When to Replace These 5 Commonly Overlooked Bike Parts

Marc Lindsay
by Marc Lindsay
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When to Replace These 5 Commonly Overlooked Bike Parts

Most cyclists know things like bar tape, cables and brake pads need to be swapped frequently to keep your bike in good condition and proper working order. But these bike parts aren’t the only ones you’ll need to keep an eye on.

From your bottom bracket to your jockey wheels, learn when it’s time to replace these five commonly overlooked bike parts:

BOTTOM BRACKET

The bottom bracket is the part of the bike that connects the crankset to the frame to allow rotation of the crank arms and pedals. This bicycle part is usually pressed or threaded into the frame and requires a few special tools to remove properly. While servicing and replacing can be tricky, figuring out whether a bottom bracket is the source of your troubles is fairly simple.

What to look for: Take the chain off the chain rings and rear cassette, and let it hang freely. Spin the cranks several times, looking for any side-to-side motion. Also listen for grinding or grittiness as the cranks spin. If you notice any of the above, your bottom bracket likely needs to be replaced. In addition, you can also pull on the cranks laterally and look for movement, which can also be an indicator of trouble. If all the tests check out and you feel like your cranks are spinning as smooth as they should, there could be a problem with the bearings or another issue that may require removal to determine.

PEDALS AND CLEATS

Over time, the release mechanism can become worn down from constant clipping in and out of the pedals. This may cause parts to become loose, squeak as you ride or make it more difficult to engage and disengage from the pedals. Likewise, the cleats can also wear over time, particularly if you walk around frequently without cleat covers.

Replace your pedals or cleats if:

  • The cleat no longer clips into the pedal securely or if there is excessive movement.
  • The pedal squeaks, rattles or grinds while you pedal even after you’ve cleaned the system and applied lubricant.
  • You notice some of the internal components of the pedal have worn down or are loose.
  • The cleats are worn down on the edges and prevent it from attaching to the pedal as it should.

REAR DERAILLEUR JOCKEY WHEELS

While you hopefully won’t need to replace a rear derailleur too frequently, there are components of the rear derailleur that need to be replaced to maintain the quality of your shifting. The jockey wheels are one of these parts and help to move the derailleur up and down the cassette and maintain tension on the chain as you pedal. Unfortunately, most jockey wheels are made of plastic and can wear down, making your shifting less precise than it should be.

You can tell when you’re jockey wheels need to be replaced by inspecting them first. If the teeth on the jockey wheel are worn and rounded or sharp and jagged, it’s usually worth replacing to save the life of your chain, derailleur and cassette — which are more expensive parts. Beyond the wheel itself, the bearings inside the jockey wheel can go bad, too. To check the bearings, remove your back wheels and turn the jockey wheel on the rear derailleur by hand. If the wheel doesn’t spin freely or grinds, your bearings could be worn down and your jockey wheels may need replacing.

SADDLE

Deciding to replace your saddle isn’t just dependent on a new, flashy model you like better than the one you already own. There are times when the function of your saddle may not be providing you with the comfort and support you need.

What to look for:

  • If you crashed your bike: A lot of saddles today are made with lightweight materials, featuring carbon rails and other componentry that can be broken or cracked during a crash. Sometimes, these cracks can be hard to see. To avoid a dangerous situation, always get your bike professionally inspected after a crash.
  • There’s external damage: Visible signs of wear, stress marks or rips and tears in the covering can affect the performance of the foam, making the saddle less comfortable overall. Damage to the outside of the saddle can also let in water and sweat and cause corrosion.
  • It’s misshapen: Sooner or later, your saddle won’t support your body weight like it used to. Some manufacturers will have a lifetime expectancy you shouldn’t exceed, such as 10 years. However, if you notice the shape of your saddle has changed and a section is caving in, this may be a sign your saddle needs to be replaced sooner rather than later.

WHEELS

Once they’ve found a wheelset they like, most cyclists pay little attention to their wheels unless something goes wrong. But like any other piece of componentry, your wheels have a lifespan. During every ride, your weight is compressing the rim and spokes, creating fatigue that can eventually affect performance. In addition to the stress placed on the rim and spokes, the rear wheel hub is also under load from the drivetrain. Dirt and debris can also get inside the hub and cause damage to your bearings, which keeps your wheel from rolling smoothly. If you’re using rim brakes, brake pads can also wear this surface down over time, causing it to become concave, challenging the integrity of the rim along with your stopping power.

Of course, if you ever crash your bike, this is another component that needs to be checked carefully by a professional for signs of cracks or other damage to ensure they’re safe to ride. For basic wear and tear, here’s how you can check to see if your wheels are in good shape:

  • Out of true: Lift the wheel off the ground and watch it as it spins. Look for any side-to-side wobbles.
  • Hub bearings: Pinch the rim on each side near the braking surface with your fingers. Move the wheel side to side. If there is excessive movement or a rattle, you could have a problem with your hub bearings.
  • Brake track: Look it over for signs of cracks, dents or areas that aren’t smooth.
  • Spokes: Squeeze two spokes together with one hand and take note of the tension. Each spoke should have about the same amount and shouldn’t be moved easily. If one or two feel loose, you’ll need to get your spokes tightened.
  • The rim: Look over the rim carefully for any cracks. They can be very small, hairline fractures that may not necessarily affect the wheel’s performance until the crack becomes more significant.

About the Author

Marc Lindsay
Marc Lindsay

Marc is a freelance writer based in Scottsdale, Arizona. He holds a master’s degree in writing from Portland State University and is a certified physical therapy assistant. An avid cyclist and runner of over 20 years, Marc contributes to LAVA, Competitor and Phoenix Outdoor magazines. He is the former cycling editor for Active.com.

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