23

This may not be a particularly practical question, but I wonder how often do you find yourself looking for a new (or another) bike? There are, of course, two main aspects of it:

  1. Mechanical decay. If you drive a car, you know to lube it every 3000 miles, rotate tires every 7500 miles, flush the fluids every 30000 miles. If you are reasonably serious about riding a bike, you'd place yourself at wherever you are comfortable in terms of maintenance from being unable to adjust your saddle height to re-assembling your own spokes and hubs, but you'd do some maintenance, anyway. Most components would have reasonably well-defined span they will serve, and would probably start falling apart after this many miles, even with reasonable maintenance and repair. What would the range in time and/or miles be for commuter bikes? road bikes? mountain bikes? Or are the modern bikes of say $1000 and upwards basically perpetual, unless you ride one heads-on into a concrete wall?
  2. Needs change: you outgrow your bike, your riding pattern changes, you switch from group rides to triathlon, you move to a new area, you hand down your bike to your younger sibling, etc.

I have a gut feeling that the latter is far more likely to happen than having the bike used up to its full mechanical resource. Any opinions?

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    I would think that the answer differs for different folks - serious riders likely upgrade way before mechanical failure just because they want the latest tech. For more casual riders I think it is likely that they neglect maint. to the degree that the cost of a shiny new bike becomes not too different from the cost of fixing up the old (not shiny) bike - and lets face it, we all like shiny things.
    – DQdlM
    Aug 11, 2011 at 18:11
  • 10
    I get a new bike when my old one gets stolen.
    – fbo
    Aug 11, 2011 at 19:05
  • 3
    This seems to be two questions in one: (1) When does it make sense to buy a new bike, as opposed to fixing the onder one, and (2) When does it make sense to buy a new bike, rather than adapt the existing one. Please consider making this question more specific and targeted to a particular situation. Aug 11, 2011 at 19:30
  • 5
    What part actually defines the bike for itself? (variation on the ship of theseus: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus )
    – njzk2
    Apr 7, 2017 at 18:52
  • 1
    @njzk2 the frame is the bike - everything else is an add-on or a consumable.
    – Criggie
    Feb 15, 2019 at 20:35

13 Answers 13

35

Let's try to steer this into some kind of sensible question with the perspective as seen from a typical bicycle shop workshop and what is on the road.

In a bike workshop you can find yourself working on bikes that can be up to fifty years old with a large quantity of them being more than ten years old. Some of these bikes have not been out of the garden shed for the last five years and have suddenly came into use because the owner's son or daughter has started riding. Therefore this question very much depends on how often the bike gets an airing, how it is stored and how much it gets maintained.

For the person using their bike every day for commuting, the lifetime of the bike is an economic question. After five years or so, even with brake block changes, new cables, maybe the odd new set of sprockets, new tyres, replacement chains and plenty of t-l-c, the bike will suffer all-over wear that costs almost as much as a new bike to put right. Wheel rims will wear through, saddles will get torn, bits of 'Shimano plastic' will go missing and the whole drive-train will get worn.

Fixing these problems will typically necessitate another round of consumables, e.g. chain, cables, brake blocks and tyres. All of these are more expensive as spares that you have to put time into fixing or pay a shop to fix. Meanwhile, at OEM prices, pre-fitted to a new bike, a better deal can be found. The existing bike has 'depreciated' to become a liability much like how an old car does.

If you look at the cars people drive you will notice that there are not too many 'Ford Cortina' models on the road. (UK) There are not too many 'Ford Sierra' models on the road either. Yet, there was a time when every other car was one of these models. There are one or two of these left and you do see them once in a blue moon, so clearly it was possible to service them and keep them on the roads forever. However, that did not happen for 99.9% of these once popular Ford cars.

Now have a look for what people actually ride. There is a reasonable selection of twenty year old models on the roads used by people on the commute or taking the dog for a walk. However, depending on where you live, the majority of bikes are recent, i.e. less than ten years old. Half of those are very new, less than three years old. Most of these 'daily riders' are well on their way to being used up as a 'mechanical resource'.

