I understand that no matter how well maintained I keep my mountain bike I will eventually have to replace it. But, since a new mountain bike can be thousands of dollars I was just wondering how long should a mountain bike last?

What is the Average Life of a Mountain Bike

With proper maintenance a mountain bike can last over 20 years. This duration is highly dependent on where you ride and how much you ride. Some items will wear out, tires, chains, brake pads and drivetrains will not last forever. When it comes to longevity careful maintenance is everything.

How a Mountain Bike Wears Out

The Chain – Takes a Lot of Abuse

The chain of a Mountain Bike can deteriorate in many ways, almost all of which is dependent upon how you treat the bike. If you keep your bike outside, in the rain, then without a doubt your chain is going to get rusty. This can happen after just the first time you leave it out in the elements.

MTB Chains Wear Out
MTB Chains Wear Out

Another common problem that riders encounter with mountain bike chains is breaking them. If it gets snagged by a stick, or simply falls off when you’re riding, then getting caught in the drivetrain of the bike can cause a linkage to break.

Check out this complete article on how long a mountain bike chain lasts and when to change it. How Long Does a MTB Chain Last

Additionally, if you don’t properly, and constantly, lube your chain then a high level of friction along with any other deterioration your chain encounters can cause it to work very poorly. A poorly working chain can be just as bad as a broken one if the problem is not dealt with.

Drivetrain – Those Gears are Grinding Mud

The drivetrain of the mountain bike consists of the cassette, rear derailleur, front derailleur, chain wheel, and pedals. All of which can break in a myriad of ways. The drivetrain is the basis upon which the entire mountain bikes functionality comes from, so it’s important to keep well maintained.

The cassette and chain wheel both suffer from two main issues. Getting rusty and waring down. Along with the chain of the bike, if your mountain bike is left out in the rain and humidity then the cassette and chain wheel of the bike will become covered in a layer of orange. This is because these parts are often unfinished, or bare, metal which encounters high levels of friction and abrasion. This makes them susceptible to rust more than other parts of the bike.

MTB Drivetrain, Cassettes and Derailleurs
MTB Drivetrain, Cassettes and Derailleurs

The cassette and chain wheel ware out for the same reason. Especially when coupled with an un-lubed chain, friction and abrasion cause the sprockets to ware down and become smooth. This causes chain slipping and overall problems with getting power from your pedaling into the trail.

The derailleurs and pedals suffer from similar issues to each other. While these parts can rust it is less likely and if properly stored it is highly unlikely. Although, in the event of a crash then these parts are the most fragile and most likely to break. Whether it be from bending of cracking or coming off its alignment these parts are relatively fragile. The derailleurs, specifically, cannot work properly if the wire connecting them to the dials on the handlebar is not properly tightened.

Brakes – Pads are Designed to Wear-Out

The braking system encompasses the brake pads, brake calipers, disks, mechanical or hydraulic connections and levers. No matter what style of brakes your mountain bike has they work by creating friction that stops either the rear or front tires from rotating. Therefore, they are extremely important to the mountain biking experience.

Mountain Bike Brakes
Mountain Bike Brakes

Brake pads ware out constantly simply because they are used. Additionally, any oils or scum them gets on the disk or the pads can cause them to deteriorate and not function correctly. The calipers can rust or brake easily, much like the derailleurs. Mechanical connections can rust and hydraulic connections can leak. The levers usually don’t need replacing however adjustment is something which is necessary to keep them working properly.

MTB Suspension – Seals and Dirt Don’t Mix

Unless you’re riding a rigid mountain bike then suspension is something which, like anything else, can break. This usually manifests itself as a leak in the compression chambers or a deterioration of a coil. This is something that can’t really be anticipated but can occur with normal use.

Tires and Rims

Tires are constantly waring out as the tread becomes less and less. Moreover, the occasional flat tire from an unexpected puncture is not unheard of. The rims are less likely to need to be replaced, although riding at improper pressures or a wreak can cause bending and malformations.

MTB Tires Worn-out
MTB Tires Worn-out

Grips – Contact More Than Hands

These are rubber and therefore are simply going to wear out much quicker than the metal portions of your mountain bike. These can often be overlooked, but a good grip can make a ride much more comfortable and even safer as it is easier to hold onto the bike.

Go to any trail head and mountain bikes will be resting with the grips on the ground.

The Frame – Tough

The frame of a mountain bike is the part which almost never needs to be repaired. Additionally, is probably the most expensive portion to replace. It is for this reason that if there is a problem with the frame then most riders will simply decide that the bike is broken beyond reasonable repair. Although it is possible to fix the frame, if it is broken then usually it means you’re going to be getting a new bike.

How and How Often to Maintain Your Mountain Bike

Every Ride:

  • Check the tire pressure of the mountain bike.
  • Lube the chain and wipe it down as to not get any on the braking system.
  • Clean the bike of any dirt or moisture.

Every Week:

  • Check the brake pads and replace them if they are under 1mm in thickness.
  • Check the pressure of air shocks.
  • Ensure proper tension on bolts and wires.

Every 4 Months:

  • Change the seals and oil in the forks/rear suspension.
  • Bleed hydraulic breaks and refill if the fluid is dark.
  • Clean all portions of the bike from dirt and oil.
  • Change tires if necessary. Also, check the rim for any malformations.

