Bike parts - what you need to know & how long they last
11 February, 2020
One of the beautiful things about bikes is that you can see all the parts. Unlike a car or a computer that hides all the bits away ‘under the hood’, you can see the drivetrain and other components working and get a good understanding of how they all fit together. Read on for some more info about which parts you should check for wear and tear.
There are a few key bike parts that you should periodically check for wear, and replace if necessary.
Brake pads wear out. No surprise there. How long they last will vary dramatically depend on your bike and riding style. However, all brake pads can be visually inspected to make sure that they’re still in good knick. The pads from v-brakes, caliper brakes and similar will usually have a little ‘wear line’. If it’s worn past the point, you need to replace them! Another thing to look for is the little grooves that run across the brake pad - if they’re gone, your pads are worn out and need replacing. Disc brake pads are a little trickier, but you’ll see the surface wear down on those as well. With discs, you shouldn’t need to adjust the ‘inner’ pad - if you do, it’s time to replace your pads.
How often should I replace my brake pads? It varies a lot, but maybe once a year.
Tyres wear out too, although good tyres might last for years. You can tell if a tyre is worn out by the tread and the sides of the tyre. If the tread (the bit that touches the road) is cracked or you can see little bits of fabric through it, you should replace it immediately! Same with the sides of the tyre. The rear one will typically last about twice as long as the front. Always make sure that your best tyre is on the front for safety and grip. If you’re getting more frequent punctures, that’s another sign that your tyre is starting to wear thin, so it’s time to switch them over and stay pumped!
How often should I replace my tyres? It also varies a lot, but maybe every couple of years, depending on how much you ride.
Chain and Gears
Chains last a long time if you keep the clean and properly lubricated. A nice clean chain also helps your gears last longer. By gears, we’re talking about the the round bits that the chain goes around i.e. the freewheel, cassette, chainrings and so on. If you’re great with maintenance, you can usually get three chains to a cassette. What that means is that if you replace your chain three times, it’s probably time to replace your cassette as well. More often, we leave it too long and have to replace the chain and cassette at the same time. To see if a chain is worn, shift it to the biggest chainring (gear) at the front (attached to the pedals), then grab it at the front of the chainring and pull it forward, away from the centre of the chainring. If it comes out a long way (i.e. more than about 2 or 3 millimetres), you chain probably quite worn. With regards to the teeth on the gears, they should be nice and symmetrical. If they start to look ‘shark-toothed’, i.e. in the shape of a wave or the tooth of a shark, they’re worn out and may need to be replaced.
How often should I replace my chain? Every year or two. Your freewheel and others parts will last longer, especially if you clean your chain regularly.
The other things that are often replaced in servicing are your cables. Cables should be lubricated periodically as well, but if they rust, fray or stretch, replacing them is a fairly cheap and easy way to improve the feel of your brakes and gears. Just look for rust or fraying. If you look after your bike, the cables will last a long time.
How often should I replace my cables? Only if they’re getting rusted or frayed.
The other things that are subject to wear are your bearings, rims and contact points like the saddle and grips. In each case, regularly servicing by a professional mechanic will pick up any issues. Generally, a comprehensive service will cover your bearings. Wheel rims last a really long time if you replace your brake pads on schedule. You'll be able to see yourself if your saddle or grips are worn out. If you're ever in doubt, contact your closest Reid store, and they'll be able to give you helpful advice specific to your bike.
On the whole, bikes are pretty easy to maintain, and they respond well to a little love. Check these components as part of your regular maintenance, and you'll have many happy years of riding!