Category Archives: industry

Velodome, Belgium. Arguably the best looking bike shop I have seen

During a recent trip to Belgium, I had a chance to sit down with Philippe van Eekhout of Velodome in Antwerp.

You know you're doing things right when The Cannibal shows up shopping for bikes.
You know you’re doing things right when The Cannibal shows up shopping for bikes.

See the full Velodome interview here.

We discussed how he and his partners built a concept store and restaurant in the former stables of the De Koninck brewery, how they turned a 200 year old building into a modern bike shop.

Velodome was the exclusive Rapha dealer for the entire Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg. We look at the new brands they found and promote since Rapha decided to end their presence in retail stores.

Another interesting subject was the enormous rise of e-bikes in Europe, how they took over the majority of bike sales in a shop that was mostly aimed at road and mountain bikes. We look at how the EU supports people with tax benefits to get them out of their cars and onto e-bikes, but at the same time is struggling with regulating these hyper fast bikes on public roads.

Modern bikes on a centuries old cobblestone shop floor. Velodome is a travel destination.
Modern bikes on a centuries old cobblestone shop floor. Velodome is a travel destination.

Thanks to all partners: Philippe, Stijn and Maarten for their time in producing this video and for bringing better bikes to the people. See the interview on the Kogel Bearings Youtube channel


Best finds on the Interbike floor, day 1

Interbike brings a lot of excitement for many, which was shockingly  obvious looking at the amount of people hanging out  at Mandalay bay an hour before opening.  It’s like waking up on Christmas morning, but for bike geeks.

Walking the isles, meeting like minded people and looking at all the bling makes me feel like a kid at the Oakley  store. Only 5 big halls worth of that. So without further ado, here are some of the gems we  found in random order.

Abbey bike tools bearing press.

It’s no secret that I’m not a big fan of the available bearing press tools on the market. It was only a matter of time before Abbey Bike Tools stepped up and redid it from the ground up. An integrated bearing to avoid rotational forces while pressing, a removable, magnetic lock nut (patent pending). I like what I see. A lot!

This press was in prototype stage, but I’m sure Jason Quade will redefine this tool the way he did with his previous releases. I’m hoping for a wide range of bearing drifts to fit all wheels, bottom brackets and head sets.

Two versions will be available, a shop version and a light weight edition for traveling race mechanics.
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Alto Velo hubs

Alto Velo is a new company that redesigned their hubs to have a solid axle from side to side for maximum stiffness. They added high flanges on the drive side to balance out the spoke tension. This in the end leads to a low friction, high stiffness wheel build. It is the smarter-not-harder approach that really spoke to me.

They do all their machining in Florida in order to control the super tight tolerances that make these hubs great.

Bobby Sweeting is the CEO of this new start-up. Keep an eye on him and his team. Their products might be showing up in the media and your local bike shop soon.

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smarter, not harder. That is the impression these hubs left on me.

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Zoca one piece speedsuit

Zoca is a custom clothing company out of San Diego. The cool thing is that their production is all done in house. USA manufacturing with Italian fabrics. The best of both worlds!

The most impressive piece in their booth was this speed suit. I have no info about wind tunnel numbers, but it was super impressive because the entire suit is cut out of one piece of continuous fabric. There are seams all over that just  seem to start and end in the middle of panels.

According to sales and marketing director Jason Schutz, this piece has been in development for over a year. He referred to it as ‘a big origami project’.

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Boo Bicycles

Boo  have been around for a while, but seeing the bikes in person made me realize how much eye for detail is in these frames. The carbon and bamboo sections flow so well into eachother, it is just amazing. Nice detail is how they used two bottom cups in the head set to keep a straight 1,5 head tube and space everything out correctly.

That's right, two bottom headset cups. Note how the text is upside down on the top cup.
That’s right, two bottom headset cups. Note how the text is upside down on the top cup.

That’s it. We’re sorry for not updating this on the day we shot all the footage, but something got in the way. CROSSISHERE!!! Check in tomorrow for more shiny bits.

Danny Summerhill debuted for Maxxis-Shimano on Kogel Bearings. Our first time involved as a jersey sponsor. Keep an eye out for this team tearing up the US CX scene in the months to come.
Danny Summerhill debuted for Maxxis-Shimano on Kogel Bearings. Our first time involved as a jersey sponsor.
Keep an eye out for this team tearing up the US CX scene in the months to come.

The best products we found at the Interbike Outdoor Demo

We visited the outdoor demo at Interbike with the intention of shooting a lot of video and interviews, but unfortunately a strong wind disagreed with our plans.  Instead we collected some photos from the coolest new products we found. In no particular order, here’s lowdown:

2015-09-14 16.01.00
It sure got windy, destroying every opportunity to shoot quality video. Stay tuned for footage to come from the indoor days at Interbike.

