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Tire Cracking and Tire Balm

Old 02-25-20, 09:53 AM
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Tony_G
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Tire Cracking and Tire Balm

TL, DR:
Is it safe and effective to use a tire rubber conditioner? I know Amour All is not safe due to making the tread slippery. But I bought an automotive product called 303 Tire Balm, that claims UV and ozone protection for tires.

Backstory and more info:

I replaced my Continental GP 4000 II tires last week, they had 10,800 miles on them. The tires are 14 months old (on the bike, not the manufacture date), and when the bike is not in use, it is garaged.

I love these tires for their grip, low rolling resistance and long life.

But I didn't replace them because they were worn out. The tires deeply cracked on the shoulder of the tread. Not quite the sidewall, in a heavily leaning curve, the cracks could contact the pavement. The cracks went around 95% of the entire tire, on both sides and both tires.

A web search provided guesses that this is due to ozone or UV damaging the rubber, or both.

I applied 303 Tire Balm (an automotive product) to both new tires, a GP 4000 IIs on the front, and the new GP 5000 on the rear. Unfortunately, it did make the the rubber feel very slick to the touch. However, after a very cautious start, the traction felt normal and the slickness disappeared quickly from the rubber that made contact with the pavement.

It would be great if I could get the full tread life out of my tires. Is anyone using tire balm products and are they safe and effective?
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Old 02-25-20, 12:00 PM
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I do not worry about minor cracking/checking of the external rubber, the strength of a tire is in the fabric cords. As long as the tread doesn't start peeling I ride them until they wear out.
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Old 02-25-20, 12:01 PM
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I've seen cracked bicycle tires so I know it's a thing. But I've never experienced it on my own tires.

I suspect the differences have more to do with exposure to ozone or other contaminants, not UV. My bikes are have always been stored in my home, not a garage or shed.

But that doesn't guarantee protection from ozone. I've seen some pretty horrendous effects from ozone contamination on plastics. Back in the 1980s my grandparents tried those gimmicky ionic air cleaners, which basically were just ozone generators. Probably made the air worse for my granddad, who had COPD. And every bit of plastic or rubber within a few feet of each ionic air cleaner was crackled. I had to replace several electrical cords, face plates for electrical outlets, threaded lamp bulb bases, switches and lamps with exposed wires after the insulation had cracked, etc.

The worst case I've seen was a neighbor's TV. She was in her 80s, a lifelong heavy smoker and her entire apartment was coated in a sticky brownish yellow residue from smoking. One day she asked me to check her cable TV connection because the reception was poor. When I turned the TV around to access the connections, the entire rear panel of the TV crumbled like crackers. The residue from her smoking had coated everything inside the TV and it was spewing ozone. The entire TV cabinet was so fragile I had to gently nudge it into a big cardboard box so I could haul it away. It wouldn't support its own weight by the TV itself. I can only imagine what that was doing to her respiratory system. She was a tough old bird, although later that year she had to go to a nursing home.

Long story short, check your garage for ozone generators. Telltale signs will be noticeably yellowed plastics that use to be off-white. The yellowing will be worst closer to the source. Check your home too. I suspect doodads like plug-in air fresheners may also become ozone generators.
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Old 02-25-20, 01:36 PM
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Brush-type electric motors generate ozone due to arcing at the brushes. UV also ionizes O2 forming ozone,O3 . https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ozone
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Old 02-25-20, 02:08 PM
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I occasionally use "protectant" on tires (auto & bike) & often bag them in my basement. I think they are safe & helpful

reminds me approx 10 yrs ago I bought a '70s road bike w/ the original tires. the guy wanted $25 I gave him $20 cuz it was a long drive. was gonna use this bike for commuting 34 miles round trip. I could see the tires were nasty & had some cracking but they held air & the tread looked rideable. chose a quiet Sunday for a test run. about 14 miles into the 17 mile leg, I started hearing popping sounds. it was the side wall cords shredding & one tire started to bulge in one spot. turned around & made it home

don't know if they make tires as tough as they used to, but at just under 11k miles, sounds like you already got your money's worth. no?
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Old 02-25-20, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
I occasionally use "protectant" on tires (auto & bike) & often bag them in my basement. I think they are safe & helpful

