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Wondering when to replace your bike’s components? Follow this guide to find the ideal replacement time to keep your ride smooth.
There are two important milestones in the life of a bike part. The first marks when it should be replaced if you want your bike to work perfectly. The second milestone is when a part needs to be replaced to avoid unnecessary wear on the rest of the bike. Whether you’re a type-A bike maintainer or simply want to get the most miles out of your gear, these are the signals that it’s time for a replacement.
Type-A: Replace it annually or with every second new chain.
Procrastinator: When small indentations start to appear on the backside of the teeth, it’s time for a new one. An excessively worn cassette will shorten the lifespan of the chain, so don’t take it too far.
Type-A: Once your front tire has accumulated a bunch of little cuts and nicks, it is less sticky and more prone to flats.
Procrastinator: Abuse a rear tire enough and its once-rounded crest will square off. Eventually, the threads that make up the backbone of the tire may start to poke through. Either of these telltale signs means it’s time to trash the tires. Swap the front at the same time.
Type-A: Shimano and Look cleats have little rubber grippers that provide stability when walking in cycling shoes. Once those are gone, the plastic that engages with the pedal starts to go. This is a good time to swap for a new set of cleats.
Procrastinator: Abuse a cleat enough and it will become loose and wobbly when engaged with the pedal. Speedplay cleats eventually wear to the point that the mounting screws file down and become fixed to the sole. Don’t let it get that bad.
Type-A: A chain wear indicator such as the Park Tool CC-3.2 Chain Checker measures how far a chain stretches over time. According to an independent test conducted by Friction Facts, a lab in Boulder, Colo., the energy required to spin a chain increases steadily with wear. Replacing your chain once it reaches the 0.5 marker on the tool will help preserve the other more expensive drivetrain components and save you a little drag.
Procrastinator: The 0.75 mark on the Park Tool Chain Checker is the sign that a chain must be replaced to prevent sloppy shifting and undue component wear.
Cables and housing
Type-A: Swap cables twice a year, regardless of shift performance. Housing should be replaced annually to ensure that sticky grime doesn’t accumulate and impair brake and shift quality.
Procrastinator: Once shifting becomes noticeably inaccurate despite repeatedly adjusting the derailleurs, change the housing and cables. If your brakes don’t snap open after squeezing them closed, those also need to be replaced.
How often should I …
You can extend the life or improve the performance of many parts with a little bit of routine preventative maintenance.
Wash my bike? Lightly spray or hand-wash the frame after every ride in the rain or after spilling any of your sports drink. A light wash won’t help get rid of drivetrain gunk, but it can prevent sweat, dirt or sugar from seeping into your housing and gumming up the works.
Pump my tires? No less than every three days, although there is no harm in pumping before every ride. Tire pressure is one of the biggest influences on a bike’s ride quality.
Lube my chain? If you’re going to be really diligent, lube your chain and wipe it down with a rag after every ride to keep debris from wiggling between the links. Once a week is enough to prevent major issues.
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