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The best tv shows and documentaries for cyclists

With the days shortening and Kickr season right around the corner, I thought this is a good time to share some of the best cycling documentaries and tv-shows I have seen recently. Nothing helps kill time like staring at the screen when the indoor trainer is testing your mental stamina.

Being a lover of most things on two wheels, I hope I managed to find a good mix of all cycling disciplines. I have posted links to Youtube where I could find them. Others are available on Netflix.

The Armstrong Lie

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhAF8THpV1A

The return to racing and the fall of the Armstrong empire are shown, maybe in more details than we need to know.

Here’s a cycling block buster, but consider it for a second viewing if you have seen it. Where everybody knew the basics of the Armstrong story after the collapse of his empire in 2012 and early 2013, this movie shows how much force he used to silence his opponents. What ‘winning at all costs’ really means. As much as it established my opinion about Armstrong being the best of the cheaters and therefore his achievements are still somehow respectable, it mostly left me with a sour feeling seeing the lengths LA would go to to protect the fame and fortune he built for himself. The most interesting parts might be the interviews with Dr. Ferrari, a man who is known to not speak much in public.

 Clean Spirit (available on Netflix)

After the doping riddled history of cycling, Clean Spirit shows a new generation of cyclists. It follows the Argos Shimano team (currently Team Giant Alpecin) participating in the 2013 Tour de France. It documents the rise of new sprinting super star Marcel Kittel, who beat Cavendish and Greipel multiple times and we see a young Tom Dumoulin and John Degenkolb as parts of Kittel’s sprint train.

The most impressive part for me was the famous takedown of Tom Veleers by Mark Cavendish in full sprint. The aftershock of Cavendish apologizing via Twitter, but not willing to meet Tom face to face is shown in great detail.

Tom Veleers hits the deck hard after Mark Cavendish changes sprint line. Click on the photo for youtube footage.

Roam
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9zA6QW0rUkA

One of the OG freeride mountain bike movies on a larger budget. This movie predates the wide acceptance of action cameras, so the directors got very creative. Cameramen hanging from zip lines, setting up rails in the forest. It’s all amazing. Watch this trailer first to get an idea of the behind the scenes work involved in making one of the best freeride films in history: https://youtu.be/bjuAUTarbdA 

De Ronde

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jPDPyOUnD-Y

Here’s a look into the heart of Flanders. It’s known fact that Belgium has cycling flowing through its veins. The 9 episode series was shown on national television, telling stories about the lives of several families on the day of the 2010 Tour of Flanders. It’s dark humor, mixed with touching stories and amazing cycling footage. The directors had access to place cameras in several team cars and got the Sporza presenters to act in the show. Everything just flows perfectly between the race footage and the fictional story. The first episode is a bit slow and many characters are introduced, but as soon as the race kicks off it’s al gogogo. Subtitles are available on youtube.

The creme de la creme of Belgian actors and a chance to relive what was probably the best head to head competition between Boonen and Cancellara.

Disclaimer: European TV is very liberal. Even though this show was broadcasted on national tv at 8pm, please don’t come knocking on the Kogel Bearings HQ door if you’re offended by images that would have to be shown on HBO in the US :-)

Lookalike Eddy Merckx

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNULGZViKcA

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bma6E0M03pA

Part of a reality show called Superfans, Frans is not a fan of Eddy Merckx, he thinks he IS Eddy Merckx. The two clips kick off with Frans mixing raw egg and Flemish sour beer for breakfast, just like Eddy. Frans shows his Eddy Merckx replica bikes and jerseys and how he rides the indoor trainer like Eddy. The second clip shows Lookalike Eddy gluing a tubular in 30 seconds, racing his orange bike across the cobbles just like… well you get the idea. Unfortunately, no subtitles on these clips, so you will have to sit through the parts of the wife frustratedly saying ‘I married Frans, not Eddy’, but it’s a good watch.

