To the Point: Cartridge Bearings

Feb 5, 2013 at 0:07
Feb 5, 2013
by Mike Kazimer  
 
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Cartridge bearings are an integral part of the modern mountain bike. From headsets to hubs, bottom brackets to suspension pivots, cartridge bearings can be found on nearly every component whose purpose includes some type of rotation. We often take for granted the stresses and harsh conditions mountain bike bearings endure, rarely thinking about them until they make noise or develop play, typically after countless hours of abuse. To find out more, we spoke with Matt Harvey, one of the owners of Enduro Bearings, an industry leading company that offers an extensive line of bearings specifically designed for bicycle applications.



What are cartridge bearings?

In the bicycle industry, cartridge bearings refer to a bearing assembly that can be entirely removed
and replaced into the component such as a hub or bottom bracket. Traditionally, each bearing
assembly in a hub would consist of four separate components; a cup, a cone, a retainer and balls. Each
of these components (with the balls being held by the retainer) would be assembled as individual parts and
then adjusted with nuts and threaded axles on a hub or spindle assembly. Cartridge bearings replace
this four component assembly with one complete unit that is sealed with rubber seals. A radial
cartridge bearing consists of an inner and outer race, a retainer holding the balls and then two seals to
keep the grease in and the elements out. There is no adjustment feature for these bearings as they
are made with internal clearance or play. They are typically mounted by pressing them into a bore,
such as both sides of a hub flange, and then a slip fit axle is run through with stops behind the inner
race of each bearing. Nuts or top caps lock the bearings and axle into place. Again, there is some
internal play when they are tightened down. When the bearings wear out or they get rough or
contaminated, they can be removed entirely for servicing or replacement.


What is the ABEC scale? For bicycles, what are the advantages of using higher rated bearings?

The ABEC scale and ratings refers to a number of tests and tolerances for radial ball bearings including
measuring their individual components, assembled components, and tests such as high speed
noise testing. Basically, these ratings refer to roundness tolerance of the inner and outer races,
trueness of the raceways, and radial and axial runout of the races. While the ABEC scale traditionally
has been used to pick out the best bearings for high speed applications, this does not directly apply to
bicycle bearings, which are considered a low speed application. But, the scale does give an idea of the
general level of precision and quality of the bearing. There are some other features which are more
important for bicycle application such as ball groove depth, ball complement (diameter and quantity
of balls
) surface finish of the raceways, type and quantity of grease, design of seals, etc..., which
are not factored into the ABEC rating. Most high ABEC tolerances require the bearings be mounted
into high tolerance, ground surfaces with highly accurate spindles and bores to take advantage of the
precision level and trueness, which most bicycle components do not have, as they are machined parts.
In general, an ABEC 5 bearing is much more precise and accurate than the part it is being installed into.
Higher ABEC level rated bearings are higher precision and have tighter tolerances.

What do the numbers on a bearing mean? For instance, 6802RS.

The numbers on a bearing refer to the series, dimension, and then the type of bearing. For instance,
6802 2RS refers to a bearing which is 15x24x5 mm with 2 rubber seals. "6800" is the series beginning
with a 10 mm bore. The increments go 10 (6800), 12 (6801), 15 (6802), 17 (6803), 20 (6804) and then
5 mm bore dimensions from there. A 6804 has a 20 mm bore, a 6805 has a 25 mm bore (5 x 5 mm = 25 mm),
etc. The 6800 series is called Extra Thin Line Bearings and 6900 would be Thin Line Bearings (larger section,
heavier duty bearing. A 6902 2RS would also have a 15 mm bore, but with a bigger ball, and has a 28 mm OD.
Finally, 2 RS literally means: Two (2) Rubber Seals. You may also find bearings with a number like 61802.
Here at Enduro that is how we designate our ABEC-5 line of bearings but dimensionally the 6802 is the same
as the 61802.

How water resistant are cartridge bearings? Will washing your bike with a hose force all the grease out?

It depends on the grease and the seals that are used. "2RS" means Two Rubber Seals, but there are
many types. The usual 2RS seal is a single lip which runs dynamically on the outer part of the inner race,
the outer lip is static, and fits into a groove of the outer race. Enduro makes an LLB or LLU type, which is a
double lip seal that rides in a machined groove on the inner race. This, along with a water resistant or
marine grease will make it much more difficult for the grease to wash out of the bearing even when pressure
washing. That said, bearings ridden for long amounts of time in the rain or pressure washed again and
again will eventually need to be serviced depending on how often this occurs. Water will creep into any
sealed system given enough time in a wet environment. Using heavy degreasers and soaps will
also cause the grease to break down quicker, so be careful about what you spray on your bearings.

Here are the 4 variations of seal design that Enduro offers, LLU being the most effective at keeping water
out and contaminating the bearing:


Why does play develop when a bearing is worn out? Are the balls themselves worn down?

Most times, it is the bearing raceways that are worn out when play develops. While the balls can wear
too, they are generally harder than the raceways and will wear the races out first. This is especially true for
ceramic balls, which are seven times harder than the raceways. This can be avoided by maintaining a proper
amount of grease in the bearing.

