Photos by: Nelson Queralta Jr & Jason Delgado
The bottom bracket talk is one filled with many different topics of conversation, opinions and cold hard facts. There’s also many different types of bottom brackets that can be used depending on the application. We’ve recently teamed up with Kogel Bearings on our MRCC Vynl Race Bike Builds that we’ve got coming up and we wanted to take this opportunity to talk about these bottom bracket differences. We’re going to focus on a road bike application, specifically the differences between ceramic and steel bearings, and also between threaded bottom brackets and press-fit.
Let’s start with the comparison of threaded bottom brackets and press-fit. This is a common conversation amongst bike mechanics and those who choose to work on their own bikes. Threaded, as the word describes, is a bottom bracket that threads into the frame. They come in two main size applications for road bikes, 68mm English Thread which is the most popular one, and also 70mm Italian thread, which usually comes standard on Italian frames. Threaded applications are reliable, easy to maintain, relatively easy to replace and usually noise free. If you prefer to do your own bike maintenance, threaded is the way to go.
Press-fit in the other hand is a more involved process. As the name states, the bottom brackets are press fitted into the frame using a special tool. The pros of this application is a stiffer bottom bracket area, which in turn transfers power quicker and when it matters. That difference in stiffness is completely up to the individual, some will put down enough power to actually notice a difference, some won’t. In a race setting will a press-fit bottom bracket make or break a win versus a threaded one? Not really. Giving up the ease of maintenance and replacement for an extra bump in performance is something we personally don’t want on a race bike that’s going to get plenty of miles and usage.
Now let’s go into bearings, the part that really matters. The battle is between ceramic bearings and steel.
Starting with ceramic bearings, the magic comes from the dispersion of heat. They’re lighter and have a more polished finish, therefore creating less friction. Rolling resistance is improved because the balls are ground smoother and in a rounder more uniform size when compared to steel. They’re also harder than steel, thus making them more durable as some bearings might last 20 times longer than steel, depending on the the application. Since ceramics are stiffer, you loose some bottom bracket flex, they don’t rust and are less sensitive to moisture. It’s technically a new application for road bikes as the technology comes for Moto GP Motorcycles where speeds are much higher as are the tolerances. But they are superior to steel in every category except one thing, the price.
All ceramic bearings are not created equal, and there’s a lot of options out there if you’re looking at upgrading the bearings on your bike. Should you go with ceramic? Well that’s completely up to you and your application. If it’s for your commuter where speed isn’t really the absolute importance, then going with a cheaper steel option is the way to go. Now, If you plan on riding your bike on local group rides, do some racing on the weekends or just want the best performance out of your bike, then absolutely yes. Ceramic bearings are a must.
Now here’s what makes Kogel Bearings special, remember we mentioned that not all ceramic bearings are created equal. Kogel started out of the frustration of faulty bearings. It’s frustrating spending a dime on your road bike, only to be back at the shop a few months later to replace the bottom bracket. Kogel believes in the reliability and longevity of their bearings, and they don’t mind giving up a small percentage of practically unnoticeable performance for it. Not the same you’ll get with other brands, who push their bearings to their absolute limit, only for users to be replacing bottom brackets regularly. Ceramic bearings are an investment, and Kogel makes sure your investment lasts. It’s ceramic bearings for the every day rider and the amateur racer. Who pays his own race entry and spends his hard earned money on the sport he loves. Bearings that are going to last and perform.
We got some bottom brackets from Kogel, and on first impression they look great. They offer multiple colors to match your frame, packaged well and very high build quality. We still haven’t logged in any miles on them as we’re still building the race bikes. Once we do, we’ll follow this article up with some road action.
Follow the links below to check out Kogel Bearings, follow them on social media and mention this MRCC article if you’re interested in giving them a try.