Vintage tire safety

dirttorpedo

Senior Retro Guru
So I was given an old Ellis Briggs bike that had been stored indoors for 40 years and not ridden much. Tires are probably from the early 80’s and look in good condition. Sidewalls are yellowing but no cracks. Cotton casing looks good. Tread is perfect.

I’m wondering how safe these care to ride?
 

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Captain Stupido

Senior Retro Guru
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I'd ride them, have ridden far worse.

On the other hand you can't beat the feeling of nice new tyres, so I probably wouldn't be able to resist treating it to some new rubber if it was mine. Ultimately probably depends what sort of riding you're doing but if they look OK they probably are. Maybe not the best choice if you're setting off on a round the world tour but probably ok for pootling down to the shops.
 

jim haseltine

Old School Hero
Stored indoors out of direct sunlight? The surface might be a bit hard so you won't have much grip in wet weather until they've worn a bit but that won't take too many miles. As previously written, I wouldn't attempt any long rides without a back up but they'll likely be ok.
 

pigman

Old School Grand Master
Sorry to spoil the party, but there's 2 things I wouldn't compromise on trying to ride an ancient bike
Tyres/tubes
Brake cables

Safety and hassle if it all goes wrong miles from home
 

Peachy!

Retrobike Rider
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They remind me of some 27x1 Michelin tyres I had.
Look great for photos but too “tired” 🤦‍♂️ and old to really take the kind of pressure that would make them roll well.
I only ever use Panaracer Pasela tan-wall’s now. Lightweight folding 27x1” on quality high pressure rims like Wolber Super Champions or the wired 27x1-1/4” version on older simpler touring rims.
 

2manyoranges

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Older rubber and certainly antique rubber (10 years+) tends to have two main problems - they are very puncture prone and are subject to sudden failure. Sudden failure occurs because the tyre flexes a lot as it rotates, squishing outwards and then back as the tyre passes through the contact area. This stresses the internal structure of the tyre and essentially the layers can separate. They might not. But they can. Secondly, the wire can relax, leading to a very loose fit on the rim. I experienced this last weekend when I helped out someone stuck without spare tube or repair kit, with very old tyres on his bike. Repaired the snakebite, reinstalled the tyre, and then pumped to working pressure...suddenly out burped the inner tube and ‘GAPOW....’ a huge blasted hole in the inner tube. Oh well, fitted my new inner tube which I always carry and pumped up to a very modest pressure....

For yours...perhaps pump them up to the right pressure - see what happens.
Ride them - see what happens.
But take a folding spare.
 

dirttorpedo

Senior Retro Guru
Older rubber and certainly antique rubber (10 years+) tends to have two main problems - they are very puncture prone and are subject to sudden failure. Sudden failure occurs because the tyre flexes a lot as it rotates, squishing outwards and then back as the tyre passes through the contact area. This stresses the internal structure of the tyre and essentially the layers can separate. They might not. But they can. Secondly, the wire can relax, leading to a very loose fit on the rim. I experienced this last weekend when I helped out someone stuck without spare tube or repair kit, with very old tyres on his bike. Repaired the snakebite, reinstalled the tyre, and then pumped to working pressure...suddenly out burped the inner tube and ‘GAPOW....’ a huge blasted hole in the inner tube. Oh well, fitted my new inner tube which I always carry and pumped up to a very modest pressure....

For yours...perhaps pump them up to the right pressure - see what happens.
Ride them - see what happens.
But take a folding spare.
I pumped them up to 80psi and rode them 22km on pavement and smooth dirt trails and they were nice. I pulled them off and replaced them with more modern rubber and they were snug on the rim. Casing looked in good condition too. Interesting to note that the 700x32 claimed on sidewall measured closer to my modern 700x 28 tires.
 
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