If you’ve spent any amount of time looking at motorcycle tires for sale, you’ve seen it – the little stamp in the rubber that marks the week and year of the tire’s manufacturer. Why is this necessary? Tires are just rubber, right? It’s not like they’re a perishable good. Right? Well, that’s partially correct. While it might seem like rubber materials are an unstoppable force of nature, tires do age even when they’re not in use, which is why this date is stamped on. It allows sellers and riders alike to get a thorough understanding of the product and some insight on when it will need to be replaced. Yes, tires age and therefore technically have a “shelf life” but it’s a little more complicated than just peeking at the date.
Misunderstanding the Dates
Where do you use expiration dates or “sell-by” dates the most often? At the grocery store, most likely. The appearance of a date that’s already passed on a food item indicates that the product is bad, too old to be consumed. More often than not, this sentiment carries over into other shopping trips as well, including the search for tires. However, this is a false equivalency that causes more harm than good. A tire is made of rubber, not dairy or eggs or other perishables, and the date stamped into the side is neither a “sell by” date nor an expiration date. It’s the date of the product’s manufacturer. A tire that’s on the shelf a full year after this date is still considered factory-fresh, in fact.
The 5 Year Rule
Most manufacturers recommend that tires on any bike be changed every 5 years. 5 years is the time that it takes the rubber compounds used in tires to begin deteriorating in ways that can’t be fixed by simple motorcycle tire repair kits. This is why it’s not unusual to see tires on the shelves of local shops that are one, two, or maybe even three years old. A three-year-old tire is still a viable option because the rubber is still in good condition and will likely be worn out by friction far sooner than the materials degrade. If the stamp on your tire is from within the past 5 years, you have nothing to worry about in terms of quality.
Why Asking for “New” Tires is Bad
When you insist that your local shop order “new” rear motorcycle tires for you rather than purchasing that one-year-old set in stock, it causes a far-reaching problem. When you refuse to purchase existing tires from well-stocked shops:
- Those shops sit on aging stock and can’t afford to buy more
- Manufacturers can’t sell more stock
- Tire prices can skyrocket if the issue is widespread
- Manufacturers have to reuse old rubber from unsold tires, leading to a reduction in quality
Instead of demanding a brand-new tire, consider using the perfectly good, still-new tire that’s only been on the shelf for a year or two.
Yes, tires do technically have a “shelf life” but it’s not as serious as you’d think. They don’t spoil overnight and are safe for use for up to 5 years after the date stamped into the rubber. Head to your local shop today to pick up some tires from their stock and give your bike the gift of better performance – even f the tires aren’t fresh out of the factory.