Alchemy Bicycles Oros paint job
Alchemy Bicycles won the best carbon lay-up at the most recent edition of the North American Handmade Bicycle Show. The hardtail frame on display at outdoor demo was painted in a mix of matt and shiny black. The shiny parts were sometimes transparent, exposing the raw carbon and sometimes full of sparkles. I spent a good couple of minutes moving around this frame.

alchemy bicycles oros
raw carbon seen from one side
alchemy bicycles oros
a subtle black glitter when looking from another vantage point.
kogel bearings Alchemy Oros
The frame has an amazing looking one piece rear triangle and fancy looking derailleur hanger.

M1 Spitzing 75km/h mountain bike

Walking from the parking lot to the entrance of Outdoor Demo, e-bikes were flying by me left, right and center. Seriously, they’re everywhere. This brute caught my eye, it looks like it fell straight out of a Batman movie.

The friendly German men in the booth told me it was an 880 watt motor that can run 150km on a single charge on a flat road and hits 75 kilometers an hour (In miles per hour that means Scary Fast).

Unfortunately the batteries did not make it on the flight so I could not take it out for a burn-out session. The batteries were supposed to be delivered later that day, so I might go back for some action.

The website of M1 seems to be down, but here’s their Facebook.

Have a look at the end of this video, it sure looks like a lot of fun.

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Tufmed recovery products for athletes

The Tufmed booth had so many people standing around it, it made me turn around and have a look at what they had to offer.

Comes out it is a relatively new company that makes recovery creams for people that deal with muscle soreness and bruises from training. As a person that, according to my wife, grabs every opportunity  to bash  my head in, this seems like a product I have been waiting for. It’s all odorless and natural, no chemical ingredients, so it definitely won’t hurt to give Tufmed a try.

kogel bearings tufmed recovery products
Tufmed’s promise to athletes is to heal bruises, soreness and injuries quicker to get you back to training as soon as possible. Sweeeeeet!

2015-09-14 15.44.51

Enve Composites carbon hubs

These hubs have been featured on several media, but actually holding them made me realize how crazy light they are.  Weighing in at 73g for the front and 160g for the rear, according to the scale it is just unreal. The popular combination of matt and shiny carbon makes them look extra fast, the wavy flanges look unlike any hub on the market. They run  on DTSwiss internals and  Ceramicspeed bearings for that little bit extra speed.

Availability should be in a few months. Just take my money, OK? All 1350 dollars of them. Wheel sets built with these hubs are going to take $3.5K out of your wallet, which seems like a better deal.

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Stay tuned for more amazing finds in the next few days!


Ball bearing warranties, or the lack thereof.

People ask us a lot of questions about Kogel’s ‘very few questions asked’ warranty. I thought this is a good moment to explain in detail why we offer this service and how we handle it. With premium bike parts having big dollar price tags nowadays, nothing is more frustrating to me than buying parts and having them blow out before I feel I got my money’s worth out of it.

My most vivid memory is a set of mountain bike tires that I saw on Christoph Sauser’s mountain bike during a world cup event in Belgium. His team even brought a tire guy. In other words, someone who only handled tire installation and pressures for the team. How pro is that? I chatted a bit with this pneuchanic and walked away from the conversation, determined to find these magical tires and getting myself up to Sauser speed.

Of course I was not the only bike nerd watching the race, so when I went out to buy the new black gold addition to my bike, it was sold out everywhere. After finding them in an obscure web shop and paying well over msrp, I ripped the sidewalls on both tires during the second and third ride. I don’t remember ever buying tires from the same brand again.

Stuff happens, but twice to a new set of tires does not encourage me to buy from the same brand again.

Another story involves myself using a long list of profanities in a forest in the Ardennes, 11km in one of my main races for the year. In my hand was my brand new, ultra light saddle. Or at least the top part of it. The rails were still firmly attached to my seat post. (I would like to state here, that I was well within the weight limit for said saddle. At least at time).

Point of this story is that I do not mind at all to spend my life savings on shiny bike parts, but I absolutely hate it when they do not live up to reasonable expectations. There was absolutely no form of warranty on the tires I shredded within a few hours and it took a long battle with the manufacturer to get the saddle replaced.

When I started Kogel, I wanted it to be the company that I would love to be a customer of. This means high quality products that actually improve performance for cyclists, but as well a company that people like to connect with. This is why we pick up the phone when you call, or we return your call if we missed it. On a product level that means we want you to be happy with your ball bearing purchase. If that means we have to replace a product every now and then when your mechanic was a bit  ham fisted, or occasionally if a good customer was not aware that cleaning a bike with a pressure washer is a no go, so be it.

