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If a chain is only supposed to last 2000 miles, a rear cassette 5000 miles and a chainset only 10000 miles, then, at a modest 100 miles a week you are going to go through 2.5 chains a year, a new sprocket set every year and a new chainset every couple of years.

Doing this near-constant refurbishment properly (and paying workshop rates) will mean paying for the bike twice-over in the first two years (or thereabouts).

I have seen components advertised as lighter/stronger/funkier, but, as of yet, none have caught my eye due to their extended 'service life'. Are there any parts sold with 'service life' part of the USP?

If not, why doesn't anyone want extended service life? Do none of us look past the thrill of having a new bike and look for something that will last?

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Are there components specifically made for touring? If so, they'd probably be tougher and longer-lived. – Neil Fein Jul 1 '11 at 12:22
According to this survey average distance cycled in a week is 17 miles, which would be under 900 miles per year. So for you average cyclist a chain would last 2 years, a rear cassette 5.5 years and a chainset 11 years. – Tom77 Jul 1 '11 at 14:16
@Tom77 - good point. However, in cities it is not unusual to have a ten mile each-way bike-commute taking a reasonable 45 minutes to an hour in busy traffic, which is quicker than the other options of car, bus or tube. Most people have a bike but don't use it, aggregating their miles brings you down to 17. Components that make sense to the fair weather cyclist are just not helpful to those that put on the miles out of necessity of work. I would like to buy parts knowing they are for people that actually put the miles on. – ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Jul 1 '11 at 14:28
I suspect that longer-lasting components aren't produced because there's little demand. The "average cyclist" does maybe 100 miles the 1st month, 50 the second, another 50 in the entire second year, and zero after that. The "gonzo" cyclist, OTOH, replaces his bike every two years. Folks like us that keep a bike 10-20 years and put on 2000 miles a year are in the minority. (But steel chainrings are available, though only on cheaper bikes.) – Daniel R Hicks Jul 1 '11 at 15:35
@Daniel: Take a look at Surly's chainrings . I run them on both my single speeds, and can attest to them being anything but "cheap". – Jack M. Jul 1 '11 at 17:25
up vote 4 down vote accepted

Yes, but you pay for them. My commuter bikes is set up specifically to do a lot of distance with little maintenance, and up-front cost was a secondary consideration. Degrading gracefully was important too.

So I have a decent cartridge bottom bracket, the cranks are pretty irrelevant (they all last ages), a decent CNC chainring (it's fairly thick and made of a hard alloy), reasonable quality wide chain and a Rohloff hub. For the last 4-5Mm I've really needed to replace the cog on the hub but I haven't got round to it. It's quite pointy and it's getting close to the stage where the teeth will actually wear through. I also run cable disk brakes, and the ones I use were chose because you can adjust both pads, so as the pads wear it's easy to keep the brakes set up. I also run Marathon/Marathon Plus tyres, because they last reasonably well and they tend not to get punctures (my velomobile has a punctured marathon plus on the back right now, and the tyre is only ~3Mm old. Grrr).

Some of that stuff cost - obviously the Rohloff was expensive, but the chainring was ~2x the cost of a stock chainring, the BB and chain were ~50% more expensive. The tyres are definitely not cheap, they're expensive even by high-quality tyre standards.

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The question wasn't supposed to be a discussion on maintenance, refreshing to see some long-lasting parts mentioned - thankyou! Interestingly though, the Rohloff is marketed as trouble-free, equal spacing between the gears and efficient - all well and good. This is not the same as 'lasts forever'. With cars - 'Volvo' and 'Land Rover' spring to mind - the products have at some stage been marketed for the times-between-service and that they don't rust instantly. Seems nobody in the bike business has marketed a bike - or components - on the strength of 'service interval'. Interesting... – ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Jul 4 '11 at 0:30
@ʍǝɥʇɐɯ: but "lasts a long time" and "low maintenance" are effectively synonymous. Sure, technically something can be high maintenance and long-lasting, but the grandfasther's axe problem starts to apply. A 50 year old sports car that's driven a lot is likely to be 90% replacement parts... – Мסž Jul 4 '11 at 0:33
The Rohloff is probably about it. – ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Aug 12 '11 at 22:39
I spend 3-4 times more for my parts but they last YEARS! I pound the snot out of my bike and have not replaced anything other than tires and cables since 2003!! Until last week when I wrecked a backflip and broke my bars. Same chain and rear sprocket since 2002, same front sprocket since 99!! Yes, spend the money now and forget about them for a lot longer! – BillyNair Jun 12 '12 at 20:14

This doesn't help with the longevity of parts, but if you are doing 100 miles per week, you may want to learn to work on the bike yourself, and invest in your own tools. Let's face it, at 100 miles per week, you'll probably be working on the bike at least a couple times a month (bearings, brake adjustments, flat repairs, etc). So why not add in the tools to do your own drive train, and lower the cost down to parts alone?

For your drive train, you would need a good set of hex wrenches ($19.95), a chain breaker ($15.95), a cassette tool ($5.99), a chain whip ($21.95), and a crank puller ($13.95). After tax, this would come out to ~$78 (according to, but would give you everything except parts you need to do the work. I have a hard time imagining that this wouldn't pay for itself within the first year of regular maintenance.

