Use-anasia: When to Retire Old Parts

Just like your car, truck, or airplane (check you out, fancy-pants), the more you use your bike, the more wear and tear you’ll put on the parts. And, just like with your other modes of transpo, replacing parts before they fail is the key to keeping you moving. There’s nothing worse than not being able to get where you’re going because a timing belt broke, a wing fell off, or your brakes won’t engage. In today’s post, we’ll take a look at the common life expectancy of components, and when you should start thinking about swapping to keep everything safe!

Brake Pads: 6 months – 1 year

Ideally, you’re giving these a quick look before every ride to make sure they haven’t worn down but, if you’ve forgotten, definitely give them a glance at the 6 month mark. Once you see the pads have eroded to the wear indicators, it’s time to make a swap.

And, even if they’re still fairly whole, if it’s been a year or more, give them a test to make sure they haven’t become brittle or cracked from all that time parked in the sun. Being able to stop is kind of important, so it’s not something you want to wait for a failure to address.

Brake Cables: 1 Year

Cables will “stretch” over time, and when it starts to take more and more pull to get the brakes to respond, it’s maintenance time! A little bit of “stretch” can be tackled with the barrel adjustor on the lever. More than that, and you can re-tune the brakes to adjust for the wear. But after a year, start to consider swapping the cable and housing. You can only fight so much “stretch” with the temporary fixes, and the weather can be rough on the housing causing it to become brittle or cracked as well. Again, brakes aren’t something to take chances on, so get swappy when the time is right. 

Grips / Tape: 1 Year

Old grips and tape won’t usually keep you from getting home, but those puppies get dirty, ragged and, if they slip while you’re rolling, it can be bad news. It’s always a good idea to re-upholster your bars after about a year on the road. Plus, it’s the first step to testing out that new color scheme you’ve been toying with!

Alloy Components (Handlebars, Seatpost, Etc…): 2 Years

While steel components will stay strong for as long as you keep them rust-free, aluminum will fatigue over time, and that cumulative damage will eventually spell the end of your parts.

After a couple years you’ll want to swap out your aluminum components for some freshies so you can start the cycle over again. That’s also why it’s not a good idea to buy second hand aluminum parts, unless you know for a fact they haven’t been ridden. There’s nothing worse than snagging a pair of “like new” drops, only to have them snap on you after a couple rides.

Chain: 2000-3000 miles

Just like cables, chains will “stretch” over time too. In the past we’ve covered how to tell if it’s time to replace your chain with a chain-checker but, if you don’t have the hardware, 2-3,000 miles is a good rule of thumb. Riding with a “stretched” chain will prematurely wear the rest of your drivetrain components and those cost way more than some new links. Stay ahead of the wear on this one and you’ll get plenty more miles out of the rest of your gear.

Tires: 3,000-5,000 miles or 2 years

Tires should be swapped once they’re worn down to their wear indicator or whenever traction starts to get sketchy but, even if you don’t ride often, sun-damage and dry-rot can still kill your rubber. Make sure you’re checking the wear regularly and, if it’s been a year or two, look extra closely for cracks, tears, or signs of brittleness that indicate it’s time to get swappy.

Saddle: 2+ years

Once you find the perfect saddle, it can be hard to let go. Luckily, the lifetime of a saddle can be pretty long. If you’re rocking a Brooks (or another quality leather saddle) and treating it right, it’ll last for thousands and thousands of miles. If you’re on something more synthetic, you’ll want to start considering a swap as it begins to lose its shape and get more saggy than supportive. If it’s been a couple years, give your saddle a once-over for wear, cracks, tears, and keep it fresh. Your tush will thank you.

Pedals: 3,000 miles

Pedals are where you put the power down. They support you during those long climbs, heavy mash-sessions, and when you stand up to embrace that tailwind*. While they will last a long time, you want to check them fairly regularly for bearing wear (do they still spin smoothly?), axle-integrity (any pedal strikes recently that might have bent things out of shape?), and cleat wear (if you’re riding clipless).

High-end pedals will have maintenance kits so you can overhaul them yourself, and cheaper pedals ought to just be swapped when they start getting stagnant. 3,000 miles is a good rule of thumb, but this one will really come down to how often and how hard you ride on the regular.

And that’s it! Take the time to take care of your components, and you’ll be riding happy all the way into old age.


*Just kidding. Regular riders know that tailwinds are just a myth perpetuated by “Big Weather”.