Presents for the cyclist that has everything

With the holiday season fast approaching, lots of family members of avid cyclists will have an easy job deciding what to buy for their spandex clad friend: something for the bike. BOOM! That was easy. Reality sets in when said family member walks into a bike shop. Picking only one or two of the shiny bits and knowing you get the right thing is about as easy as getting an engineering job at NASA.

For all family members and friends of cyclists, Kogel’s Ball Bearing adventures have made a list of six things that any cyclist will be happy to find under the Christmas tree. We tried to represent all price levels.

Power bars, gels, nutrition: Price level $2 and up.

This sounds like a totally boring thing to buy, but believe us: almost every cyclist uses these and the purchases get expensive over time. It’s a sure shot, every cyclist will love a bag of Skratch or some Hammer.

 

Skratch Labs hydration mix is a popular choice for cyclists

Clothing hangers made of bicycle rims: Price level $25.

Some wheel companies make products from their rejected parts in production. Reynolds cycling makes clothing hangers out of their faulty rims. We have not seen these in many cyclist’s closets yet.

Lightweight also makes hangers out of faulty rims, but since their wheels typically run $6000 per set, expect these hangers to cost top dollar.

Lightweight carbon garment hanger, ca 100 Euros

 

Chris King coffee tamper: Price level $85 – $125.

Most cyclists love their coffee, so don’t be surprised if your shaved legged friend owns a manual espresso machine. This tamper from Chris King is again made out of production parts that were not good enough to sell for their intended purpose. They still make great eye candy for any cyclist’s kitchen.

These espresso tampers are made of rejected headset parts.

Wooden Bike Shelf: Price level $150.

Cyclists love to show off their rides and some bikes look good enough to be displayed as art. There are several companies offering bike shelves made out of wood, our favorite is Urban City Bike shelves, although their Facebook page recently announced a hiatus in the production. Bri+Co also gives some good shelf recommendations.

Urban City Bike Shelves makes beautiful bike racks in their Queens, NY workshop.

Casual Clothing by Pavé, Upright Cyclist and Panache: Price level $22 – $250.

There are quite a few companies that make casual clothing for cyclists. These can be jeans with a little extra room in the thighs for cycling legs, plaid shirts with technical fabrics or little cycling features to look smart off the bike. Here are some of our favorites:

Upright Cyclist is a Colorado company and is on a mission to design functional apparel that performs like bike clothing, but looks like every day clothes.

Upright Cyclist Fishtail Parka $229 and riding denim $119

 

Panache Cycle Wear is mostly known for its racing kits but they have a great casual collection.

Pavé is another favorite. The brand is not officially launched yet, but has been generating a lot of media attention with their pre-Kickstarter campaign. US Pro cyclists Alex Howes and Kiel Reijnen have been endorsing the brand.

 

Gravel bike: Price level somewhere between $800 and being in need of a new mortgage

This is only if your significant other has been a VERY good boy or girl this year. There is literally nothing on the planet that makes a cyclist happier than a brand new bike.
Gravel riding and racing is a segment that has been growing explosively in the last year. It is basically taking road bikes and riding them on a combination of asphalt and gravel roads. For this new segment a new bike is an absolute necessity (cyclists refer to this as the ‘n+1 rule’). Just go to a bike shop, say ‘I am looking for a gravel bike for my husband/daughter/friend/aunt’, swipe the Visa and prepare to never have to get up out  of your chair to get anything from the kitchen come Christmas time.

 

The GT grade is a fantastic go-anywhere-bike, prices range from $800 to $3600

 

 

If you are really a family member of a cyclist and read this article all the way down to here (we expect 95% of readers to be cyclists, asking themselves how to bring this article to the attention of their significant other), we have another piece of advice. Take a trip to your friend/partner/parent’s local bike shop and talk to the employees. There is a good chance they know your receiving friend by name and know what he/she owns and likes. If anything, they have kept a record of previous purchases and can advise you what to buy.

From us at Kogel Bearings, we wish you happy shopping and an amazing holiday season.

 

**If you have any questions about Kogel Bearings, ball bearings in general or our Ball Bearing Adventures, please ask them either in the comments section below, one of our social media channels or by email via info@kogel.cc. We will answer them in a highly professional, but not always scientific way. We do not shy away from many subjects. Please ask, we are here to answer.

What makes a good ball bearing a great ball bearing for bicycles? Part 2

 

After discussing the bearing balls in our previous post, we will look further into the qualities that make a great ball bearing. This focus is on radial ball bearings, not so much on cup and cone or angular contact bearings, we will probably cover that in a future post.

Races

Races, or race ways, in most bicycle applications are made of hardened steel. The rings themselves have  to be perfectly round inside and out since  they have to be pressed into a hub or bottom bracket, fit a crank spindle and have the balls rolling around in them without hitting any bumps or high/low spots.

The inside of the raceways  can be polished to achieve the smoothest possible finish, which decreases friction and  improves the durability of the bearing.

In the production of Kogel Bearings, the races have a wider tolerance than the ceramic balls. After mirror polishing each race, the races are measured and matched up with a matching ball size, according to where the races fall in the tolerance. This labor intensive process ensures that we build the best possible bearing.

outer race of a radial ball bearling polished to a mirror like finish, courtesy of SKF bearings.
outer race of a radial ball bearling polished to a mirror like finish, courtesy of SKF bearings.