What are angular contact bearings? What are the advantages of this design?

Angular Contact cartridge bearings (A/C) more closely resemble the traditional cup and cone bearings
referred to back in point #1. While they can be made as cartridge bearings, until recently they could
not be removed and replaced as cartridge bearings because they would come apart into three pieces when
removed. This made servicing difficult, and if installed backwards, potentially disastrous. Enduro's newly
patented A/C bearings eliminate these problems with a unique design in which they can be removed and
replaced as other cartridge bearings without coming apart. A/C bearings do require a preload system being
either a threaded axle with no inner axle stops, or a spring or wave washer system with no inner axle stops.
With an angular contact hub or axle system designed to use these bearings, they can be adjusted to remove
wheel play. As play develops, they can be readjusted to remove it. While the same can be done with radial
bearings, these will wear out prematurely as the ball is rolling on a thin part of the race. A/C bearings are
designed internally to have the ball located at a 15º angle when preloaded. Because all of the balls are always
loaded on the races, there is always even load distribution.This is not true on a radial bearing with internal
clearance, where some of the balls are carrying all of the weight as the wheel spins. In this way, A/C bearings
will last longer.



What are the benefits of ceramic bearings? It seems like when they first came out they garnered a lot of press, but now you don't hear as much about them. Any thoughts as to why this may be?

Ceramic Hybrid bearings (steel races with ceramic balls) are still very popular and are here to stay. When
they were first discovered by the bicycle industry, there was a lot of press because they were new. Suddenly,
many companies were offering ceramic hybrids, but like anything, there were some very good ones, and some
very bad ones. There was also a lot of misguided press claiming they would last forever. While they can last as
long as standard steel bearings, in general, good ones will last the same amount of time as an all steel bearing.
However, recently Enduro introduced XD-15 nitrogen steel races, and these will last much longer than steel
bearings with ceramic balls. This steel alloy holds up to the hardness and non yielding ceramic balls, even
without lubrication and exposure to any kind of elements. The Enduro XD-15 bearings will run just as smoothly
a year or two later as the day they were installed, even without service.


www.endurobearings.com
Must Read This Week






127 Comments

  • + 91
 This article really, spins my wheels. Cool
  • + 19
 YEEEAAAHHH!
  • + 4
 Title & article should be - To the Point: Needle bearings Wink
  • + 2
 Are there any significant differences in resistance with the different seal types? I would assume so otherwise all bearings would be LLU? For bike applications do the resistance differences matter?
  • + 2
 I remember riders removing the seals and spray blasting the grease from bearing races in their hubs to try and reduce friction at the world champs of a few years ago. I would imagine it's more of a psychological attempt to have taken every last step in trying to win than anything productive.
  • + 2
 they are still doing it, replacing grease with light oil. It reduces friction but it won,t last forever. The dude of CRC was explaining it in one of their video once
  • + 1
 I've been asked to lube bearings with water on track bikes before, just for that added 0.001%. Needless to say, I refused.
  • + 1
 haha well that got pretty nerdy. Awesome article!
  • + 0
 Sounds like you have a serious problem with your balls.
  • + 35
 Some very good information right there. Good read.
  • + 1
 Yes indeed! Sounds like I'm getting ceramic bearing next shop stop!
  • + 9
 I think I'm gonna go pull out my BB and headset bearings now...poor guys
  • + 8
 So there is no point in using an ABEC 5 bearing. And unless your ceramic bearing has XD-15 races, it is also a waste of money.
  • + 3
 How lovely.. I just painted my frame and considered new bearings while I was at it, but decided not to until I researched them first to make sure I knew what kind to get. Very useful! Thanks PB!
  • + 1
 I'm super happy PB actually talked about this. I've just been getting into the whole thing starting a few weeks ago..

Few things:
1) Don't buy bearings from your LBS, they charge you +300%. Also, your OEM bearings will probably be expensive. Measure it out w/ digital caliper, measurements go out to (example): 21.5x31x7mm, Never 21.233x31.344xetc (usually in .25 increments) Decent bearings can be had for around 10 dollars each, not $50 each (for crappy ones)...Chances are, your OEM bearings may be worse than the ones you'll end up buying online (hubs,BB). Once you get the measurements, type it in a "bearing finder" and it'll come up with all the bearings in your size.

2) Ceramic is very nice...but once again, totally not needed. Steel do the job fine! Just as along they aren't super cheapy and are designed to take on physical loads.

