Bicycle Bearings: Everything You Need to Know

Table of Contents

A bicycle’s bearings are an essential component. They power every rotating component on your bicycle. Without bearings, it is impossible to steer, roll, pedal, or have a working powertrain. Generally, better stainless steel bicycle bearings provide faster acceleration.

Even though bearings are a crucial part of a bike, many people actually don’t know much about them. In this article, we discuss some of the essential things you need to know about bicycle bearings. Let’s get started.

What are bicycle bearings?

Bearings are parts of a machine that mediate the transfer of force between two other parts, where one part supports the other. The bearing either permits rotation around a support axis or linear rotation. Bicycle bearings allow for rotation around an axis.

Types of bearings

  1. Loose ball bearings

Because it is simple to maintain, this bearing type, also known as cup and cone, is the most popular. The system consists of cone-shaped bearing balls with cups on top. A smooth finish matches the balls on the cup and cone. For premium bicycles, in particular, several manufacturers are gradually phasing out loose bearings. Most businesses utilize this bearing design for entry-level motorcycles because of its inexpensive cost. Loose bearings, while being the first design, are still in use because, with the proper modifications, they function incredibly well. When properly maintained, cup and cone bearings also last for a long time. But this mechanism often leads to serious damage if it isn’t properly maintained.

  1. Cartridge bearings

In this design, the ball bearings are housed in a cartridge, as the name would imply. An inner and an outer race, a cage to house the bearings, and two seals on either face make up the cartridge. This design is less maintenance-intensive than a system with loose bearings because of the sealing. The balls can be concealed to lessen wear as well. The seals, however, do not entirely keep out dust and grime. For the bearings to operate at their best, they must still be cleaned and lubricated. Bearings in cartridges can’t be taken apart or adjusted. Most bicycles now use these types of bearings, which are becoming more and more widespread.

  1. Needle bearings

Since technology has advanced, roller or needle bearings are outdated and rarely used. Pedals and headsets both have them. Ball bearings are not used in this design; instead, cylindrical bearings are used. They roll with less resistance than balls because of their shape. Furthermore, the bearings’ larger contact areas in their races enable them to support heavy loads. The bearings offer excellent stability because they deliver smooth rolling. However, needle bearings are not widely used since they are expensive and complicated.

Bearings Maintenance

Bicycle bearings require less maintenance. They provide service for many years as long as they are used properly. Water pollution and corrosion are the leading causes of bearing damage. Riders frequently wash their bikes with pressure washers and aim the intense blast towards the bearings, which is the most common mistake they make.

If a bearing isn’t cleaned and oiled quickly away, water is driven past the seals and destroys it. If you frequently ride in wet conditions, your bearings will need more regular lubrication and may need to be replaced because water can also be introduced just by riding in wet conditions.

Another bearing killer is faulty installation, which occurs before the bearings are even used. An early end to a bearing’s life can result from poor alignment or the use of incorrect tools. It is frequently advisable to leave replacement and even service to a qualified mechanic for this reason.