Ceramicspeed are one of the world’s leading suppliers of ceramic bearing so they know a thing or two about the differentials between using ceramic as opposed to steel. Their bearings are renowned for superb quality and durability, so what happens when used in bike components?
I was recently lucky enough to get my hands on one of their beautifully machined bottom brackets and as I was in the process of rebuilding and upgrading my race bike I couldn’t have received it at a better time. The model received was designed to be used with a standard BSA threaded shell and a 24mm spindle; they do of course offer a plethora of choices for most frame standards. The beautifully machined bottom bracket comes supplied in a sleek black package and includes fitting instructions, decal sheet and Ceramicspeeds own blue grease (more on that later). But would you really expect anything less for a product with such a high price point?
There are a multitude of sites giving the pros and cons of ceramic verses steel but what makes Ceramicspeed bearings so different to every other bearing out there is the quality of the materials used. Ceramicspeed claim to use rounder, harder, smoother, stiffer, lighter and more durable balls than both steel and other ceramic balls on the market. A quick visit to their website details the processes used to create their unique bearings and the tests they have developed to check saved wattage output among other things, so I won’t blind you with the science behind them, but can attest to the actual bearing feeling buttery smooth and extremely fast.
The proof, as they say, is always in the pudding. I will state here and now that I have always shied away from ceramic bearings feeling they simply wouldn’t offer the stated potential and the gain really was minimal in the extreme. That plus the fact that ceramic bearings can become pitted if not manufactured correctly was always a big turn off. For years Chris King has been my bottom bracket of choice, reliable, beautifully machined cups and with the highest quality steel bearings they tend to run smoothly for years so why would you need anything else? The one big negative was always the drag, fit a set of Chris King bearings and you’ll be lucky to get one complete rotation of your crank if spun by hand. That doesn’t just relate to Chris King however, most bearing manufacturers experience the same issue and that drag, even minimal can cause a loss of wattage. Putting things in the most basic context, less bearing drag helps you ride faster using less energy.
Once the bottom bracket was fitted the difference was immediate, spinning the cranks backwards showed just how much more spin the drive had gained. On the bike the differential becomes less obvious as other factors come into play but the smoothness was certainly evident. Not having a laboratory at my disposal I can only surmise that if the bottom bracket is serviced on a regular basis it will increase overall performance and gain you those elusive seconds. This is just one small part that can optimise performance but add this to a complete optimisation and you really should start to reap the benefits.
The Ceramicspeed BB is user serviceable and comes supplied with syringe and replacement grease. The grease supplied is Ceramicspeeds own ‘Blue Grease’ a high performance lubricant that has a low friction viscosity. Maintenance is very much dependent on weather conditions, as an example Ceramicspeed state that you should service the BB every 5-10,000 km or alternatively once a year. They also have a very helpful online video section that shows a full step by step guide on how to service the bearings. Being able to service the bottom bracket goes a little of the way to justifying the price but it certainly can’t be overlooked; at £199 (uncoated) it’s a premium product. However, you are very much getting a quality product that comes with a 4 year warranty as standard, or upgrade to the ‘coated’ version that has a special metallic layer added which is 75% harder than hardened steel races and the warranty goes up to 6 years.
There is a very good reason why the likes of Tinkoff, Etixx Quick Step, Astana and many other professional race teams use Ceramicspeed bearings, simply stated, there is an advantage to be gained. But let’s not be coy, these are not just for pro teams looking minimal gains, the amateur rider will also gain an advantage and if they make my life a little easier when trying to stay in touch with my VC Iveagh club mates, that can be no bad thing.
You can read more about Ceramicspeed products over at their website www.ceramicspeed.com