Ball bearings are fragile if used in the wrong way. You can get years of joy out of a quality set, or destroy them before you put the first mile on them. In this article we will share some wisdom that will increase the lifespan of your bearings.
installing bearings with bad tools
Very often we advice customers to have their bearings installed by a professional. This is not because pressing a bearing in a bike part is super difficult. It can be done by anyone with some mechanical skills, care and patience. It is a bit of a high risk game though. If something goes wrong, frames and hub sets can be damaged beyond repair. The main reason to bring your pressing job to a mechanic is because bearings can only be installed with the exact fitting drifts. Proper bearing tools are expensive, so unless you use them on a daily basis in your shop, the cost does usually not balance the benefits.
Any makeshift solution or 'almost right' press sets are a surefire way to crush your bearing races. This problem will not show immediately after installation, but will pop up after two months once the balls have been damaged by rolling on bumpy races.
- this home made device does nothing to center the drift in the bearing, nor does it do anything to prevent the cups from skewing during the installation
side loading your bearings
Radial ball bearings (which cover most bottom bracket and hub bearings on a bicycle) are meant to run without any side load. It always surprises me that crank set ups rely on wave washers to fit correctly or to see preload adjusters on a hub set. More often than not, it is a cover for sloppy engineering. The proper way to set up a bottom bracket would be with an adjuster that can be hand tightened to the point of initial contact with the bearings. By design, hubs should be set up in such a way that the bearings are separated from the axle loading forces of quick release skewers.
- a classic example of a hub with a preload adjuster (the silver part with the allen bolt), leaving the axle spacing to the end user. Run it too loose and your wheel will rock on the axle. Run it too tight and your bearings will grind themselves to pieces.
This is one that everybody knows to avoid, but sometimes you have no options. Cyclocross racing or the bikewash during a mountain bike stage race come to mind. If you do use a pressure washer, please keep your distance. Try to avoid spraying directly into the bearings, or if you have no choice during a pit wash at CX nationals, realize that you or your mechanic need to tear down the entire bike and rebuild it after the race.
- Kogel Bearings cross seals are the favorite of many Cyclocross mechanic. They are made to deal with everyday use on the CX course. Still, the Maxxis Shimano mechanics spend hours working after their racers are on the massage table.
putting your bike away wet or dirty
Water or mud and metal parts have never been friends. Going on a sloppy winter ride, shoving your bike in the shed and jumping from the shower to a long Netflix session sounds like a Sunday well spent. Just don't be surprised if your bike starts moaning and complaining on the next ride.
Cleaning is part of the ride. At least show the courtesy to wipe down your bike, or once you have cleaned up the body, go back and show your two wheeler some TLC. If you have access to a compressor, blowing water off your bearing surfaces with compressed air is a good way to dry them. just keep some distance with the nozzle in order to not push any liquids under the seals.
ignoring the signs
I have mentioned in previous blog posts that being honest with yourself is the best way to take care of your bike: you know when you have been riding in the rain, you know when your bottom bracket has been making that clicking or faint grinding sound. Do not ignore those signs!
- Listening to your body is important and can prolong your healthy life. Your bike is no different.
Bearings can be saved with service if you did not run them into the ground. Catch problems early and you will be able to bring your hubs back to showroom condition with some grease and a new seal kit. Ignore the signs and you are on your way to the bike shop to spend the equivalent of a few race registrations.
I hope these are some valuable tips. Following them will keep your bike run better and longer. If you have any questions for Kogel Bearings that you would like us to address, please use the 'Need Help?' button at the bottom of your screen.