Checking and replacing wheel rims
Wheel rims can last for years and thousands of miles of cycling. If you ride in the winter and/or over hilly terrain your rims will not last as long as riding flat dry roads. This is because the rim is the braking surface (like a car brake disk) and will eventually wear so thin that the rim can brake.
In the winter, when you brake you are adding extra grit and salt to your breaking surface (and brake pad) which will cause it them wear more quickly. If you ride over lots of hills then you will be braking more (on the descents) and causing more wear.
You should replace your rims before they brake. A brake on the rear wheel should just stop you. A brake on the front rim will throw you off and likely cause serious injury.
Signs of wheel rim wear all indicate you need to imminently change your rims:
- Rim surface becomes concave
- Wear indicator (eg grove cut into the rim) gets worn away
- Braking becomes “grabby”
Depending on budget, how much the wheels cost originally and your ethics you can either repair your wheels by re-building the wheels with a new rim or you can buy new wheels.
When my Mavic Open Sport rims needed replacing, I reused the Sapim spokes and Campagnolo hubs (one of which needed new bearings too) and brought replacement rims. The rims cost around £20 each, nipples cost £10 and the re-build by a specialist cost £20 per wheel, so £90 in total. Compared to new wheels this is good value.
An extreme replacement is to move to road disk brakes which will last even longer and provide significant stopping in the wet and dry.