3) Sealing job is pretty much the key to the lifespan of a bearing. 2x Lipped w/ Labyrinth. Purchase some Lucas's Heavy Duty Marine Grease (sludge) and slap it on there. If you can, putting a very thin of flimsy plastic cut out to the bearing's dimension and laid over the bearing w/ grease can help a lot in hubs or some BB's.
  • + 5
 I understood everything you said there
  • + 16
 @Spicy-Mike: Sorry buds, but you're wrong. I work in a LBS that sells Enduro bearings, and we sell them with a 35% margin. That means if we charge you $9.99, it cost us $6.49. Definitely not "+300%". Maybe your LBS sucks?
  • + 5
 hey scandium... check your math there buddy... 35% of 6.50 is 2.27, so 6.50+2.27=8.77

Try 10-6.50=3.5, 3.5/6.50 = .538

Sooo you're 10 dollar bearing is actually being sold at a 54% margin. Still not 300%... which is a little over the top, but that's a pretty healthy margin. I however, say that margin is fair, and everyone should shop at their LBS.
  • + 0
 Yeah, it's a bit of exaggeration in a scenario like yours, but +300% markup IS NOTHING in the whole equation. Especially from some Brands who charge shitloads for an alright bearing. Some LBS's do this too, maybe not +300% but easily +75-100%+

And that's your LBS, California over here = everything is jacked up in price right from the start.

--> Remember that Margin (difference between Retail/Cost) is different equation from mark-up which: 3.51 = X*6.49 -> 3.51/6.49 = .54 x100 = 54% Markup Wink

My bearings are 80(70+10) for a pair from OEM or through LBS. I find the same ones, for $20 for pair. Same design/stamp on the bearings (brand atleast), 2x Lipped, Decent ABEC, everything good.

$80-$20 = $60/20 = 300% Markup.
  • + 1
 HAHAHAHHA. Someone else caught it too, lmao. Don't want to be mean, cause I'm terrible at math, but yeah...markup is calculated differently and so is margin.
  • + 1
 From what I remember it's always the lower price items that usually gets the higher mark ups. Think tire levers and tubes.
  • + 1
 Bearings have always had a notoriously large mark up in the uk unless you want to buy in larger quantities. A passable pair of 6002 rs or 6902 rs (pretty common sizes) will cost about £7 a pair but if i buy 20 (which you can easily use in a frame and 2 hubs) you can pretty much half that. Thats for reasonable japanese bearings.
  • + 14
 @phobospwns: My math is correct. Margin and Markup are two totally different numbers that are determined using slightly different math. These terms are used far too interchangeably, unfortunately. Margin is the percentage of profit vs the retail price, where markup is the percentage of the amount added to the wholesale cost.

Quick recap: we charge $9.99 on bearings that cost us $6.49. So, what is 9.99*0.35? Answer: 3.50. That means that $3.50 is 35% of $9.99, which means we are making a 35% margin, which is exactly what I said. What's 3.50/6.49? Answer: 0.54. That means we are marking up the bearings by 54%, which is what you said, but incorrectly labeled as "margin". So a 35% margin is the same as a 54% markup. Totally confusing, but key terms in the retail environment.

@Spicy-Mike's got it. Good find if you got those bearings for 1/4 of the price your LBS is charging! That's some crazy markup for sure. I bet you got them cheaper than they can, though. There's nothing in our shop that we charge more than 50% margin on, that's 100% markup for those of you following along. Not even clothing, which is usually the highest margin inventory item in most bike shops.
  • - 1
 Sorry for pathetic question: Isn't it with cermaic bearings like with Ti screws? - you change every single one on the bike and you win 100g?
  • + 3
 @WAKIdesigns: I can only imagine the price per gram to lose that 100g would be through the roof!
  • + 0
 Pardon me, but price per gram for Ti screws is already on "hell-no", on my "if-want" meter Big Grin
  • + 2
 @ Scandium

Yeah..the price difference is nuts..just a quick search on Google w/ dimensions yields a good range of price/bearings!

And Ceramic usually can tolerate much higher RPM's and the Ceramic balls (not race) itself is usually more "accurate" + stronger . But, think about, what on your bike has high RPM's? We are talking at the very minimum of 1-3K+ RPM. The only thing that spins completely are hubs and BB's.

Don't invest in ceramic, they won't be noticeable better. Steel bearings w/ good sealing system + decent race/ABEC grade will be wayyyy more than enough and should last very very long. Key part is to get some really heavy duty Marine grease and use that liberally on the bearings/around.
  • + 3
 @Spicy-Mike

something else to consider about ceramic bearings (as we are on Pinkbike which is predominantly mountain biking) is that many bearing manufacturers actually warn end users about using ceramic bearings in any application with high impact loading (sudden shock)

their reasoning is that ceramic bearings whilst being harder and truer, are actually much more brittle, and this can cause damage to the bearing race