As for your point 2), in the UK many bikes get abandoned by their riders when they take up driving. Before people get to that age they do go through a series of bikes that they grow out of. Competitive riders are different again, typically they have a fleet of bicycles and a ludicrous amount of spare parts left over from upgrades.

To summarise, a bike will have a lifetime of approximately five everyday-riding years before it gets shot to pieces. This lifetime can be extended indefinitely through new components and diligent maintenance (or instantly shortened in the case of a crash). In reality people can ride bikes long after the bike is past its best, they can also put the bike into storage for long periods of time and they can also get into the sport (to purchase many bikes that don't necessarily get worn out).

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    Even though the question was vague, the answer offers a very reasonable prospective on what I was interested in. (My hybrid commuter is nearing this five years mark, and it is kinda clear that many parts are not aligning well anymore.)
    – StasK
    Aug 11, 2011 at 20:25
  • Is there a part that makes it worth it to get a new bike cause replacing chains tires is still much cheaper as they get worn out than buying new bike.
    – Lightsout
    Nov 15, 2021 at 21:50
18

Well maintained, there is no reason a bike can't essentially last forever. We have perfectly rideable bikes from the dawn of cycling; High-wheelers and such that are still in excellent mechanical shape. Most everything on a bike can be replaced save for the frame; even parts that are so obsolescent as to be unobtainable can be reproduced if you want to spend enough money; bikes are not overly complex machines. I am currently riding a vintage 1972 Cilo/Swiss roadster. Brakes and shifters and such are all original, Shimano 600 and Wienemann. The Wheels have been replaced, the bottom bracket rebuilt, etc. However the frame is in excellent shape and there's no reason the bike shouldn't last another 50 years... I won't...

In most cases, with cheaper bikes that receive little maintenance, it simply becomes financially unfeasible to repair them.

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    "Most everything on a bike can be replaced save for the frame" - well, I did replace a frame once: Bought a new frame, and moved everything else from the old frame over to the new. The result was really the old bike with all its bells and whistles, but with a new frame. Feb 13, 2019 at 21:54
8

A racing bike will usually meet its fate in a crash. Most other bikes just die of neglect-- something wears out, user loses interest, things rust and/or get horribly out of fashion.

If you're talking about how to keep a bike running for a VERY long time, that is possible if it is maintained meticulously (or not ridden). All parts can be easily replaced on almost all types of bikes. If not, then with some work contemporary parts can be retrofitted. The best resource in the world for this stuff is the late Sheldon Brown's comprehensive website.

After the replaceable stuff, it basically comes down to the frame.

Steel or titanium are going to be the most durable and they're repairable by someone with the right tools (for brazing lugs or tig welding). Rust will nail you on steel frames if the frame is exposed to harsh weather without a thorough clean-up afterwards. If you start getting rust it has to be dealt with or else it will get worse.

Aluminum is less durable and more susceptible to fatigue cracks through years of use, tubing is thinner and more easily buckles (once something buckles, most people won't want to ride it).

Carbon frames just aren't repairable AFAIK and they're usually crashed terminally in a race anyway. I don't see many carbon bikes from 15+ years ago. This could change in the future, but I doubt it.

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    Carbon can be repaired- its just more difficult/expensive, and since Carbon has only been used in bike frames in the past 10 years- expertise in this area is only just starting to catch up. Example carbon repair service: carboncyclerepairs.co.uk/index.html
    – AliGibbs
    Apr 7, 2017 at 11:42
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    Steel bikes can also break if you use them (roughly) enough. I've had at least two broken frames and two broken forks, and they were all steel. Feb 13, 2019 at 22:03
  • This is a good answer that took a bit of a different tack from the other ones. I would quibble with some of the statements. Many performance oriented bikes may not be raced, or at least used in formal races. A carbon frame might not break in an obvious crash, although a crash or even light spill might create internal damage that propagates, leading to what appears to be a just riding along failure much later. Also, I don't find the statement about carbon to be quite correct, although you were referencing carbon bikes from when the material was quite new to bikes.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Dec 21, 2019 at 15:57
4