The same Superfans series followed fans of Sven Nys and how they dedicate their lives to chasing their hero to the races and on training loops. I’m sure you can find it with a Google search.

Frans truly believes he is Eddy Merckx. Follow this link for a bonus feature of lookalike Eddy celebrating the Cannibal’s 70th birthday.

Ride the Divide (available on amazon prime for a few bucks)

The longest mountain bike race in the world stretches 2700 miles from Canada to Mexico, following the Rocky Mountains. The race is non-stop, so whoever sleeps is losing time. Brutal! The race footage is good (don’t expect any Nino Schurter speed climbing or artificial rock gardens), but the scenery is the real winner here.

I hope this is enough footage to pull you off Zwift Island or the  Sufferfest videos when its time to cruise through a snow storm.

Ard

 

Installing bottom brackets like a boss

Seeing the inside  of many  shops  in  the  US each month  shows  us that  anybody on the service  floor knows how to press a bottom bracket. We also see many different  techniques and tools used. Some good, some sub-optimal. The most  important instruction we can provide  a mechanic with is:  avoid putting any load  on the inner race of bottom bracket bearings at all times. Key to this are quality  tools that  fit exactly for the purpose.  Installing a bottom bracket with a hammer and wood block, or even without the exact matching shims for your bearing  press is like tightening an allen bolt with a  screwdriver: It might work, but  you  will destroy your tools and parts in the process.

This write up will provide a step by step on how to press a bottom bracket without crushing the bearings. It will also give some valuable tips on how to avoid creaking.

 1 BB30-24 and grease              

Grease is your friend. Use a lot of it! The best stuff we have found is Morgan Blue Aqua Proof Paste.2 aqua proof paste jar

It is (sometimes) available through Kogel Bearings. Use any other marine grade grease if you cannot get your hands on this magical product. Remember: the stickier the better for installations.

 4

Start by cleaning out your bottom bracket shell and applying a thick layer of grease to the contact area. Again, do not skimp on this. More is better. It will prevent the grease from washing out easily if you ride in the rain.

5 kogel bearings bb30-24 with  grease

Repeat the same for the bearing cups. Thick layer of grease. We will wipe off the excess later.

6 kogel bearing drift

Note how this drift fits exactly in the bearing opening and is all flat from there, it only touches the bearing cup. The number one goal when pressing a bottom bracket is to avoid putting pressure on the inner race. That would crush the balls into the races and leave them pitted a.k.a. ready to meet Mr. Trashcan.

7 kogel bearings frame guide BB30

8 kogel bearings bearing drift and frame guide at work

Here is a fancy new tool we developed. The Frame Guide on the right side of this photo centers the bearing press in the frame, while we press the cups one at a time.

9

10

This is the most critical step of pressing the cup. Tighten the press until the cup touches the frame, do not give an extra twist on the press handles for ‘extra snug’. You just destroyed your bearing races.

Note how the grease squirts out from underneath the flange of the cup: the top picture shows the grease sitting inside the width of the cup. As soon as the cup gets close to the frame, it squirts out. You’re done! Back off!

11 kogel bearings bb30 inside frame

Install the second cup by hand, just slide it into place. This is a good moment to check on the inside of the bottom bracket shell to see if everything lines up well. No cables and Di2 wires flopping around? Sleeves nicely tucked in place? It’s all good.

12 pressing bottom brackets  like a boss

Time to press in the second cup. Note how both bearing drifts only touch the blue cup. At no point is there any contact with the bearings. Watch for the grease squirting out at the shoulder of the cup and stop yourself from ‘giving it  some extra love’.1314

More grease! Put it both on the crank spindle and inside the bearing opening. Spread it with your finger or a brush. A big advantage of using grease over retaining compound, is that it wipes off with a rag when you’re done. Use too much rather than not enough. This is also a good moment to clean the backside of your chain rings, unlike what we have done here.

