All posts by kogel bearings

Kogel Bearings makes high quality ball bearing products for bicycles.

How often should I service my bearings?

At Kogel Bearings we get a lot questions about the service interval of our bearings. The official answer is  that you should service your bearings once per year. It is not difficult to see that this is a very generic, almost randomly chosen time period. It does not take the mileage, weather conditions, bicycle type or overall maintenance of the bicycle into consideration.

In order to give a more detailed answer to the questions about bearing service, let’s have a look at what causes the need for service.

Bearing Contamination

This one is very obvious: just like mud on your chain, water and sand make an excellent paste to grind the internal parts of your precious bearings to pieces. In our production facilities we spend an unbelievable amount of time to polish the balls and races that are used for our bearings. After that, we consider the process to be finished. You are probably not going to improve the polish quality during your ride.

When your bearings are contaminated, you can easily feel this by removing the cranks or wheel axle, sticking your finger inside the bearing and spinning it. Smooth spinning is good, the slightest hint of gritty feeling is due to stuff inside your bearing that should not be there.

The picture of the left is a generic bottom bracket after three muddy  rides. The PF30-24 on the right is boxfresh and ready for action.
This is what our competitors bearings looked like after three muddy rides. Some TLC is due. The PF30-24 on the right is boxfresh and ready for action.

Being not much of a scientist and a lot of a common sense guy myself, being honest with yourself brings a lot of answers. Did your last mountain bike adventures involve river crossings? Have you been out riding in the rain? Did you take your bike to the carwash and not tell anyone about this horrible offense? In all cases it is good to give your bearings (and complete bike while you’re at it) a quick check.

Bearing Lubrication

Our high quality hybrid ceramic bearings require very little lubrication. During production we usually fill them a bit more than necessary, since we feel that your bearings should be for everyday use and not a race day or velodrome only product. While the road bearings feel very smooth rolling out of the box, they usually feel better after a couple hundred miles. This is due to the grease being pushed to the sides of the bearings, leaving only a thin film on the raceways and balls.

Nothing looks better than some freshly cleaned and repacked bearings

Since the bearings are made to run with minimal amounts of our Secret Grease Mix, I consider it not so much of a factor for the service interval. A light swishy swishy sound (as opposed to scraping and grinding sound to stay fully scientific) coming from your bottom bracket while spinning the crank is not necessarily a bad thing. Most of our bearings sound like that after break in.

The 1 year interval is probably a good indication here, unless you are lucky enough to find time to ride over 10.000 miles per year of course. Remember common sense!

Have a look at this video, which was shot while preparing some sample bearings for the UnitedHealthcare team time trial camp. These bearings are running completely dry. The riders were given bearings that had only a drop of oil with the intention to give them a top level performance that lasts for about 50 miles.

kogel bearings spin test

dry running bearings spin faster than anything, but it can cause heat build up and affects durability

Wear and tear of the bearing seals

The bearing seals are one of the few parts on your bike where a non-moving part is pressed against a moving part. By definition this causes friction and friction causes wear. Compare it to skidding your rear tire on the road or trail.

Bearing seals wear out over time, changing the quality from ‘fully sealed’ to ‘fully unprotected’. They are also cheap and easy to install. For anyone that has ever tried to remove a bearing seal without damaging it, you know it’s a gamble. I have tried it once or twice myself and consider it a 50/50 chance of success. Let us take the frustration out of it for you, it really feels good to be able to yank those seals out without caring if you bend or break them. It will save you some time too. Do this with every bearing service and you will live a happier life, promise!

Conclusion

In conclusion to all the above: Officially we recommend to service Kogel Bearings once per year, but this does not mean you can ignore these hard workers that sit at the center of every rotating part of your  bicyle. Keep an eye out for contamination, at least minimal lubrication and replace those seals with every service.

 

In a next blog post we will show a step by step of how to perform a bearing service.

Wookie approved: Kogel Bearings durability test

How did Kogel Bearings survive the winter?

With he temperatures rising and the CX season well behind us, it is time to reflect on Chandler Snyder’s test, which put our bottom brackets through a hard season of Chicago CX.

This is an edited version of the full article presented here on The Embrocation Cycling Journal.

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Seeing what a season of riding can take out of both riders, and their bikes, can also take it out of the mechanic…that’s me. At this point in the year I usually see things at their worst. People get lazy towards the end of the season with a lot of “it’ll get me through” mentality running around. Bearings are usually seized and pretty much only worth an obligatory social media post to show “how hard CX is”, before they are tossed in the garbage and replaced with the exact same thing…garbage.

The picture of the left is a generic bottom bracket after three muddy  rides. The PF30-24 on the right is boxfresh and ready for action.
The picture of the left is of a generic bottom bracket after three muddy rides. The PF30-24 on the right is boxfresh and ready for action.

Kogel Bearings has come through the end of the season in flying colors. The 3 riders who took them back and forth across the country for a season have weighed in with their thoughts and impressions.

Would I recommend Kogel Bearings? Yes. What about them do you like more than other brands on the market? I wouldn’t say there’s a “more” to such a generalized question. There are pros and cons to everything. From a price standpoint, Kogel is pretty affordable for what you are getting. Comparing Warranties to other brands is something to think about. Kogel is 2 years,  1 “few questions asked”, and 1 more after a bearing service, whereas others ranges from 4-6 years depending on the product you buy. These are usually “against manufacturer’s defects only”, which at times can be difficult to actually prove.

I can also say the feedback from non-testing riders has been overwhelmingly positive. The interest generated from the first 2 articles got some people interested, and I was fortunate enough to have been called upon locally to install them.

Chandler put our bearings through a hard test and they came out in mint condition. We're officially Wookie approved now.
Chandler put our bearings through a hard test and they came out in mint condition. We’re officially Wookie approved now.