The main difference between a bike and a car is the number of components. Either can last forever in theory if you just keep replacing things. But the cost of a complete car in spare parts is several times the cost of a new one and for many things the labour cost is considerably more than the parts. To buy a complete bike as spare parts including the frame is probably only about 1.5x to 2x the cost of a new bike, and labour is inconsequential as you can build up a complete bike yourself in a few hours with only a few specialist tools. So you tend to just replace things as they wear out and keep the bike forever. It can get harder to find parts to fit older frames but they are usually still available.

So then it comes down to how long do you expect individual components to last. I'd say a good quality new bike will need things like chains and brake pads every few thousand km, tyres about every 10,000km, and shouldn't need anything else until at least 20,000km at which point you might find issues with wheel bearings, headset, bottom bracket, etc.

3

So long as the frame isn't exposed to the elements or damaged/abused, it will last forever. But other components -- chains, bearings, sprockets, brake components -- wear out eventually. Virtually all components in a newer bike can be replaced for a more or less "reasonable" price, but bike manufacturers like to change paradigms every 15 years or so, and finding spare parts for a bike that is 2-3 paradigms removed from the current is often challenging at best.

So at some point it becomes too expensive/impractical to maintain a bike that is regularly used (unless you have access to other old bikes to scavenge). (Bikes with light use don't really wear out, other than the tires need replacing every 10 years or so.)

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    Agreed. Damage and Neglect kill a bike far more often than simply riding.
    – Criggie
    Dec 31, 2016 at 21:35
  • Not "forever" if you're super-duper pedantic. In hundreds of thousand kilometers, the front fork bearing races will eventually wear out. The bottom bracket cartridge races or threads will also eventually wear out. Not that they can't be rethreaded or tightened, but is metal on metal wear. The universe may suffer from heat-death first.
    – RoboKaren
    Apr 5, 2017 at 19:13
  • But surely you just replace the fork, replace the bottom bracket? I am already on my 4th bottom bracket on my bike (20,000km so far).
    – AliGibbs
    Apr 7, 2017 at 11:43
3

Considering the bicycle as the frame the life is limited only by unrepairable/uneconomical damage to the frame.

I had a seat tube damaged beyond economic repair by my daughter's boyfriend. Disposed of both the bicycle and the boy.

Otherwise wheels, cassettes, brakes, chains can all be relatively economically replaced providing infinite life. An 11 speed vs a 9 speed is not an end of life criteria to me.

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  • Welcome to SE Bicycles - thank you for your first contribution. Consider having a browse through our tour and I look forward to your next answer/question.
    – Criggie
    Apr 18, 2017 at 20:33
  • The problem is that, after maybe 15 years, replacement parts become unavailable. Apr 1, 2019 at 22:42
2

How long is a piece of string?

Honestly, the life of a bike can vary dependant on whether your bike is regularly serviced, if you're going to actually replace parts like chain, cassette, chainrings, bearings, brake pads, brake cables, gear cables, bottom brackets, headset bearings, etc.

If you don't do ANYTHING to it, and ride it daily, you'd be lucky to get about a year and a half out of my personal experience. If you constantly service it and you don't torture it, you could have it outlive you. It's down to the owner's effort in keeping the bike running. I know people who have four chains that they interchange after each ride and people who use multiple wheelsets.

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  • It depends on the quality and type of the bike. The bikes my sibs and I had as a teen did not have many of the parts you mention, just a single speed and a back pedal brake and not much maintenance needed. Used it for 10 year before it was stolen.
    – Willeke
    Dec 23, 2019 at 19:02
2

One aspect of this question hasn't been addressed by other answers: service intervals.

If you drive a car, you know to lube it every 3000 miles, rotate tires every 7500 miles, flush the fluids every 30000 miles. ... Most components would have reasonably well-defined span they will serve, and would probably start falling apart after this many miles, even with reasonable maintenance and repair. What would the range in time and/or miles be for commuter bikes? road bikes? mountain bikes?

