Do loose threads mean I need to replace my bike tires?
April 25, 2010 8:45 AM   Subscribe

There are black threads coming off the sides of my bike tires - do the tires need to be replaced?

My road/touring bike has Continental Gator Skins (one label says Duraskin+K). I put them on about 3 years ago - which means a total about 2500 - 3000km ridden on roads in the summer and trainer in the winter. There are black rubber threads coming off the sides of the tires, close to the rim.

Pulling gently sometimes breaks them, sometimes elongates them, so I've cut them off. Front is worse than the back. I can't see any specific damage on the tires. They are holding pressure just fine.

Is this normal or bad? I haven't ridden much this spring but will be building up over the next few weeks and don't want to risk anything bad happening.

This may be a common-sense "don't even about riding again until you've replaced them" situation, but I know nothing about tires, so teach me! My main hesitation is that I really don't have the money for new tires, but will find it if I have to.
posted by valleys to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I never had great luck with Conti tires. I think what you are seeing is dry rot. The threads are part of the casing, which is deteriorating. They may not fail, but they are not likely to spontaneously get better. Replace.
posted by fixedgear at 8:50 AM on April 25, 2010

is this a "bike" bike or bicycle?
posted by chinabound at 9:04 AM on April 25, 2010

It's a bicycle, chinabound.
posted by box at 9:10 AM on April 25, 2010

And what fixedgear said.

You ought to be able to find tires for fifteen or twenty bucks apiece without too much trouble.
posted by box at 9:15 AM on April 25, 2010

I can highly recommend as a source for bike stuff if you don't feel like visiting your LBS.
posted by Wild_Eep at 9:24 AM on April 25, 2010

Unless something has changed in the last 5 years, your Contis are probably natural rubber. They're generally softer than other tires, which makes them wear out quicker. The other drawback to natural rubber is an increased rate of deterioration. If you got three years out of a pair of Contis before they started breaking down, count yourself lucky.

Without looking at them, I would call it dry-rot/natural deterioration and counsel you to buy new tires.
posted by Seamus at 9:39 AM on April 25, 2010

You definitely need new tires. You should, of course, buy from your LBS, but ProBikeKit has some unreal prices on tires and free shipping to boot.

Also, check to make sure your brake pads are set correctly and are only hitting the rim and not touching the tire as well. I have no idea if this is the case (no photos), but it's worth looking at if the damage is close to the rim.

What really gave me pause in the OP is that they're being ridden on a trainer in the winter. Trainers are to tires as Pac-Man is to pac-dots. Keep your new, good tires on the road and save the busted old Gatorskins for winter trainer duty.
posted by The Michael The at 9:44 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Gatorskins are one of the top recommended tires for communiting/not having flats. I don't know if they're falling apart, but you can order a new pair from probikekit for less than $60 (there is a discount code USA15 that takes off 15% with free shipping to the USA). They'll probably cost $40-50 a piece anywhere else. I don't actually use these tires though. I have 28mm specialized armadillos that have only flatted when I got hit by a car (~$50 a piece) and Serfas Secas on my road bike which are $25 and seem to be very similar to Armadillos (my bike shop bro explained that Serfas makes cheaper copies of other companies designs). $15 tires will guarantee flats. I'd recommend getting another pair of Gatorskins or the Secas.
posted by thylacine at 9:49 AM on April 25, 2010

Thanks for all the answers so far. I appreciate the suggestion to keep these old tires for the trainer next winter.

I'm in Canada so US online stores probably won't work (shipping + customs probably make cheap prices not-so-cheap...) but thanks for the ideas.

I did get these Gatorskins because they were recommended by the LBS as good for avoiding flats on the pot-holed & cracked mess of Ottawa roads.

Will hit the LBS early this week and see what I can find.
posted by valleys at 10:16 AM on April 25, 2010

You might enjoy reading a word on tires and avoiding flats from the folks at Rivendell.
posted by mendel at 12:01 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, I noticed you mentioned the tires are holding pressure fine -- remember, that's the tube inside the tire that's doing that. What a weak sidewall is going to do is make it so that the tubes suddenly stop holding air mid-ride.
posted by mendel at 12:03 PM on April 25, 2010

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