Mechanically speaking with all the press fit craziness going on in The Industry today, Kogel makes great sense. Not having to use Loctites and retaining compounds was nothing short of “smarter not harder” put into practice. Simple application of a waterproof grease before pressing in was all that was needed.  One of the largest draws to Kogel for myself is the range of bottom brackets for all the various frame options on the market today. Only a couple other manufacturers offer a complete range of No-adapter-needed bottom brackets.

Currently Kogel is doing a great job of responding to customer feedback and inquires. Should Ard Kessels and the operation grow any larger, I’m thinking he’ll need to add some inside reps to keep that high level of responsiveness going. Even clients mentioned how accessible Kessels was, and quickly emails, phone calls were returned. That’s a rare thing in this day and age of “Hurry up and wait”. I’ll keep an eye on that as the Kogel grows.

I must say I’m pretty impressed with the results I’ve seen from Kogel Bearings. They’re worth the price to performance ratio compared to other brands. I’d recommend them to all my clients who are looking to experience true ceramic quality and performance. In other words, they’re #WookieApproved.

You can follow Kogel Bearings on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram I look forward to seeing what the future holds for them, as well as following the United Health Care Team as take them through the road circuit this season. As always you can follow Wookie on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram and Twitter

What is the cost of a ceramic bearing upgrade for bicycles? Part 2

In part 1 of  this article we covered the  cost  of  ceramic bottom brackets and wheel bearings. Today we will look at the derailleur pulleys and the cost of ownership of a ceramic bearing upgrade.

The cost of ceramic bearing derailleur pulleys

Since the derailleur pulleys are the fastest spinning part of a bicycle (spinning your 53 ring at 110rpm results in roughly 580rpm), there are some advantages to be found in these little cogs.

Ebay offers a range of different pulleys, from all kinds of suppliers. Prices range from $50 to $65 with a wide offer in shapes and colors.

these super fragile looking pulleys from the 'brand' Omnisport sell for $50 on Ebay
these super fragile looking pulleys from the ‘brand’ Omni Racer sell for $50 on Ebay

Enduro offers their Zero pulleys at $120 and we found some pretty cool ones from CNC gurus Hope, but no ceramic option available. We will not include them in this comparison.

Once again Ceramicspeed sets the gold standard, starting at $200 for the standard pulleys and a whopping $519 for the titanium 1×11 pulleys with coated ceramic bearings.

Kogel just released a newly developed aluminum and hybrid ceramic pulley, which will retail at $100 for a set.

Here's a sneak peak at our brand new pulleys. We love how the round holes resemble a bearing.
Here’s a sneak peak at our brand new pulleys. We love how the round holes resemble a bearing.

Cost of installation

Installing ceramic bearings is a highly specialized job. Not so much for a set of derailleur pulleys, but most definitely for wheel bearings. The keys to successfully installing bearings are to own the exact fitting tools, which are expensive, and what the Germans call Fingerspitzengefühl. Directly translated: having the feeling in your fingertips.

Although a sixpack of quality beer goes a long way with most mechanics, please do not consider this a substitute for payment. Mechanics in high end bike shops need to be very skilled and educated craftsmen nowadays. They deserve to be paid for their work.

When it comes to pressing bearings, whether it is wheels or bottom brackets, we usually recommend to have it done by a professional. A shop can justify to buy a $300 tool for this, consumers do not get enough use out of such a tool to justify  the cost. It is better to fork out a couple of twenties and a sixpack to ensure your mechanic takes extra good care of your job today. Ceramic bearings are fragile if handled with the wrong tools. That threaded rod from Home Depot and a bunch of washers are great at getting the bearings in the wheels and equally great at destroying the races.

A complete ceramic upgrade of bottom bracket, wheels and pulleys will typically take between one and two hours for an experienced mechanic, so $100 for these three jobs is a reasonable amount at a premium bike shop.

Cost of warranty or replacement

In our eyes it is safe to consider that the cheapest product will wear out quicker. Ceramic bearings are similar to carbon frames in a way that you get what you pay for. Buy the cheapest and there is a good chance that the manufacturer cut some corners to bring the cost down.

Consider this when you purchase: a failed Ebay  product will probably require a new purchase. The more premium brands might have a warranty in place if your product fails prematurely. Ask questions to the manufacturers and always consider that you might have to pay your mechanic for his hours to remove and install your bearings. With this in mind, you might be able to justify buying a higher priced/better quality product from the start.

Conclusion: the cost of a ceramic bearing upgrade for a bicycle

Looking at the above numbers, the initial investment can span a huge range, depending on your source.

A set of wheel bearings, bottom bracket and derailleur pulleys can be as cheap as $139 in unbranded Ebay parts. Looking at the top end, you could spend as much as $1667. The middle ground is to be found with Enduro and Kogel Bearings at around $550.

Are ceramic bearings worth their cost? That’s up to you. Do the math and decide for yourselff!

This all seems very clear, but looking at the complete picture, things get a bit more complicated. It is fair to expect the life span of the cheapest parts to be shorter, so you would be forking out the cost of purchase and cost of installation more often. The higher end products are often serviceable, at Kogel Bearings we recommend a BB service interval of one year. This will include a $10 seal kit for a bottom bracket and some labor. This could balance a major part of the initial savings made on the cheapest available components.

The way you spend your hard earned dollars is up to you. I hope this overview is here to help your decision.

Ard

 

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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 is the cost of a ceramic bearing upgrade for bicycles? Part 1

Ceramic bearing upgrades come in all shapes and sizes. First there are the different parts of the bike that can be upgraded, then there is a plethora of brands and non-branded products to choose from.

There are three main parts of the bicycle where ceramic bearings can bring benefits over steel bearings: the wheels, bottom bracket and derailleur pulleys.

