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Any opinions on Ceramic Bearings?

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Any opinions on Ceramic Bearings?

Old 08-25-06, 07:18 PM
  #1  
gcthree
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Any opinions on Ceramic Bearings?

I was over at www.vcrc.com, and they're promoting ceramic bearings for bottom brackets and wheelsets. Take a second and read the copy about spinning the crankset without a chain to demonstrate the lack of friction with Ceramic. What does everyone make of this? If it's true, and there is a substantial advantage, then the question is are all ceramic bearings equal? If they are, there are other vendors on the web offering bearings at prices much less than VCRC.
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Old 08-25-06, 07:40 PM
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Expensive

Read the book "Bicycling Science". Bearing friction of decent steel bearings on bikes is so small that it is not only imperceptible to riders, but basically irrelevant to their power output as well. Ceramic bearings might be slightly lighter, and very high-zoot, but they're basically pointless.

Go to rec.bicycles.tech and search for "ceramic bearings" to find out what some real experts like Jobst Brandt think of them
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Old 08-25-06, 08:36 PM
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Hey,

I used to race radio controlled trucks (yeah I was a nerd, probably still am) and I used ceramic bearings for my wheel bearings. They cracked all the time. If they can't handle a 3 pound truck landing on them, with the weight distributed between 4 wheels, how are they going to tolerate 150 to 200 pounds of bicyclist pounding on them, on only 2 wheels.

Granted, that was 15 years ago, and i'm sure that ceramics have come a long way since then (look at the specialized M-series aluminum frames, which have ceramics in them), but I still prefer to have hardened steel in there.
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Old 08-26-06, 07:42 AM
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One of my sponsored track guys rides a set of Mavic Ellipses on his rig. I swapped out the stock bearings for the Enduro ceramics and he has had em in his wheels for over 8 months now with no problems to speak of. He loves em and swears they are as silky smooth now as when they were installed. He rides em mostly on the track tho so I am not sure about weather resistance. The Enduros are fairly inexpensive compared to other brands.
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Old 08-26-06, 07:46 AM
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Originally Posted by gcthree
Take a second and read the copy about spinning the crankset without a chain to demonstrate the lack of friction with Ceramic.
I'd be vary wary of someone who was using that argument to push a product. when you spin a crank with no chain by hand there is very little load on the bearing. What you want is less friction when the bearing is loaded.
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Old 08-26-06, 08:53 AM
  #6  
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Great expense for no worthwhile benefit (except to the seller). If you hear someone say they noticed a great improvement you have just seen the placebo effect at work.
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Old 08-26-06, 12:00 PM
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What is the price difference between the ceramic and "normal" ones?
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Old 08-26-06, 12:47 PM
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Originally Posted by operator
What is the price difference between the ceramic and "normal" ones?
Big!! It's something like $50-100 for the "normal" bearing cups for a Dura Ace or Ultegra crank with external bearings. For the ceramic ones it's $200+, e.g. this one from FSA https://www.fullspeedahead.com/fly.as...oduct&taxid=29
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Old 08-26-06, 01:33 PM
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The thing many people either don't realize or choose to ignore is that the ceramic bearing upgrades are often an inferior grade relative to the original bearing. This is quite common with the replacement bearings for many wheelsets.
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Old 08-26-06, 01:45 PM
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Well, definitley not worth it to me then. I get my ball bearings from my LBS, full wheel rebuild only costs me $2. Oh well.
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Old 08-26-06, 01:57 PM
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I've spoken at length with a very high-ranking person at a bicycle company that knows about bearings. While some here may think he was simply trying to sell me his product, A) he's an engineer, he couldn't sell his way out of a paper bag; B) it was in a classroom setting, not at a trade-show or sales meeting or what have you.

Simply put, this is what he had to say: They do make a difference. It's small, but if you have a well-designed bearing there is a small difference and they have the data to back it up.

My addition: The benefit comes from proper application. I'd rather see someone put ceramic bearings in their hubs than bottom bracket or headset. The biggest advantage to ceramics is that they're easy to mak e more spherical than steel, which will improve rolling efficiency. If you're on your bike, you're rolling, and your hub bearings are spinning. Ceramic bearings in your hubs can benefit you even while coasting, unlike your bottom bracket. And even then, unless you're competing at the top level, the benefits gained from switching can easily (and less expensively) be gained through training. The difference really is small.

I mentioned a well-designed bearing. What's well-designed? The cartridge has to be designed to use ceramic balls. You can't just replace your steel balls with ceramics. I forget the specifics, but I seem to recall that stainless steel races and a plastic retainer were most important.
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Old 08-26-06, 03:23 PM
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Yes, there is a benefit.

Yes, sensitive instruments can detect and measure it.