I would also invest in a chain cleaner, as they can increase chain life depending on your usage.

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"working on the bike at least a couple times a month" - That's not my experience, or at least not yet: on a new bike after 4 months / 2000+ miles I've done nowt but lube the chain and keep the tires pumped, and it seems to be running fine (with hydraulic brakes). I think it will make it to the first of its twice-yearly free in-shop servicings. – ChrisW Jul 1 '11 at 17:35
Usually, for me, I find myself adjusting a bearing (hub, headset, bottom bracket, pedals) at least once a month, plus the incidental issues. Granted, I'm also much heavier than most riders, so that may just be my experience. – Jack M. Jul 1 '11 at 17:57
A well used bike will need service every 500 miles or so. This can be a few weeks or a few months. And the more often you service your bike, the less work it will need at each service. I'm a shop mechanic, but I'd really recommend learning to do your service yourself. Not least because it will tune you in to the noises that are issues, and the ones that are just part of your bike. – zenbike Jul 2 '11 at 6:29
This matches my experience. I average about 100mi/wk on my commuter, and every other week it gets a quick check-up (typically something needs a minor adjustment, but not much work happens at this time). I do a monthly clean-up and lubing, and maybe every 4-6 weeks it needs an actual bit of mechanic work. I'd suggest buying tools slowly, as needed, to help spread out the cost--you'll buy the most frequently used ones early and the more specialized ones later. Also, if you have a good relationship with your LBS, you may be able to borrow some tools briefly for free. – STW Aug 17 '11 at 17:05

I asked this question here ("How much maintenance?") as I expect to be in a similar situation (100 miles/week).

To answer your question, a top-quality sealed/internal hub should make the drive train last longer: it's sealed and will last indefinitely (new oil once/year I think), and without dérailleurs the chain can be inside a chain guard.

Two more points:

  • My bike (new from a reputable LBS) includes 2 free (free of labour-cost at least, not of parts-cost) services/year for the first two years.

  • The whole thing (frame, wheels, accessories, hydraulic brakes) cost about $1600. That compares with $1250 for the cost of a year of public transport: at that rate I could almost afford to buy a whole new bike every year and still come out ahead financially.

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It is true about hub gears lasting a long time because everything is sealed but I like the derailleur just because I like to keep the power on whilst changing gears - no reason other than that. This is a slightly different question, I don't understand why there is nothing marketed for its durability/service life. Hub gears could be marketed as such but they are not. – ʍǝɥʇɐɯ Jul 1 '11 at 15:15
The reason is they want to sell more parts, if they make them out of super high quality materials, they will not sell many, the same reason some appliances in the 50's lasted 50 or more years, some are still running today, they don't make them that way anymore. Besides the cost you would have to market them at would be so high, few would buy them. I don't see products like most people, I see them as buying time, and so do the manufacturers. – Moab Jul 1 '11 at 17:28

I am in the same situation, doing about 5000km a year just commuting and I'm chewing through chains, chainrings and cassettes, and some brake pads of course. I'm not interested in light-weight, I want durable!

I did get a single speed for this very purpose, to reduce the drivetrain maintenance costs. That does work by having a 1/8" chain and a solid freewheel or sprocket and a solid chainring, however there is one hill I have to walk or run up in my commute, but I just pretend I'm doing cyclo-cross.

I'm looking at getting an Alfine 11 which will give me some gearing, whilst still allowing the 1/8" chain, and durable chainring and sprocket. They are about 1/4 the price of a Rohloff, but the Alfine 11 now uses an oil bath, like the Rohloff, and should be a big step up from Alfine 8, in reducing maintenance and durability, and with an increase in gear range. The Rohloff is still the gold standard of course.

Even if you go to a belt-drive, which purportedly lasts longer than a chain, you have to have a single-speed or internal geared hub.

It seems the nature of the dérailleur requires a skinny chain that needs to flex and won't last that long.

@neilfein I can't answer your comment because I don't have enough reputation, but this guy swears by the Phil Wood hubs that are made specifically for touring.

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Thanks; will keep them in mind as my existing hubs start to age. – Neil Fein Aug 17 '11 at 7:45
Phil Wood makes (or at least used to) some of the better components for touring/commuting -- sealed bearings, etc. They're heavy, but will outlast stock units maybe 2-4x. Especially good in wet conditions. However, so far as I know he doesn't make chains, chainrings, and clusters (other than track cogs), which are the major wear items. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 17 '11 at 11:37
What is the logic for single speed being easier on the drive train? because of the lack of gearing, any hill will put more strain on the chain compared to just putting in easier gear, and increasing cadence. You only have 1 sprocket front and back, so they are always in use, and I've also heard that you have to get more expensive cogs since they have to be more precise, although that may have been fixie specific. – Kibbee Aug 17 '11 at 12:43
@Jason -- I said "used to" since I simply don't have any recent (past 3-4 years) experience with Phil Wood stuff, and many's the company that's gone downhill in that amount of time. – Daniel R Hicks Aug 18 '11 at 0:06

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