Road Shorts and Tights
Mountain Biking Shell Shorts, Liners, and Impact Protection
Liner shorts, which are usually mesh boxer briefs with a chamois inside, follow the same usage guidelines as road shorts, above. The chamois is the most likely culprit when these reach the end of their lifecycle – quickly realized on a bumpy mountain bike trail.
And finally, elbow and knee padding can expire after repeated usage. These are most often tubes of material with padding attached in key areas, and the hems are usually the first to go. These are usually tighter above and below the padding, so as to keep the protection in place, and they can stretch far enough over time that they no longer keep the protection where it belongs. (The same goes for insulated arm and leg warmers, and their opposite, sun sleeves and sun legs.) Alternatively, an ambitious rider that gets a little too rowdy on the trial could lawn-dart into rocks or other trailside obstacles, damaging the actual padding of their impact protection in the process.
Jerseys and Baselayers
The next most common outwear failure is the water-proofing finish or membrane. If it’s a water-repellant coating, it can wear out in as few as 50 washes, which is actually a long time since you usually don’t wash jackets every use. You’ll know it’s the finish if water no longer beads up on the outside of the jacket, though sometimes you can refresh it through washing and drying (tumble low.) Membranes typically take much longer to wear out – if it’s sooner than 3 years, it likely means you’ve washed it with too harsh of a detergent, evidenced by the waterproof seams delaminating. Get a new one, and while you’re out, pick up some sports detergent, too.
Road shoes are a bit more nuanced: replace these when they lose their “pop”, or performance stiffness, over time. They should feel stiff, with a very energetic response to the pedal from your pedal stroke, rather than a kind of dampened delay.
On the more obvious side, replace them when the cleat can no longer be tightened enough to stay in place, or alternatively, when the rubber traction falls off the sole – unless you’re going to use them for extremely nerdy tap dancing, you’re going to want all the traction you can get off the bike, even if you’re just popping in the café for a coffee mid-ride.