for road bikes and tri bikes they kind make sense (well, not really...its psychological but people like "fast" equipment, especially for extra $100) but for MTB's should never be used, especially for wheel hubs, bottom brackets and suspension pivots which all experience high impact shock loading
  • + 1
 ^ That all makes very good sense, didn't think of it in that way either. Thanks for the info!
  • + 0
 This story implies that the races wear out not the bearings. Ceramic bearings are harder than steel bearings. Wouldnt ceramic bearings wear out faster? Enduro XD 15 races sound like the best bet for long lasting bearings.
  • + 1
 @ hampsteadbandit: Regarding your comments about "ceramic bearings" not being suited for MTB applications due to possible breakage... If you are talking about full ceramics (ceramic balls with ceramic races) you are absolutely right. If you are talking about ceramic hybrids (ceramic balls with steel races), then I would have to disagree about them not being suitable. The XD-15 bottom bracket (Grade 3 ceramic balls/high-nitrogen steel races) was initially tested on a BMX bike and run without any lube for an entire race season. Obviously plenty of shock going on in that application. When the BB was opened up at the end of the season, the ball path could be seen on the races (slight discoloration), but could not be felt. In other words, no race damage under the harshest of conditions. So, again, ceramic races are a definite risk for cracking in MTB applications, but the ceramic balls, paired with steel races are able to handle the shock just fine.
  • + 1
 Scandium rider is correct. Most decent shops don't charge more than a 50% margin, and often much less on small parts.
And on the ceramic note, from my personal experience, ceramic bearings spin waayyyy nicer than steel. A lot more expensive, but it's pretty sweet when your wheel legit takes like 10 minutes to stop spinning haha
  • + 1
 @Chris2fur

thanks for the information, always good to learn more

most of the "ceramic" bearings I have seen have been the complete ceramic units, its good to know the 'hybrid' units are more durable for shock loading
  • + 9
 I commend Shimano for sticking to the traditional bearing type in their hubs. I am still using their first generation saint hubs, and they roll better than any cartridge hub out there. Once a year, they get a full service. This will be their sixth year with the same bearings and races. I bought a lighter cartridge wheel set (Stans Flow) last year for XC rides, and have almost worn the bearings out in less than six months.

In my experience, the most reliable cartridge bearings are the ones with the largest gauge balls. Big balls last, small balls fail. Anybody remember the Pig DH headset, it had big balls and lasted forever. The Bearings in my E13 bb use tiny little balls, and I have to replace the bearings every four months or they will SEIZE COMPLETELY.
  • + 3
 Regardless of ball size, enduro absolutely makes the best replacement bearings out there. If your bike comes with the crap BB30 system, don't just consider an upgrade to Enduro bearings, consider it mandatory if you want a reliable BB.

The Saint loose ball hubs are great if they are maintained and occasionally overhauled, but most riders don't have those skills and even alot of mechanics will over tighten the cones and damage them during the adjustment process so you really have to know what you are doing.

If you still have original saint hubs are you still rocking that direct mount reverse derailleur?
  • + 3
 I'm with you man, I like that they still use traditional hubs. Easier to service, and less rolling resistance than even the best cartridge bearings. To Protour... you say people may over tighten hubs, but have you ever seen a wrench put a cartridge bearing in crooked, only to hammer the inside of a headtube or bb to remove it and try again? I certainly have in my years of working in shops.
  • + 2
 I only get enduro bearings, its all we stock at the shop. The E13 bb uses an bearing (external) that is larger in diameter than the b.b. shell, and I have only used enduro bearings as replacements. A bolt and a long axle spacer on the drive side allows me to use any derailleur. I am currently running a ZEE. F- Rapid Rise.
Any mechanic that cannot adjust a cup and cone hub properly should be retrained, that is the first thing you learn at any shop/school. Its more difficult to find the 22mm cone wrenches than it is to adjust the hub.
  • + 3
 Can anybody tell me why should I use Enduro bearings instead of SKF or EZO who offer various types in various quality groups? I am after new bearings for my Nomad and... live less than 1km from SKF factory...

BTW: I have quality Shimano hubs and... if you don't have time to service them - they are pain in the ass... otherwise love'em! At least with quality cartridge bearings after servicing once a year - you don't have to adjust them, only to readjust them, when the grease gets pushed out after few first rides after the service. People having no "technical savoir-vivre" like patience, feel, curiosity to understand how stuff works, someone to ask for advice - should stay away from Shimano hubs, sell them right away or no later than 1 year after purchase
  • + 4
 SKF>Enduro imo...
  • + 1
 I've noticed with some of the bigger brands the frame oem frame / hub bearing often aren't great quality.
Anyone here had the experience of removing bearings only for the shell to remain lodged whilst all the innards fall out?
And im talking 6 month to a year frames.
  • + 1
 @WAKIdesigns

from what I have understood for some years, Enduro is NOT a bearing manufacturer but a bearing re-seller? Having their "name" stamped into the rubber shields, and choosing the bearing package and other features like shielding?

I would always go with SKF, GMN, etc.

I am not a fan of full complement bearings (which Enduro made good business from) as they don't offer advantages on mountain bikes

but offer the disadvantage of premature bearing failure once they are contaminated

(the bearing retainer in non-complement bearing, actually adds a degree of lubrication when a bearing "runs dry" as well as preventing the run dry by resisting 'wash out' retaining more grease), as we found with many full complement bearings especially those fitted to RF products
  • + 1
 About OEM bearings, usually (personal experience and some others) that they usually cut a lot of the cost out here by getting meh bearings. Just like how Fox relabels Torco bottles or how Shimano rebrands that crappy Pinkfluid, OEM will put barely average bearings that will get by for a little, but resells them for incredibly high. Why? Because people don't know better and ALWAYS THINK you have to put the exact same thing in.

