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.

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