Problems with ceramic bearings, part one
Ever since we started Kogel Bearings, I have had the feeling we were fighting an uphill battle. Selling a high quality product, which has a very bad reputation. Just like Carmax has taken the anxiety out of buying a second hand car (think of their no-haggle pricing, a very detailed quality check, free vehicle history and a five day return policy), we have tried to grow our buyers' confidence in ceramic bearings by offering a 2 year, very few questions asked warranty and a customer service that never leaves a call or email unanswered.
With all that said, many people experience problems with ceramic bearings. Let's have a look at some issues and what causes them
Ceramic bearings have a short llifespan
When ceramic bearings were introduced to the cycling market, roughly around 2008, the product was in its infant stages. In the same way early carbon frames from the late 90s are very different from what we ride today, there have been many developments that allow us to build a better product now.
Whether we use that technology to make a great product or cut corners to make an average or bad product, that is up to the manufacturer. If you decide to buy your ceramic bearings for $5 from ebay, expect them to be of the same quality as the $800 full carbon bike you found in the next ad.
The key is to find a manufacturer that will take all the steps necessary to build the best possible product and back up their promises by being available when you need them
- The Cyrusher Machete is a $800 bike with full carbon aero wheels, disc brakes and a kick stand. Was it really the manufacturer's fault if you snap a handle bar out of the blue, or could you have made a smarter buying decision?
Ceramic bearings are too expensive
Making ceramic bearings is a complicated process. There are different materials to work with and many steps like heat treating and polishing that need to be taken to get to a product that stands the test of time. At the end of it, a ball bearing is an amazing piece of engineering with extremely tight tolerances. All the parts need to be balanced or premature failures are bound to happen.
Building a high quality product takes time, time equals money. A Parlee Z-Zero frame and fork costs roughly 10 times the price of the Machete bike shown above. Still, I consider it a good value for money since they are made to order with custom size and lay-up and you could travel to Beverly, MA to shake hands with the builder if you wanted to.
- Quality and craftmanship cost hard earned dollars. A handmade frame and a detailed custom paint job will cost more than the average family's monthly grocery budget. Still, I consider it a good value. Ceramic bearings are very similar to carbon frames in a sense that there are no short cuts to the best product.
Considering the longer lifespan that some ceramic manufacturers guarantee, your one purchase might offset two or three more affordable bearing kits. In the world of bike parts, we all get to decide where to spend our hard earned cash. If you decide that ceramic bearings are too expensive, there are plenty of other options available.
Join us for part 2 of this article, where we will discuss the high maintenance cost that some riders associate with ceramic bearings. We will also look at whether ceramic bearings really make a difference for your ride.