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When should I replace my...?

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by Crystal Myers


If your bike is damaged or defective, don't ride it! A defective component not only compromises your safety on the bicycle, but could also subject other parts to costly avoidable damage. For economical and safety reasons, bike parts need to be replaced periodically. Here are a few components and how to determine their "expiration dates".

Helmet - Your helmet protects your head during a fall. But when should it be replaced? If you can answer "Yes" to any of these questions, it is time for a new helmet. Did you crash while wearing it? Did you drop it hard enough to crack the foam? Is it from the 1970s? Is the outside made of cloth or foam instead of plastic? Can you not adjust it to fit correctly? Helmets exposed to heat or sun (such as those stored in cars) will need replacing much more often than those stored in a cool, dry place. Helmet manufacturers also recommend replacing your bike helmet every 3-5 years since regular wear and tear can reduce its effectiveness.

Brake pads - If you squeeze your brake levers and they don't grip like they once did, then it is possible that your brake pads are worn and that it's time for new ones to restore your braking. Don't put off this important maintenance because when the pads wear down all the way, you'll have very little braking power. Not only is this dangerous, but it could also cause costly damage to your rims. Look at the brake pads from above and below to see if the "grooves" are still visible. All brake pads are equipped with grooves that when worn through indicate the brake pad is at the end of its useful life and must be replaced. Do your own brake work only if you're confident in your ability to do the job right.

Handle bar tape - Handle bar tape is one of the cheapest replaceable components on a bike. Get a Grip! When the tape begins to slide, fray, or cause your grip to slip, it is time to replace it. There are two types of handle bar tape: adhesive and non-adhesive. Consult a bike mechanic for the proper technique for protecting yourself from slipping off the bars and crashing.

Tires - Just like car tires, bike tires need to be replaced when they become worn. How do you know when to replace? When the tread is worn flat or thin, has many cuts and cracks in the tire, or has any cut in the sidewall, it is time to replace the tire. Also, when the tire's fabric has been damaged, so that the tire has a lumpy, irregular appearance, you need a new tire. Just because you have had a flat tire does not indicate that your tire is defective. Small punctures in the tire caused by nails, tacks, thorns or glass slivers are harmless to the tire, because the tire doesn't need to be air-tight—the inner tube provides that function. Tubeless tires, which are starting to become popular, can also be repaired using a sealant sprayed into tire through the valve.

Chains - When your pedal slips forward while pedaling under pressure, it is usually caused by either a stiff chain link, or by a worn chain and freewheel. Chains will stretch over time, because the pins and bushings start to wear. There are many tools available that measure chain wear but the easiest and most accurate way to check is by using a ruler. With your chain still on the bike, place the ruler's '0' inch mark directly above the center of one of your chain pins. Now count 12 complete links. A complete link equals 1 inner and 1 outer piece. A rivet on a new chain should line up exactly with the 12-inch mark. If these do not line up, then it's likely that the chain has stretched and you should consider replacing it.

Remember to inspect your bike before every ride and replace components when they become worn. Your CRW membership provides discounts at many bike shops so you can obtain the advice from experts and also get components at a good price. Safe Riding!

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