How long do bikes last? Full Guide
I've been cycling for around 25 years, and in that time I've owned about three bikes, a cheap beater, a bike I bought used and upgraded, and my current dream ride. When it comes to the question of "How long do bikes last?" my answer is "As long as you want them to."
The fact is that a steel frame can last forever. It won't rust away, unless it gets left out in the weather for decades on end. Aluminum frames may crack after some period of time; this generally happens around the welds where material was joined together during manufacture. A quality aluminum frame with high-quality welds can easily last 25 years or more without cracking.
o if you have a bike now that you like but don't love, you could probably replace just one or two parts at a time until it's as good as new. Or maybe you're thinking about getting your first road bike but aren't sure whether to buy a new or used one?
So how long does a bike really last?
So you’ve got a bike. Maybe it was old when you got it secondhand, or maybe you just bought it off the floor of your local bike shop yesterday. Either way, you want to know: how long is this thing going to last?
The life of a bicycle depends on three main factors:
- The quality of its components.
- How often it is ridden and for what purposes.
- How well-maintained the bike is.
The frame is the most expensive component on your bike, and it’s also the one that gets damaged most easily. All frames (aluminum, steel, carbon fiber or titanium) are strong in their own way but they do have limitations.
Frames can last a long time but they are not indestructible. A common cause of damage is rust. Water can slowly eat away at the inside of a steel tube if left unnoticed for months or years. However, most frames are made out of aluminum which doesn’t rust so this won’t be something you have to worry about with your aluminum framed bike.
The wheels are one of the key components that can determine how long your bike lasts. There are a couple reasons for this. First, because they’re made out of metal (and sometimes carbon fiber), wheels are susceptible to damage from road hazards such as potholes or curbs, which can bend your wheels. This is especially true of front wheels, which have to steer through every obstacle in your path. You’ll need a new wheel, or at least a bit of work on the old one, if you bang hard enough against something that your front tire rubs against your frame as it spins. The other major issue with wheels is spokes going loose over time and then popping out entirely, which also requires them to be fixed by a professional (though it’s possible to repair some minor spoke issues yourself).
Brakes, derailleur and other mechanical parts
When it comes to mechanical parts, there are a lot of options out there, and the choices can be bewildering. But if you keep your eye on these four things, brakes, derailleurs and shifters, you should be able to avoid many costly mistakes.
- Brakes: There is a misconception that because brakes have some sort of name printed on them, these parts need no maintenance. The fact remains that good brakes, those with smooth action, reliable stopping power and few or no creaks or squeals when you apply pressure, will last longer than poor ones. When your brakes don't stop well when you need them most, when you're riding at night on a long downhill ride, it's time for a brake overhaul.
- Shifters: A bike with good shifting will not lose its shifting performance over time. The same goes for derailleurs despite the confusing names describing their parts (front derailleur? rear derailleur?). Look for smooth operation, minimal wear in the moving parts and little or no play in the pivots. If any of these characteristics change over time, switch to something else until it's fixed so that you can enjoy all of your bike's sweet spots for years to come.
Handlebars, seat and other components
While your frame, wheels and mechanical parts are the heart of your bike and will last for many years, there are other components on your bicycle that will deteriorate more quickly.
- Brake Levers
- Saddle (Seat)
These items are usually made of softer materials than the frame, wheels and mechanical parts so they will wear out quicker. They are also easier to replace which makes it convenient to upgrade these pieces when they start showing signs of wear. Upgrades like ergonomic handlebars can improve the fit of your bike or reduce strain on sensitive areas. Shorter stems with wider bars will make a bike feel lighter and more responsive while longer stems with narrower bars can provide a more comfortable upright ride position.
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Bikes can last a long time if they're properly taken care of
You can increase the lifespan of your bike by practicing some good maintenance. If you take care of it, your bike will last longer. Here’s how:
- Clean it after you've used it.
- Adjust the derailleurs annually - or as needed.
- Check brakes regularly and tighten cables if needed.
- Lubricate regularly to prevent rust and squeaking.
- Get tires with a long life span.
These basic preventative measures can go a long way in getting more life out of your bicycle. Hopefully, this article has helped you learn how to maintain a bicycle properly so that you can enjoy riding it for years to come!
All in all, remember that a bike is a machine and with regular care, it can last you as long as you want it to. And of course, if you're considering buying a used bike, make sure to run through these checks.