reminds me approx 10 yrs ago I bought a '70s road bike w/ the original tires. the guy wanted $25 I gave him $20 cuz it was a long drive. was gonna use this bike for commuting 34 miles round trip. I could see the tires were nasty & had some cracking but they held air & the tread looked rideable. chose a quiet Sunday for a test run. about 14 miles into the 17 mile leg, I started hearing popping sounds. it was the side wall cords shredding & one tire started to bulge in one spot. turned around & made it home

don't know if they make tires as tough as they used to, but at just under 11k miles, sounds like you already got your money's worth. no?
I suspect that bagging, which keeps ozone away is the more helpful of the two. Notice how tubes are often in (much) better shape than the tires after long storage due to being protected inside the tires.
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Old 02-25-20, 03:37 PM
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i have used water based 303 Aerospace protectant on bicycle tires and brake hoods with no issues with wet or dry traction. Probably same stuff as the 303 tire dressing. I have noticed a significant extension of brake hood life over no application between 2 bikes using the same shimano hoods. I am still experimenting with tire application.
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Old 02-25-20, 04:18 PM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
I occasionally use "protectant" on tires (auto & bike) & often bag them in my basement. I think they are safe & helpful

reminds me approx 10 yrs ago I bought a '70s road bike w/ the original tires. the guy wanted $25 I gave him $20 cuz it was a long drive. was gonna use this bike for commuting 34 miles round trip. I could see the tires were nasty & had some cracking but they held air & the tread looked rideable. chose a quiet Sunday for a test run. about 14 miles into the 17 mile leg, I started hearing popping sounds. it was the side wall cords shredding & one tire started to bulge in one spot. turned around & made it home

don't know if they make tires as tough as they used to, but at just under 11k miles, sounds like you already got your money's worth. no?
I suspect that bagging, which keeps ozone away is the more helpful of the two. Notice how tubes are often in (much) better shape than the tires after long storage due to being protected inside the tires.
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Old 02-25-20, 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by dsbrantjr View Post
I do not worry about minor cracking/checking of the external rubber, the strength of a tire is in the fabric cords. As long as the tread doesn't start peeling I ride them until they wear out.
I considered that, but after some thought that's a safety no go for me.
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Old 02-25-20, 06:04 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
I've seen cracked bicycle tires so I know it's a thing. But I've never experienced it on my own tires.

I suspect the differences have more to do with exposure to ozone or other contaminants, not UV. My bikes are have always been stored in my home, not a garage or shed.

But that doesn't guarantee protection from ozone. I've seen some pretty horrendous effects from ozone contamination on plastics. Back in the 1980s my grandparents tried those gimmicky ionic air cleaners, which basically were just ozone generators. Probably made the air worse for my granddad, who had COPD. And every bit of plastic or rubber within a few feet of each ionic air cleaner was crackled. I had to replace several electrical cords, face plates for electrical outlets, threaded lamp bulb bases, switches and lamps with exposed wires after the insulation had cracked, etc.

The worst case I've seen was a neighbor's TV. She was in her 80s, a lifelong heavy smoker and her entire apartment was coated in a sticky brownish yellow residue from smoking. One day she asked me to check her cable TV connection because the reception was poor. When I turned the TV around to access the connections, the entire rear panel of the TV crumbled like crackers. The residue from her smoking had coated everything inside the TV and it was spewing ozone. The entire TV cabinet was so fragile I had to gently nudge it into a big cardboard box so I could haul it away. It wouldn't support its own weight by the TV itself. I can only imagine what that was doing to her respiratory system. She was a tough old bird, although later that year she had to go to a nursing home.

