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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. – jimchristie Apr 19 '13 at 12:17
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    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
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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
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Answering the More General line - you should keep your tyres/tubes away from

  • Sources of Ozone
  • Ultra Violet light
  • Sunlight
  • Smoke
  • Sources of Heat
  • Petroleum product fumes and vapours
  • Paint fumes - or any volatile fumes that may come from a workshop.
  • Cat Pee.

Some exposure is inevitable in the course of using your bike, but there's a difference between storing your tyres in a hot glass-house vs a dark shed, for example.

Also, the way you store tyres affects their life. Hanging a naked tyre on a hook or rod or nail will deform the bead and make it less likely to securely connect with the rims. An extreme case will stretch the top of the tyre. So store tyres lying flat, or mounted on a rim which is on a hook. Notice brand new tyres in a shop often have a very wide cardboard label which somewhat spreads the pressures out while tyre is hung.

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I use transmission fluid to soften the sidewalls of polyurethane tires and never use armor all, Sun is your #1 worst enemy which causes it to dry up then crack, if cracked already, tranny fluid in the cracks will slow the process down, it has the right stuff in tranny fluid. Oil on your tires, especially a bike is never good and even worse on rainy days for traction, as for harming polyurethane, no, oil products cannot harm oil products, harsh solvents like methyl ethyl ketone, methylene chloride or acids can destroy polyurethanes. Now, as for rubber, not an oil based product, it can be damaged by prolonged oil coverage as it softens and expands the rubber far too much (over polyurethane with a light softening once in a while with tranny fluid) and oil in one spot alone on rubber, can create a bump, and a soft spot on a tubeless tire is a weak point for a bubble to form.

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    This seems very dubious to me. "Oil products cannot harm oil products" is a massive generalization. What even is an "oil product" in this context? Both polyurethane and synthetic rubbers are, ultimately, made from oil. – David Richerby Jun 15 '19 at 20:30
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