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I've noticed a small puddle of light oil beneath the rear wheel of our Rohloff-equipped tandem. I'm told that a small amount of leakage is normal and I'm not worried about that.

The issue is that a lot of it falls on the rim and the tire. Obviously it's bad news on the rim for braking, so I'll be wiping it off and possibly cleaning with diluted degreaser.

My question is: is exposure to light oil likely to damage the tire? I know some rubbers can be sensitive to certain chemicals, so is hub oil/bike tires (in this case Schwalbe Marathons) such a combination? I would've thought someone else would have had this problem if so, but I'd like to check.

More generally, are there any products/chemicals should I keep away from tires for fear of degrading the rubber?

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I doubt it. They're both petroleum products. Perhaps someone will know for sure. But, if you have rim brakes and you get oil on the rims they will squeal like you've never heard before. – jimirings Apr 19 '13 at 12:17
Yes, oil/grease can damage tires. It depends somewhat on the type of rubber -- the old "gumwall" tires are quite susceptible to damage from petroleum products, while tires made with car tire rubber are pretty immune. But it's best to avoid getting any petroleum product (especially lighter oils and solvents) on any sort of rubber. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 19 '13 at 14:58
@jimirings same for disc brakes, chain lube is what gets on my disc brakes if I don't apply it carefully. Very loud. – Glenn Gervais Apr 19 '13 at 15:57
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Like Daniel said, a good rule of thumb is to keep oils off rubber and plastics. Some will damage them, some will preserve them, but you don't want either type on your tires. You should be more worried about the fact that the oily spot on your rear tire can cause it to break traction much more easily, especially while braking or cornering. If you're going to be storing the bike for any period of time, just stuff a rag between the spokes up next to the hub to catch and absorb the oil.

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Another thing to watch is when cleaning/oiling your chain. I always take a section of newspaper and shove it up behind the derailer, so it drapes over the tire, before cleaning or oiling. – Daniel R Hicks Apr 19 '13 at 18:33
Good tips, thanks. – James Bradbury Apr 19 '13 at 20:39

Are you sure that such leakage is normal? While I don't know the component you cite, I've never had leakage from components in the over 45 years I've been riding regularly.

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