The cost of a ceramic Bottom Bracket

The bottom bracket is a central part of the bicycle. It is similar to the transmission in a car in a way that it handles all the power transfer between the engine and wheels. Where a car transmission only handles forces along the central axis, a bottom bracket deals with oscillating movements and side loads due to the pedaling. There can be some lateral load due to wave washers or crank bolts that are tightened too much. Our bottom bracket is living a rough life down there! Needless to say that quality is key here.

A quick search on Ebay teaches us that ceramic bottom brackets are available from $35 plus shipping. From the tests we have done, these bottom brackets are hit and miss. Some are decent, some take only a few weeks before the bearings are pulverized.

A ceramic bottom bracket from the ‘exotic’ brand GUB is yours at $45 with free shipping

Enduro bearings makes two types of ceramic bearings: Zero and XD15, with the main difference being the quality of the ceramic balls and the fact that Zero are radial ball bearings and XD15 are angular contact. Their bottom brackets are priced around $200

Ceramicspeed is the gold standard by which all other bearings are measured. They sponsor many of the world’s best athletes, and like your Oakley shades, that reflects in the price. Their bottom brackets typically  cost $269, or $369 if you choose to go with the coated bearing races.

Ceramicspeed’s top offer will set you back $369

As a reference: Kogel Bearings range between $160 and $190, depending on the model.

The cost of ceramic wheel bearings

A typical bicycle wheel set runs on six bearings: two in the front hub, two in the rear hub and two in the freehub. The biggest challenge is often to find out which bearings go where. With the wheel set in hand, it is easy for a mechanic: just open the hub and note the bearing numbers, or measure the size of each bearing, which usually can be done without removing the bearings. An internet search can sometimes prevent this work, but some brands are notoriously secretive about their bearing  sizes.

For easy comparison we have determined the cost of an upgrade for two common hub types.

Ebay search results tell us a cost of $58 for a set of DTSwiss 240s and $54 for a set of 2015 zipp hubs of whichever was the cheapest we could find.

Enduro zero comes in at $224 for the DTSwiss hubs and $234 for the Zipp hubs.

Ceramicspeed leaves the shop with you for either $519 or $779, depending on your choice for coated races.

Kogel Bearings offers different bearings for road and off road use. Both retail at $260 for six bearings.

Kogel has a flat fee pricing of $260 for six bearings, regardless of wheel type.

In part two  of  this post we will look at derailleur pulleys and draw conclusions on the total cost of ownership.

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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.

Understanding bottom bracket issues. And why the standards are here to stay.

 

The good old bottom bracket, the silent work horse, hidden deep down inside the bicycle. Well, silent is referring to the ideal world in this case. With the explosion of bottom bracket and crank standards we have witnessed in the last decade, the bottom bracket has turned into a bike part that seems to be in constant need of attention. Today I will try to find out what led to this situation and if there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Bottom Brackets have always had their problems

Many times in magazines, articles or forum posts we read that the bottom brackets of today are too confusing, and that is absolutely true. As a former shop owner, I always dreaded the moment when a customer walked into the shop with a random crank and frame in hand. I know I lost 20 minutes at that point: first determine the standard of the frame,  then the crank, then try to find the right pieces to fit them in a huge online ordering system.

But has this ever been different? Way back when bottom brackets were still called ‘square taper’, there was Shimano which would not fit with Campagnolo. There was Italian or English and in none of those cases a road BB would fit on a mountain bike. And then there was chain line: I found the right bottom bracket, but need a 118mm instead of a 113mm to keep my crank arms from jamming into the frame.

Like modern day bottom brackets, internal spindles developed over  time.
Like modern day bottom brackets, internal spindles developed over time.

Pushing the boundaries of bicycle development

After square taper we were ‘blessed’ with ISIS , Octalink, hollow tech II, Ultra Torque, BB30, GXP Power torque and Over Torque. And that is only on cranks! Frames spun out of control in a very similar way with a dozen press fit variations: BB30, PressFit30, PressFit without 30 which is also known as BB86 unless it is on a mountain bike, then it is called BB92 but it might measure 92.5 or 89.5 millimeter depending on the brand.

You lost me somewhere in there? I don’t blame you. Trying to fit a crank and frame seems about as easy as predicting the Euro/Dollar conversion rate for the next month.

Bottom braket standards can be confusing and overwhelming.
Bottom braket standards can be confusing and overwhelming.

The reason for this is that bicycle manufacturers are constantly looking for stiffer and lighter frame constructions. Sometimes this involves true innovations, sometimes it involves innovating for the sake of changing things for the new model year. Heck, one of the biggest players in the industry has used ‘Innovate or die’ as an advertising slogan for years.

Diversification of the bicycle industry

Another trend I have seen in the bicycle industry is a constant diversification. The village bike shop that does everything on two wheels has long vanished. Nowadays there are specialized shops for commuters, road bikes and mountain bikes.

Looking at the car industry, this development has gone much further. It is close to impossible to drive your Dodge into a BMW dealer for an oil change or to replace a light bulb, leave alone if something has gone off in the electronics. This is the auto industry’s way of making sure that the car they sold at low margin will keep coming back to the dealer for expensive service visits.

Along this path, almost every major frame designer is trying to integrate proprietary parts that can only be bought through their dealer network. It is not possible for a Trek dealer to order spare parts for a Specialized frame or Roval wheels.

How can we fix all these bottom bracket fitting problems?

I see a few solutions. The most obvious one is to always buy a complete bicycle from a brand. For the lifespan of the bike you will be replacing parts from the same manufacturers as the one that came in the catalogue. This is a good solution, unless you did not like a certain part that came on the standard build. What if you love your new cross country racing rig, but the brakes came from a brand that is notorious for quality issues? It also takes all the fun out of customizing your bike or completely building it part for part from the ground up.

poster jpg

Downlad the kogel bottom bracket chart here, to make your life a bit easier.