Of course it applies to some parts, but for the most part, you're better off upgrading to a better but cheaper system.
  • + 2
 Thx for answer. I'll go for SKF. Not many have luxury to live next to it (and design their offices - shush!). Otherwise It would be like Frenchmen asking for French wine in a store in Napa Valley...
  • + 4
 I have not been happy with Enduro bearings. I used them on my Specialized Enduro (heh), and of the 12 bearings in the set 5 of them did not make it past 7 months. These were the full complement Enduro Max bearings. They rusted, one of them to the alloy pivot (I had greased that interface, too), such that I had to get an entire new bolt kit at $70. I had washed my bike about 4 times with a hose (not pressure washer), and never ridden in rainy, muddy conditions. If I had ridden my bike in BC or UK muck they'd have gone bad in a month. I accused Specialized of having undersized bearings in their design, but Roger Walgamott of Specialized said, "What you are describing is certainly not a common issue. Bearings typically last a few (2 or 3) seasons before they should be considered being replaced."

I currently have a single-pivot Sinister Gruitr that has 2 needle bearings and 2 thrust washers, total. I don't miss that stupid 12-bearing FSR one bit.
  • - 1
 @konadan & phobospwns
Despite your reassurances, I would maintain that a majority of bike mechanics who adjust loose ball hubs do indeed over-tighten and damage the cones, races, and seals during the adjustment process. If you think it's easy and simple to not do any damage then I challenge you to explain your complete hub adjustment technique right here and give me the opportunity to critique it.

I have a feeling that some of the mechanics who think it's easy to not over-tighten during the adjustment process might actually be the ones who are over-tightening during the adjustment process...
  • + 1
 Aw, Meant to write bearings, not seals.
  • + 1
 @tombasic my bearing fun have all been with the fsr linkage, i started replacing them more frequently just to avoid the chore of them being over worn, the silly little chainstay ones are a real pain
  • + 1
 Big balls indeed last forever.
  • + 3
 @Protour, adjusting cup and cone bearings really is easy. You just have to understand that the assembly needs to have a slight bit of play in it before it is installed in the frame. Getting this just right can take a bit of time and results will vary depending on the force used to clamp the wheel in the frame or fork but angular contact bearing can handle quite a bit of side load so getting the adjustment perfect isn't necessary.
  • - 3
 It might be easy to get the right adjustment, but it is more difficult to do it without over-tightening during the process. Most mechanics will tighten till they feel the races hit the balls then back off a little but at that point the damage is done: it's called pitting and sometimes the damage to the parts isn't very visible. Any mechanic who adjusts hubs without an axle vice is absolutely guilty of this, and even many who use a vice will cause damage.
  • + 3
 @Protour - I think you are overexagerating things a bit. I know people who would not use the same ball if it fell on the ground as it would "deform" by a nanometer, and hey, cheers to them. However I have been adjusting my hubs only three times now, only in hands, yet there is not a single sign of wear on races. Unless you are a total butcher, you will not do any damage to quality bearings. Sure - I've met more butchers than surgeons servicing bikes by themselves, those fork clamps all over Pinkbike don't crack from even 10Nm. I was shown by a mechanic how should the cup/cone feel when adjusted right after regreasing, and then after readjustment, maybe I'm super lucky, dunno.
  • + 3
 Pitting? By hand tightening? GTFO.
  • - 2
 Happens all the time, all across the world every day in bike shops and home garages. I'm not going to apologize for using fool proof, methodical mechanical techniques, but maybe I am a bit of a perfectionist. The key to not over tightening is to do micro adjustments until you find the prefect adjustment but don't keep adjusting till it gets tight cause that's where the pitting, or even micro-pitting, will occur. A hand and a wrench will do more damage to Saint hubs than the hardest sideways landings.
  • + 1
 Easiest cone related issue is lazy mother hubbards not ensuring lock on the drive side of a rear wheel and just nipping them up on the none drive
You would be amazed the times ive seen a rear hub "adjusted" rather than ensuring regrease and full strip
  • + 0
 My funniest experience with Shimano hub was that rear hub body got loose an I thought it was bearings. Check that up after relubricating.
  • + 2
 Protour, you are a kook. It does not happen by hand tightening. It is not frigging precision machinery - and I know my way around precision machinery.
  • - 1
 Might not be precision machinery but on inexperienced ham fisted fool can easily Wreck a perfectly good hub.
  • + 12
 All this talk of balls is making me testy!
  • + 11
 Informative is the word that comes to mind. Thanks for this great writeup.
  • + 6
 All this technical jargon doesn't answer the question: how come wheel and headset bearings etc can last 10's of thousands of miles on a motorcycle yet getting 200 miles out of virtually any bicycle bearing on a DH bike is impossible?
  • + 2
 Undersized, shear and axial pounding. Greasenipples on both races would help tremendously and bb would now last 4 months. 2,3 Heim joints with nipple would be the definitve answer.
  • + 3
 All because it is tough to calculate/simulate the value of forces that comes from shredding the trails or there is no extra space to put those kind of bearings that can beats those kind of force.
That's why the diameter of head tube / BB got larger.

