Bicycle wheel bearings also called “bearings,” serve a very simple function: to allow the bicycle wheels to spin. However, how long do bike wheel bearings last on average in all weather conditions?
Bike wheel bearings will last for 8,000 miles on average. This can vary to as high as 18,000 miles and as low as 5,000 miles depending on the surface on which they are ridden and the rider’s weight.
Notably, sealed cartridge bearings typically last longer than unsealed ball bearings due to separation from the elements. Wear may also occur unevenly inside the housing, causing an end play.
Factors That Affect How Long Bike Wheel Bearings Last?
Bicycle bearing life is dependent on several factors. Here are some of the common ones.
1. Bike Wheel Material
The material of your bike wheel affects how long your bearings last. Bearings can be made out of steel or ceramic.
Steel is typically used in lower-end bikes, while higher-end ones use ceramic. If you want to get more mileage out of your bearings, purchase a bike with a steel frame.
2. Riding Style: High-Speed vs. Low-Speed Riding
Bicycle bearings are manufactured to the highest industry standards and for specific types of riding, such as high speed or low-speed use.
If a bicycle moves at speeds above 20mph, the bearings can withstand this higher speed.
Riding at speeds below 20mph will have less impact on bearing life than riding above that speed.
However, it is paramount to note that many other factors in addition to riding speed affect bearing life. So low-speed use cannot wholly eliminate potential problems.
3. Type Of Terrain
Bicycle manufacturers usually design wheel bearings to withstand certain types of terrain. For example, bicycle components ridden on desert sand or extremely rocky areas will have less bearing life than those used on clean roads. If the terrain is extreme, more frequent maintenance may be necessary to prevent premature bearing wear.
4. Bike Wheel Quality
The quality of the wheel you get determines how long your bearings will last. Lower-end wheels usually have cheap or low-quality bearings that wear out faster compared to higher-end ones.
Steel frames also affect the quality of wheels, which is why it’s best to buy high-end bikes with steel wheel frames.
5. Humidity & Water Contamination
Bicycle bearings are manufactured to withstand humidity levels up to 80%. If the humidity is higher than this, rust and corrosion can occur, leading to bearing damage.
Excessive water contamination can also cause problems with bicycle bearings.
In areas that have high amounts of water or snow, frequent wheel bearing maintenance may be necessary. If bearings are submerged, they need replacement.
6. Bike Wheel Maintenance
Proper wheel maintenance affects the life span of your wheel bearings. Without proper wheel care, dust and dirt can accumulate on your wheels, causing premature damage to them.
You should use a spoke brush to clean debris off the wheel while it’s still moving. This prevents accumulations that may block airflow to your bearings.
7. Bike Wheel Bearing Construction
The construction of the bearing determines how long it will last. There are two kinds of bike wheel bearings available depending on the type of bike.
These are cartridge and cup & cone bearings.
These types have different life spans, so it’s best to find out which one you need before choosing the right one.
a. Cup and Cone Bearing
A cup and cone bearing is a conical-shaped metal that acts as a seat for the balls of the wheel while it’s in motion.
These bearings typically last longer compared to cartridges but may be more expensive when bought from bike shops.
The downside of this type of bearings is it requires periodic cleaning and lubrication to work properly.
b. Cartridge Bearing
A cartridge bearing uses a metal tube filled with smaller bearings that allow the wheel to spin freely while protecting it from dirt and other elements.
This type of bearing is more affordable than cup and cone ones, but it does not last as long. They may only last for around four months, depending on how you use your bike.
Bicycle Wheel Bearings Maintenance
Bike wheel bearings tend to lose their efficiency over time due to the accumulation of dirt and grit.
You should regularly clean the bearings to maintain them in optimal condition.
Cleaning bike wheel bearings do not require dismantling the entire hub. Fortunately, you can easily take a brush or a damp cloth and clean them from outside the hub.
Bike-bearing care is all about the dust. Generally, bearings need cleaning with a degreasing or solvent-based cleaner for proper maintenance.
