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My bike has passed its prime, one by one parts start to break, and replacing them keeps eating more and more money. Which made me wondering, is there any rule of thumb of when it is more economical to get a new bike instead of replacing parts all the time? Up to which point are repairs the financially better choice?

(I do all the work myself, so in my case it's just about the cost of material.)

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    If you're replacing parts excessively, there may be deeper problems to address. Transmission and brake pads and tyres/tubes are consumables, everything else should last multiple years and tens of thousands of km. – Criggie Jun 20 at 22:43
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    Mountain bike or road? If MTB bike, I would suggest anything over about 10 years and the geometry's (and other things) have changed enough to be careful about spending too much on an old frame. – mattnz Jun 21 at 2:27
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    @Criggie pedals, shocks, bottom bracket, dropper post, hubs, suspension bearings, head set, grips, brake fluid, gear cables... all of these are in some sense consumable or at least require servicing eventually. Yes, they should last more than a year, but it's not like they all fail simultaneously, so on an older bike it can indeed feel like you need to constantly fix something. That doesn't necessarily mean it's not worth it or that there's something deeper that's wrong. – leftaroundabout Jun 21 at 17:47
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    This depends on how much your time is worth. Are you a share cropper in a third world country or a $500/hour lawyer in New York? Also, do you enjoy maintaining your bicycle or is it just a chore? – Kaz Jun 22 at 3:59
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    I had found an old school bike mechanic. You know the type, I hope. Over the years he had sold me spare parts for all the bikes of my family, giving pointers also. And, of course, done the more difficult repairs. Then came the faithful day, when he told me after the quick release mechanism snapped. "No more. Get a new bike". Then I knew. R.I.P my loyal Trek 800. Hope your recyclable material serves someone somewhere. Sniff. – Jyrki Lahtonen Jun 29 at 7:35
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If doing the work by yourself, and your are satisfied with the frame, never.

If you replace the whole bike, you have to purchase each and every of its parts in a package. Usually the package is not very good: for example, many manufacturers save money by using non-Shimano parts in a less visible location like wheel hub. Those wheel hubs will be hard to replace -- in fact, replacement of the hub is probably one of the hardest replacement jobs in a bike.

If you replace only a failed part, you have to purchase replacement just for that particular part.

Not only that, but by replacing failed parts, you have the opportunity to customize your bike by selecting which replacement part to purchase. You won't have that opportunity if you purchase a whole bike. Very often, after observing a failure, you have the opportunity to purchase a more durable part to replace the cheap part that failed.

I would argue that purchase of a new bike is a good idea only if its frame can do something your current frame cannot do. For example, some modern frames are asymmetric in the rear to allow even spoke tension in the rear wheel. If rear wheel is what isn't working for you, perhaps this asymmetry could help. Similarly, new frames may support disc brakes whereas old frames probably do not. Also, many new bikes have electric assist whereas old frames cannot accept electric assist motors.

As an example, I bought a new drop bar e-bike that hasn't arrived yet. I am not happy with its component choices. It is not a good bike. It is the least poor e-bike I found. I bought it because my current frame does not accept a Bosch motor, because the frame was designed before the era of motors.

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  • I generally agree, but if multiple things come together it can be easier/cheaper (or at least tempting) to get a new (better) bike. For example if your road bike brifters break right at a point where chain, cassette, tires and rims are almost worn down. – Michael Jun 21 at 11:22
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    Good answer, with one exception: If the frame itself fails, a repair is often not economical or practical. Do you mind if I qualify your "never" with that? – sleske Jun 21 at 18:53
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    @sleske Well I already took that into account with "satisfied with the frame". I'm not satisfied with a broken frame! – juhist Jun 21 at 19:41
  • @juhist: You do have a point there. – sleske Jun 21 at 22:41
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When you suffer damage that can't be repaired economically.

Example: I have cracked the frame on three bikes in the last decade, all in the area of the seatpost clamp and all because my saddle is excessively high.