And you have to note that; bike components must be light, efficient because it is powered by man kind.
  • + 4
 The Industry demands light weight at all costs, Including durability. Vote with your dollars, buy only the burliest parts you can find, and maybe companies will take note when they spec out bearings.
  • + 2
 Suprashin has it. bearings that are tough enough for everybody would be big and heavy so they design em for the average. Wakaba, heim joints develop play really fast when subjected to a reciprocating pounding like they would get in a suspension setting. They only work in specific load arrangements. Grease able bearings would be nice but not the complete answer.
  • + 3
 Ask the Cove, the've got it down to a science, with the most reliable pivots in on the market. Big bearings last longer, its worth the weight.
  • + 3
 Totslly agree! My dad boughht. Wheel bearing for his toyota landcruiser for about £50 for the first time since he had bought it 7 years ago!! I bought a bb and it lasted 4 months. Pathetic. And most bikes are worth more then my dadsnjeep and they cant even get a bearing right. Say what you like about weight saving bullshit, but id prefer a heavier bike but more reliable!
  • + 1
 I totally agree with all you guys. See my post, above, about my experience with Enduro bearings on my Specialized Enduro. Most suspension bearings are just too small, in my opinion.
  • + 9
 SKF
  • + 2
 unfortunately "enduro bearings" being a specialist in bicycle bearings means some bike component manufacturers have worked with them to produce bearings in "odd" sizing, meaning you are then stuck with buying them from Enduro, whether they are good or bad bearings !!, in my opinion SKF make some of the best common sized bearings.
As for ceramic, balls in a steel race not a huge advantage in my opinion, but balls in a stainless race = big advantage as alot of wear in MTB bearings comes from the water contamination causing rusting and therefore premature wear.
Just my thoughs, not gospel though.
  • + 1
 Enduro's XD-15 bottom bracket is the absolute best bottom bracket i've used. Haven't found another external bottom bracket that spins even HALF as freely as it, or as smoothly. Hasn't needed any service in the past 2 years i've been running it.
  • + 1
 Fantastic article!

I wanted to add that there are 2 types of bearings. Bearings with retention clips (which separate the balls by a small amount). Bearings that are max compliment (no retention clip). Because there is no space between the balls in max compliment bearings, they can put an extra couple of balls into the bearing (the more balls, the more the load is distributed). The balls in max compliment bearings rub against each other however, increasing wear in high RPM applications. For wheels and bottom brackets and any bearing that spins a lot, you would want to use a bearing with a retention clip separating the bearings. For frame pivots and headsets that really don’t spin at high speeds, use max compliment bearings.

Enduro sells both types, and is the only company I have ever purchased replacement bearings through. There has not been a bicycle bearing I have not been able to find through Enduro, and I have replaced a fair number of frame bearings. They even carry those funky knuckle bearings on ends of the shock units from the older model Epics.
  • + 1
 The wheels on a road bike turn like 600 to 700 rpm at 60mph, so certainly mtb wheels are way less rpm than that. Applications requiring high speed bearings are like 1000 - 10000 rpm. Enduro max bearings are great for any bike application. Beware of ceramic hybrid bearings that have stainless steel races. SS is softer than high carbon steel which means that the extra hardness of the ceramic bearings is wasted deflecting the SS in high load situations. The deflection causes friction and heat. Enduro has the right idea using the hardest steel they can get.
  • + 1
 jumping in on this one - i have a fsa kforce light triple crank with the fsa ceramic bearings (non bb30) on my mtb. i ride/commute in canada in the winter and i have to say that the ceramic bearings spin more freely than it ever did when i had my truvativ crank gxp with "standard" bearings. when it was -10 degrees celcius or below , the truvativ crank with the "standard" bearings was alot "slower"(?) to crank or alot harder to crank.
with the fsa ceramic bearings- at -10c - much easier to crank over definitely- spin freer.
so what does that mean in terms of watts savings?
have no idea - but for me - im always going to stick with ceramic bearings .
they are also on my road bike as well.
just my 2 cents (if its worth that ! )
  • + 4
 Love it, perfect way to waste a few minutes at my desk when I should be working.
  • + 1
 Does anyone in the industry have any OFFICIAL opinion on what to do when the component specifies a standard Radial Contact bearing and has no provision for preload adjustment but the spec is still the industry standard C3 fit bearing? Sort of what happened in the day with Hershey hubs when some guy sat at a bench in thier service department and had a box of bearings on his left that were C2 and a box of bearings on his right that were C4 to deal with the tolerance discrepancies of the hub shells.
A modern example (not to name names) would be a company that makes hub shells for several 'brands' that offer mechanically identical hubs in anodised, painted and plain/cnc'd, but does not ensure the bearing surface is cleaned of excess paint or allow for any changes in preload when the bearing is pressed in to the shell.