You can go for a solvent such as the WD-40 Multi-Use Spray, which helps get rid of moisture and grime and also inhibits corrosion.
You should grease the outside of your bearing’s ball races with a recommended bearing grease, apply it in an off-center manner so that you have just enough to get it good and wet without dripping excess lubricant onto either surface.
How to Lubricate Bike Wheel Bearings?
If you want to extend the life of your bike wheel bearings significantly, proper lubrication is required.
You can do this by cleaning them first with a spoke brush and wiping off any dirt or debris that may have accumulated.
When doing this, make sure you turn your wheel while doing it to make sure it’s cleaned thoroughly. You can also use a degreaser to remove dried oil or grease on the wheel while moving the bike back and forth.
Once cleaned, you should spray lubricant on both sides of your bearings, which is usually at the lip where dirt won’t be able to accumulate for between five to ten seconds.
If you only have a short time to lubricate your bearings, then use a quick spray lubricant.
For longer periods between lubrication, use slow drip oil such as 3-IN-ONE – Multi-Purpose Oil, which runs evenly on the inside of the cartridge or cup and cone.
Now spin the wheel while holding it, so see if there are any dry spots on your bearings where you should apply more lubricant.
To see if your bearings need more oil, remove them from the bike and spin it yourself, ensuring enough oil inside to keep it running correctly.
To ensure your wheel bearing lasts longer, replace the lubricant you use every six months, depending on how frequently you ride your bike and exposure to moisture or water.
Once you ride in the rain, make sure to dry your bike and replace your lubricant.
By following these tips on how to prolong the life of your bike wheel bearings, you can save money from frequent visits to a bike shop, plus add more miles peruse when riding your bike.
How Often To Change Bike Wheel Bearings?
Bike wheel bearings should be changed every 1 to 2 years, depending on their quality and riding habits.
Assuming that they’re well-lubricated and properly maintained when needed, most ball bearing with steel races will stay in working condition for at least three to four years.
At the same time, it is possible to see bike bearings give in just a few months. Therefore, Bike wheel bearings need replacing when they start to feel rough.
How Do I Know If My Bike Bearings Are Bad?
If your bike seems to vibrate or shake when riding even after tightening the bearings, your bearings likely need replacement.
On the other hand, you can test your wheel’s bearing by having someone spin it while you listen for noise coming from the inner workings of your wheel hub.
This is usually best done with a mechanic’s hand spinning it quickly while stationary.
If you hear any clicking noises or grinding sounds, then it likely needs good clean and new bearings such as the Jaceyon Bike Ball Bearings. These steel ball bearings are ideal for use on a host of bicycles.
When Should I Replace My Bike Bearings?
For a biking enthusiast, it is crucial to replace bicycle bearings before damage occurs and the old ones wear out.
When deciding on how regularly to change the wheel bearings, there are two issues you must consider.
First, how often do you ride your bicycle? Second, what type of terrain are you riding on?
For those who ride their bicycle less frequently, it is wise to replace the wheel bearings at least once per year.
For those who ride often or on rugged terrain, you should change your bearings every three months.
How Much Does It Cost To Replace A Wheel Bearing?
On average, it will cost anywhere from $20-$80 for a total bearing replacement.
A bike wheel bearing replacement is dependent on the bike’s make/model, what bearings are needed, and where you buy them.
Can I Replace Bike Wheel Bearings Myself?
Yes, you can replace your bike’s wheel bearings yourself, but it’s not the most straightforward job out there. However, it’s a task that should take you no more than an hour, and it doesn’t require any special tools.
Actually, with just a torque wrench such as the LEXICON 1/2-Inch Drive Click Torque Wrench with the correct hex key size, you will most likely hack the task. This tool is precise, easy to use, and long-lasting.
Generally, bike wheel bearings will last between 8,000 and 12,000 miles. If you have heavily used your bike in the recent past, you may have noticed that it is making an unusual noise during turns. The bearing might be wearing down faster than usual.
You can easily replace the bearings by yourself in most cases by removing the wheels from your bike frame and inspecting the bearings for any signs of wear.