Long story short, check your garage for ozone generators. Telltale signs will be noticeably yellowed plastics that use to be off-white. The yellowing will be worst closer to the source. Check your home too. I suspect doodads like plug-in air fresheners may also become ozone generators.
The ozone produced by the TV would have been from the flyback. No ozone generators in my house or garage, but in the summer my town does get ozone alert days.
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Old 02-25-20, 06:15 PM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
I occasionally use "protectant" on tires (auto & bike) & often bag them in my basement. I think they are safe & helpful

reminds me approx 10 yrs ago I bought a '70s road bike w/ the original tires. the guy wanted $25 I gave him $20 cuz it was a long drive. was gonna use this bike for commuting 34 miles round trip. I could see the tires were nasty & had some cracking but they held air & the tread looked rideable. chose a quiet Sunday for a test run. about 14 miles into the 17 mile leg, I started hearing popping sounds. it was the side wall cords shredding & one tire started to bulge in one spot. turned around & made it home

don't know if they make tires as tough as they used to, but at just under 11k miles, sounds like you already got your money's worth. no?
Your type of experince is why split rubber on tires are a safety no go for me. New tires are a lot cheaper than a trip to the hospital.

You're right, 10K+ miles out of bicycle tires is not bad at all. And I won't be going hungry becase I had to buy tires. On the other hand, I don't have money to burn, so as I mentioned earlier, I would like to get the full, safe tread life for my money.

Bagging is a good idea. But I ride year round, so it's not practical for me.
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Old 02-25-20, 06:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Secret Squirrel View Post
i have used water based 303 Aerospace protectant on bicycle tires and brake hoods with no issues with wet or dry traction. Probably same stuff as the 303 tire dressing. I have noticed a significant extension of brake hood life over no application between 2 bikes using the same shimano hoods. I am still experimenting with tire application.
Thanks for that. One funny thing about the 303 tire balm is that is smells strongly of coconut, just like sunscreen for people. But with the California cancer warning on it, I would guess that it is not simply repackaged sunscreen.

I'll try to remember to resurect this thread a year or so from now, and report as to if the tire balm made a difference. Also if the new Conti 5000 holds up better than the tried and true 4000.
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Old 02-25-20, 07:51 PM
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If your tires last 10,800 miles, you are already winning. Magic tire lotion isn't going to improve on that.

The CA cancer warning appears on pretty much everything you can imagine, which of course has the opposite effect of a warning.
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Old 02-26-20, 07:53 AM
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Originally Posted by wgscott View Post
If your tires last 10,800 miles, you are already winning. Magic tire lotion isn't going to improve on that.

The CA cancer warning appears on pretty much everything you can imagine, which of course has the opposite effect of a warning.
UV protection and rubber protection is not magic. It is the science of chemistry. How well any particular product works varies. Especially for off label uses like bicycle tires. Which was the reason for my post to this forum full of experienced cyclists like you who enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience.

Out of curiosity, what tires are you running, and what is their average life in miles?
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Old 02-26-20, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Tony_G View Post
Bagging is a good idea. But I ride year round, so it's not practical for me.
guess you don't change tires seasonally?
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Old 02-26-20, 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by dsbrantjr View Post
I suspect that bagging, which keeps ozone away is the more helpful of the two
I've read that for neoprene SCUBA wet suits as well. never bagged mine but it seemed to last long enough for my purposes
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Old 02-26-20, 08:23 AM
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Originally Posted by rumrunn6 View Post
guess you don't change tires seasonally?
In my case, there is no need. If I want to ride in snow, I take my hybrid instead of the street bike. And in the past two winters, Louisville has seen lots of rain but very little snow. If it’s icy, I stay home.

I do occasionally get caught in the rain, but in that case I just slow down some and the Continental 4000’s have always provided good wet traction.
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Old 02-26-20, 10:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Tony_G View Post
UV protection and rubber protection is not magic. It is the science of chemistry. How well any particular product works varies. Especially for off label uses like bicycle tires. Which was the reason for my post to this forum full of experienced cyclists like you who enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience.
Sorry, I wasn't trying to be dismissive of your experience. I do think that a topical application would be of rather limited efficacy for protecting against UV and ozone damage, and then only for the sidewalls. (I am a chemistry professor, fwiw.)

Out of curiosity, what tires are you running, and what is their average life in miles?
Currently, Compass/Rene Herse. I get about 2 or 3K with the slicks, until the tread wears thin. In the past I have run GP4000 II which lasted about the same (possibly less) and Clements, which lasted about 2K before the kevlar started to show through.