If not, would anyone like an article about retaining compounds and thier various applications?


Good ol' Roger Durham at Bullseye had a great theory on why his hubs (with noticable end-play, once tightened in frame/fork) were more efficient due to the very fact that not all of the balls were in contact when loaded. I wish I could find the notes (was pre-internet) but it was an interesting read and I'd like the industry opinion as well.
  • + 1
 Decent informative article! However as far as I was aware (I could be wrong) ceramic hybrid bearings need re-greasing on a fairly regular basis compared to standard steel ball bearings and require a certain type of grease. I think I'll save my money and hassle and just stick with steel!
  • + 1
 My Intense 951 comes with Enduro's factory installed.

Ya, I wanna know what the recommended grease is? I'm using good 'ole Phil Wood brand.
Just wanna say to everyone... regardless of where you ride or how often, every few months inspect your sealed bearings.
  • + 1
 I thought there was concern with using ceramic bearings in places that take impact, due to ceramic being more brittle than steel? Seems like I only ever see them in road applications.
  • + 4
 ah, from Enduro Bearings's web store: Certain companies are offering ceramic and ceramic hybrid bearings for suspension pivots. They are either ignorant or dishonest. In these high-load, low-rotation applications, you will be spending a lot of money for no performance gain. In fact, you will be paying extra for weaker bearings. Never use a full ceramic bearing for a suspension pivot. The races are much more sensitive to shock and could crack.
  • + 2
 @groghunter

that's the truth

ceramics should never be used for MTB where shock loading impact is too common, whether in suspension pivot, hub or BB

ideal for road bikes, if you want to waste your money...
  • + 1
 Good write up! I like how this article pops up on the home page the same day that my Enduro MAX bearings arrive in the mail! I'm just building up my bike now and can't wait to test them out
  • + 1
 This is great, should I get the 6800 zz will that be right for Giant Trance1 bearings replace. Looking to replace then but dont have the originals, looks like is 22 on the out side of the bearing and 10 in the inside?
  • + 2
 Payed £150 for my bb so the bearings better last or ill be putting in a claim for new bearings based on how they where described
  • + 1
 I paid £90 for mine and it took about 3 months for the bearings to go! I just hate how much you pay for a bike then it's a bloody bearing that let's it down!! Crappy things
  • + 1
 If you bought a hope bb you'll be fine they do a full line of spares and replacements for there bb ranges. Depending on how you look after them m
  • + 1
 Yeah I did have hope before lasted all summer. I brought a commencal so needed a pressfit bb
  • + 2
 Do they actually manufacture anything? I thought they are re-badged VXB, or something?
  • + 1
 Ceramic Hybrid bearings is there any pedaling advantag or speed advantag when used on wheels ? that seems to be all the hype.but artical has no mention of it.
  • + 1
 All steel vs. ceramic hybrid of equal production quality, the hybrids will be faster. It will translate to seconds lost in a race. Generally speaking, hybrids bought for friction loss is a good investment if that is your goal. The problem comes when a customer is promised speed and longevity. Either chromium steel or stainless steel races paired with ceramic balls cannot promise longer bearing life than an all-steel bearing. They can only promise greater speed. The XD-15 changes that. Because the high-nitrogen steel is 3.5 times more corrosion resistant than stainless and is longer wearing than the chromium steel, the XD-15 can promise speed and longevity (plus corrosion resistance on a new level). Can an all-ceramic bearing promise the same? Yes, but in limited applications. For applications subject to shock, the races can crack. Even in some road applications, depending upon the wheel hub design and bearing location within the hub, the load can cause enough flex to crack a ceramic race. That could ruin your day.
  • + 1
 Pinkbike has gotten smart. I miss the days of. never ending newbs and huckz to flat !1!1!1
  • + 2
 Note to self.. Never jet wash bike ever again..
  • + 2
 Pressure washing is ok to do just don't directly spray it at seals and bearings.
  • + 3
 shouldn't ever pressure wash your bike...quick way to ruin any bearing /bushing element on your bike (hubs, headset, BB, suspension pivots, fork seals, shock seals, seatpost seals, derailleur guide wheels, chain, etc.)
  • + 2
 I clean my Nomad very rarely and I use jetwash only if Im in a hurry from a bikepark and there's lots of mud on the it.

In the user manual they actualy advise you to clean the bike as little as possible Big Grin
  • + 1
 I made a post, above, regarding my Enduro Max bearings rusting. I no longer wet wash my bike. After any mud has dried I brush it off and use rags to dry clean it. However, prior to my using Enduro's bearings I always wet washed my bike with nary a problem.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns and @TomBasic

its true, bikes do not enjoy being washed!!

