Tag Archives: bearing service

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 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.

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.