As for bottom brackets, at Kogel Bearings we see a future in smaller boutique brands that have the ability to do small production runs and be quick to act when new fit issues arise. We pride ourselves in fitting any crank and any frame without adapters. Similar solutions are available from other brands for chain rings and setting up mountain bikes with a non-proprietary 1X drive train.

As long as the bicycle industry runs on creative people and small-time entrepreneurs, you will always be able to find a solution for your problems. It might take a bit of digging, though.

Kogel bearings Q&A: Sem Gallegos

This week, our  blog  will feature an interview with Sem Gallegos. Sem has been a big promoter of Kogel Bearings ever since I first set foot in his work shop at Crazy Cat Cyclery in El Paso, TX.

Since then Sem has been helping us with product development and recently joined as a  team member to support our growing brand.

  • Tell us about yourself, where are you from?

I was born and raised in El Paso, TX, and still happy to call this little big city my home. Although I ventured out of town for college and other personal and business ventures, I could not wait to come back home and explore our beautiful mountains, on and off the bike.  Wearing shorts and a t-shirt in December is one of my favorite pastimes (Sorry, rest of the country haha). But I also enjoy skiing and snowshoeing, so I am glad I am only a couple of hours away from the alpine forest that I call my second home: Ruidoso, NM.

Besides the passion I have for cycling, I enjoy listening to music, the occasional trail run to keep the ankles nice and strong and my personal delicacy of various cheeses…yes I love cheese.

sem gallegos kogel bearings 1

How did you get into cycling and racing?

If it weren’t for my older siblings whom discovered the sport, I probably wouldn’t have crossed paths with cycling. I started as a weekend warrior, where I thought riding 4 miles was epic. Then quickly became more interested in the racing and training aspect. Now I can say that I have participated in every discipline of cycling: from the full-face helmet and 40lb bicycle of downhill racing to the skinny tires and paperweight bike of road racing. I did my time as a young rebel on the BMX bike, only to soon find myself in a tight skin suit in 20-degree weather with mud flinging off my cyclocross bike. Soon I realized that my passion in cycling was and will always be in mountain biking. Whether it is a short lung busting cross-country race or a long mind boggling endurance test on sweet sexy singletrack that makes me smile. Every time I feel like a grade school kid when discovering the freedom and fun to be had on two wheels.

 Can you share some crazy moments from your races?

Crazy moments? Hmmmm…. I believe riding a bicycle on trails that are obviously not meant to be ridden on a bike is crazy enough.

 sem gallegos kogel bearings

Bend, Oregon, host to 2011 Marathon Nationals was the setting for a good race experience, with a major fail! Ten minutes into this long day in the saddle I found myself in a spot of trouble, I was redlined!  The primary reason for this oxygen depletion to my brain was Peter Stetina. Fresh off the Giro d’Italia, he appeared to be making my destruction his first task. Ka-Boom! Only 20 minutes into this 4-hour affair, I had blown up and recovery had become my new goal…. Hours later I crossed the finish line still waiting for that to happen. Ouch!

How did you get started as a bike mechanic?

I was simply thrown to the wolves. At the ripe age of 17, I began my journey as a bicycle mechanic. I did not know what to expect and didn’t know what was expected of me. I was always intrigued with my father and his passion for breaking and fixing vehicles. Although a car mechanic and bicycle mechanic are completely different, working with my hands and solving problems is something that quickly became second nature to me.  Since then I have moved up the many ranks of a bicycle technician (giggles). I am still pleased to be getting my hands dirty and help customers tune their ride.

 Which are the best bike hacks or McGyver projects you worked on?

I work in an industry were bike hacks are almost mandatory. Guess I don’t think of it as out of the ordinary when you have to conduct a b-hack as the last resort.

Never question a mechanic and his favorite tools.
Never question a mechanic and his favorite tools.

 Some bike hacks are there, just to get home or make things work. Like using a power bar wrapper to fix a torn tire, or using duct tape and a stick to support a broken frame after a crash. Others, I am proud to have helped accommodate the rider to his ride. The ultimate hack for me was setting up all the control levers of a Di2 setup on the left side using a correct brake/shift lever and climbing shifter on the same side for a passionate amputee. Along with that, we recreated the brake line with a splitter to allow the use of one lever to control both brakes, of course with independent modulation for each brake.

 How did you get involved with Kogel Bearings?

Ard, the founder of Kogel Bearings, came through the shop door and asked if I wanted to aid my customers in improving their experience. And I said hell yes! I have always believed in high quality upgrades to improve the customer experience and why not put confidence in them where it is necessary? With all the new and different bottom bracket standards in the industry and its run of bad luck, I was running out of options as to solving those problems. But here was my answer. Good-bye creaking frame! And the quality of the bearing itself compliments the cups to the fullest. It’s a ceramic revolution and I knew I wanted to be involved further with the development of this product.

 How are you involved in Kogel’s product development process?

I am lucky to still be a full time service manager at a shop. This provides me the opportunity to test the cups and bearings on all of the industries bottom brackets. At Crazy Cat we are a dealer of all major brands on the market. On a daily basis I make sure that the tolerances are exact and the quality of the bearing is up to our standards. I make sure that the installation procedure is easy enough for the consumer to install, although I always recommend a certified technician to install them with the proper tools. I am basically in charge of finishing the samples in such a way that it causes the least amount of headaches to the user.

 

Sem at work putting  his Cross bearings through a mud test.
Sem at work putting his Cross bearings through a mud test.Which other tasks to you have at Kogel Bearings?

 

Which  other tasks do you  have at Kogel Bearings?

Besides helping with product testing, I handle sales in Arizona, New Mexico and South Texas. I am also pleased to be available for any customer service question you might have. This includes technical questions and/or product availability. Along with this, you may be at the receiving end of my super fast shipping and handling.

What are your future plans, any dreams, professionally or in your personal life?

