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Heresy - save money!

Ceramic bearings aren’t worth the money!

I know this is heresy, but I thought I’d pass on my recent learnings regarding ceramic bearings, and spark some lively debate (?).

It started with a couple of emails back and forth with Steve at HED, who basically persuaded me to save money by a) not buying more wheels, and b) not upgrading to ceramic bearings. Good customer service, not much business sense!

But it prompted me to do some reading and it boils down to
• Ceramic bearings are smoother, lighter and harder than steel bearings
• However you can get grades (smoothness) of steel bearings way better than you’d ever need for a bike, and the same grading system works regardless of material so ABEC5 steel = ABEC5 ceramic.
• Ceramic bearings will only last longer if the bearing races are also ceramic, as they will ultimately wreck steel races
• The rotation & load the bearings would need to be under to see a noticeable improvement are way higher than any cyclist can manage, even the top guys.
• The weight saving is minimal, maybe 10g a wheel? (can’t remember the exact figure).
• Ceramic costs several times the cost of steel for the same grade.

There’s loads of debate online about the above, most of the pro-ceramic argument is along the lines of “I’ve tried them and they’re faster” which is pretty much dismissed as placebo by the pro-steel guys, who can also back up their case with some hefty science/ maths.

From personal experience I upgraded my last race wheels to ceramic, and noticed an improvement, but the previous bearings were years old, so decent new steel ones might have been just as good, and in terms of rollability my new race wheels seem just as good with their stock steel bearings.

Thought I’d share this and maybe save you guys a few £££ - or cheer you up that you’re not ceramic!

I’ll now get my coat and go and buy something in red carbon to appease the tri-gods.


  • QuitterQuitter Posts: 160
    <fingers in ears> lalalalalalalalalalalalalalalal

    Ceramic bearings......do you have a link to some VERY expensive ones?

  • shadowone1shadowone1 Posts: 1,408
    I'll drop a name in here....

    Graeme Obree..... steel bearings from a washing machine. He took the steel bearing out of a washing machine (capable of over 1500rpm) and put them in old faithful.....

    Served him well those bearings did.

    Tesser is correct, there was an article in Triathlete Europe about the grading of bearings some time ago of which I can't remember the specifics.
  • TesseractTesseract Posts: 280
    Oh, and it's still worth getting good quality bearings, from a named company like SKF, so it'll still cost you a little more than unbranded standard ones from the lbs (hopefully that's the tri-gods happy again )
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