A probable reason for this oversight is that, with respect to the OP, most bike components do not have defined service intervals, at least in terms of mileage. For that matter, I don't know the empirical basis behind automotive service intervals, but I guess I'd have to assume that at least some of them (e.g. replacement belts) are based on some sort of statistical analysis of mean time to failure.

Chains

Chains have the most clearly defined replacement interval, and it's not defined in terms of mileage. It's defined in terms of the amount worn, related to the length a chain has stretched due to wear. A more technical discussion is here at this Cyclingtips article, but 11s and higher chains are replaced when they hit 0.5% wear (i.e. measured length over 0.5% longer than original), and 10s and earlier chains can be replaced at 0.75%. You can replace chains later than this, but you are increasingly likely to wear out the cassette, and if you replace a chain much too late you could also kill the chainrings.

Bikes don't have built-in odometers like cars. Even if they did, the distance before you hit the wear limit will vary considerably due to variations in how often and how thoroughly you clean your chain, the conditions you ride in, the quality of lubricant used, and other factors. Further, most end users likely don't log their chain life. This requires manual effort. Platforms like Strava offer some partly automated ability to do this, but the last time I changed my chain I forgot to note it on Strava, and now I don't have an exact date where I put its replacement into service.

Related to the chain, one rule of thumb I've heard is that if you replace chains at or before the wear limits above, you can get 2-3 chains per cassette, and 2-3 cassettes per chainring. For cassettes, I think they are typically replaced when a new chain skips on the cogs; there are visual guides to detecting worn cogs but I suspect you'll get skipping before visible wear. One discussion of that is at this answer.

Tires, rim brake rims, brake pads

Some tires have wear indicators, which are little dots molded into the tire. Once these become invisible, you would be recommended to replace the tire. Some discussion is here. However, in principle, you could also keep riding the tire until the tread is completely worn away in some spots and you can see the carcass or the puncture belt - that would be a bit extreme, but I suppose you could do it.

For rim brakes, some rims have similar wear indicators. Otherwise, you would check if the brake track is concave - an illustration is here. For disc brake rims, because they don't wear in the same fashion, I don't know that there is a replacement guide, and I think you can keep riding them until the rim starts to crack at the spoke holes. I'm not an engineer, but I assume that eventually the rim material will fatigue enough for that to happen. I don't know what sort of mileage you could expect that to happen at, but it could be very high.

For rim brake pads, there are typically wear lines molded into the pads. Disc brake pads and rotors have manufacturer specified thicknesses that you measure with calipers.

Bearings

To my knowledge, you would typically check bearings for a gritty feeling, as discussed in the terminology index and as mentioned in this answer. If they're cup and cone bearings, you'd want to re-grease them periodically (e.g. annually, consider more if you're riding a lot in wet conditions). Also specific to this type of bearing, the balls and the cones can be replaced when worn. Cartridge bearings are typically designed not to be serviced and to be extracted and replaced when they're worn; again, you'd check this by turning the wheel or crank by hand and feeling how smoothly the bearing turns.

Cables

The performance of shift and brake cables and their housing degrades over time as contamination gets in and the cables stretch. Again, there is no specific recommendation for service intervals. I've heard active cyclists say they replace annually. I know I've been able to stretch my service intervals longer than that with acceptable performance. Others may have different experiences, but this may be one of the most under-appreciated parts about owning a bike.

Higher-end groupsets are switching to electronic versions. These are actuated by a wired or wireless signal, and a motor moves the derailleur. In principle, the average (or median, or whateverth percentile) number of cycles to failure of the motor could be determined in a test setting. The issue would be tracking the number of cycles the motor has cycled through. To my knowledge, SRAM's AXS app tracks the number of shifts and a few other statistics, so in principle it could warn users if the motor hits some sort of lifespan benchmark. It does not do this yet, and I don't believe SRAM have publicly commented on the expected motor lifetime in terms of shift cycles. I am pretty sure that the Shimano Di2 and Campagnolo EPS groupsets and apps don't track this info, although in principle they could.