Yes, ceramics are an advantage in very severe (high speed, high load, high temperature) service.

No, your bike won't benefit in any meaningful way from using them.
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Old 08-26-06, 06:10 PM
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I think I'll continue to listen to an engineer who's paid to research these things instead of some random dude on the internet. But thanks for your input.
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Old 08-26-06, 06:20 PM
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Originally Posted by fore
I think I'll continue to listen to an engineer who's paid to research these things instead of some random dude on the internet. But thanks for your input.
Listen to whoever you want but I'm an Engineer too. I expect the Engineer you were listening to was telling the truth that ceramic bearings have some advantages. But, did you ask if the advantages were meaningful? Theoretical benefits and useful benefits aren't always the same thing.

If you want to fool yourself that spending a lot of money to change to ceramic bearings will make a noticable difference in your riding, go right ahead.

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Old 08-26-06, 08:09 PM
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Okay, so I guess we can agree that there might be a slight advantage to ceramics. The argument about it being insignificant can also be applied to a seat that saves 60 grams or a water bottle cage that saves 20g.
Back to the question then- are all ceramics created equal? There are grade 5 ceramics for $50 on eBay, and VCRC is hawking them for substantially more. The same or different?
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Old 08-26-06, 08:31 PM
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The bearings will make less of a difference than the friction and drag forces induced by the seal type, and lubricant viscosity.

These guys have been able to attack the Shimano stock bearing setup for BBs because Shimano happened to use a contact seal setup designed for high speed, high temp, water service motor applications. This was because they were common, easy to find bearings that will stand up and keep water and grime out.

The ceramic bearings the other guys are marketing make their biggest difference in seal configurations, opting for labryinth seals instead of contact - greatly reducing the drag on the bearings....regardless of actual bearing composition and performance.
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Old 08-26-06, 09:17 PM
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there is a few kinds of ceramic bearings, but the goodones are much much stronger and lighter then regular steel bearings... i did try to destroy a single ball (ceramic) and i couldent do it. It pitted and dented but that's it, i smacked it, heated it up, crushed it in the vice, tried to use a punch with a hammer, nothing... The problem however is putting them with steel races/cones/cups. the balls are so strong they will kill the steel part. steel bearings and steel races kind of wear into each other which makes a smooth adjustment. to be an advantage you would need ceramic bearings and races, they are out there but at 2-300$ each it's not cheap nor worth it.
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Old 02-24-09, 08:43 AM
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What about durability? If I'm riding my bike 8 hours a day, 5 days a week will the ceramics last longer and stay spinning fast?
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Old 02-24-09, 09:25 AM
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Ceramic bearings are great if you can get into the sales side of the deal, at least while the fad lasts. I would dare say that your choice of tires can make a bigger difference in drag than good steel vs. good ceramic bearings would.
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Old 02-24-09, 09:30 AM
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Originally Posted by fore View Post
I think I'll continue to listen to an engineer who's paid to research these things instead of some random dude on the internet. But thanks for your input.
The tobacco companies found doctors who would side with them. Why do you think an engineer is going to make a statement that would reduce the sales of his company's products?
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Old 02-24-09, 09:33 AM
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Whoa, I just jumped in to a 3 year old thread. I take it all back. Times have changed. Ceramic is the bomb!
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Old 02-24-09, 10:30 AM
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The perceived benefits of ceramic bearings equate to hype ------ just my 0.2 Lp
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Old 02-24-09, 10:44 AM
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It's possible for both of these statements to be true at once:
* ceramic bearings greatly reduce bearing drag
* ceramic bearings offer almost zero increase in performance

Why? because bearing drag is such a small limitation on performance anyway, reducing that part of the equation doesn't perceptibly reduce the overall drag limiting the forward progress of a rider.

For comparison, think about running shoes, and running on concrete vs. asphalt.
I've heard it said that concrete is around 10 times harder than asphalt. On this basis, lots of runners have concluded that running on asphalt is much safer (for their joints) than running on concrete.
However, compared to the amount of cushioning in a running shoe, the difference between concrete and asphalt is irrelevant.
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Old 02-24-09, 12:14 PM
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Originally Posted by backlyt View Post
What about durability? If I'm riding my bike 8 hours a day, 5 days a week will the ceramics last longer and stay spinning fast?
Everything i've heard so far is that ceramics don't last as long as steel bearings.
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Old 02-24-09, 01:15 PM
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I have a crappy old bike with loose bearings that have never been touched since the bike was purchased. When I spin the cranks, it sounds a little crunchy. Still, when I give the cranks a good spin, they'll go 20-30 revolutions before stopping. Note that's also better than my new bikes with cartridge bearings.

Compared to aerodynamic drag, the power lost even by crappy loose bearings is almost 0, so how much better can ceramic be?
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