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Bike parts – what you need to know and how long they last

23 March 2016  Latest News

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One of the beautiful things about bikes is that you can see all the parts. Unlike a car or computer where everything is ‘under the hood’, you can see the drivetrain and other components working and get a good understanding of how they all fit together.

There are a few key parts that you should periodically check for wear, and replace if necessary

Brake Pads

Brake pads wear out. No surprise there. How long they last will vary depending on your bike and riding style. However, all brake pads can be visually inspected to make sure that they’re still in good order.

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.

Tyres

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!

Chains and Gears

Chains last a long time if kept clean and lubricated. A 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 is probably quite worn. With regards to the teeth on the gears, they should be nice and symmetrical. If they start to look ‘shark-toothed’, they’re worn out and may need to be replaced.

Cables

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 keep an eye out for rust or fraying.

Other Stuff

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 these issues.

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!

 

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