I always felt that as long as we make a top quality product, we are going to have a low number of returns and that rule holds up until today. We have calculated a small margin for error in our pricing, because we know our products are not perfect. How can we expect everything to work flawless if you imagine the forces we send down from our quads to the tiny contact surface between our races and ceramic balls. It is an engineer’s nightmare if you think about it. That small buffer allows us to turns frowns upside down when we get warranty claims. If we do our job so well that there are no claims, we can add it to our bottom line at the end of the year. How good is that?

With that said, at Kogel Bearings we believe in the honor system. Our golden rule is: if you claim your fifth warranty and the neighbor shop has not claimed any, that’s when we start asking our ‘very few questions’. I hope this mentality works as an inspiration for the rest of the bike industry (I am calling on you, tire, ball bearing and wheel makers!). If we all back up our products with a flexible warranty, it will be a strong motivation to build a better product.

Show me the mechanic that has never heard: “I’m telling you bro, I was just riding along and then this happened. That must be warranty for sure…..”

This image and many  cool ones are  for sale at by the  way.

How to clean your bicycle and protect the bearings

In this feature I will address bicycle maintenance, especially cleaning and how to avoid damaging your bearings while doing this. Riding for decades in Belgium and The Netherlands and now living in the Southwest US desert, I understand that the level of cleaning is not  only depending on the type of riding your bike is exposed to, but also depending on your geographical location. A CX bike in Tucson, AZ probably lives an easier life than a road bike in Oudenaarde, Belgium.

How much cleaning does your bike need?

As I brought up in previous posts, bicycle maintenance is very much about being honest with yourself. Think what your prized possession has been exposed to and choose a matching level TLC. If you are a roadie in Southern California, chances are good that your bike can do with a wipe down every week or two weeks and a drive train cleaning every now and then. If you live in a wet climate and your Sunday rides will happen rain or shine, you will probably need a bucket with some brushes, a large sponge and soapy water to restore the showroom shine. Mountain bikes live a harder life and might need some garden hose treatment after a muddy ride. I know cyclocross mechanics that drive straight from the race course to the car wash to get all the muck off bike and kit.

when racing elite CX in Belgium, bikes are not the only things that are hard to clean. Stef Wyman shows how to deal with the reality of getting that national champ jersey back to it’s original colors.


While we never recommend power washing bicycles, in CX there simply are no options. Since the bikes get several treatments during the race already, the one after the race probably cannot do a lot more damage. The result is simple: drive home from the carwash and take the bike apart in order to remove any stagnant water from the frame, hubs and headset.

Do the minimum, but make sure it is sufficient

Once you have determined the contamination level, it is time to determine the minimum cleaning level you can get away with.  It is no secret that moving parts on bicycles are no fan of water. If you can avoid using it: good. One of my favorite cleaning products for years has been Pedros Bike Lust. It is a liquid that comes in a spray bottle, perfect for taking dust off a bike, and leaves a shiny residue on your parts that actually repels dirt. It’s a weird slippery goop, so keep it off brake surfaces of rims, disks and brake pads. The goal with this minimal cleaning approach is not to cut corners, the goal is to get the bike back to showroom condition with the least amount of work.

Pedros bike lust was my secret weapon in Belgium. I loved how customer’s jaws dropped to the floor when they met their revitalized bike again.


What if you have to use water for bike cleaning?

Again, the minimal cleaning rule applies: a bucket with soapy water is better than the garden hose and the carwash should be avoided when possible. Remember that the deeper you let the water penetrate, the more time you will be spending cleaning and drying the internals of your two wheel wonder.

JOrge Romero of the UnitedHealthcare pro racing team shows that bicycle cleaning requires eye for detail. Small paint brushes are perfect for degreasing a drive train and not getting aggressive products all over the frame.
Jorge Romero of the UnitedHealthcare pro cycling team shows that bicycle cleaning requires eye for detail. Small paint brushes are perfect for degreasing a drive train and not getting aggressive products all over the frame.

How to protect ball bearings during cleaning?

Trying to keep water off your bearings is the first step. Avoid spraying water directly into the headset, bottom bracket and suspension pivots is next. There are some steps you can take if you know your next cross race is going to be sloppy. Pack the outside of your bearings with a water resistant grease. When I was a mechanic in Belgium, I would take the fork out of the every bike during service and literally cover the lower headset bearing in a marine grade grease. It was a given that my customers at one point or another would be riding in heavy rain. The same can be done with bottom bracket and suspension bearings. Simply take off the covers, apply a layer of grease on the outside of the seals and put the covers back where they came from. Typically this adds a bit of friction, but nothing close to the friction caused by rusty races.

