Your bicycle isn’t going to last forever, unfortunately, but it’s a good idea to know how long it will last before you take the plunge. A good bike is a significant investment, and it’s important to plan ahead.
So, how long do bikes last?
For most people, a good bicycle will last 30k-50k miles or roughly 5 years of frequent use, assuming there is no severe or unusual damage. The exact lifespan will depend on the type of cycling, amount of use, etc. And if a bike is properly maintained and components are replaced as needed, a bike can last much longer.
Bike maintenance is inevitable, whether you use a shop or handle it in the garage. Being able to estimate how long you have left on a frame, or when you need to replace those brake pads, is important. What most riders need is simply that information.
Let’s go right ahead and put the pedal down, we’re going to cover the following:
How Many Miles Can You Get out of a Bike?
A good bike will last for 30,000 to 50,000+ miles on the road, but a bad one could break down in under 5,000 miles. To put this into perspective, 30,000 miles is equivalent to 20 miles a day (every day) for 1,500 days (i.e. ~4.11 years). And 50,000 miles is equivalent to 20 miles a day for 2,500 days (i.e. ~6.85 years).
Most people end up replacing their bicycle before it gets to the point of breaking down too much.
And mileage is usually more important than age when it comes to figuring out how much longer a bike will last. A bike stored in ideal conditions may last for decades, although some basic maintenance will be required to get it back on the road.
We need to define an “average” bike before we move forward. Different builds will last for shorter or longer amounts of time.
Low-quality bikes (like the ones they sell at your favorite big-box store) don’t last long. Any mass-market bike could start having issues within a few hundred miles. On occasion a decent bike squeaks through in mass-market production, I had a 29-inch “mountain bike” that lasted about 2000 miles before I gave up on fixing it. But if you buy this kind of bike, you get what you pay for, and you might give up on fixing it in as little as a few months.
But, if you buy from a high quality bike brand, like Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, etc. then you’re going to be much more likely to have a bike that will last you 30k+ miles, and 5 years or more. For example, there’s a Cannondale SR500 road bike in my garage that’s about 15 years old. I don’t have an exact mileage count, but it’s traveled many thousands of miles. It’s been well maintained and is still works great.
How Long Do Bike Frames Last?
Steel, titanium, and carbon fiber frames can last forever as long as they’re taken care of properly. Aluminum frames will begin to break down more quickly, with a lifespan of roughly six years of daily riding.
The problem with aluminum is that it takes cumulative damage over time. Each time the frame flexes even a little bit it’s damaging the frame in the long run.
Aluminum is a touchy material, but it’s also cheap, lightweight, and corrosion-resistant. It’s not going anywhere and many fine bike frames are made of various aluminum alloys.
There’s one other important thing to note about aluminum frames: any serious damage compromises the entire frame.
In other words, if you dent an aluminum frame then it’s no longer safe to ride. You should also inspect the welds and tubes regularly for cracks but the first sign an aluminum frame is hitting the end of it’s life is creaking coming from the frame while riding.
Steel is heavy, and rarely used in high-end bikes, and also breaks down. It just takes a very long time before the minor damage accumulates enough to compromise the frame. There are hundreds of positively ancient bikes made of steel on the road.
Steel does rust, so it should be kept in conditions away from moisture to maintain its strength. Once rust gets under the surface of a frame it’s done for. Short of that, however, damage to a steel frame can usually be repaired by a professional.
Titanium is an expensive but lightweight material for bike frames. It has even more strength than steel, but it’s quite expensive and hard to work with. The frame should last indefinitely, barring a serious crash, as long as it’s stored properly.
Carbon fiber is the most expensive material commonly used for bikes. Its characteristics make it perfect for frames, from extremely high tensile strength to its low weight. Failure with carbon fiber may come from manufacturing flaws, crashes, or too much UV light.
A properly made carbon fiber frame painted with UV-resistant paint and stored indoors when not in use can basically last forever.
The takeaway? For practical purposes, any frame not made of aluminum can last as long as you want to keep it. Crashes or upgrades are the only reason most frames end up retired.
How Long Do Bike Components Last?
While the frame is the core of the bike, the components on your bicycle will need regular replacement. Planning ahead for maintenance is a good idea, so it’s important to keep an odometer on your bike and know when it’s time to start replacing components.
We’ll be looking at averages, very cheap or very high-end components may fall outside of this range.
