From reliable old steel bikes to modern titanium or carbon fiber machines, bicycles are unquestionably an integral part of society. Modern materials have made bikes much lighter, but have they reduced the durability of road bikes?
A road bike, used within the conditions it was designed for, will be durable. Factors influencing its life expectancy include the frame construction, the rider’s weight, the conditions in which it is ridden, accidents, and how well it is maintained.
In this article, we discuss the factors affecting road bike durability. We also discuss ways to improve the bike’s durability and give it a longer life.
Road Bikes Are Very Durable
If a road bike is used for the purpose it is designed for, it will last for many years.
Unfortunately, it is impossible to accurately predict the actual life expectancy because so many variables affect this.
Factors Which Affect The Durability Of Road Bikes
The factors which affect a road bike’s durability are listed below.
- The material the frame is made from.
- The Riding conditions.
- Accidents and crashes.
Each of these variables plays an important role in keeping the bike on the road.
The Material The Frame Is Made From
There are several different materials used in the manufacture of a road bike. The one you choose will largely depend on the budget you make available.
The most commonly used materials are listed below.
- Carbon (High-Tensile) Steel
Carbon (High-Tensile) Steel Road Bike Frames
Carbon steel was the most commonly used material to construct road bike frames.
The advantages of carbon (high-tensile) steel are listed below
- It has good strength properties.
- It is the lowest-cost material.
The disadvantages of carbon (high-tensile) steel are.
- It is heavier than carbon fiber
- It is prone to rust and corrosion
Chromoly (Chrome Molybdenum) Steel Road Bike Frames
Chromoly Steel is widely used in the manufacture of bike frames.
The advantages of Chromoly Steel are listed below.
- When the structure is shaped correctly, Chromoly steel can carry substantial weight.
- It is lighter than carbon steel.
- It is durable and can be expected to last for a long time.
- It offers good flex while maintaining its form, meaning it acts as a natural shock absorber.
- If it is treated correctly, Chromoly Steel will resist rust.
The disadvantages of Chromoly Steel are.
- It is more expensive than carbon steel.
Aluminum Road Bike Frames
Aluminum has been refined over years of development and is now considered a viable material used in the construction of road bikes.
The advantages of Aluminum Road Bike Frames are listed below.
- Aluminum has good strength properties.
- It is a durable material.
- Aluminum is lighter than “steel” road bike frames.
- Like Chromoly Steel, it offers good flex while maintaining its form, acting as a natural shock absorber.
- It does not rust.
The disadvantages of Aluminum Road Bike Frames are listed below.
- Although prices have reduced, aluminum is more expensive than steel frames.
- Aluminum road bike frames fatigue over time, which may cause structural failure.
Titanium Road Bike Frames
Titanium offers many of the benefits of steel-frame road bikes while cutting weight dramatically.
The advantages of Titanium Road Bike Frames are listed below.
- Titanium road bike frames are lighter than steel and aluminum bike frames.
- The material is stronger than steel-framed road bikes.
- The material flexes well, meaning it acts as a natural shock absorber.
The disadvantages of Titanium Road Bike Frames are listed below.
- It is significantly more expensive and is only used in high-end road and off-road bikes.
Carbon Fiber Road Bike Frames
Carbon fiber is used in high-stress aeronautical components because it provides a combination of high strength and low weight.
The advantages of Carbon Fiber Road Bike Frames are listed below.
- Carbon Fiber road bike frames are lighter than steel and aluminum bike frames.
- is five times stronger than steel and twice as stiff.
- Carbon fiber doesn’t fatigue like aluminum.
The disadvantages of Carbon Fiber Road Bike Frames are listed below.
- Carbon fiber is an expensive material.
- Carbon fiber is the most brittle material of those compared above, and to compensate, manufacturers over-engineer road bike frames made from carbon fiber, further increasing the cost.
- The brittleness affects the “suspension” properties of the bike frame.
- When uncoated carbon fiber road bikes are exposed to long periods of Ultraviolet light (UV), the impregnated resin may be weakened or compromised over time.
- All materials will fail when the limit is exceeded; however, when Carbon fiber fails, it is very sudden and dramatic.
Riders’ Weight Affects The Durability Of Road Bikes
If the rider weighs more than 275 pounds (125 kg), a special heavy-duty bike (manufactured from heavy-duty reinforced metal steel ) should be purchased.
The Riding Conditions Affect The Durability Of Road Bikes
Road bikes are designed to operate at higher speeds while weighing less than off-road bikes.
While they can be ridden on smooth dirt or gravel roads, they are not designed to be ridden on extreme off-road tracks.
It doesn’t mean they will fall apart at the first sign of a rough trail. However, continuous use in conditions they are not designed for will eventually take its toll.
If a carbon fiber bike is a cheaper model, it may be more prone to impact damage, which could compromise the frame’s integrity.
A crash that may only scratch the paint on a steel-frame road bike may end up causing major damage to a carbon frame. Repairing carbon frames is not easy and requires special tooling.
Since carbon fiber frames are less flexible than other materials, stresses experienced while traveling in off-road conditions could cause the structure to fail while the road bike is in motion.
Accidents And Crashes Affect The Durability Of Road Bikes
This point follows from the previous.
If the bike is involved in an accident, its durability will be affected.
- Steel that is bent eventually loses its strength.
- If carbon fiber is penetrated, it will lose its structural integrity.
A professional must check if your bike was involved in an incident where the frame has been damaged.
Quality Of Maintenance
It is not only the road bike frame that affects the bike’s durability.
The wheels, tires, handlebars, pedals, gears, and brakes contribute to a bike’s reliability and ultimate life expectancy.
The following maintenance items should be regularly attended to.
- Keep the bike tires pumped to the correct pressure.
- If the tires have tread built in, ensure that it is visible and sufficient tread is left.
- Keep the gears adjusted and lubricated.
- Keep the chain oiled.
- Ensure that the brakes are in optimal condition.
- Ensure that the handlebar bearings are lubricated properly.
- Check the frame for any damage.
Road bikes are very durable and are designed to provide an optimum balance between lightweight and a long-lasting, tough frame.
Modern bikes are designed to be light and long-lasting, and if you treat them correctly, they will reward you with many years (even decades) of reliable service.