There is something which all cycling enthusiasts can relate to: that is the temptation to ‘upgrade’ various parts and components on their bikes. This can be for various reasons but the most common one would be reduce the overall weight of the bike by installing lighter components. Consequently, in most cases, a lighter bike, in theory, means an improvement in performance for the same amount effort exerted as there is lesser weight to ‘carry’.
However, another aspect to enhancing performance (no, I don’t mean doping) on the bike, is the reduction of friction and drag, particularly with the moving parts of the bike, such as wheels, rollers and bearings. I’m pretty sure some of you are familiar with ceramic bearings on bicycles. Brands like Campagnolo use ceramic bearings as standard for their Record and Super Record cranksets as well as Shamal and Bora Ultra 2 wheelsets.
If you are considering upgrading the bearings of your bottom brackets and wheelsets, you might want to give Tripeak Ceramic Bearings a try. We managed to get a set of IB24 bottom bracket with ceramic hybrid bearings and a pair of Shimano Dura-Ace 7801 wheelset with a ceramic bearing upgrade for this review. (Thanks, Pharmatic!)
Performance and Usage
Of course, like any complicated bicycle related maintenance, repairing or upgrading work, the best thing is to leave it for the folks at your trusted local bike shop to do it, especially in this case of upgrading the bearings. As the saying goes, “You need the right tools for the right job” and Tripeak stocks specialized bottom bracket bearing and hub bearing tool kits (see below) which are required for proper installation and removal of the bottom bracket and hub bearings respectively.
L to R: The Press Fit BB Bearing tool kit & Mavic compatible hub bearing tool kit
After the upgrade to the Tripeak ceramic bottom bracket bearings, 2 things were immediately noticeable:
1) Easier to get up to speed with my usual pedalling effort and,
2) Less effort required for climbing.
However, the improvement in performance with the wheels was more subtle and it took longer rides to feel the difference, especially with steeper climbs or trying to maintain higher speeds on flats. In addition, my personal set of wheels were 32H Mavic Open Pros laced to Shimano Ultegra hubs were much heavier compared to the test pair so it was harder to tell whether it was the Dura-Ace wheels or the ceramic bearings in them which ‘did the magic’.
Compatibility-wise, Tripeak offers a wide range of models for different bottom bracket: the standard Shimano 24mm (used in this review), Press Fit BB 30 and BB86/92 as well as conversion kits for frames with BB30 bottom brackets but wanting to run 24mm cranks. There are also upgrades available for Shimano MTB bottom brackets.
As for hub bearing kits, Tripeak covers a wide range of models for major brands of wheels including Mavic, Fulcrum, Campagnolo and Shimano.
Perhaps one lingering concern of using ceramic bearings for those still considering is its longevity compared to standard steel bearings. According to Pharmatic, some of their sponsored riders have been using the ceramic bottom brackets for training and racing for almost a year and so far the feedback has been positive.
With compatibility across most bottom bracket standards and wheel brands, Tripeak ceramic bearings are an attractive option for those who are keen to go ceramic, compared to more pricey brands like Enduro. While there were improvements in cycling performance with the ceramic upgrade, do not expect it to be a big leap and one really reaps its benefits during longer rides or distances, which takes some ride time to discover. If you are into longer distance rides, Grand Fondo events or the occasional races, ceramic bearing upgrades are definitely worth considering.