster-wearing rear tire.

    The tiny hole was most likely caused by a tiny bit of wire - the roads are full of this stuff, from exploded steel-belted car tires. I always inspect the flat, not "out of curiosity," but to make sure the offending object isn't left in the tire to puncture the new tube. But sometimes you never find it, because it has already fallen out.

    And I share dir-T's appreciation for your very clean flat record. They are such random events that it's hard to discern patterns, unless a rider habitually does things that increase the risk, like whanging into potholes with a heavy load and under-inflated tires. I had gone about 2 years (I think) without a flat on my commuting bikes, and then recently got 2 in a week. Random.
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  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCavilia View Post
    Front tires definitely do last a long time. Like all rubber goods exposed to air and light, however, they do suffer aging effects (embrittlement, cracking) unrelated to road wear. That's why somewhat regular replacement of tires makes sense, and a sensible way to do that is the front-to-back rotation when replacing the faster-wearing rear tire.

    The tiny hole was most likely caused by a tiny bit of wire - the roads are full of this stuff, from exploded steel-belted car tires. I always inspect the flat, not "out of curiosity," but to make sure the offending object isn't left in the tire to puncture the new tube. But sometimes you never find it, because it has already fallen out.

    And I share dir-T's appreciation for your very clean flat record. They are such random events that it's hard to discern patterns, unless a rider habitually does things that increase the risk, like whanging into potholes with a heavy load and under-inflated tires. I had gone about 2 years (I think) without a flat on my commuting bikes, and then recently got 2 in a week. Random.
    I always inspect the tire very carefully before putting in the new tube to make sure the offending piece of debris is gone.

    I certainly get my share of rear flats. I probably average about 3 per year and my riding in recent years has been between 5500-6800 miles per year. Most of my riding is on quiet roads where Iím not forced to use the edge where there are more potential flat inducers. Maybe that helps me someÖ
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCavilia View Post
    Indeed. It's called "obsessive-compulsive disorder."
    no, i'm not talking about a psychological problem where you have to turn off the light switch ten times to feel comfortable. but this is the internet where cheap sarcasm and ignorance often rule the day.

    I'm sure your father's pre-flight inspection focuses on details that matter (or at least could matter, and not on every smallest non-functional thing.
    it's everything with him, as it is with me. if the clock or his watch isn't working and synched perfectly, he has to fix it before taking it up. if the tires are not perfectly inflated to exactly the right pressure, he ensures they're right. he goes overboard on the smallest things, because it frees his mind.

    and i'm the same way. i heard a slight squeak on my '60 paramount the other day, and i spent an hour trying to locate it. i finally found and corrected it, and now my mind is free to enjoy the ride.
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  15. #15
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    To prevent my death from flat tires and blown tubes, I replace my bike every month....It does become expensive, but I'm worth it.
    If your opinion differs from mine, ..........Too bad.
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  16. #16
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    i heard a slight squeak on my '60 paramount the other day, and i spent an hour trying to locate it. i finally found and corrected it, and now my mind is free to enjoy the ride.
    Well, that seems at least a little OCD to me, but maybe it's just a matter of style. Sorry if it seemed I was attacking you. I did not intend that.
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  17. #17
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    NEVER.... only if left in the sun and weather for 2 years.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCavilia View Post
    Front tires definitely do last a long time. Like all rubber goods exposed to air and light, however, they do suffer aging effects (embrittlement, cracking) unrelated to road wear. That's why somewhat regular replacement of tires makes sense, and a sensible way to do that is the front-to-back rotation when replacing the faster-wearing rear tire.

    The tiny hole was most likely caused by a tiny bit of wire - the roads are full of this stuff, from exploded steel-belted car tires. I always inspect the flat, not "out of curiosity," but to make sure the offending object isn't left in the tire to puncture the new tube. But sometimes you never find it, because it has already fallen out.

    And I share dir-T's appreciation for your very clean flat record. They are such random events that it's hard to discern patterns, unless a rider habitually does things that increase the risk, like whanging into potholes with a heavy load and under-inflated tires. I had gone about 2 years (I think) without a flat on my commuting bikes, and then recently got 2 in a week. Random.
    I'd put my money on the wire. I just had my 1st flat in over 10,000 miles and didn't find anything by running my fingers through the tire. I had to turn the tire inside out to find the wire and it was a good thing that I carry a small fold up set of pliers because without them there would have been no pulling it out. I couldn't find the hole with my frame pump because as small as the puncture was the air was escaping faster than I could pump it enough to inspect it.

    When I got home I had to use my floor pump to get enough air into it to find the leak, and then found the glue in my patch kit had gone stale. The tire had 6500 miles so I replaced it when I got home and will get a some glue and a coupla new tires to patch the tube and restock my tire stash.
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  19. #19
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    I work with a PhD Chemist. His job is to formulate rubber-based elastomer compounds used on several of our products. He is also a serious cyclist. He changes his tires and tubes at least every 3 years. He said his experience with formulating rubber elastomers shows that the inexpensive elastomer compounds used on bicycle tires dry-out enough in 3 years due to typical environmental factors that they should be replaced.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCavilia View Post
    Well, that seems at least a little OCD to me.
    you don't know what that term means or have never been around someone who suffers from it.

    my bikes don't ******* squeak. that's the sign of someone who doesn't know his **** or maybe a deaf person.
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    Quote Originally Posted by duriel View Post
    NEVER.... only if left in the sun and weather for 2 years.
    So, one day less than 2 years...still good. 2 years and 1 day and it explodes. Got it.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by tka View Post
    I work with a PhD Chemist. His job is to formulate rubber-based elastomer compounds used on several of our products. He is also a serious cyclist. He changes his tires and tubes at least every 3 years. He said his experience with formulating rubber elastomers shows that the inexpensive elastomer compounds used on bicycle tires dry-out enough in 3 years due to typical environmental factors that they should be replaced.
    Interesting Ė a differing view. You mention that he replaces both tubes and tires but in the second part you only speak about the rubber in tires. Is he of the opinion that both types degrade even though the rubber in tubes is sealed inside the tire?
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  23. #23
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    Old tubes, ime, become more likely to fail at the valve. If you have a bad pump head or are not careful, wear happens faster.

    Peace of mind is certainly worth the price of a couple tube.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogus View Post
    So, one day less than 2 years...still good. 2 years and 1 day and it explodes. Got it.
    Exactly, it has been proven with the latest quantum transportation in china!
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  25. #25
    tlg
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    Quote Originally Posted by tka View Post
    I work with a PhD Chemist. His job is to formulate rubber-based elastomer compounds used on several of our products. He is also a serious cyclist. He changes his tires and tubes at least every 3 years. He said his experience with formulating rubber elastomers shows that the inexpensive elastomer compounds used on bicycle tires dry-out enough in 3 years due to typical environmental factors that they should be replaced.
    How does he know bicycle tires use "inexpensive" elastomer compounds? Is that all bicycle tires or "inexpensive" bicycle tires?
    What about lawn mower tires? Car tires? How about the tire on my wheel barrow? Those all look fine after 3 years. Does he replace all those too... just because?

    Sorry, I don't believe your co-worker. I've got lots of bicycle tires older than 3 years that I've got no qualms riding.
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