  1. Steel mountain bike, rigid. This bike was stripped and the frame dumped because I had another, larger, used frame waiting for assembly. Of course the steel was recycled, and all the good parts went to the bigger frame.
  2. Aluminium road bike from early 90s. Same problem, the seatpost area of the bike cracked. I took this frame to two different welders. Both identified 7005 as the alloy which can't be welded because re-heating changes the metal. Frame was recycled after being stripped. I miss that bike.
  3. Steel folding bike. This one cracked when I hit a conic lump in the road and came down hard on the saddle. I cleaned and prepped the joint, and took it to a local welder, who charged me $25 NZD to reseam the weld with MIG, and he also put in a small gusset plate. So for minimal cost I had a functional bike again.

If you're looking for an excuse to buy a new bike, that's a different matter.

You can also own more than one bike, its okay to own a road bike and a MTB, for example. I even own two fairly similar road bikes, each cost relatively little because they were used. Financially I'd not be able to afford one new road bike, but I can own multiple older bikes for cheaper.

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    Owning two bikes is also a great way to ensure mobility when one bike is out of the game for whatever reasons. It allows you to just switch to the other bike when something breaks, and repair the broken bike at your leisure. – cmaster - reinstate monica Jun 21 at 10:08
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    Ah, you're Kiwi, not Aussie (adjusts mental notes). Excellent points, all. Especially the one about putting the (now) upgraded components of your choosing on a new, bare frame to get the continuing value out of your personalized component purchases (OK, the choices could be financial, but they're yours). That's the route I went (decades ago), when I replaced the bike I'd been riding (my dad's then 30 year old Bianchi) with a new Guerciotti frame that fit me better. – FreeMan Jun 22 at 13:34
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My evaluations, that may apply or not to you, are the following:

  • commuting bike:

as long as the cost per year in new parts is less than one half of the cost of the yearly commuter pass on public transport, I am good with that (given where I live, in the german speaking part of the world, practically it means that only a cracked frame may cost more than the pass).

  • recreation bike:

I expect it to have one fourth of its value after 10 years. So, if I spent 1500-1000$/Eur/gbp in 2010, I expect to be able to sell it for 375-250$/Eur/gbp. In 10 years I would have then spent 125-75$/Eur/gbp per year to own and use that bike. I would expect not to spend more than 125-75$/Eur/gbp per year in replacing parts. When I cross that (mental) treshold, I start thinking of getting rid of the bike, selling it in minimal functional state.


For the reason given above, I tend to buy used recreation bikes, so I minimize the initial investment and I only pay the yearly maintenance. Plus a used bike, similar to a used car, tend to mantain its value (minimal difference if sold as 2nd or 3rd or 4th hand ...)

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I can tell from your post you are not adverse to repairing a bike. That's great, I worked in a bike shop and know the feeling that you get when working on a bike with your own hands. Economical as that craft can be you're right, there is a point at which you need to examine the trade off between buying parts and buying a new bike. I think there are a lot of ways to do this but here are two I find standard:

  1. Compare the cost per mile. You can calculate that by recording the total cost (parts + maintenance) and dividing by your total mileage. If you compare the cost of a new bike holding the mileage constant you will have a fairly general indicator to relative value. It's like MPG/KPG in a car. Of course you could take into account inflation when measuring the new bike cost. Even better is to calculate the cost per wheel, derailleur or other components. I admit this is a technical way of formulating an economical solution and fairly time intensive.

  2. Take the calculated trade-in value like a car (BicycleBlueBook-ValueGuide), and compare that to the expected price of the next maintenance or upgrade. If the cost of the new part etc. is greater than the trade-in value you might want to get a new bike. Shops near me calculate the trade-in-value as well. You don't have to trade in your bike, just use the value to make an educated choice. Personally I don't recommend trade-in, because I like holding onto old bikes in chance of a rainy day. You can also subtract the Trade-in value from the price at purchase, divide by years or months and find the depreciation.

Things you might think about:

The economic factors for buying a new bike are your budget, and price expectations. For instance what are your expectations for buying a bike today vs. buying the same bike next year? Do you have a propensity to save? Today a bike can be a big investment.

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  • Good start, but IMO the "valuations" are simply ludicrous, highly dependent on location and availability. Also a bike valuation is more dependent on wear than year, the opposite to computer items, for example. – Criggie Jun 22 at 1:48
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    Holding on to the old bike covers more than just a "technically" rainy day. Like, the new bike is stripped for a regreasing, but you need to go somewhere - just check tire pressure & jump on the old bike. – FreeMan Jun 22 at 13:37

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