My current tires are gumwalls, which would be more vulnerable to ozone and UV damage on the sidewalls, but haven't run into that issue.

Last edited by wgscott; 02-26-20 at 10:57 AM.
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Old 02-26-20, 11:10 AM
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Originally Posted by Tony_G View Post
TL, DR:
Is it safe and effective to use a tire rubber conditioner? I know Amour All is not safe due to making the tread slippery. But I bought an automotive product called 303 Tire Balm, that claims UV and ozone protection for tires.

Backstory and more info:

I replaced my Continental GP 4000 II tires last week, they had 10,800 miles on them. The tires are 14 months old (on the bike, not the manufacture date), and when the bike is not in use, it is garaged.

I love these tires for their grip, low rolling resistance and long life.

But I didn't replace them because they were worn out. The tires deeply cracked on the shoulder of the tread. Not quite the sidewall, in a heavily leaning curve, the cracks could contact the pavement. The cracks went around 95% of the entire tire, on both sides and both tires.

A web search provided guesses that this is due to ozone or UV damaging the rubber, or both.

I applied 303 Tire Balm (an automotive product) to both new tires, a GP 4000 IIs on the front, and the new GP 5000 on the rear. Unfortunately, it did make the the rubber feel very slick to the touch. However, after a very cautious start, the traction felt normal and the slickness disappeared quickly from the rubber that made contact with the pavement.

It would be great if I could get the full tread life out of my tires. Is anyone using tire balm products and are they safe and effective?
So do you think that the seam flexing open and closed more than eight million times while being pulled apart by the air pressure had anything to do with the cracking? Do you think that topical "balm" will mitigate the effects of flexing?
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Old 02-26-20, 07:00 PM
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Originally Posted by AnkleWork View Post
So do you think that the seam flexing open and closed more than eight million times while being pulled apart by the air pressure had anything to do with the cracking? Do you think that topical "balm" will mitigate the effects of flexing?
Thanks for your reply. It helped me to understand the root cause of the tires cracking.

The tires did not crack on the seams. The balm is not for flexing, but for UV and ozone, which is known to degrade rubber.

Yes, I do think that safety critical items like tires should not fail in their expected useful life. For tires in general, that life is generally defined as: manufactured less than six years ago, no road hazard damage, no abuse, and safe tread remaining.

That said, after considering your mention of flex, I now realize that more than likely the cause of failure is that I probably ran these tires underinflated.

Here’s how that happened. The tire size in question is 700 x 28C. I like 85 to 90 PSI, and I maintain it carefully. The max stamped into the rubber sidewall on the removed GP 4000’s say “max 116 PSI”, and oddly, the painted on decal says “115 PSI max”. Maybe the 1 pound difference is a rounding error when converting from Bar, but it is unusual to see a tire sidewall disagree with itself. More importantly, unlike most tires, there is no minimum PSI on the sidewall.

I found out about these tires on bicyclerollingresistance.com, where they were tested at 60, 80, 100, and 120 PSI. Their review is the reason I bought the tires.

https://www.bicyclerollingresistance...0s-ii-23-25-28

I checked the Continental website, and the regular folding GP 4000 tires are already removed since the new GP 5000 is out. Checking the GP 5000 700 x 28C, the inflation is listed at 95-115 PSI.

https://www.continental-tires.com/bi...rand-prix-5000

From having read the review at rollingresistance, I got the idea that 80 to 90 PSI would be no problem at all.

I think that was wrong. The rubber splitting on the tires at the edge of the tread is consistent with under inflation, and I now consider that to be the likely cause. I previously discarded that possibility because I mistakenly thought that 85 PSI was well in the safe inflation range for these tires.
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Old 02-26-20, 07:14 PM
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Your tires seem expensive. The schwalbe marathon in the same size is only $16 per tire.