Frame and fork

Most forks on decent-quality bikes are made of carbon. Higher-end frames are also often made of carbon. Lennard Zinn at Velonews asked fork manufacturers about the potential lifespan of carbon forks. The consensus was that manufacturers weren't concerned that the forks would fail due to fatigue alone - keep in mind that I'm using the term in a lay sense; this answer discussed that fatigue in the engineering/physics sense applies to metals and not to carbon. The manufacturers said that their forks were able to exceed industry-required tests, and that they performed better than metal forks. The same, to my knowledge, is true of carbon frames.

The real issue is that bicycles take all sorts of little knocks over their lifespan, e.g. you lean your bike against the car, and later you open the car door and the bicycle tips over (happened to me), or similar happens at a coffee stop, etc. Not all similar impacts will cause carbon to fail. However, it is possible that minor impacts like these can precipitate an eventual failure, and the damage isn't obvious at first glance. Because of the random nature of such events, I don't believe that there can be a defined service life for frames and forks. You would be better off visually inspecting for cracks at some intervals, e.g. when you take your frame in for annual service. You can also monitor for changes in how the bike feels, e.g. something feels loose or soft. This does depend, however, on your ability to perceive subtle changes.

As mentioned in a comment on another answer, carbon is surprisingly repairable. In fact, it may be more easily repaired than metal bikes - you often need to replace a tube wholesale, but carbon repairs can be localized to just the affected area.

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I am not and expert, though my first 10 speed was a Schwinn Continental (1972), and I have ridden a bit since then. Right now, I am a commuter and put about 5000 miles a year on a bike if I ride it almost everyday, so we will say I probably put on about 3000 miles a year. I have seen cheap bikes with brackets that broke off and would have required welding, bent frames from collisions, vintage bikes whose parts are dear and rare, and extreme neglect. These bikes I would discard.

From my experience, it seems that after about 5-8000 miles spokes start breaking, and along the way, chains, gears, cables, brakes and even derailleurs may break and need replacement. If it is a decent bike, these are just the cost of keeping it running. It is still a tenth of the cost of keeping a car running, and I don't buy either new. I put about 10000 miles on my last bike (which I bought used) before a car hit it and I found out that I could not replace the fork because of its age. So, I don't know the answer, but it is quite a few thousand miles.

1
  • Welcome to the site! I'm not sure "I don't know the answer" and something as vague as "quite a few thousand miles" is a great basis for posting. It would be better to concentrate on questions where you're more sure of the answer, and where there aren't multiple existing answers. Feb 13, 2019 at 20:48
1

I'd say the life cycle of a bicycle is as long as the life cycle of its frame.

Nearly everything else can be fixed easily and cheaply. About the only time-consuming process is when your hub or rim breaks or wears out and you need to rebuild a wheel. Some take the easy route and replace the entire wheel with a new factory-built one. Yet, I'd say even if you replace an entire wheel due to a broken hub or broken/worn rim, the bicycle is still the "same bicycle": the same with cars, if you replace a wheel on a car you'd still consider it the "same car".

If you are willing to consider a bicycle with a replaced frame "the same", you can extend the life of a bicycle longer than the life of a frame. For example, Jobst Brandt (R.I.P), the author of the Bicycle Wheel, was riding 10000 miles per year (16000 kilometers per year) for about 50 years, on "the same" bicycle if you are willing to consider the bicycle "the same" after a frame swap. The frame was replaced several times on its lifetime. This puts the useful life of a quality bicycle to at least million kilometers. However, those million kilometers require massive amounts of maintenance. In contrast to cars that are low maintenance, bicycles are notoriously high maintenance. A lot will wear and some will break. You will replace the worn/broken components rather than replacing the entire bike then.

