I don’t care how much the bike costs – just tell me how long it will last.
Don’t think about ownership in terms of years. Just like a car, a bicycle will wear out from the friction of the moving parts. Stored properly, any bike will, more or less, last a couple of decades. But take it out for a ride and you’ll wear down the moving parts. Tony 10 Speed explains:
A car can easily reach over 100,000 miles in good condition, and so could your bike. But just like your car, you can expect a lot of the components of your bike to be replaced, upgraded, and repaired during its life cycle.
Let’s say if you cycle about 100 miles a week, you can expect to change your brake pads every couple of months. If you live in a mountainous area, you’ll change them more often. Also if you’re skinny, you won’t have to change them as often as someone who’s overweight.
Your chain is likely to need changing every few months too, but that depends on if you ride on salty roads, or mineral-rich trails – both of which will wear your chain, cassette, and front sprockets a lot quicker. SickBiker can show you what to look out for in the harshest conditions for your bike:
Have more than one bike
If you commute every day, a deep clean after every ride simply isn’t practical. The solution to this is to have a “rain bike”. If it’s spring or summer and there’s not a cloud in the sky, go ahead and take your full-carbon race bike for a joyful spin to the office.
Nothing will extend the lifespan of your new bike like using your old bike through the winter, or when it rains. Your rain whip should be a cheaper bike that you’re not afraid to get scuffed. Remember – a £10 chain can be changed 3 times as often as a £30 chain!
Racing and risk
Your bike will last longer if you take no risks. Racing a carbon bike on the open road increases the risk of collision with other road vehicles. And yet, in the 30 years I’ve cycle-commuted on England’s supposedly ‘unfriendly’ roads, I’ve never had a collision or serious altercation with a car.
If you don’t want to risk damaging your downhill full-suspension MTB frame, then never take it on a difficult downhill route. And that’s the point – the lifespan of your bicycle is largely dependent on the risks you’re willing to take with your purchase.
Does steel last longer than carbon fibre?
Based on the evidence available, yes. We know this because we don’t see any carbon framed bikes from the 1970s’, yet we see plenty of vintage steel-framed bikes for sale. Obviously, I’m joking – but it’s easy to see why people are spooked by carbon given manufacturers advice on carbon-care.
The truth is that any frame, provided it’s properly cared for, will last a lifetime. In reality, the temptation of eventually getting a new bike is what will increase the lifespan of your ride until long after you’ve stopped riding it.