My goal and dream when I first began my career in cycling was to reach the professional level in mountain bike racing, and I was fortunate enough through lots of hard work and dedication to attain that goal. Although I am currently semi-retired in racing, my current focus will be to continue racing occasionally with an emphasis on being an ambassador to the brands I represent. There is always a chance that I might reinstate myself to the life of competitive racing and set new goals for myself.  I will continue as service manger for Crazy Cat Cyclery, vice president of the Borderland Mountain Bike Association, and working for Kogel Bearings. 

Road or mountain, Sem will  is happy to put people in the hurt box.
Road or mountain, Sem is happy to put people in the hurt box.

With the integration of these three, busy but very exciting times are to be had. I will continue to spread the word and craving for this amusing lifestyle, one tune up, bearing upgrade and group ride at a time!

 As far as my personal life is concerned, I will continue to shred snow and single track lines in winter and repel off sketchy lines in the summer. And who knows, I might just move closer to the equator in the future.

 Coffee or beer?

Not a fair question…but I choose coffbeer.

Any funny jokes about balls?

What is the difference between a snow man and a snow woman?

Snowballs….  Hahahaha, that’s pretty fun, right??

 

Sem is mostly working behind the scenes, but he will be traveling to stores in the Southwest, Texas and he  will visit events with us. He also might pick up the phone when you try to reach Kogel Bearings. Don’t be a stranger! Hit him with a technical challenge, he gets a kick out of that.

We’re excited to have you as part of our Ball Bearing Adventures Sem, Welcome to the team!

Ard

 

Cyclocross Nationals in Austin, TX. What the heck just happened???

I am a firm believer of everyone being the king or queen of their own Facebook page. I choose to keep my private and the Kogel business pages on social media upbeat, positive and supportive at all times. But boy, do I have a hard time today. I came home from the Cyclocross National Championships in Austin, TX, ten hours earlier than planned. I am left questioning how this fantastic event spun out of control in a matter of minutes.

Hashtag CXNATS was going to be a teambuilding trip for Kogel Bearings. Mind you, we are a team of two in the US, so we could have called it ‘two dudes in a minivan’ as well. During the 9 hour drive across Texas we were looking at pictures of Tim Allen ripping his Kogel bearings to a podium finish in the single speed category. Sem and I knew this was going to be a good ‘business trip’, on par with the Louisville, KY worlds of 2013.

kogel bearings tim allen single speed cxnats

Friday morning we hit the course and it was full of life: riders training, expo booths open, people  having a good time. Not bad for 8am. The rest of the Friday  was spent visiting shops and going to the movie premiere of For the Love of Mud, a ninety minute documentary about  the history and current state of Cyclocross. Spirits were high!

On Saturday we watched the girls’ collegiate race. The course had gone from ‘people trying to ride it’, to ‘people trying to walk it’ overnight and these youngsters were attacking it like true soldiers. Another spectator came up and mentioned that we were almost more fun to watch than the girls racing, enough said.

kogel bearings coryn rivera cxnats

Sunday morning started with watching the Belgian Championship. This race was hit with four days of consistent rain before the event. The puddles were well past ankle deep and we saw images of bulldozers scraping the mud off the course because the show needs to go on. Sem and I were racing to layer up our clothes and head to the park until we saw a tweet about the event being delayed, then cancelled, then being rescheduled due to rain, mud and erosion of the ground. What the heck?? CX Nationals cancelled due to that what makes it so much fun??

The video on this page shows the Belgian CX course being prepared with bulldozers scraping mud off the course.

I am trying to wrap my head around why this event went belly up so fast. Clearly the mud in Belgium did not stop anyone from riding, the Louisville worlds course was about to be flooded in 2013, but somehow the city worked it out to create one of the most memorable events in my personal cycling history. The city of Louisville clearly had a different approach to cycling as does the city of Austin. Many feel that Austin was happy to take the economic impact of thousands of cyclists coming to town and spending their money, but not so happy to take the physical impact of bike racing in a public park. People are feeling robbed. According to Twitter, it took a phone call from Austin’s most famous cyclist to reschedule the event instead of canceling it all together.

My heart goes out to the racers and their fans, who spent hours training and thousands of dollars to get to this event, only to not race their biggest race of the year. Sure the event is rescheduled, but even riders at the elite level of this sport have day jobs to support themselves. Katie Compton had to spend a bunch of money to rearrange flights, rental cars and hotels, which is bad. But my toes curl when I read that Jess Cutler, one of the most badass women in US pro cycling, needs to miss the delayed  event because her day job is calling. Marian University is returning home without letting their U23 and elite riders compete, since the kids have classes and exams to go to. I really wonder if the decision makers at Parks and Recreation understand the impact of their actions. Why can a small town in Belgium and Louisville, KY make  the best out of a challenging situation and  Austin fails on all levels. Those events will be talked about for years. In a good way.

To add insult to injury, news  is starting to come in about bikes being stolen from teams overnight. Mosaic lost one, the Pony Shop team had to hand over another five to Austin’s criminals. I sincerely hope that Austin Police will work as hard to catch the thieves as they did to keep riders off the course on Sunday.

What remains is a sour after taste and the cycling community picking up the pieces of this explosion. For me, I will be ringing my cow bell in front of the live feed to support the riders that did manage to stay overnight and race the race they worked so hard for. We took a few steps back during amateur hour, let’s hope that everybody involved is taking a good look at their work and tries to cover all the potholes on our way to success. We have another chance to show the world that US cycling is not to be messed with. Let’s make the 2015 Richmond Road Racing Worlds an event that is on everybody’s mind for the years to come!

Ard

What makes a good bottom bracket a great bottom bracket? Part 2

In part 1 of this blog post, we looked at different bottom bracket types and at adapters. Part two will go a bit more in depth about the best location for bearings and installation techniques.

