Buy a New Bike or Upgrade Old Parts? Here’s How to Know

We trust bicycles with safely carrying us from point A to point B. Thus, having a pleasant ride and keeping your bike in perfect shape is vital as you use it throughout the years. Many parts of a bicycle can be replaced, added, and upgraded. However, this poses the question of when it is more economical to buy a new bike or fix the one you already have.

Should you buy a new bike or upgrade old parts? It depends. If your bike frame does not fit you or it is compromised in any way, or if the parts you are looking for are too expensive, then you should purchase a new bike. Otherwise, upgrading old parts is a totally viable option.

With that being said, multiple factors are necessary to look for to tell if your bike is the wrong match for you or if you can still upgrade it. Some of these factors include the bike frame’s condition, and how much wear individual parts of the bike have received over time.

When Do You Need to Buy a New Bike?

You’ll know it’s time to buy a completely new bike if the frame no longer fits you, or there is significant damage to it. If the structure is in otherwise good condition and still offers a comfortable ride, it may be less expensive to buy upgraded parts when necessary.

The Frame

Any part, but the frame is interchangeable on a bike. Many stores sell parts ranging from chains, wheels, handles, etc. However, if you have ever heard about The Ship of Theseus, the frame is the part that makes the bike; it is irreplaceable.

The frame is the part that connects every single component, and it is perhaps the most significant part of the bike. This means that it is also the most expensive, since purchasing a new frame is the equivalent to buying a new bike.

Essentially, if this part is compromised in any way, it can determine whether the bike can be rescued or if buying a new one will be needed or worth it. We will be talking about road bikes specifically.

How to Know if You Need a New Frame

Frames work much like clothes; if you buy one at a young age, you will eventually become too big for your frame. Likewise, if your clothes become too damaged to the point where stitching them is not even an option, frames could get damaged also.

Another reason you might want a new frame would be because you want a bike of a different style or if you find a frame that offers more features such as more lightweight and resistant material. However, any frame can be upgraded, so size and damage remain as the crucial factors that will determine if you need a new frame or not.

How to Know if Your Bicycle Frame is Damaged

When it comes to damage and deciding whether buying a new bicycle is better than trying to repair it, there are two main types of irreparable damage to look out for: breaking and rust.

The two main types of damage to your bicycle, breaking and rust, do not wholly occur on their own; there has to be a set of conditions for these two damages to occur, which means that there is also a set of conditions that can be created to avoid this damage.

Breaking Damage

When it comes to breaking damage, this means that the frame has been damaged in such a way that it is likely for it to no longer be able to withstand the rider’s weight or minor impacts and parts like the seat or frame could snap and possibly cause severe damage to the user. This type of damage is usually noticeable in the form of cracks and dents.

Breaking usually happens when the bicycle is constantly or repeatedly under a lot of stress. For example, when the rider uses the bike to jump and the bike doesn’t have good suspension to soften the fall. Another common example is that the bike accidentally gets run over by a car.

The way you can avoid breaking damage is by trying to reduce the likeliness or amount of stress that the bike is under. One way is to avoid jumping or falling off elevated areas with the bicycle since road bikes tend to have little to no suspension.

Rust Damage

Now when it comes to rust damage, this can be the most subtle and most likely to be downplayed damage. Rust very slowly weakens the metal of your bike, meaning that it is more likely to break the more rusted it is. In fact, this type of damage is dangerous on any part of your bike if it becomes severe enough.

Many conditions can cause rust damage. The most common example is that people leave their bikes outside or in a humid place for a long time and when they finally decide to give it some use, they discover that their entire bike is covered with rust.

One way to avoid rust damage is by giving constant maintenance to your bike, even when it is stored ideally in a dry place. Another way to prevent this is by making sure you thoroughly dry the bike after having washed it or if it has been ridden in the rain.

Breaking and rust damages are no joke. If they get severe enough, someone can get injured. However, when these damages are mild, your bike can be saved, meaning that you could spend less money by upgrading it rather than buying a new one.

How to Know if it’s Better to Upgrade Bike Parts

Once again, breaking and rust damage are the most common damages that can occur to a bicycle. However, here are a few ways to know if your bike is still safe to ride after having received said damages.

When it comes to breaking damage, there is a very fine line between safe and non-safe since even the mildest cracks can have a small risk of compromising the frame, and no chances should be taken when riding a bicycle at high speeds.

Small cracks and dents will occur to your bike, be it by dropping it, crashing into something, etc. However, when you can clearly notice that these cracks and dents have not gone through the thickness of the metal of the tubes of the frame and seat, then it is very safe to assume that your bike will still be able to carry you from point A to point B without snapping.

Now when it comes to rust damage, there is a lot more freedom to reach the critical point where there is a risk of snapping. Rust essentially eats through metal, weakening it or outright destroying it over time. However, rust can be removed, so if rust has yet to go through the outer layer of your bike metal tubes, then it can be scraped off, and your bike will be good to go.

If these conditions are met, then it is safe to assume that you can continue using that bike and upgrade any necessary parts. However, there are other factors besides damage that will have the final say on whether or not you should get a new bike.

Upgrading Bike Parts

If your bike has passed all of the tests mentioned above with flying colors, then congratulations, your bike is still functional and can still be used. However, another significant factor that doesn’t wholly depend on the frame is the upgrades that you want to get. By upgrades, we mean parts that need repairing or that you wish to switch out because you have found better ones.