15

Pro tip: radial ball bearings, which are used in most bottom brackets, are designed to run without any side load.  Zero. None. Tighten the plastic adjustment bolt on your Shimano cranks or the adjustable dial between the arm and bearing on most Sram BB30 cranks to the point where you feel pressure starts to build up. Then back it out again to the point where it is impossible to move the crank laterally but the pressure is gone. Your bearings will thank you and you will ride up those hills a little bit faster.

16

Torque wrenches are amazing tools. Use ‘em.

The tools used  in this manual are:

– Park Tool HHP2 headset press

– Kogel Bearings bearing  drifts and frame guide (which will be available in August 2015)

– Park Tool TW5 Torque wrench

– Cyclus Tools Holl II crank  bolt tool

– Morgan Blue Aqua Proof Paste

 

 

 

 

Listing the most common problems with bottom bracket standards, part 2

Part one of this post covered threaded, BB30, PressFit30 and BB86/92 bottom brackets. Today we will investigate some more brand specific standards.

BBRight

Developed by Cervelo and until today only  available with their frames, BBRight is PF30 based, but makes the non-drive side of the frame wider in order to build a stiffer connection between the bottom bracket and all other frame tubes. The Idea is great to create more real estate in this congested part of the bicycle frame, but I have always wondered why only one side was adjusted.

BBRight was created as an open standard by Cervelo. Until today it has not been used by any other brand except Gerard Vroomen’s spin-off mountain bike brand Open.

 

By making the bottom bracket wider, Cervelo also ruled out the chances of fitting any BB30 cranks on their frames and most other cranks require at least one adapter or a conversion bottom bracket.

386EVO

This standard was developed by FSA and seems to tick all the boxes: wide set up, all carbon construction possible, looser production tolerances similar to PF30 and it fits any crank except BB30. Funny enough, this might be one of the least applied open source standards. Besides Litespeed and some Euro brands like Wilier and BH, not many come to mind.

I started off this article by saying we have not found that one standard that works for everything, so there must be an element to ruin this party: Because of the large and wide BB shell, 386EVO is known to interfere with may power meters. It is hard to place magnets for cadence measuring and with a lot of spider based systems the crank seems to grind on the frame in one way or the other.

BB90

Only used by Trek, BB90 for road bikes and BB95 for mountain bikes uses shimano sized bearings that are pressed directly into the carbon shell of the frame. Although the system is wide, which means stiff, it has a range of issues. The first one is that it basically restricts the user to using shimano or Sram GXP cranks. Any other crank will simply not fit. There is a mathematical chance that it does hold a 30mm spindle, but the bearing sizes that need to be applied are not up to the rigors of someone punching 1000+ watts in a town sign sprint.

BB90 is a standard exclusive to Trek, wich presses the bearings directly into the carbon shell.

The other issue is that the bearings are pressed directly into the carbon. With tolerances on carbon shells being what they are, this could either work well, or not so much. Another problem that I have seen is that the BB shell ovalizes over time from repeated compression of the carbon under pedaling forces. Trek’s solution for either problem is to send out a custom sized ‘V2’ bearing, which is a slightly larger version of the 6805 size that should have fit initially.

BB30A/PF30A

Just when we thought that bottom brackets on frames were stabilizing and over time might even filter out a winner, Cannondale decided to throw a wrench in the system last year. They introduced PF30A and BB30A almost simultaneously. Both standards are based on the standard BB30 or PF30, but with 5mm added, only on one side. Hence the ‘A’ stands for Asymmetric. The official word is that it helps build frames with better chain lines, the result is that it only fits a PF30A specific crank set. That’s right. Any Shimano, Sram, FSA, Campagnolo or Rotor will not fit unless you load up a bunch of spacers.

So far we have only found PF30A adapters available on the market. Kogel Bearings will release a conversion bottom bracket shortly.
So far we have only found PF30A adapters available on the market. Kogel Bearings will release a conversion bottom bracket shortly.