Bearing stance and bottom bracket stiffness

Imagine the bottom bracket area of your bike to be very similar to the transmission in a car. You can have the strongest engine and the widest tires with the most grip. As long as the parts connecting them are not as stiff as they should be, all that power is not going to result in maximum acceleration.

Bottom bracket stiffness is super important. Besides avoiding plastic and unnecessary parts, you want to look at a bottom bracket with a wide bearing stance. The closer the bearings are to the crank arms, the wider the base for your spindle to rest on. This translates in a stiff set up and speaking from our experience, a lot less wear on the bearings.

bottom bracket adapters
A clear demonstration of a narrow bottom bracket shell mated with a long crank spindle. All the adapter space is wasted real estate. Moving the bearings as far out as possible will increase stiffness and bearing life.

Installation and removal

This is something to consider for any press fit type bottom bracket. Threaded bottom brackets are installed with the appropriate tool and removed with the same.

Installing and removing threaded cups is done with the same tool.

Switch to anything pressed and information is all over the place: instructions range from using Loctite to epoxy to grease or nothing at all. In our opinion, you should think about removing a bottom bracket before installing it: anything glued into the frame is going to leave a residue, which needs to be removed before installing something new. In the case of epoxy, this could mean you spend the next twenty minutes toying with a box cutter or Dremel tool. Kogel Bearings prefers grease for installation. It helps the bottom bracket slide into place, helps to silence potential creaking points and can be cleaned with a rag after removal.

install kogel bearings with grease.
any loctite or epoxy used in a bottom bracket is going to dry out and needs to be removed before the next installation. This can be a time consuming task.

While you are thinking about removing a bottom bracket, have a look on the inside of the cups. Press fit bottom brackets are often removed with a hammer and some sort of punch. Now look on the inside of your cup, is there something your tool can grip on and take a beating if the cups are tight in the frame?

Conclusion

In short, there are many things to consider for a quality bottom bracket:

  • Type: threaded, press fit or threaded press fit, whichever fits best with your frame
  • Materials and small parts: look for a high quality build with as few parts as possible
  • Bearing stance and  stiffness: look for bearings placed as far apart as possible
  • Ease of installation and removal: how easy is it to get the bottom bracket in the frame and how easy is it to remove and prep the frame  for the next bottom bracket

Notice how we did not speak about weight? If you follow all these steps (alu cups, wide stance, quality build), you  will no doubt end up with a bottom bracket that  is a handful of grams heavier than a plastic, narrow  stance  bottom bracket with adapters. In our eyes, there are only a few grams to be saved on a bottom bracket and if choosing those extra grams is going to help you transfer more of your watts to the road, they are well spent.

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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 bottom bracket a great bottom bracket? Part 1

At Kogel Bearings we spend a lot of time looking at one particular part of the bicycle: the bottom bracket. We tend to nerd out over the smallest possible details. With my personal history in product development for fashion companies, the discussions about bearing types and insert depth are not unsimilar to the discussions I used to have about raising a collar height by two millimeters. As with many things in life, the devil is in the details. In this blog post we will try to give you the tools to determine what makes a good bottom bracket and what makes the best bottom bracket for your bike.

Threaded, press fit or threaded press fit?

When it comes to bottom brackets, traditionally there have been two types: those that thread into the frame and those that press into the frame. Your frame will determine which one you will need. A few years ago, a third option was introduced. What we like to call the ‘threaded press fit’ bottom bracket. Basically this is a press fit bottom bracket where the two shells thread together in the center.

Threaded or Pressfit is determined by your frame. Threaded cups are stable and relatively problem free. The downside of this is that it is only possible in metal frames or carbon frames with a metal bottom bracket shell.

A traditional threaded bottom bracket by Shimano.

With frame makers looking to build the lightest possible frames, press fit bottom brackets are most popular on higher-end bicycles. The frame has a hollow sleeve which is made with high precision to accept bottom bracket cups. The bottom bracket is pressed in with specific tools. ‘Precision’ is the key word in that sentence. Cups and frame need to match together within 1/20th of a millimeter. Too loose and the cups will fall out of the frame, too tight and the bearings will seize up or the frame could even crack during installation.

A Kogel Bearings PF30 bottom bracket

 

The idea behind the threaded press fit is to securely lock the two press fit cups together to avoid creaking issues and increase stability. At Kogel Bearings we believe that this type of set up puts stresses on the frame in a direction that it was not designed for. Most brands use rubber O-rings in their construction to compensate for tolerances in the BB shell. Some require a lot of torque on the installation tool to fix the bottom bracket in the shell.

A threaded press fit bottom bracket by Hope. Courtesy of Bikerumor.com

 

What is the best solution here? It depends on your bike. We believe in press fit solutions for press fit problems. All Kogel bottom brackets are designed to maximize the contact area between the frame and cup to ensure a proper seating of the bottom bracket. If your frame happens to be on the large side of the BB shell tolerance and suffers from constant creaking, a threaded press fit might be able to lock the bearing cups laterally.

A threaded bottom bracket is generally seen as the trouble free solution, but it requires a metal insert in the frame (which in itself is prone to creaking if glued in a carbon frame) and limits the cranks that can be used.

Bottom bracket adapters, materials and small parts

At Kogel Bearings we realize that lots of bottom brackets have issues with creaking, popping and knocking. One way to stop this is starting from quality materials. As a general rule, aluminum is better than plastic, since aluminum can be produced to much tighter tolerances and will be better at retaining it’s shape over hundreds of thousands of crank revolutions.

Stacking spacers and adapters on top of each other, just to make things fit, is not helping the situation. In order to avoid unwanted sounds, we design all bottom brackets with as few parts as possible. One press location on each cup, one contact point per cup for the crank spindle. By reducing the amount of parts, we avoid possible locations to develop play or gather dirt.

stashing a pile of spacers, washers and adapters on top of eachother, just to make things fit, is never the best solution.