Here is a list of the main parts that you would want to replace on your bike:

Handle Bars

Handlebars are important in the sense that they are the steering wheel of your bike. Without them or if they are damaged, you may not have full control of your bike. Once again, the primary forms of damage that threaten it are breaking and rust, so make sure that none of these are serious.

Bike Seat

The bike seat is where the user rests while riding the bike. The bike could, in theory, be used without a seat by professional riders. However, if the bike seat is rusted or broken in any way while the user is sitting on it, it could result in serious injury. One big reason to replace this part is comfort.

Wheels

The wheels are what makes the bicycle move, and what keeps it standing. Thus, if the metal parts (the rim) of the wheels are rusted or broken, it can pose a great danger to the user. Regarding the rubber tires, these are easy and cheaper to replace. They are also the part that is most likely to break as punctures by debris on the road are common.

Gears and Chain

The gears and the chain are what makes your bike move through the pedals. The gears control essentially how much force must be inputted by the user for the pedal to go through a whole cycle. The chain is what transmits this force into the wheels. Once again, rust and breaking damage are things to watch out for.

Pedals

The pedals are the part where the user rests their feet to apply strength into the mechanism that makes the bicycle move. One big reason why you might want to replace the pedals would be comfort. Otherwise, rust and breaking damage affect this part, too, especially the part that connects to the frame.

Once again, upgrading may be necessary due to these parts wearing out or you having better ones available. However, bicycle models keep changing, and so do measurements. This will essentially make it difficult to impossible to find the parts that you wish to replace.

At this point, it would become more viable to purchase a new bike, since a frame in good shape is basically worthless if you can’t find handlebars, seats, and wheels that are also in good condition. Likewise, if what you wish is to upgrade for better components for a bike, you will need to purchase a new frame. Whether this is worth it depends on price.

Is it Worth Upgrading?

Perhaps the ultimate factor of whether you can buy a new frame or parts at all is the price. There is a plethora of components, frames, and whole bikes ranging in all prices from below a hundred to thousands of dollars. Therefore, it is important to consider cost before deciding to upgrade a bike or starting fresh with a new one.

Some things to look out for are the prices of the pieces that you wish to purchase. If you have a good frame, but you have to replace every single part of the bike, or you don’t want to settle for cheaper parts, then purchasing a new bike would definitely be the more viable option.

Even if purchasing a new bike with the parts that you want will cost a few dollars more than fully repairing or upgrading your old bike, going for a new one could be more efficient. Starting with a brand new frame removes the worry that you might be riding an old bicycle with lingering damage. There will also be more parts available for the newer frame.

Likewise, if what you need or want to replace on your old bike would cost way less than purchasing a whole new bike, then upgrading is a totally viable option. However, at the end of the day, your wallet will decide for you.

How to Maintain Your Bike

Whether we are talking about an older bike or a new bike, you definitely want to get the best out of it and make it last for as long as possible and for it to stay in good shape. There are many ways to ensure that your bike stays functional throughout its product life so you can forego needing to buy parts or replacing the entire bike for as long as possible.

The most usual part to get damaged on a bike is the wheels. The wheel consists of air trapped in a very thin rubber tube, which makes it very prone to being punctured by objects that are lying on the road and this can put a bike out of use almost instantly if you don’t carry the right equipment such as a pump, patch, and/or spare tire.

Replacing the tubes is relatively cheap; however, if the rim gets damaged, then that is a whole other story, and the price will increase dramatically. Some ways to avoid this are by simply being careful with where you ride your bike, meaning that always ride on the road and avoid paths not meant for road bikes.

Another thing to constantly look out for is by always keeping your gears and chain well oiled. The gear and chain mechanism on a bike relies on constant friction, meaning that there are many opportunities for the metallic parts to scratch away at each other. You should also clean them from time to time to remove foreign objects that might interrupt the mechanism.

Lastly, and perhaps the most crucial part to look out for, are the brakes. Whenever you ride your bike, you trust your safety on being able to stop or slow the bike whenever it is needed, which is why the brakes are so important. To maintain the brakes, make sure that the cables and small parts are well lubricated, clean, and well tightened.

All of these preventive measures are listed to save you money since these parts getting damaged would result in needing to purchase new ones for replacement.

Conclusion

When it comes to bicycles in general, safety is the number one priority and factor to look at when making new purchases. Upgrading or purchasing a new bike is determined primarily by whether your old frame has been compromised or is at risk of being compromised and if the replacement of parts or the bicycle is more economically suitable for you.

There are many ways to tell if these conditions are fulfilled, primarily if your old bicycle is no longer the right size for you or if it has received breaking or rust damage to a certain extent. There are many ways to avoid these damages and even to repair them if they are not too severe.

Ultimately, the frame is what makes the bike, and if you feel that it is time to get a new one, then get a whole new bicycle. If your old frame is still fully functional but upgrading all the other components is more or almost as expensive as buying a whole new bike, then buy a new bike. Otherwise, age is not a curse for a bicycle if properly taken care of.

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References:

singletracks

https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/bike-fit.html

https://bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/15182/how-can-i-determine-whether-rust-has-made-my-bike-unsafe

https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/bike-maintenance.html

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