Is ceramic bearing wheel upgrade worth it?
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  1. #1
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    Is ceramic bearing wheel upgrade worth it?

    Hey guys,

    I have the new Mavic Cosmic Carbon SL UST wheels. They are stiff, engage instantly, and roll really well under load. My only gripe with these wheels is they don't roll well when coasting as good as my Campy Bora Ultras, Bontrager XXX, and the previous Zipp NSW's. So I was thinking of upgrading to Kogel ceramic wheel bearings to replace the current steel bearings. Has anyone done this?

  2. #2
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    No.
    And short of using super glue for grease or completely fried bearings there is no way you could perceive any speed difference attributable to bearing difference.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aeolite View Post
    Hey guys,

    I have the new Mavic Cosmic Carbon SL UST wheels. They are stiff, engage instantly, and roll really well under load. My only gripe with these wheels is they don't roll well when coasting as good as my Campy Bora Ultras, Bontrager XXX, and the previous Zipp NSW's. So I was thinking of upgrading to Kogel ceramic wheel bearings to replace the current steel bearings. Has anyone done this?
    There is an application range where ceramic bearings are not only well-suited but highly desirable: high temperatures, acidic environments, and very high temperatures. Otherwise known as jet engines and industrial turbines. For bicycles they offer zero advantage and perhaps the disadvantage of being brittle. If your other wheels actually do coast faster (checked this with a stop watch and repeated trials?) then it is something other than steel vs. ceramic bearings.

  4. #4
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    At the highest speed you're ever going to go on a bike, your wheels turn at roughly 700 rpm. That's at about 50mph. The calculation for this is that one revolution of a bike wheel yields about 7' of travel.

    Most of the bearings commonly supplied in hubs are rated to somewhere between 10000 and 14000rpm. With a bearing at the low end of that range, you are subjecting that bearing to an operating speed about 7% of its rating.

    Most bearings commonly supplied in hubs have a precision rating of ABEC 3 at the very least. Most are ABEC 5. This is well more than precise enough for bike hub bearings.

    A heavy grease pack in the bearings will possibly make the wheels feel draggy if you spin them in your hand. This is at most a couple of watts in actual fact, and grease dissipates which reduces this drag.

    If you want to flush your current Mavic bearings and repack them with one of the known "fast" greases (Ceramic Speed publishes a list of these), have at it. You'll just have to be more aware of contaminants getting into the bearings, as a heavy grease fill repels contaminants.

    At some level, very good ceramic bearings (and as far as I know, Kogel are good) have some scintilla of drag reduction. If your doesn't get "Chris Froome's TT bike before a Tour TT"-level maintenance, any gains from ceramic bearings would in any likelihood I've ever seen be lost in the noise.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by November Dave View Post
    At the highest speed you're ever going to go on a bike, your wheels turn at roughly 700 rpm. That's at about 50mph. The calculation for this is that one revolution of a bike wheel yields about 7' of travel.

    Most of the bearings commonly supplied in hubs are rated to somewhere between 10000 and 14000rpm. With a bearing at the low end of that range, you are subjecting that bearing to an operating speed about 7% of its rating.

    Most bearings commonly supplied in hubs have a precision rating of ABEC 3 at the very least. Most are ABEC 5. This is well more than precise enough for bike hub bearings.

    A heavy grease pack in the bearings will possibly make the wheels feel draggy if you spin them in your hand. This is at most a couple of watts in actual fact, and grease dissipates which reduces this drag.

    If you want to flush your current Mavic bearings and repack them with one of the known "fast" greases (Ceramic Speed publishes a list of these), have at it. You'll just have to be more aware of contaminants getting into the bearings, as a heavy grease fill repels contaminants.

    At some level, very good ceramic bearings (and as far as I know, Kogel are good) have some scintilla of drag reduction. If your doesn't get "Chris Froome's TT bike before a Tour TT"-level maintenance, any gains from ceramic bearings would in any likelihood I've ever seen be lost in the noise.
    Thanks for the info!
    The reason I asked this question is because the two finest rolling wheels I've ever ride/ridden both had ceramic hubs. One is the Bora Ultra, the other a DT Swiss wheel with DT 180 carbon ceramic hubs.

  6. #6
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    Eh.. Ceramic bearings are not prone to contraction, so in really cold climates, they might be useful, and won't rust or corrode.. So if you are in Alaska.. or Greenland... mid winter.. they may make sense from a functional perspective, not a performance one.

    I know, most bearings are not supposed to corrode/rust.. but they do occasionally when operated in harsh wet environments.

  7. #7
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    Is ceramic bearing wheel upgrade worth it?

    Only if you have a bunch of money you no longer want. In that case I will be more than happy to take that filthy green stuff off your hands.

  8. #8
    'brifter' is a lame word.
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    There are countless threads and posts about ceramic bearings on this forum. A single google search would most likely keep you busy for hours.

    And yes...they're a waste of money.
    I work for some bike racers
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  9. #9
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    One wheel may roll longer in the stand, but unless one is dragging where it will stop abruptly, it will make no difference when riding.

    If a new wheel seems like it is dragging a bit, it may be because the seals are new. You could always get rid of the seals and they would roll forever. I don't recommend this.
    "With bicycles in particular, you need to separate between what's merely true and what's important."-- DCGriz, RBR.

    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein



  10. #10
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    nope. all those ceramic bearing claims are false they don't buy you much and they usually spin a wheel not under load. its a lot of money for no benefit except being cool...or not.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trek_5200 View Post
    nope. all those ceramic bearing claims are false they don't buy you much and they usually spin a wheel not under load. its a lot of money for no benefit except being cool...or not.
    There are in fact two advantages to ceramic bearings:

    1) You can try to be cool by telling one of your bike buddies "Dude, my wheels spin longer than yours do because I have ceramic bearings!"

    2) They will reduce the overall weight of your ride because your wallet will be lighter.
    "With bicycles in particular, you need to separate between what's merely true and what's important."-- DCGriz, RBR.

    “Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.” -- Aaron Levenstein



  12. #12
    Adorable Furry Hombre
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aeolite View Post
    Thanks for the info!
    The reason I asked this question is because the two finest rolling wheels I've ever ride/ridden both had ceramic hubs. One is the Bora Ultra, the other a DT Swiss wheel with DT 180 carbon ceramic hubs.
    I don't think Mavic has ever made a hub as nice as the rest you mention. Ceramic is irrelevant in that statement.
    "Refreshingly Unconcerned With The Vulgar Exigencies Of Veracity "

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lombard View Post
    There are in fact two advantages to ceramic bearings:

    1) You can try to be cool by telling one of your bike buddies "Dude, my wheels spin longer than yours do because I have ceramic bearings!"

    2) They will reduce the overall weight of your ride because your wallet will be lighter.
    you got me

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