At Zero Friction Cycling I often replace racers / avid riders / commuters bearings when having drivetrain switching to a better lubricant – sometimes when pop chain off can feel a rather interesting state going on in bottom bracket, or wheel bearings, jockey wheels not so flash etc.
It is impossible for a little store like mine to list all the options as last check there were literally nearly 250 different bottom brackets available (yes, that is completely nuts), and then we have hub & free hub bearings, and quite a plethora of jockey wheel upgrades.
Add to that that ZFC recommends options across 4 very carefully select brands – you can see that as bearings whilst a necessary part of a low friction silk lightning bicycle for ZFC to cover – it is not possible to list a thousand bearing options via a webstore for a very small enterprise focused mostly on lubricants, chains and testing.
However – ZFC can easily assist with any needs or wishes on this front. We figure out what you need, order in if not in stock (again, I can’t stock 1000 different bb’s) – there are slim margins on bearings but can usually do 5% discount if buying bearings with some other zfc goodies at the same time.
The first question for many is often ceramic vs steel? Is it worth the upgrade? What is the difference between the brands? So let me cover these main FAQ’s;
Firstly – if you have had the misfortune to see Hambini’s ceramic vs steel you tube video, pls take 10 mins to read the ceramic vs steel investigative document on my website (instructions tab) – not only was this thoroughly researched, over the years I have had many independent high level people in the bearing industry write in to advise they had stumbled across it and concur with my documents findings. The short summary – Hambini appears to have just made up his own data to sell his own points. If I am incorrect re this, then Hambini can answer the questions I sent to him re what was the test and where do the numbers come from that he refused to answer at the time the document was being researched.
Ok – dealing with horse-trading out of the way, lets get to actual proper independent bearing recommendations, and why do I recommend the brands above.
For most people and most applications Enduro’s abec 5 steel bearings are an outstanding quality steel bearing and at a very reasonable price point, typically $15 to $20 per bearing for wheel hubs and $30 bearing for Bottom brackets – a bit more if need a BB including shell / housing (many bb’s though the bearing can be pressed out of housing and new one pressed in with retaining compound). Especially for those who ride a lot of gravel / cx / mtb where there is a higher chance of dust / mud contamination – Enduro Abec 5 steel is a very smart choice because if the worst happens and grit gets into and ruins bearing – its not going to break the bank.
I do not stock nor recommend Enduro Abec 3 level bearings – they are a big step down in quality. Spend the few bucks more and get Abec 5.
Enduro XD-15 – If your pockets are deep – there is a reasonable amount of evidence that XD-15 take the cake of being both a very fast bearing that is also more or less indestructible – the steel used for the races is extraordinarily wear & abuse resistant, it will not rust basically ever, and the bearing can handle lack of care / service better than any other bearing known – but be prepared for a BIG hit to the bank account.
HSC are very popular as many racers are looking for a ceramic bearing upgrade, and HSC bearings are very fast but at a price point that does not break the bank being typically 1/3rd to ½ the price of Ceramic Speed. I have been installing in avid racers bikes for years now and have had all of two warranty replacements at time of writing, and their customer focus and support is outstanding. This is not always the case with some bearing companies quite well known re if a bearing goes rough it is always the customers fault – good luck with warranty with those companies!
** IMPORTANT NOTE – Fast Hybrid Ceramic Bearings – two notable factors that make a fast bearing are light / no contact seal and low fill level of a light fast grease. Hybrid ceramic bearings must maintain sufficient lubrication and so service intervals must be maintained. I recommend HSC bearings are re-greased after 5000km, and then depending on grease used / fill level – either 5000 or 10,000km service intervals from then on. Failure to do adhere to service intervals leads to a high chance of ceramic ball having no lubrication between very hard ball and softer race which will lead to damage of bearing race.
