Category Archives: review

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.

www.abbeybiketools.com
2015-09-16 16.51.39

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.

www.altovelo.com

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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’.

2015-09-16 13.50.04 2015-09-16 13.50.26

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.

www.boobicycles.com

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.

www.alchemybicycles.com

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.

www.tufmed.com

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!

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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 bikerumor.com 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.

2015-09-14 16.06.19 2015-09-14 16.06.49

 

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

Ard

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 www.123rf.com by the  way.

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.

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 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.

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.

***

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.

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

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

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

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

Balls

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

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

Ceramic vs Steel ball bearings

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

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

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

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

Ball bearing production

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

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

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