How Long Do Bike Tires Last? (In Use or Storage)
Tires that are in regular use on a road bike usually last about 2,000 miles. Puncture-resistant models may last up to 3,000 since they wear harder. Most tires can be stored for up to 3 years without problems.
Tires vary a lot in wearing, and it’s usually due to rider error. If you’re hard on your rear brake, for instance, you’ll get a lot less than the average 2,000 miles out of your tires.
In storage, tires will begin to degrade slowly. Heat, UV-light exposure, and extreme cold will all take their toll over time.
Storing bike tires is simple, but a lot of manufacturers recommend slightly different protocols.
The key to maintaining that three-year lifespan seems to be to keep heat, light, and moisture to a minimum while tires are stored. It’s also not a bad idea to put them on a rim and keep them inflated while in storage.
How Long Do Bike Inner Tubes Last? (In Use or Storage)
Most inner tubes seem to last around 500 miles, and Continental recommends changing the inner tubes every three years regardless, which is a solid guideline. In storage, they can last for a decade or more, provided ideal conditions.
Most tubes will meet their end on a sharp obstacle before the rubber has aged enough to need replacement.
In storage, tubes can last for a very long time. Ideal conditions are the same as you use for tires, but inner tubes are small enough to be bound up in plastic bags as well.
If the tube is over three years in storage you should inflate it without a tire and check the condition before placing it on your bike. In the real world, people have used tubes that are over a decade old without any problems.
How Long Do Bike Chains Last?
Chain maintenance is an important part of keeping your bike in good shape, and many newbies overlook it until the first time they have one break.
How Long Do Bike Brake Pads Last?
Bike break pads will last anywhere from 500 to 1,500 miles. Exactly how long your brake pads will last, depends on the type of brakes (i.e. disc vs. rim), the materials the pads are made from, the type of riding you do, your personal braking technique, and more. Always err on the side of caution with brake pads.
The wear on this component does depend a lot on the rider and some brake pads could last even longer than 1,500 miles. However, your brakes are, literally, a lifesaver. And you should take special care to check the pads (and the entire brake assembly) before any ride.
Another thing to note is that most pads are useless if you get oil on them. You can try a solvent like rubbing alcohol to get the oil off but you should just avoid the situation altogether. That includes the natural oils on your hands, so handle new pads as little as possible when placing them on the bike.
Riding with damaged or worn brake pads can lead to disaster. So, be careful, and if in doubt it’s probably best to go ahead and replace your brake pads.
How Long Do Bike Brake Cables Last?
Bike cables should be replaced roughly once a year or every 5,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Cables last a long time compared to most components, but they’re also part of your braking system. Failed cables lead to accidents, so replacing them as a preventative maintenance routine is a much better idea than riding them until they break.
How Long Do Bike Wheels / Rims Last?
The lifespan of a bicycle rim is hugely variable. Yours may last anywhere from 1,500 to 10,000+ miles before breaking down. Inspect them regularly, it’s the best way to find out.
Rim life varies based on the weight of the rider, riding style, and maintenance of the rim. The biggest factor is braking, they will slowly wear through the material over time. Learning to use your brakes sparingly will make them last much longer.
Check for concave surfaces on the rim, when they’re no longer straight it’s time to look for a replacement. This concave edge is easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for, so it’s best to find some examples to put you in the right direction.
How Long Do Bike Cassettes Last?
The recommendations for bike cassettes vary but the usual rule of thumb is to replace them every other time you replace the chain. Performance riders often change the cassette each time they change the chain.
In practice, I’ve found that every two or three chains will work fine. The thing to watch for is skipping on the cassette when you’re pedaling hard.
Skipping on a relatively new chain? Time to replace the cassette.
How about your bike seat? If you want to learn how long bike seats last, check out our article on bike seat lifespan.
Summary: Average Life Span of a Bike
For cyclists who ride frequently, five years from purchase or ~50,000 miles are good ballpark figures for the lifespan of a bike. With that said, the average lifespan of a bike depends a lot on the care put into it, and which parts you actually consider “the bike”. With regular component replacement your bike could last for much longer (basically a lifetime).
However, you may eventually reach a point where buying a new bike will be a cheaper option than continued part replacement. Weigh your options, consider how much maintenance you can (or should) do, and then make a decision and get back to cycling.
Do you have questions concerning your bike pedals too? Read my article Bike Pedal FAQs (6 Common Questions Answered) to get the answers you are looking for.