Category Archives: industry

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.

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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.

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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