Should one actually spend more money on ceramic bearings?
Is it worthwhile to invest in this pricy improvement, and what do experts in the industry think about ceramic bearings? Ceramic bearings are one of the most controversial performance modifications you can apply to your bike, as they are known to generate friction and wear.
Some people value ceramic bearings for the substantial watt savings they give, while others either don’t care about or consider them a waste of money.
But before we get into the pros and cons of ceramic bearings and examine whether or not they are an upgrade that is worth it, let’s first clarify exactly what ceramic bearings are, where they are used on bikes, and why they are used there.
Ceramic ball bearings
Unlike their typical steel counterparts, ceramic bearings enable your bike’s moving parts to spin more freely and serve the same function (if you want to learn more about bike bearings, we have a whole guide to bike bearings available for you).
As may be expected, the fundamental difference between ceramic and steel bearings is the material. Silicon nitride ceramic bearings are lauded for their long life, increased hardness, and decreased rolling resistance.
Ceramic bearings have been more common in the professional peloton in recent years. This is so because the constant search for little enhancements has become an article of faith in the sporting world.
However, they are also widely used by amateur cyclists seeking the ultimate performance boost, as well as professional cyclists who are particularly concerned with efficiency (e.g., time trialists).
Where on a bike might one find ceramic bearings in use?
Because of its low friction and extended lifespan, ceramic bearings are used in many different parts of the bike. Hubs, pulley wheels, bottom brackets, and headsets are all examples of such parts. Many ceramic bearings are in fact hybrid bearings, consisting of steel bearing races with ceramic balls. They may be used in both street and off-road events.
Ceramic bearings at the bottom of the crank
You may often find ceramic bearings in bottom brackets. Bottom brackets with ceramic bearings are available from companies like CeramicSpeed, C-Bear, Wheels Manufacturing, and FSA, and ceramic bearing upgrade kits are also widely available. When compared to steel bearings, ceramic bearings have a longer lifespan and are more stable when subjected to greater temperatures.
Featuring ceramic-bearing hubs
Bicycles often have ceramic bearings, and one popular placement for these bearings is in the wheel hubs. Several companies provide hubs or wheels that may be customised using ceramic or standard steel bearings. As with bottom brackets, kits are available for upgrading the bearings in your wheels from steel to ceramic.
The pulley wheels are made of ceramic.
Energy loss may also be minimised by upgrading the rear derailleur’s pulley wheels from their standard metal bearings to ceramic bearings or by installing larger pulleys (sometimes called jockey wheels) in their stead.
The use of ceramic in the production of headphones
So why exactly are ceramic headset bearings the best option? After all, minimising energy use by wattage isn’t exactly a priority in these parts. However, ceramic bearings’ corrosion-resistance and longevity are what actually count, since they may lead to fewer headset servicing and replacement needs over time.