And no, the nearly-million-kilometer bike of Jobst Brandt wasn't the "grandfather's axe" with 5 head replacements and 3 handle replacements. For example, Jobst Brandt said the wheels (with several rim replacements but with the same spokes and hubs) had 200000 miles on them: https://yarchive.net/bike/wheel_longevity.html

However, there are two exceptions to the bicycle longevity. Firstly, so-called bicycle shaped objects (BSOs), a derogatory term for cheap bikes. If a BSO breaks, you probably replace the entire thing rather than fix it. Because a BSO will break soon if used a lot, I'd say the useful life is around 10000 km. Secondly, electric bikes are a fast-moving target. If you have a 10-year old electric bike and its mid-drive unit fails, you probably won't find a compatible replacement mid-drive unit. Batteries (the most common failure) are still available for many old e-bikes if you buy name brand. Yet, I'd say it is unwise to expect the lifetime of an e-bike to be longer than around 10 years at around 5000 kilometers per year. You may get 20 years if you're lucky and nothing breaks.

Some example of component lifetimes for bikes:

  • Disc brake resin pad: 2000 km
  • Disc brake rotor: 12000 km
  • Rim brake pad: varies massively based on conditions (wet or dry) and pad quality, perhaps 3000 km - 12000 km for quality pads
  • Rim: varies massively based on conditions (wet or dry), perhaps 3000 km - 40000 km
  • Quality chain: 4000 km
  • Quality cassette: about three chains, but if you let the chain wear too much before changing it, you only get one chain worth of wear out of a cassette
  • Chainrings: 10000 km - 100000 km based on chainring size and material quality (7075T6 aluminum being the best), but if you let the chain wear too much before changing it, you only get one chain worth of wear out of a chainring
  • Road tire: 8000 km average for front and rear (front sees practically no wear, rear sees practically all of the wear), but it's possible to damage a tire sidewall riding in bad conditions so due to a failed tire the life may be far shorter
  • Tube: 100 km - 5000 km between patchings based on conditions you ride in, most cyclists avoid riding in the conditions that only have 100 km tube life, or alternatively devise some puncture protection solutions such as Tannus Armor
  • Spokes: at least 300000 km, probably forever, in well-built wheels; a poorly built wheel loses all spoke tension in about 100 km, and even if it maintains spoke tensions, a poorly built wheel can start to break spokes far earlier than 300000 km
  • Leather saddle: until you ride in the next rainy weather
  • Aluminum handlebar: it may fatigue and break suddenly so it might make sense to replace the handlebar every 30000 km or so
  • Aluminum cranks: some heavy and strong riders who ride up big hills standing in high gear are known to break cranks after 30000 km use, but for many regular cyclists aluminum cranks last practically forever
  • Cables: especially shifter cables break suddenly with little warning so swapping cables every 10000 km if not yet failed might make sense; brake cables are a safety critical item and the failures of brake cables are catastrophical so replacement every 20000 km might make sense to prevent a deadly accident
0

It might be better to ask how many miles does a bike last rather than how many years. I'd guess that a bike should perform well (if it's reasonably maintained) for 5,000 miles. At this point the cables are shot, the mechanical components have worn, bearings, etc. You could certainly replace all these parts and keep it going, but there is more to the question than that. The other aspect to the question is how long will it take for the bike technology at the high-end of the spectrum become affordable to the price point that's comfortable to you. I suspect that a regularly ridden bike gets at least 1,000 miles per year (probably more). It also seems to me that in five years, the features on the "nice" bikes are standard on the entry level and big box bikes. In fact, I think that bikes get "cheaper" by $100 a year. So if you bought a bike this year for $600, next year the $500 bike will have the same features and components. (Inflation distorts this a bit.) So again, let's assume you bought a bike for $600 this year. You would have loved to have had the model that sells at $1,200 but that was too expensive for you. Five years from now you will think about replacing your bike and are willing to spend $700. You'll find the bikes at this level are pretty equal to the bikes that you wanted this year that cost $1,200. You'll look at that bike and say to yourself, "Wow! What an awesome bike for just $700!" And then you'll decide that your current bike NEEDS to be replaced. So the answer to your question is "five years."

