As cyclists we’re well aware of the need to check our tires regularly, but how often do you consider whether or not your wheel rims need replacing?
In this article, we’ll delve into how long a bike wheel will typically last, as well as the factors that affect the lifespan of your wheels whether you’re a mountain biker or a road cyclist.
How Long do Bike Wheels Last?
A bike wheel should last at least 3 years or more with moderate riding assuming it’s well-made by a reputable manufacturer and doesn’t sustain any significant damage during an accident or crash. Poor maintenance and damage to the rim will reduce this estimated lifespan.
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Even a half-decent set of bike rims should last a few years if you treat them well enough and don’t crash into any rocks, cars, or people… And just to be clear, we’re talking about the wheel itself here, the rims, spokes, and bearings. We’ve covered how long the tires last specifically in this article.
Wheel rims generally suffer from wear and tear at a slower rate than other bike components, however as with many other parts on your bike it’s almost impossible to say how long they’ll last with any accuracy.
The lifespan of a bike wheel depends on how often you ride your bike, what sort of terrain and how hard you ride, the quality of your wheels, how heavy you are and therefore how much force is applied to your wheels, how rigid your frame and/or suspension are, the list goes on.
Good old-fashioned luck also plays a major role in the longevity of your wheels. A brand-new rim could last you years, but if you don’t see that nasty pothole it may not last you past your first ride.
How Long do Mountain Bike Rims Last?
A set of rims on an MTB should last 1 – 3 years on average before they need replacing. After this time most mountain bikers who ride frequently will have knocked and dented their rims to the point at which they’ll need replacing. Ride intensity, frequency, and luck will affect rim longevity.
Once again, this is a very rough guide. Personally, on my mountain bikes, I tend to get about 2 years out of a pair of rims before I’ve picked up enough dents and dings to justify replacing them.
Of course, if you have a big crash and put a serious dent in your rim you may have to replace it sooner. Likewise, if you ride your bike hard and frequently you may notice your rim looking a bit wobbly in less than a year, even without any major accidents.
How Long do Road Bike Wheels Last?
Road bike wheels typically last from 1,500 miles up to 15,000 miles or more. Crashes or accidental damage, poor maintenance, and frequent heavy use of rim brakes will reduce the longevity of road bike rims.
Road bike rims can last for a very long time if you live in a place with good road surfaces (i.e. the roads where you live aren’t full of potholes). If you can avoid damaging your rims then you’ll likely only need to replace them when they wear down where they’re clamped by the brakes, assuming you’re using V-brakes.
Over time, V-brakes will wear away the rim where it’s clamped between the brake pads. To check if your brakes have worn your rims excessively, take the end of a ruler or another flat surface and press it against your rim.
If you can see light between the rim and the flat surface this shows there’s a notable difference between the thickness of your rim where it’s clamped between the brakes and elsewhere, meaning it’s probably time to change your wheels.
If your road bike uses disc brakes, chances are your rims will last longer as they aren’t subjected to wear and tear as a result of braking, and so they’ll only need replacing when they’re damaged during impacts such as riding over potholes or crashing your bike.