Oh well, that is keeping the work at Kogel Bearings interesting. We have introduced our BB30A to 24 bottom bracket and probably will build a PF30A to 24 conversion soon so you are not as limited.

Conclusion

Listing off the issues with each and every system, I sound like an Angry Dutchman. But that is not the case, I am more a roll-with-the-punches kind of guy. As long as the bicycle industry has not made up it’s mind about how we should fit a crank in a frame, Kogel Bearings will keep on producing bottom bracket solutions to fit your parts and keep them quiet. I hope this list helps you when you are planning to buy your next frame or crank set or looking to build a full custom rig.

Oh… and in case you were wondering: my personal favorite BB and crank combination is a PF30 frame with our conversion bottom bracket and a Shimano crank. I run that on most of my bikes when I’m not testing new products. I love how the PF30 allows any crank to fit and how the shimano cranks are nuke proof.

Listing the most common problems with bottom bracket standards

With all the bottom bracket standards on the market, it is quite shocking that the bicycle industry did not find the one that works perfectly for all applications. At Kogel Bearings we spend a good amount of our day looking at bottom brackets, so I felt it was time to share the pros and cons of all systems with our friends. This information should help you find the bottom bracket and crank combination that best fits your needs.

I’m not here to burn any frame builder for their choice for this or that system, or to push users into a certain direction. Opinions get strong when discussing bottom this problem area of the bicycle, so I have tried to stay objective and Kogel Bearings will keep on striving for the best possible solution given your choice of crank and frame.

BSA-ITA threaded bottom brackets

The good old threaded bottom bracket. Many times on forums people wish they could go back to the days where everything was simple. I argue that it was never simple, with Italian vs BSA, Campy vs. Shimano and all the different spindle lengths, but that’s another discussion.

The world was a better place when everything was threaded? I beg to differ….

The fantastic thing with threaded frames is just that: it’s threaded. The cups lock into place and align themselves. Also the system is very easy to remove and reinstall should there be an issue. All modern day set ups have the bearings running nice and wide, so stiffness is never an issue.

The main down sides of a threaded set up is that not all cranks fit. A true BB30 spindle will be too short to make it through the frame. Another problem is that it is not possible to cut threads into a carbon frame. Any carbon frame will need an aluminum bottom bracket shell glued in, which in itself could be a source of creaking and it is a no no for any designer trying to make the frame as light as possible.

BB30

Introduced by Cannondale in the early 2000s, BB30 was supposed to increase crank stiffness with it’s ‘bigger than Shimano’ spindles. While that may be true for a shorter and thicker spindle, my experience is that the narrow set up does the exact opposite: the bearings are so close together that the system becomes  unstable and power is  lost through flex. This narrow build also ramps up the stress on the bearings.

With the standard being designed to make sure the bearings do not fit too loose in the frame, another common problem is bearing compression. The bearings are pressed into an opening that is too small to fit, which causes the bearings to seize up. With this point and the above mentioned narrow spacing, BB30 bearings are known to have a very short lifespan.

The right side of this diagram shows that the bore diameter for a BB30 shell is 41.96mm with a tolerance of +0.025, which is super tight. In order not to go over the tolerance and have the bearings fit loose in the frame, many manufacturers cut the frames on the smaller side, which causes the bearings to seize up.

On the positive side, if you are looking to ride with a super narrow Q-factor BB30 is your friend.

PF30

PF30 was introduced by SRAM as an open standard for anyone to use. It built on the narrow Q-factor of the BB30 but tried to fix a few BB30 issues by pressing the bearings in a cup before they were placed in the frame. The first one is the super tight tolerances that come with a BB30 frame. The PF30 tolerance is four times bigger, which allows the frames to be built with all carbon BB shells. The down side of a larger tolerance is that it is almost impossible to make the cup press perfectly in every frame. Results are creaking and (again) bearing compression, depending where your frame sits in the range.

Bottom brackets have been confusing customers and mechanics around the globe for decades. It does not look as if that is going to change any time soon.