 

In Part 2 of this blog we will address bearing stance, installation and try to come to a conclusion. Stay tuned to our ball bearing adventures.

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.

Kogel Bearings – an interview with Ard Kessels

This weeks blog is an interview with Kogel Bearings founder Ard Kessels by Chandler Snyder for his blog Wookie Approved. It has also been featured on The Embrocation Cycling Journal.

Chandler is currently putting our bottom brackets through a hard endurance test in Chicago’s Chicross Cup. Three elite riders are pushing Kogel bottom brackets to the limit to  see how  they hold up to the Illinois mud, snow and sleet. Keep an eye on Wookie Approved to read the results after CX nationals in January.

Originally posted on Wookie Approved Nov 28, 2014:

The cyclocross season is long and arduous. You need your equipment to last the test of time and to be able to perform at its optimal capacity, all while being pushed to the limits every weekend.

Kogel Bearings 2 seal types
Kogel Bearings offers two different bearing types. The blue ones are for road racing, the green ones are approved for cyclocross, mountain biking and commuting.

A couple months ago I started a season long endurance test of 3 Kogel Bearings Bottom Brackets. So far the expectations have been met wonderfully. The BB’s are performing like the day they were installed, even after being put thru almost every element the cyclocross gods can throw at them, and the Illinois State Champs are still ahead, not to mention CX Nationals in Austin Texas in January.

Its time now to get to know the man behind Kogel. Ard Kessels is a busy busy guy. Traveling all over the world promoting his passion for cycling and his passion for a better bottom bracket, as well as placing in super crazy hard MTB races in Mexico, Ard truly lives the cycling dream.

“Who” is Ard Kessels?

I was born in the Netherlands, my parents both came from a very rural area but moved to the city before I was born. As a result of that, I spent most of my youth going back and forth between city and farm.

image
Ard Kessels after finishing 19th of 1500 riders in Mexico’s biggest mountain bike race, the 2014 Chupacabras 100km

As a son of Dutch parents, cycling has been a big part of my life since the day I could walk. I would commute to school and often turn down my parents’ invitation to go for a casual ride with the family, only to race off to the local BMX track two minutes later. I guess my love for adrenaline was always there.

Whats your background, and relationship, with cycling? How’d you get involved in the industry?

At age 16 I bought my first mountain bike with money borrowed from my parents, I have been riding and racing mountain bikes on and off ever since. The highlight of my racing career was finishing with the top 10% in the Transalp Challenge, a huge stage race in Europe with 1200 riders. Absolute madness.

In 2010 I left my career as a fashion product developer behind to open a bike shop in Antwerp, Belgium. In Belgium, being a bike mechanic is a protected profession. Everyone who wants to open a bike shop or plans to work as a mechanic needs to be licensed. I spent two years in evening school and taking internships at shops before I was actually allowed to open my own shop. During my years working for several fashion multinationals, I learned a lot about how to run a business, how not to run  a business, international communication and the basics of logistics and  marketing. It was a great learning curve that perfectly translates to the development process for Kogel Bearings.

hSpeciaized Epic bottom bracket hack
A BB hack for Ard’s personal Specialized Epic. All spacers and adjusters were removed from the crank spindle. A threaded sleeve was inserted in the frame with BSA-30 cups. Old school BB30 washers were used to make the spacing perfect for this set up to run without any wave washers or adjusters.

Three years into my shop adventure, my wife was offered a job with the US government. She wanted to be a diplomat ever since high school. I knew I had to choose between shop and family. The decision was made in minutes. I sold the shop to one of my riding buddies and set sail for a new life in the US.

I started my American adventure with importing products from Belgian bike companies which I had done very well with in my shop. The main obstacles I ran into were communication with the companies back home. I guess their expectations of what one person can achieve in all 50 states was a bit optimistic. I learned that doing business in the US is similar but very different in the details to doing business in Belgium.

At the beginning of 2014 I decided that it was better to take matters in my own hands and Kogel Bearings was born.

Why bearings? Why not another aspect of the bike?

I could have tackled anything, but ball bearings seem to be a forgotten part of the bicycle. There are a few big players on the market, but nobody really seems to be bothered to make the best possible product. Seeing $10K bikes outfitted with $1 bearings has always confused me.

Kogel Bearings threaded bottom bracket on a specialized Epic
The end result: probably the only threaded bottom bracket on a specialized Epic in the world. All spacers have been moved to the drive side for a perfect chain line and clean look.

Besides the bearings themselves, bottom brackets are causing issues throughout the industry. Like with subpar quality bearings, it seems to be accepted that bottom brackets need constant attention. I wanted to change that.

What was the inspiration behind Kogel?

The name is taken from the Dutch word for the balls in a ball bearing, it is also a synonym for bullet. I liked how it represents speed. What I also like, is that the word looks totally foreign but can be pronounced in English.

What’s the major flaw with today’s BB systems?

In my opinion: lack of communication in the industry and quality control.

For the lack of communication, the best example is that we cannot even decide what to call that new middle wheel size on mountain bikes. I need to be careful what I say, though. The fact that there are a gazillion bottom bracket standards is keeping Kogel Bearings in business. Forget I ever mentioned it. I look forward to a new bottom bracket standard coming out soon (insert giggle).