the understanding I have learned is to always wipe down bikes with a clean rag, or if really mucky, then use warm soapy water and sponge / brush and rinse with cold water but never with pressure washer or even water hose

the issue of chain cleaning is something I learned from discussion with KMC and Shimano technical people, they always advise wiping with rag, lubing and wiping with clean rag again, you can get a chain very clean using this method

if really dirty on MTB then some warm soapy water, but NEVER degreaser, chain cleaning machine or any solvents as it just f*cks the chain and then the transmission

the problem for mechs working in bike shops is that customers expect "factory clean" when servicing and bike shops use parts washers (which ruin chains...) despite the mech knowing that surface dirt on a chain is better than flushing all lubricant from chain rollers as it can never be replaced
  • + 1
 This does not answear the one and only question: How is it made! How do they fit in the last ball?
  • + 1
 Usually very small notches in the edge of the races on one side of the cartridge. When the notches are aligned, the balls can be pushed into the cartridge.
  • + 1
 Perfect timing. Yesterday I notice a lot of play in my BB. Now I know what to look for.
  • + 1
 If price wasn't an issue, would we be using ceramic balls in ceramic raceways?
  • + 1
 Crack and fail. Frames are not accurate enough.
  • + 1
 Learned more here than my entire day at school. PB wins!
  • + 1
 I always have ball compliment...
  • + 1
 Ahh man, now I kinda feel bad for my bike.... Great read!
  • + 1
 My kinda article! There was a lot of talk about balls in that read. :p
  • + 1
 Is Enduro still using that thin white grease that washes out in one ride?
  • + 3
 Re read the article
  • + 2
 I read it the first time. Did you? He doesn't mention what kind of grease Enduro currently uses. 8 years ago, I had to service all 16 bearings in my Ventana Cuervo after a wet trip to Whistler. All the bearings were seized from rust. The grease that was still left was a lightweight white paste. Like Crisco for lack of a better description. I replaced the grease in all my bearings with Schaeffer's 229 Ultra Red. Way thicker, waterproof, and fine for pivot bearings...
  • + 1
 How old were the bearings when you went to whistler? Did you inspect them before whistler as well?
  • + 1
 Picked the bike up in the spring of 04. All summer riding up until my Whistler trip in the fall. It was pretty wet up there, but the level of rust in the pivot bearings was incredible. By comparison, the bearings in my CK headset were fine...
  • + 2
 Hey, UC: That grease is not currently used on the MAX suspension bearings. A red high-pressure marine grease is used in them now. As you point out, a thicker, heavier grease has no down side for pivot bearings since it's a low speed application.
  • + 1
 Good to know! The bearings themselves are awesome, except for the grease that was used.
  • + 2
 @UncleCliffy

SRAM Tech actually use a military-grade Marine grease for all their servicing, said it was easily the best they have found and not stupid money either Wink
  • + 1
 I learned about the Schaeffers grease from my old job. We had giant web presses, and for whatever reason the bearings in all the rollers would burn up in 6 months. LOTS of downtime to tear one of those out to change bearings. The main plant engineer happened upon that grease, tried some, and the bearings went YEARS before needing any replacement. I showed him what happened to my bike, then he gave me a tube. Its great stuff!
  • + 3
 @UncleCliffy

that's the thing really? you often find better solutions outside of what the bike industry is trying to sell you...which is often 're-badged' generic greases and oils

I can buy motorbike suspension oils and DOT brake fluids for 1/4rd of the price that "mountain bike" brands charge, and the company here in the UK (Rock Oil) that manufacturers and retails these substances under their own brand name, also has a very healthy business doing 're-badge' work for much bigger known "brands"
  • + 1
 For what it's worth, wherever possible/practical I upgrade to S/S bearings, but always pop out the rubber seals, pack fully with high-quality marine grease and replace.
Bearings generally only come 1/3 packed and the gaps invite water over time which, in my experience, is the primary cause of failure.
For high-rotation bearings, I'll use Inox MX-3 or TSI301 and just brush an light coat of marine grease on the external surfaces.
Teflon-based PTFE grease can also be really handy for anything in between heavy-duty, eg bottom bracket etc, and (relative) high rotation, eg wheel bearings.
For chain lube, I've been using TSI301 for about four years and find it works really well as it gets into the microscopic nooks and crannies in the metal and lasts better than anything else I've tried.
  • + 2
 @redsetta

thanks for your input

I would add from my experience, that re-packing bearings with quality grease is ideal for bearings seeing limited angular rotation like pivots on suspension frames, or headset bearings

for bearings used in wheel hubs or bottom brackets (which are actually rotating constantly, rather than limited "back and forth" rotation like suspension pivots or headset bearings) you don't want to pack in too much grease as it can cause accelerated wear to the bearing from hydrodynamic over-pressure

getting 'just enough' grease in a wheel or BB bearing is always preferable to 'over packing' that bearing Wink
  • + 1
 Good call - cheers.
  • + 1
 It looks like tech twesday has finally come "to the point"
  • + 1
 I feel like I've learnt something today, thanks pinkbike!
  • + 1
 Tell Shimano to use those stuff!!!!!!!
  • + 1
 Good article thanks.
  • + 1
 Sick
  • + 1
 More like boreophyll !!!
  • + 1
 Good article.
  • + 0
 damn i want some of those Enduro XD-15 bearings for my frame!
  • + 1
 awesome article!!!

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