During the summer of 2008, on my way home from work, I reached 20,000 miles on my commuter bike. Between commuting to university, countless training rides with various cycling clubs, and later commuting daily to work in London, I had managed to rack up a mileage close to the circumference of the earth!
This trusty Dawes Horizon has been serving my commuting and training needs since 2003.
As you ride more and more, things start to wear out, crack or break, and need replacement. First come the obvious ‘consumables’, things like brake pads, which rub against the rim of the wheels to make you stop; the chain which propels you forward with every stroke of the pedal; the teeth on the chain rings which are attached to the pedals, and the the cassette of sprockets through which the chain drives the rear wheel; and eventually the tyres too begin to wear through.
In the chain, each link is held together by rivets spaced ½ inch apart. As the chain bends around each of the cogs in the drive train the links rotate about these rivets and, over time, begin to wear them out. The resultant effect is that the chain appears to grow longer as each of these rivets wear. Left long enough, this will cause the teeth on chain rings and sprockets to wear prematurely, and eventually the chain will begin to jump up and over the teeth when you apply more pressure to the pedals. You want to replace your chain long before that stage.
Here are some old chains that had piled up before I cleared them out (you wouldn’t tell it without measuring them, but they are too worn to be any good) and the chain rings from my earlier Eddy Merckx bike (the teeth are in perfectly good shape, but the cranks had to be replaced for other reasons).
As the brakes rub on those wheel rims more and more, through the warm summer and the cold, gritty winter, the rims start to wear out too. Left long enough you’ll wear right through the sidewall of the rim and before you know it you’ll go over a bump and the rim cracks and begins to collapse. You really want to replace your rims before you reach that stage.
Here is a collection of old wheels, front and rear, stocked up for occasional use in spare parts.
Next the pedals begin to show signs of wear, from bumps and scrapes and the occasional wipe-out. The cosmetics don’t matter so much, but eventually the bearings begin to wear and grow loose, and make odd clicks and other noises.
If this pedal looks rather odd to you, it is because it is designed for use with special cycling shoes which feature a small metal cleat on the sole. The cleat clips in to the pedal and keeps your foot in position; to release you twist out, sort of like a ski binding.
These cleats on the shoes tend to wear out too, especially if you walk around a lot as I do.
Spot the difference: An old worn cleat on the left; a new one just fitted on the right.
The repetitive movement of all those pedal strokes takes its toll on the interior of the shoes too. These are the shoes I bought with the bike, and the original insoles; it may soon be time to replace them.
The bottom-bracket is the bearing that the pedals are attached to. I’ve only had to replace that once — the one that came with the bike originally was not very good quality and wore out quickly.
The rack on the back lets you clip on a suitably equipped ‘pannier bag’ for transportation. The rubbing caused by vibrations has led to notable wearing in the aluminium arms of the rack.
Occasionally you get more spectacular results from wear, like when your handlebar snaps off.
I’ve actually had this happen to me twice on this bike (and miraculously managed to stay upright on both occasions). For future reference, creaking and crackling noises from aluminium handlebars means that there is a crack, and you’ll really want to replace them before they snap off on you.
Another time my front fork snapped off; unfortunately I couldn’t really avoid crashing that time.
If you do your own bike maintenance you soon begin to collect various tools, some more exotic than others — the ‘chain whip’ on the right is used to hold the gear cassette on the back wheel still when you want to unscrew the bolt that holds it in place.
Through all the rides you get to take in some truly amazing countryside and unique sights.
And if you push the pedals hard enough, you may even get a little something to show for it.