I recently started biking again after taking about 2.5 years off. My bike has been sitting in my garage since then. I did a 30 mile ride as my first one back and I didn't replace my tubes beforehand. Everything went surprisingly fine, but the whole time I was worried about getting a flat. I did have a spare with me, but it's as old as my other tubes.

That got me thinking, how long do tubes usually last while they are in storage, both on and off the bike? Do I have to worry about dry rotting/cracking?

  • 3
    I have a 15+ year old folding bike that is still on its first set of tubes and tires. I do have to inflate them after a few months in storage but they do hold enough for a month or two. – Willeke May 22 at 14:09
  • 3
    An inner tube, inside a bike tire and not exposed to high levels of ozone or petroleum fumes (or UV light), can easily last 10-20 years. – Daniel R Hicks May 22 at 21:17
  • 1
    I just went for a ride today on a bike with tubes at least 8 years old. – whatsisname May 23 at 3:26
  • 2
    I'd be more concerned about the tires themselves since they are exposed to the environment and they are the thing that holds the pressure in, tubes just expand against the tire and keep air from exfiltrating through the tire, the tire does the brunt of the work of holding back the pressure. So if they tires are good, the tubes should be fine. – Johnny May 23 at 21:17
  • 1
    I wouldn't worry so much about the tire; the rubber may degrade, but the carcass is probably still okay (which is important). Generally, replace tires once you see the carcass or get flats. – Batman May 23 at 23:34
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Generally speaking,

Inner tubes will last forever, until you get a flat

Unless the tubes are very old - I'm talking 15+ years - you don't have to worry about them dry rotting, cracking, or loosing structural integrity. I have a collection of patched and new inner tubes from since I started riding around 9 years ago, and all of them look brand new.

And in my experience, the most common cause of flats is due to me doing a shoddy job of installing the tube (ie, the tube is pinched, stress on stem, etc). Back when I started working on bikes, I would regularly get flats a couple days after installing new tubes.

In short, if the tubes have lasted this long, and still hold air, don't touch them. I even remember reading (on Sheldon Brown's website?) that he has witnessed very old tubes bond to the tire.

I have a number if tubes that are over 5 years old and seem to be fine. If the bike was stored away from heat and light that will help. (Well, obviously the tubes are inside the tires and not affected directly by light.)

For peace of mind you could at least buy a couple of new spare tubes. If/when you get a flat change the old one out to a new one and carry on.

It will depend very much on the quality of the tubes. But, look, tubes aren't exactly expensive. Why not just replace them and your spares, for peace of mind and to reduce (by whatever margin) the probability of having to mess about at the side of the road when you wanted to be riding your bike?

  • Can you explain what processes degrade the tubes over time? – ojs May 22 at 17:50
  • @ojs No. But rubber does tend to become less elastic over time, by whatever mechanism. – David Richerby May 22 at 20:17

Your Answer

By clicking "Post Your Answer", you acknowledge that you have read our updated terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy, and that your continued use of the website is subject to these policies.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.