Pressfit (BB86/BB92)

Shimano’s answer to the press fit craze is called simply ‘press fit’, but more commonly known as BB86 for road bikes and BB92 for mountain bikes. It has the wide set up of a threaded bottom bracket and keeps the bearings in a cup similar to PF30. The system is typically very stable and stiff, because there is a wide BB area that the other frame tubes and grab onto.

A minor down side is that the BB86 shell is smaller in diameter than a PF30, so the down tube can be wide but needs to be flattened where it meets the BB shell.

A big issue with the smaller diameter of the Pressfit shell is that it does not accept 30mm spindles very well. The different solutions that are on the market between Rotor, Enduro Bearings, Race Face and our own, show  that the jury  is still out on how to tackle this problem. Even though I consider the Kogel Bearings solution best in class, I would still advise anyone to stay away from this combo if you can avoid it.

In our next post we will be looking at BBRight, 386EVO and a few other standards before we try to come to conclusions on all these options.

 

**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.

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.

Wookie approved: Kogel Bearings durability test

How did Kogel Bearings survive the winter?

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

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

*****

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cost of ceramic bearing derailleur pulleys

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cost of installation

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

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

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

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

Cost of warranty or replacement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ard

 

***

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 2

 

After discussing the bearing balls in our previous post, we will look further into the qualities that make a great ball bearing. This focus is on radial ball bearings, not so much on cup and cone or angular contact bearings, we will probably cover that in a future post.

Races

Races, or race ways, in most bicycle applications are made of hardened steel. The rings themselves have  to be perfectly round inside and out since  they have to be pressed into a hub or bottom bracket, fit a crank spindle and have the balls rolling around in them without hitting any bumps or high/low spots.

The inside of the raceways  can be polished to achieve the smoothest possible finish, which decreases friction and  improves the durability of the bearing.

In the production of Kogel Bearings, the races have a wider tolerance than the ceramic balls. After mirror polishing each race, the races are measured and matched up with a matching ball size, according to where the races fall in the tolerance. This labor intensive process ensures that we build the best possible bearing.

outer race of a radial ball bearling polished to a mirror like finish, courtesy of SKF bearings.
outer race of a radial ball bearling polished to a mirror like finish, courtesy of SKF bearings.

Seals

In bicycle bearings, the  seals are often overlooked. There are many options, ranging from fully open to heavy duty double lip seals. With the amount of protection, the friction goes up.

Kogel Bearings is one of the few companies to our knowledge that offer different seals for different applications: a non-contact seals for road racing and a heavy duty seal for Cyclocross and Mountain Bikes.

Different  seals for different applications. Kogel Bearings uses green seals for heavy duty cross seals. Blue seals indicate low friction road bearings
Different seals for different applications. Kogel Bearings uses green seals for heavy duty cross seals. Blue seals indicate low friction road bearings

Grease

Looking at grease, there are two major factors to consider: the viscosity of the grease (aka ‘thick’ or ‘thin’ grease) and the filling degree of the bearing. As a rule of thumb: thick grease and fully packed bearings make for high durability and high friction. The balls need to fight their way through the grease when going around in circles. Thin grease and a low filling degree make for low friction, but will require to service the bearings  more often.

What is the best ball bearing for bicycles?

In conclusion, is it possible to pick the best bearing for bicycles? The answer is yes, but depends fully on what you expect. First consider your environment and expectations. Weekly mudfests during CX season require another ball bearing than winning the scratch race on your local velodrome. Price might also be a factor you want to consider. As with complete bicycles, the range is huge. A set of bottom bracket bearings can set you back anywhere  between a couple of bucks and a couple of Benjamins.
Once you have determined what your ideal bearings look like, it might be hard to find them. Rarely do ball bearing producers advertise how much grease or what kind of seals they use. Our best advice is to ask questions, to your riding buddies, to bike shop employees and the ball bearing companies. If you have any questions about Kogel Bearings, we’re here to answer them.

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