Kogel provide a great ceramic upgrade that strikes a little more balance between going for outright super speed, and some more weather protection + longer service intervals. They have a slightly heavier contact seal and more grease vs HSC, and you also have the option of CX seals which will add about ¼ of a watt more drag per pair of bearings but with a very high level of weather sealing – designed literally to be able to handle a Belgian season of CX racing.
Again however as will all hybrid ceramics aside from enduro XD-15 – service intervals must be maintained – recommend re-grease every 10,000km for road, – off road takes a bit of judgement base on hours – i would recommend every approx. 300 hours if typically ride in dry conditions, reduce that depending on how much heavy weather the bearings are exposed to. If in doubt, it is always cheaper to err on side of get bearings services vs pushing intervals and damaging bearings.
They have always placed themselves as the formula one of bearings, making no apologies for the prices as state there simply is no faster bearing, and they offer a 4 year warranty on non coated bearings and 6 year warranty on coated bearings – again however whilst their races are extremely high quality – being a very fast bearing that will come with a low fill of a fast grease – maintaining service intervals is still critical to ensure they will be pure silk years from when you purchase them. I do see (thanks to specialized stocking ceramic speed bb’s as standard in their s-works frames) many very rough bb’s as customer has bought bike, ridden it for 20,000km with no service, and that’s the ball game for a beautiful set of bearings.
Remember in large part bike parts are race parts – even for a commuter bike. Your cars bearings will typically last 300,000 to 500,000km service free, under a huge amount more load. We could have that too but holy batman it would be like riding with the brakes on. A v8 supercar has rather more frequent servicing than your passenger car. So does your bikes drive train & bearings. If you had to replace your cars drive train every 5000 to 10,000km you would be screaming blue murder – but this is pretty normal in cycling world. Those on poor lubricants its more like 2000 to 4000km.
Your bicycle parts are race weight parts because we have comparatively very low power to push it along. Your bearings need maintenance. Your drivetrain needs maintenance. Show it some love, and it will love you back and if you shell out for an expensive bearing upgrade, looked after and it should outlast how long 99% of riders typically own that bike.
Jockey wheel upgrades – worth it?
It depends. There are watts savings benefits to Oversize Pulley Wheel Systems, but they typically cost a lot – so bang for buck vs other big low hanging fruit is much lower – cover off lubricant and chain / drive train maintenance first – good tires and Silca Rule 105 for tire / rim width, check Bicycle Rolling Resistance for brilliant testing and information on tires re balance of speed and puncture resistance. Cover off aero re good kit & helmet. Bike fit. Not to dud myself out of selling stuff, but IF your OEM jockey wheels are spinning silky smooth and light, then typically jockey wheel upgrades will be a lower bang for buck vs the above low hanging fruit.
If however your OEM are getting a bit tired – they do degrade over time as whilst not under huge load, they sure spin a lot clocking up many millions of revolutions over time – then replacing OEM with something better and more fun is pretty groovy.
And of course, for many (like me), a cool set of jockey wheels is just a nice way to pimp bike a little which is very popular. The above advice not withstanding, I have never run a set of OEM jockey wheels in my life, too boring – there is too much groovy fun stuff out there and since I don’t blow money on much materialistic stuff, my budget for my bikes is healthy – my bikes are my key health and wellbeing machines, life is too short to ride bikes that don’t feel like silk lightning, and in my personal view – investments in your health and wellbeing is never a poor investment. That being said – remember again if you haven’t done it yet, possibly invest in a bike fit vs jockey wheels if you can only afford one of them – look after your body.
There are stack of really cool jockey wheel upgrades ranging from the most excellent HSC 11t carbon wheels for $120, to plug n play mid oversize 12/14t kogel for shimano 9100 where there is no faffing re changing cage, to the simply amazing Kolosses which is a brilliant oversize pulley wheel system that has a much stronger cage than most other OSPW systems, to ceramic Speeds systems (who pioneered OSPW) and more. Have a browse of the listed brands websites and see what takes they fancy.
ZFC can usually match at least any competitor pricing, and again if getting other ZFC goodies can usually take 5% off RRp’s.