The last step is to always think about stagnant water in a bike. Taking out your crank and cleaning the inside of your bottom bracket shell is a good one, but think of the water that can get trapped inside suspension pivot points, inside brake levers and derailleur pivots. This is where compressed air is your friend. If you are the lucky owner of an air compressor, get a gun with a long nozzle and blow every nook and cranny dry. As with pressurized water, I am always afraid that compressed air will actually force water underneath the bearing seals, but I have never been able to prove this. Keep a bit of distance when aiming directly at your rotating parts.

Most cyclists care more about their bikes than many other things in life. There is a good chance you dropped serious cash when you rescued yours from the shop. It deserves the best care you can give it. Remember minimal but sufficient cleaning and prevention when you know things are going to be bad.  Washing your  bikes frequently will help you build up a procedure to do it thoroughly and quick. The  above video of team Tinkoff Saxo shows incredible amounts of muscle  memory and hand-eye coordination. Something that can only be achieved after years of repeating the same exercise over and over.

Will you sponsor me?

Sponsorship is a sensitive subject at Kogel Bearings. We get questions about it almost as much as we get questions about how to install a bottom bracket. And I understand it. Cycling is an expensive sport for most people, although that is relative if your other hobby is racing Aston Martins on the weekend. Add race registrations and travel expenses to your bike purchase and you’re looking at a pretty penny.

I also understand that everybody loves free stuff, as you can witness if you ever visit the Tour de France caravan. People ending up in fist fights over beer coolers with the name of an insurance company printed on it or even better: used water bottles thrown out by pro riders. The big problem for Kogel Bearings is that by giving you our products in exchange for only your race results, it becomes just like the used water bottle: free stuff. The shine wears off within minutes of scoring what looked like a precious gem at one point.

Will Kogel Bearings sponsor our team? We will put your logo on our jersey.

So, you have a team and some are landing podium spots. Awesome! At any time we will be happy to give you a team deal if it does not conflict with the below points or one of our local dealers. Here’s the catch though: The entire team proudly wearing the Kogel Bearings logo on their jerseys but Chris King and Shimano bottom brackets in their bikes makes us look silly. Before you ask that question, have a team meeting and see if every single rider is willing to make a discounted purchase.

Does anyone spot a sponsorship conflict in this picture?

How do you represent our business?

Here’s an obvious one: if you ride around with our logo on your jersey, you all of a sudden become the face of our business. If you race like a douche or tell the slowest person on the training ride to hurry up because you need to be home in time to watch Bar Rescue, this person is probably not going to become a Kogel Bearings fan. Be nice to people, even when you don’t want to. After your worst racing day ever, we still expect you to go to the podium ceremony and applaud the winners.

While you’re at it, make sure your social media makes us want to be you. Athletes posting pictures sunsets and post ride espressos are more likely to get our support than athletes having strong opinions on controversial political topics.

kogel bearings mountain biker cries
So you trained hard for your big race, but someone else wanted it more? You even dropped a chain? If your reaction ends up on youtube like this video, expect the contract negotiation with your sponsor to be up tomorrow at 8am.

See the full video here.

Sponsorship is all about the money

When you approach a business and ask to receive their products for free, always keep in mind the number one goal of any business, which is to show a profit at the end of the year.  By sending you a free bottom bracket or set of wheel bearings, you have just put a $200 negative transaction in our account books. Always keep in mind what you do to replace that money and a bit more. That makes the transaction valuable to your sponsor. This could come in the form of promoting the brand to your friends and fans in such a way that they want to buy, it could be in getting a review written on your personal blog or better yet in a magazine. By doing that, you have just saved the company some advertising dollars or generated a sale for them. Imagine if you would talk to your local bike shop and turn them into a devoted Kogel Bearings dealer. You’re guaranteed a spot on our team for a good while.

Be an ambassador for the brands that support you

So now that you have decided to be nice, sponsor logo correct and understand the business side of your deal, try to have fun with it! This womens team recently came on my radar. At the time of writing, Fearless Femme p/b Haute Wheels Racing still have to start their first race and I already consider myself a fan. A team of badass girls in well-coordinated kits, riding expensive custom frames and with Lexus team cars. On top of that they will kick most people’s rear end on a thirty minute climb or in a sprint finish. What struck me most is that every single post on their Facebook is about having fun and shows that they think outside the box. We would be honored to have them promoting our brand next year. In fact, Amy Cutler is already part of the Kogel family for some time.

Helen Wyman is another racer we have been proud to be involved with. Here she is, exchanging high fives with fans right the first ever world cup race on home soil. She did not finish in the spot she was aiming for, but she was still all smiles in front of these people and the cameras.

But, I asked if you will sponsor ME?

That’s entirely up to you. Although road and mountain bike racing season is in full swing, cross season is coming up. Reach out at any time with a well thought out proposal and Kogel Bearings will be all ears.

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!


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.

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.


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 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.

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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.

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!