Bikes aren’t built to last forever and neither are their components and although regular maintenance and cleaning will help to preserve your machine, replacing certain parts at the right time will also help to ensure it doesn’t end up a premature wreck. Here we look at the most commonly replaced items, how to look after them better and why, when the time is right, you should be decisive about binning them off.
Sticky shifting and slow brake lever return are both signs that the time is nigh for replacing the cables and housing. Over time and with extended use cables can become stretched, while moisture and corrosion within cables will cause excessive friction and reduced performance as a result. As we’ve seen it’s always worth regularly checking your bike over for wear and tear and your cables should be included in those checks a couple of times a year or more frequently if you ride a lot. Always replace any housing that is cracked or cables that are frayed. Even if they look OK, replacing cables once a year is good preventative maintenance. We’re big fans of Transfil MudLovers Gear Cable Set, £22.99, wiggle.co.uk which scored highly last time we tested this kind of thing for value and durability.
For obvious reasons, your tyres (should) wear out more frequently than any other part of your bike with your rear tyre invariably wearing out faster than your front one. If you’re really watching the pennies, interchanging your tyres regularly will ensure they last roughly the same amount of time. Always inspect your tyres properly, too, before each bike ride. Debris such as glass or gravel could have got wedged into the rubber on your previous outing and may still be lurking there ready to ruin your next one. Look out for any gashes, cuts or holes on the tread or sidewall. If you find something, remove the tyre and check inside to see if the cut goes completely through before slinging it.
Some tyre brands such as Continental have wear indicators to let you know when the tread on them has become ineffective, but there are still ways of working out whether its time to replace your rubber or not. For example, tyres change their shape as they become worn out, looking more square than round over their cross section. Visible carcass threads or a puncture-protection belt through the tread are also indicators that the tyre is ready for the recycling bin. Finally, look for dry rot and cracking. Squeeze a removed tyre with your hand to check. If it’s had its chips, you’ll see little cracks appear that are invisible when the tyre is inflated.
We touched on it before, but we really can’t overstate how important it is to thoroughly clean your drivetrain. Your cassette, chainrings and chain will all spend more time on your bike if they are well cleaned and properly greased. To deep clean your drivetrain, remove your rear wheel completely and use a chain keeper (such as Birzman Protective Rear Chain Spacer with Chain Keeper,£15.99, evanscycles.com) to hold the chain in place. Wipe down the jockey wheels with a rag and use a chain cleaner and degreaser to thoroughly clean the chain. Now, clean the cassette and chainrings with some degreaser and a rag, and apply either wet or dry lube (depending on the weather and the time of year) to the chain, wiping away any excess lube after 10 minutes as an overly oily chain will attract potentially damaging grit that’ll stick to it and grind your gears. Quite literally. Buying a chain checker is also a no-brainer (we like Park Tool’s Chain Checker CC-3.2, £9.99 wiggle.co.uk-although other chain checkers are available!).
Your chain stretches overtime and the tool allows you to simply and easily monitor chain wear simply by inserting the hook at one end into a link and then seeing if you can insert the hook at the other into a link (see picture below right). If you can when using the .75%setting it’s .75%worn, meaning you need to replace it or risk shortening the rest of your (much more expensive) drivetrain’s life. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll need to replace your cassette after three chains, while your rear derailleur jockey wheels and front chainrings will need subbing when their teeth become pointed or ‘hooked’. If things in your hubs or bottom bracket are sticky or clicky it may also be time to replace them, as the bearings within do get worn. By cleaning and greasing them, though, you can substantially extend their life. So, when you’re working on your bike remember – if it moves, lube it.
As we’ve already pointed out, you need to keep a close eye on brake pads primarily for safety reasons. If you find yourself needing to replace your brake pads often or you notice your rims are getting worn out, you may need to do a better job of cleaning your bike after you ride. Loosen off the pads with an Allen key, and make sure that they are completely free of grit and grime. You may even need to use a screwdriver or similar to scrape off gunk that’s become stuck to them.
Once you’re done, wipe them down thoroughly with a rag. For rim brake pads (V-brakes, cantilever or road callipers), the time to replace them is when the grooves in the rubber, are worn down. Most brake pads have wear indicators in the form of teeth or grooves. Replace the pad when there’s about 0.5 mm of material from the line. Lookout for unevenly worn brake pads or pads with excessive glazing. You can sometimes rescue glazed-over pads by lightly sanding the pad surface.
With mechanical (cable-actuated) disc brakes, you can tell when your brake pads are wearing down as you’ll need to pull the lever closer to the handlebar for them to work properly. You can remedy this by taking out the slack in the system using the barrel adjuster on the lever or calliper to adjust the cable tension. If you have a hydraulic system, it will automatically adjust the pad clearance. How often will they need replacing? Well, that depends on how often you ride. Disc brake pads should be replaced when less than 1mm of friction material is present. So check them regularly to see if they’ve had it. It’s a much safer option than finding out when you’re halfway down a hill!