As for quality control: the dimensions of bottom bracket standards are clearly defined, including the tolerances on each of them. When I use my caliper in shops to measure bottom bracket shells, the results are all over the place. On a PF30 bottom bracket one frame might be 0.2mm large, the next is 0.2mm under. With a 0.4mm variation it is close to impossible to make a bottom bracket cup that fits on any frame. At Kogel Bearings we try to compensate for this tolerance by following a simple 4 step design philosophy: use quality materials, move the bearings as close to the crank arms as possible, reduce the amount of parts, make sure it looks good. There are a few more technical tricks in our products that I’d rather keep to myself for now.

silly small bearings for disc hubs
An example of a bearing size that is too small for the application. This particular one is used on a mountain bike disc front hub

Common sense is another thing that sometimes lacks in our industry. If all the power of a rider goes through the cranks and is supported by the bottom bracket, why is this bottom bracket only 62mm wide on some frames? Would it not make sense to make it wider, more stable and stiffer? In that way more power can be transferred to the rear wheel. The same thing I see in wheel bearings. Mountain bike disc hubs deal with enormous forces in all kinds of directions. Why are the bearings so small that they have to use pinhead sized balls in some wheels?

What makes Kogel so much better than other options?

At Kogel Bearings we back up our products with exceptional service. Having owned a premium level bike shop, I understand that the most important thing is to keep our customers on the road. Any frown can be turned into a smile if you handle customer’s issues instantly. For this reason I have installed our ‘very few questions asked’ warranty policy. I want retailers to be confident when they promise their customers that their expensive bottom bracket is good for at least two years of use.

For the same reason, we do pick up the phone after business hours, return missed calls and reply to emails. It’s a cliché to say we treat our customers the way I would like to be treated, but that’s what we strive for.

We are not the only company making good or great bearings, but that is not the entire buying experience. I want customers to buy a Kogel product and know that they’re buying a good looking product that is dipped in service and technical support.

Do you discount your products online vs in store?

Kogel Bearings makes a premium product that is not seasonal. Bottom brackets do not expire, like frame colors do. I see no reason why anyone would discount our products.

We handle our own distribution and shipping. This makes it easy to track shops that do not follow our pricing strategy, speak to them directly and put them back on track.

Where’s Kogel heading?  Anything exciting on the horizon?

With my wife’s next posting being outside the US, we are working to decentralize the business. She will be working and living overseas and I will spend my time commuting between the US and our new home for two years. In the end, it is not so much different from what I do at the moment: splitting my time between working from home and traveling around the country to visit customers.

With all the modern technology available nowadays, it is very easy to run the administrative side in the cloud. I can make my telephone ring anywhere on the planet. With that in mind, I can hire people that serve a double function between brand ambassador and any other tasks. Our guy in Texas can handle logistics and sales in his area, while our New York ambassador can visit local shops and work on marketing.

This set up allows us to find the best people anywhere and not require them to relocate for the job. Or allow them to relocate anywhere if they so choose.

UnitedHealthcare pro cycling team custom bottom bracket
Being a sponsor of the UnitedHealthcare Pro Cycling Team, it seemed appropriate to make custom bottom brackets. This is Kogel’s first ever colored bottom bracket and exclusive to the team riders.

On a brand awareness level, we have signed some amazing sponsorship deals this year:Helen Wyman is doing a very good job promoting our bottom brackets in cyclocross. The United HealthCare team will be racing with our bottom brackets too. Sometimes I wake up in the morning and wonder how we pulled that one off as an unknown company in its first year of business. It seems unreal how fast things have gone since we started this.

Where do you think the industry is headed?

That’s a hard one. There are so many things going on in the bike industry. Many brick and mortar stores are looking for ways to balance between their traditional business model and online presence. The big brands are killing it: I have never in my life had the urge to buy a Trek, but caught myself going to their website the other day, looking at their new cross and road bikes. Specialized knocked the XC full suspension category out of the park this year with a bike that has built in storage and room for two water bottles. On the other hand, small custom builders are selling five digit bikes like hot cakes. I see gravel riding become a lot bigger, it offers the go-anywhere-freedom of a mountain bike with the cover-lots-of-ground-easily aspect of a road bike.

I am not sure where the industry is heading, but I sure know it is going to be exciting. In my 25 years as a bike nerd, I have never had a dull moment. I would love to discuss this more over a few beers.

How can someone interested in trying Kogel Bearings get more information?

We are on all the big social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Our website has a lot of product information.

We just started a blog on our website called Ball Bearing Adventures, which will be very interactive. The blog will cover technical aspects of our products, but will be mixed with cool things that I find on my travels: the best coffee shops and group rides, product news, amazing hacks found at shops and interview with industry people. A large portion will be dedicated to answering questions from our customers. Kogel Bearings is a very open company and we do not shy away from many subjects. As long as they are relevant for our business we will answer them.

We always appreciate calls from our customers, because that’s how we get to know them. Please reach out to us, I promise we will be nice.

Where can you buy Kogel Bearings currently?

We have a network of about 100 dealers in the country. I understand that is just scratching the surface of where we need to be, but not bad considering we have only started this at the beginning of this year.

For consumers we have a shop section on our website with a very easy product selection tool. As long as you know  the bottom bracket standard of your frame and what crank you are running, you can pick the one product you need in a couple of clicks.

image
Ard has a soft spot for the uber luxurious of the bicycle world. He is a clear example of ‘the bikes on the rack cost more than the car’. In fact, Ard drives a minivan so this custom painted Parlee Z-Zero can travel inside.

Our business model is set up really well to serve the retailers. We offer good margins, no order minimum and a $5 flat fee for shipping. If riders want to buy a product and have it installed at their local shop, we are very happy to send it to the shop directly so they can make their margins on it.

Coffee or Beer?

Now that is not a fair question. It’s like asking a mother to pick her favorite child.

Thinking of it, I could not name ten different types of coffee, but I have no problem giving you a top three in every beer category. I guess that is your answer!

There you have it, straight from “The Man’s” mouth. The 3rd, and Final, part of the season long test will be out after Cyclocross Nationals in January. Ill weigh in with my thoughts and experience as a mechanic taking care of the bikes, and you’ll get to hear opinions from the riders themselves. Stay tuned for that article as it should be super fun to read.

Words by “The Wookie”: Photos by Kogel Bearings