3 Reasons Why Your e-Bike Needs Ceramic Bearings
In the last few years, we have noticed a large uptick in the use of e-bikes.
Thanks, Captain Obvious!
This trend has been hammering the media for half a decade now. More than half of new bicycle sales in Belgium and The Netherlands are said to be e-bikes. Most of these bikes are commuter bikes for going around town, getting to work, or doing your weekly groceries.
So, please allow me to refine that statement:
In the last two years at Kogel, we have seen a large increase in e-mountain bikes on the trails and e-road bikes on our streets. This change in trend from commuter bicyclists to recreational enthusiasts is where things get interesting for Kogel Bearings. E-bikes are no longer cheater bikes for old people, they are used for sports: e-MTB racing is a serious endeavor, e-bikes can take you on trails that were unrideable on push pedal bikes, and e-bikes are great at allowing couples that have a large gap in their power output to ride together longer. So the need for performance and power for your e-bike has finally arrived.
The 3 Reasons Why Your E-Bike Needs Ceramic Bearings
At first glance, the only benefit of a ceramic bearing upgrade for your e-bike is getting a few more miles out of a battery charge. Since the motor does most of the work and bikes are limited to the maximum speed the proposition seems futile to the uninformed e-biker. Saving a few watts on drivetrain upgrades hardly makes a difference. Or does it? It does according to championship racer Kelly Jones. Let's dive into the details and learn the 3 ways that ceramic bearings can help you gain e-bike performance!
#1 Ceramic Bottom Brackets for eBikes
Let’s start with the bad news first: most e-mountain bikes and e-road bikes use a central motor that directly drives the crankset. The motor, spindle, and crank arms are one integrated unit, made by a limited number of manufacturers: Shimano and Bosch are the industry giants. Most of these manufacturers are not too eager for you to start opening your motor unit and start exchanging parts with aftermarket products. It might even void the warranty if you do.
Unfortunately, Kogel cannot do much to improve the bottom bracket for a bike that does not have one.
But if your bike is equipped with a rear hub motor, chances are that your bottom bracket is a standard BB like on a bike without pedal assist. You’re in luck! You can upgrade to a full ceramic bottom bracket that will give you better durability and increase your battery range compared to the stock BB that came on your bike.
Wheel bearings are typically where we sell people on free speed. Most are always under load and are moving as long as the bike is moving. Hence our famous phrase, “Go faster with less effort!”
However, e-bikes are different, since the motors are limited in speed and power, there is no way to get to a higher speed on the flats or uphills. Going downhill is another story: it is too easy to hit the 20mph limiter going down any kind of slope. That is the speed where the motor cuts out and you are back to pedaling a regular bike. Reduced friction becomes a factor again.
However, the main benefit of ceramic wheel bearings on e-bikes is acceleration. Since everyone in a race is limited to maximum speed, races are won by the person who can reach maximum velocity the fastest. Less friction during the acceleration out of a corner means opening a gap that the person behind you can only close with leg power, overpowering the motor output. This insight came straight from Kogel Collective member Kelly Jones, who used this tactic to win the Florida State Championship. Sorry, Kelly if I exposed your secret weapon :-)
Since motor output and maximum speed are limited on e-bikes, oversized derailleur cages seem to be useless for e-bikes too. Right?
For the same reason, that wheel bearings help win races: 250W power output from the motor at the cranks translates to more power to the wheels with reduced friction in the chain. Speed up your acceleration and you can win more races or your local group ride.
One major reason we recommend our Kolossos oversized derailleur cages to be the first upgrade for e-bikes: Shifting Accuracy.
E-bikes by design always shift under full power. Whereas on a regular bike you can back off the leg power for a fraction of a second to facilitate a gear change, e-bike motors have a delay. Once you back off your leg power, it will take a second or so for the motor to realize this and reduce power output. Nobody has that much time for changing gears. For this reason gear changes on e-bikes always happen with full tension on the chain and put incredible stress on your cassette, derailleur, and chain.
We have seen plenty of prematurely worn or even broken plastic pulleys on stock derailleurs. Kolossos cages are designed to be 2x stiffer than your stock cage and use hardened aluminum for the wheels to make your gear changes industrial, and reliable and add durability to your drivetrain.
Bonus material: Titanium bolts and Sintered Brake Pads
Technically these are not ceramic bearings, but let’s touch briefly on two other Kogel product categories:
Sintered brake pads have a high tolerance for heat and will be durable under heavy loads from your 40+ pound bike. We’ve had a great experience with upgrading from stock pads to Kogel pads with a ceramic shield that keeps the heat in your rotor and pads and stops it from entering the caliper and oil system.
Titanium bolts: Most e-bikes that we see used for sports applications cost well north of $6000 or even twice that. You need to be passionate to spend that much on a hobby. Once you pull your bike out of the box, you might want to add some personal touches to make your e-bike stand out from the crowds. Color-coordinating your bolts will surely turn some heads. Start with the stem plate bolts, since those are the ones you look at all day while riding. I won’t bother you with the weight savings, since they are too minimal to make a noticeable change on your power-assisted ride.
In ConclusionE-bikes are not what they used to be. They have evolved, developed, and upgraded, just like you! And in the same way that you deserve the best, so does your e-bike. Whether it's using ceramic components in your bottom bracket, wheel bearings, or improving the durability of your derailleur cage with a Kolossos, the upgrades will surely be worth the investment for the power, shifting accuracy, and performance that you are soon to experience on the way to the finish line - in 1st place.