Terrain Lab: why Kogel Bearings believes in outdoor testing.
You may or may not have seen the #terrainlab pop up on our social media recently. The photos show our employees and athletes putting their Kogels to the test in real world situations.
I understand very well that this form of testing is not the best for everyone. If you are an Olympic athlete trying to win the individual pursuit, a friction test in a clean room environment will bring valuable data for your best performance. Most of us, however, have never seen men or women in white lab coats where we ride.
- Ceramicspeed recently acquired Friction Facts, a Boulder, CO based business that has been researching drive train friction for years.
The issue that I find with lab tests, is that they usually focus on one thing only: friction under the best possible conditions. The first half mile of your bike leg might look like that, but after that it is normal that your chain has picked up some dirt, which throws off the numbers.
Ball bearings and chains are similar in a way that it is super easy to reduce the friction. Think of super thin, wax based lubrication, rather than a marine grade grease. The problem here is that these solutions reduce friction but also durability. With chains, it is easy to relube them after every ride, but I have not met anyone yet that enjoys servicing bearings on a weekly basis. For this reason it is up to Kogel to walk the fine line between low friction and low maintenance.
In the ideal world we want you to buy our product, have it installed and not have to worry about it until it's time for annual service. This means our bearings have to be able to resist occasional rain showers, dusty gravel road detours and whatever situation you might end up in over the course of a year.
To my knowledge, there is no laboratory that can replicate those situations. The bearing tests that I know of are either aimed at friction in a clean environment or wear tests which are done by spinning up a bearing to a much higher rpm than a bicycle ever will to see when it fails. Neither one of them involves throwing mud at the test rig in the middle of the procedure, stopping the machine for a week while the bearings are wet or using a power washer in between sessions.
- Sessions in the Terrain Lab can be brutal. See the full Snow Lab video here
For all these reasons, we feel we can only give you a product that is up to the task at hand by working closely with our athletes and testers. The UnitedHealthcare team putting their 26 riders through an entire road season, Amanda Nauman racing a full season of cross and gravel races on the same bike and the Maxxis Shimano cyclocross team running an entire season with three riders without a bottom bracket service. These are the data we like to present to our friends and customers.
I sometimes like to compare the lab versus field test debate to a workout. The bearing lab test is like doing arm curls. The more you do it, the stronger your biceps get. It is quantifiable: I could curl X pounds times 10 reps before and now I can do Y pounds. Field bearing tests are like doing a mix of aerobic exercises and body weight based TRX training. At the end of the week it is hard to pinpoint exactly which one of your moves helped you build stronger biceps, but you know you will come out with a better overall fitness.
With that said, I am super curious to see where you put your Kogels to the test. Send us your photos and a short description of your #terrainlab. We will be very happy to give you a shout out on our social media or consider you as a product tester.