How to Choose Bike Drivetrain Upgrades That Matter
Upgrading your bike’s drivetrain is a great way to extend and improve the performance or your favorite bike.
However, let’s face it, ceramic bearings can cost a chunk of money. Buying a full bike upgrade will set you back $600 to $800 so I completely understand if that is not within everyone’s weekly bike parts budget.
The good news is upgrading to ceramic components isn’t an all or nothing proposition. You can break out the upgrade costs by doing your drivetrain upgrades in phases.
So how do you choose which drivetrain components to upgrade first? Let’s break it down.
First: Bottom Bracket ($110 to $200)
The reason that your bottom bracket should be at the top of your list is not necessarily because of the performance gains, but because a quality bottom bracket solves problems.
If you run any variation to a press fit system, I’m sure you have experienced the dreaded bottom-bracket creak at least once in your lifetime.
A quality bottom bracket installed with Aqua Proof Paste is a guarantee to enjoy your rides in silence. Outside of installation issues, a quality bottom bracket will run on bearings that will last longer and are better sealed for your riding environment than generic bearings. It’s a great first upgrade.
Second : Derailleur Pulleys or an Oversized Derailleur Cage ($110 to $400)
With the bottom bracket taken care of, it is time to look at the fastest rotating parts on your bicycle; the derailleur pulleys.
Upgrading to aluminum pulleys and ceramic bearings will reduce drivetrain friction and increase the life span of your pulleys. As an added bonus, Kogel pulleys are designed to be oversized and stiff for extra snappy shifting.
Derailleur Cages vs Oversized Derailleur Pulleys
Upgraded derailleur pulleys maximize the performance of your existing rear derailleur. If you want to extend further the performance of your drivetrain, an oversized derailleur cage is the way to go.
The Kolossos Oversized-Derailleur Cage is designed to reduce drivetrain friction to an absolute minimum. The Kolossos’ 19-tooth bottom wheel rotates 40 percent slower than a standard size pulley at any given chain speed and reduces chain articulation.
Whichever you choose, derailleur pulleys and Kolossos are also the most visible parts out of the entire Kogel range. They allow you to color coordinate or help striking up a conversation after the club ride.
Third: Wheel Bearings ($260 for any set of six bearings)
Wheel bearings are always under load and always rotating and upgrading your wheel bearings make a lot of sense from a friction perspective.
The main reason to show them last in the upgrade ranking is that wheel bearings come with a few technical challenges.
The first challenge is to find the correct sizes for your wheel set. Hub manufacturers make a huge collection of hubs and some manufacturers will even change their hubs mid-season as a running change.
Unfortunately, most hub manufacturers are secretive about the bearing sizes used. Our best bet in the Kogel office is to pick up the phone and call the brand when we are stuck.
Once you’ve found the right bearings, they require expertise to install. Just buying the tools to install (quality bearing press and all the drifts for different wheel bearings sets ) usually becomes cost prohibitive for most home mechanics. You’re best off to take your wheels to a qualified mechanic for this job.
Of course, these are just our opinions and you may choose a different approach. For those on the fence about how to invest your heard earned $$$, hopefully this gives you some much-needed direction.
Which drivetrain upgrade makes the most sense to you? Still unsure? Give us a call or connect with us on Facebook or our Chat window (now live on the website). We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Until then, ride safe!