Seals

In bicycle bearings, the  seals are often overlooked. There are many options, ranging from fully open to heavy duty double lip seals. With the amount of protection, the friction goes up.

Kogel Bearings is one of the few companies to our knowledge that offer different seals for different applications: a non-contact seals for road racing and a heavy duty seal for Cyclocross and Mountain Bikes.

Different  seals for different applications. Kogel Bearings uses green seals for heavy duty cross seals. Blue seals indicate low friction road bearings
Different seals for different applications. Kogel Bearings uses green seals for heavy duty cross seals. Blue seals indicate low friction road bearings

Grease

Looking at grease, there are two major factors to consider: the viscosity of the grease (aka ‘thick’ or ‘thin’ grease) and the filling degree of the bearing. As a rule of thumb: thick grease and fully packed bearings make for high durability and high friction. The balls need to fight their way through the grease when going around in circles. Thin grease and a low filling degree make for low friction, but will require to service the bearings  more often.

What is the best ball bearing for bicycles?

In conclusion, is it possible to pick the best bearing for bicycles? The answer is yes, but depends fully on what you expect. First consider your environment and expectations. Weekly mudfests during CX season require another ball bearing than winning the scratch race on your local velodrome. Price might also be a factor you want to consider. As with complete bicycles, the range is huge. A set of bottom bracket bearings can set you back anywhere  between a couple of bucks and a couple of Benjamins.
Once you have determined what your ideal bearings look like, it might be hard to find them. Rarely do ball bearing producers advertise how much grease or what kind of seals they use. Our best advice is to ask questions, to your riding buddies, to bike shop employees and the ball bearing companies. If you have any questions about Kogel Bearings, we’re here to answer them.

** If you have any questions about Kogel Bearings, ball bearings in general or our Ball Bearing Adventures, please ask them either in the comments section below, one of our social media channels or by email via info@kogel.cc. We will answer them in a highly professional, but not always scientific way. We do not shy away from many subjects. Please ask, we are here to answer.

What  makes a good ball bearing a great ball bearing for bicycles? Part 1

 Ball bearings are at the bottom of every spec sheet. They’re hidden in the bike, nobody is going to give you a thumbs up when you show up at the group ride with new ball bearings. Typically bike and frame manufacturers spend as little money as possible on bearings and at Kogel Bearings we understand why from a commercial point of view. A bike in a catalog or on a shop floor gains instant value with aero handlebars or a branded stem. Expensive bearings? Not so much.

Is this the sole reason why people typically do not care about their bearings? News flash! Ball bearings are at the heart of anything that turns on a bicycle. Wouldn’t it be great if all those circular motions were a bit more efficient, robbing you of a little bit less leg power?

Here are the key elements to making a great ball bearing:

Balls

The theory behind ball bearings is easy: rounder and smoother rolls better. Steel balls start off as a metal wire and after a lot of cutting, grinding and polishing, they end up as the shiny bits we recognize. The key to quality is in the finishing. The rough work is done by rolling the balls between two spinning plates, a process similar to rolling a ball of dough between your hands. In between these operations, the balls get heat treated to make them harder and at the end they are polished in a very similar machine.

The quality is often determined by the amount of time the balls  spend in each operation. The roundness, size and surface smoothness defines the quality level, called grade. This number ranges between 2000 and 3. A lower grade number represents a tighter tolerance and higher quality ball. In bicycles any number between 300 and 3 is common.

Ceramic vs Steel ball bearings

Most ceramic balls in bicycle applications are made of Silicon Nitride (or Si3N4, if you’re a chemist). This wonderful material is harder than steel and can be polished to a much smoother and rounder ball than it’s steel counterpart. This in the end will cause less drag in the bearing.  Another great feature is that the material does not rust, so even in a hybrid ceramic bearing, the balls cannot fuse to the races.

The downside of Silicon Nitride is that the balls are hard, but brittle. Imagine them being made out of compressed sand. Once the hard outer layer chips, or the ball breaks, it usually falls apart. This is very common in inferior quality balls and one of the reasons why ceramic bearings have a bad rep for their durability.

Cost is an  aspect to consider. Quality ceramic balls are expensive to produce. Since the polishing of Kogel Bearings takes more than  three weeks, it puts our bearings in another price bracket than any steel bearing. This higher purchase price is partially compensated by the longer bearing life of a quality ceramic balls vs a steel or ‘cheap’ ceramic ball.

6inch bearing ball. Copyright www.kogel.cc 2014
Ceramic balls can be polished to a mirror finish and have extremely tight tolerances as can be seen in this 6 inch diameter example.

Ball bearing production

Here’s a cool Discovery Channel video of the production process involved in making radial ball bearings that are most common in bicycles.

In part 2 of this post we will speak more about the races, seals and grease used in a ball bearing. Stay tuned!

** If you have any questions about Kogel Bearings, ball bearings in general or our Ball Bearing Adventures, please ask them either in the comments section below, one of our social media channels or by email via info@kogel.cc. We will answer them in a highly professional, but not always scientific way. We do not shy away from many subjects. Please ask, we are here to answer.