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    That seems rather pessimistic. My Specialized Carve (MTB) is at 4600 miles and other than replacing the chain, cassette, chainring and brake pads (all parts that are expected to be replaced regularly, and not expensive), it's all original and working like new. Bearings are pristine, cables are just fine. I switch between 2 sets of tires and even those are still OK.
    – Nik
    Mar 5, 2015 at 16:28
  • I disagree - you forget the time and effort that goes into finding the Right Fit.
    – Criggie
    Dec 31, 2016 at 21:35
  • A good steel frame can go around the earth (40000km or about 25000 miles), and still be good as new. You'll have to replace virtually the entire rest of the bike one piece at a time, but each piece wears independently, and can be replaced independently. Some parts will have to be replaced several times (drive-train), others just once. And most pieces with short lifespans are really cheap (cables, chains, sprockets, brake pads, bearings), so it really doesn't make any sense economically to throw away a good frame to get them all new in one go. Feb 13, 2019 at 22:18
0

I have a Trek Madone 4.5 carbon that is 4.5 years old and has over 27,000 miles on it (would have more but work gets in the way!!). Other than regular maintenance, change out cassette (at 24,000) and change out the rims (broke the real axle twice on original rims) and have had no problems since. Have a couple scrapes on frame but I hope not to replace it anytime soon!

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  • That's great to hear! I have Domane 4.3 and have 25,000 miles to go to catch up to you!
    – Ben
    Apr 18, 2017 at 16:26
  • Stack Exchange operates differently from other sites, and anecdotes don’t tend to be well received here. Do read the FAQ for the site if you return. However, your anecdote does hint at something I’ve raised in other answers: well made carbon fiber has an infinite fatigue life, barring damage.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Dec 21, 2019 at 19:31
0

I had a 10 gear racing bicycle for 20 years, bought in 1981, and used until 2001. Over the years I had replaced the front cog, chain, rear cog and derailleur at least once, and removed the front gear changer (for gears 6 to 10). And of course tyres, inner tubes (with Woods valves), mudguards, wheels, brake blocks, saddle and panniers (which got caught in the rear wheel). This was general riding, not sports.

My current bike is a Raleigh Pioneer 120 hybrid 5 gear which I bought in 2001. Again, I've replaced tyres, rear cog, brake blocks, saddle. I had the chain, rear cog, and gear changer replaced at a bike shop last year (for around £60 the lot) because it was worn out. I ride most days on local journeys and to work. But not bad for almost daily use over the last 16 years. So with maintenance, a few adjustments, and personal interest, a bike can last for years.

I've been riding bicycles since 1969. The total costs of replacement bits can be more than the original cost of the bike, but over the years it is not a great deal because the costs are spread out. An older 1970's or older bike would be more difficult to maintain especially if it uses a Sturmey Archer gear or a 'dynohub' (with lights that use filament light bulbs) or is a 1970's Chopper. Wheels with modern gear hubs and dynamo hubs (connected to LED lights) should fit an older frame, but it's whether it's compatible with an original gear changer and lights which may then need replacing for compatibility. And Woods valves? They haven't been made since the mid 1980s probably due to mountain bikes coming in at that time with Shraeder valves, but Presta valves of course will fit.

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    Woods valves are still being made. In the Netherlands, for example, they remain in widespread use on city/utility bikes. Even in Norway, where I live and most new bikes are delivered with Schrader or Presta valves, replacement Woods valves are still commonly included in patch kits.
    – fagerbua
    Aug 11, 2017 at 7:07
  • Japanese and Chinese work bikes have an excessive number of woods/dunlop valves. No idea why they still exist in bulk there.
    – Criggie
    Aug 12, 2017 at 7:51
  • Also in Germany and IIRC Austria, Poland, Czech Repulic and Slovenia you won't have any difficulty to get a new tube with Dunlop valve (often the hose version, but replacement Dunlop ball valves are a standard item). But I cannot recall any "Dunlop" rim where the valve hole was so small that a Schrader valve tube couldn't be used (the Scaverand rims have smaller holes). Dec 22, 2019 at 22:38

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