Every Year:

  • Do a deep clean of all parts.
  • Replace the grips.
  • Fix anything wrong with the frame or connection points to the frame.

Read a COMPLETE GUIDE for Maintaining your mountain bike in this Article : DIY MOUNTAIN BIKE MAINTENANCE GUIDE This resource even has a FREE DOWNLOAD to remind you what you should do.

MTB Tools I Love and Recommend

Bike Hand Repair Stand
Bike Hand Repair Stand
Bike Hand 37 pcs Tool Box
Bike Hand 37 pcs Tool Box
Topeak Smartgauge D2 Air Pressure
Topeak Smartgauge D2 Air Pressure

I own each of these tools and only recommend things I own and use.

  • Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand.  Nice mountain bikes don’t have a kick stand so keeping your MTB safe but conveniently stored is essential.  I keep my bike on my stand whenever I’m not riding it.  This makes it easy to lube the chain, inflate the tires and adjust the derailleur.  Highly recommended – Bike Hand Bike Repair Stand (👈 Link to Amazon to see what thousands of others have said)
  • A basic MTB toolbox for replacing a chain, adjusting brakes and dialing in the fit.  Bike Hand has a 37-piece box that has most of the specialty bike tools to keep your MTB properly maintained.  The Bike Hand brand is value packed for the avid rider.  Check out the competitive prices with this link to Amazon 👉 Bike Hand 37 pcs Bike Repair Tool Kit
  • Get a good air pressure gauge, if you get just a tiny bit serious about MTBing you’re going to start playing with tire pressure.  A couple psi can make your tires sticking or not.  Get a good gauge, I highly recommend the Topeak Smartgauge D2, it’s accurate, flexible and easy to use.  An Amazon best seller, here’s a link 👉 Topeak Smartgauge D2
  • Carry a multitool with you on every ride.  I’m serious, most of the time you can MacGyver something to get back to the trailhead if you have a multitool.  I’ve got the Crank Brothers M19, it’s worn, rubbed and abused – but it still works.   Thousands sold on Amazon – check it out with this link 👉 Crank Brothers M19

How to Know if Your Mountain Bike is Outdated

With innovations in mountain biking technology coming out every year, and the price of some mountain bikes getting up to prices which seem astronomical, it’s easy to think that your five-year-old hardtail is completely useless in comparison. But, the truth of the matter is that the suitability of your mountain bike is completely dependent on your needs from a mountain bike.

If you are a professional mountain biker then having all of the newest technology that the current market has to offer can be the difference between losing a race and winning one. That means that a bike which is just a few years old can become outdated. However, this also applies to those who ride their bikes all of the time and use it as their main hobby. In that case it might be worthwhile to have a newer mountain bike.

But, if you use your mountain bike to commute, or simply just use it every once in a while, (and of course if you can’t afford it) then a well-maintained bike is all you will need. Even if it is ten years old the bike can still be perfect for you if it fits your needs.

How to Properly Store Your Mountain Bike to Help it Last

Preparing to store your bike outside clean dry wax and lube
Preparing to store your bike outside clean dry wax and lube

The storage of a mountain bike is, without question, the largest determinate in how long its components are going to last. A bike that is left outside is simply going to deteriorate a great deal faster than if it is kept inside. Additionally, a bike which is kept clean and dry is going to last longer than one which has dirt left on it or is kept in a damp area. The big thing here is to keep the bike dry and free from dirt.

If you must keep your bike outside then having some sort of covering can also help protect the bike. If you lock up your bike and leave it outside when you’re at school or working then considering the weather and not taking your bike on days when it is raining can vastly improve the longevity of the bike. If you must, then at least dry the bike before putting away for the night can help prevent it from rusting.

Things That Can Affect the Durability of a Mountain Bike

There is a big debate about whether or not a steel frame or a carbon frame will last longer and is more durable. Many argue that a carbon fiber bike can’t be repaired and will ware much faster. Others argue that steel will rust and that welds are fragile in comparison. The truth is that both can break when you ride particularly rough and with proper maintenance both can last many years.

REMEMBER with proper maintenance your MTB can last. Get a free download maintenance schedule in this article: DIY MTB Maintenance

When it comes to tires, cheap tires might seem attractive to many riders, but is important to remember that the tires take the most abuse and need to be high quality if you don’t want to be replacing them often. Not to mention that more expensive tires can give many performance benefits as well.

A similar thing can be said of getting a slightly more expensive chain. It is important to remember that cheaper chains will need to be replaced more often and therefore can often become the same process as those which don’t need to be replaced as often. Cheap chains can also be less efficient than expensive ones, even if they seem to all be the same. The metal they are made out of can determine the amount of friction and therefore difficulty in pedaling.

In general, the durability of a mountain bike can be affected by the type of alloy used to make the frame, and more often than not a more expensive bike will be more durable. And, if you don’t ride your bike the way it’s meant to be ridden then it will last a lifetime. If you do ride it, however, then normal wear and tear, and unexpected breakages, are a guarantee.

Helmets, Sunglasses and Mountain Biking are a Perfect Mix – Read More


David Humphries is the creator of DIY Mountain Bike. For me a relaxing day involves riding my mountain bike to decompress after a long day. When not on my bike I can be found wrenching on it or making YouTube videos at 👉 DIY Mountain Bike Read more about David HERE.