I replace tires almost every 2 years when sharp objects start to puncture after the tire and plastic greenguard weakens with age. Before that, I never get punctures. If I continue to use them longer then 2 years, then the frequency of punctures start to increase.
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Old 02-27-20, 08:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Secret Squirrel View Post
i have used water based 303 Aerospace protectant on bicycle tires and brake hoods with no issues with wet or dry traction. Probably same stuff as the 303 tire dressing. I have noticed a significant extension of brake hood life over no application between 2 bikes using the same shimano hoods. I am still experimenting with tire application.
With 18 C&V bikes and a C&V truck, I took advise of low milage RV owners and C&V automobile owners for tire life. I have also had very good results with 303 Aerospace protectant for hoods and tires and my hanger has ozone generating tools. Still experiments with bikes passing through my shop with minor tire cracking that I have kept to see how they react, result while early on seem to suggest cracking may be stabilizing.
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Old 02-27-20, 09:39 AM
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Originally Posted by tomtomtom123 View Post
Your tires seem expensive. The schwalbe marathon in the same size is only $16 per tire.

I replace tires almost every 2 years when sharp objects start to puncture after the tire and plastic greenguard weakens with age. Before that, I never get punctures. If I continue to use them longer then 2 years, then the frequency of punctures start to increase.
I prefer tires with premium quality rubber, both on my bicycle and car. Better rubber grips better and lasts longer, so the low price of cheap tires is an illusion.

When I was a teenager, I used to buy the cheapest tires I could find for my cheap used cars. Then I happened to buy a used car with Michelins. Soon after, I had a car turn left in front of me when I was doing 50 or so MPH. A violent emergency avoidance maneuver ensued. No crash resulted.

After the incident, I marveled at the grip of the Michelins compared to the cheap tires during emergency avoidance on other cars that I had driven for years. With the cheap tires, I would have gone into a sideways skid, instead of the quick snap to the left and even faster snap back to the right to back into my own lane and get out of the way of head on traffic.

For lots of stuff, “premium” is a waste of money. I sure as hell didn’t save enough money to retire early by buying the best of everything. But for tires, I will never buy anything but premium.

And with bicycle tires, better tires come with a much lower rolling resistance (true for cars too, but no feels the difference in their legs). I do ride for fun and fitness, but I’d rather go farther and faster for the same amount of effort.

The OEM WTB brand tires that came on my Cannondale were down to the cord on the rear wheel at 3,900 miles. I would have easily got triple that mileage out of my GP 4000s, plus they are safer due to better grip, plus they save 20 to 30 watts of muscle power compared to low end tires.

I’ve made my choices. Make your own choice and pay your own money.
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Old 02-27-20, 06:02 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by Tony_G View Post
TL, DR:
Is it safe and effective to use a tire rubber conditioner? I know Amour All is not safe due to making the tread slippery. But I bought an automotive product called 303 Tire Balm, that claims UV and ozone protection for tires.

Backstory and more info:

I replaced my Continental GP 4000 II tires last week, they had 10,800 miles on them. The tires are 14 months old (on the bike, not the manufacture date), and when the bike is not in use, it is garaged.
Do you know when the tires were made? Certainly 10,800 miles in 14 months on the road shouldn't make the tires develop cracks.

Around here it takes years to make tires crack, no matter the price and no matter the vehicle they are mounted on. In my limited experience, I've only seen bike tires crack once they are around 6 years old or older.

Last edited by FiftySix; 02-27-20 at 06:20 PM. Reason: de-tail
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Old 02-28-20, 08:58 AM
  #25  
Tony_G
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Originally Posted by FiftySix View Post
Do you know when the tires were made? Certainly 10,800 miles in 14 months on the road shouldn't make the tires develop cracks.

Around here it takes years to make tires crack, no matter the price and no matter the vehicle they are mounted on. In my limited experience, I've only seen bike tires crack once they are around 6 years old or older.
It might be that, but most old dry rot I see takes the form of crazed checking, or spiderweb cracking.

I ran the tires at 85 PSI, which turns out to be underinflated. Why I thought 85 was ok is detailed in my long winded post #20 in this thread.

Anyway, looking at the tires, I see "1618" hot stamped in the sidewall. Everything else is moulded in. No way for me to know for sure, but taking into account European date style, 1618 may represent June 1, 2018.
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