Bicycle bearings are an essential piece of bicycle technology. They reduce friction, so the wheel will spin for longer from a single push. This allows riders to travel faster with less effort by ensuring that their work is transferred more efficiently to the wheel. Traditionally, bicycles featured steel bearings, but riders have increasingly moved over to ceramic options in search of increased performance.Advantages of Ceramic Bearings
When pursuing maximum track performance, ceramic bearings have several important advantages over steel bicycle bearings. The material allows them to be made smoother and more perfectly spherical, reducing friction within the bearing and ensuring that more power is transferred to the wheel. Ceramic is also both lighter and harder than steel, reducing overall weight and increasing durability, and unlike steel it will not corrode. While the gains are marginal, ceramic components have become popular on the professional circuit.Hybrid Ceramic Bearings
Most ceramic bike bearings on the market today are hybrids. A hybrid bearing sets ceramic balls into a steel race. The primary advantage of this is cost: ceramic components are more expensive to manufacture than steel ones, and so a hybrid bearing can be made more cheaply than a full ceramic one. Hybrid bearings have a noticeable break-in period, as the hard ceramic balls polish the inside of the race through friction.All-Ceramic Bearings
Over time, a hybrid bearing may lose performance as the harder ceramic balls damage the steel race. An all-ceramic bearing avoids that problem by using a ceramic race. Full ceramic bearings are best-placed to maximise ceramic’s speed and weight advantages over steel. However, the increased hardness also makes them more brittle. While more resistant to ordinary wear and tear, they are more likely to fail under impact.Applications
Ceramic bearings can be applied in various ways. Headsets, hub bearings, bottom brackets and jockey wheels can all be upgraded with ceramic bearings for increased performance. Many manufacturers will also sell individual ceramic ball bearings for maintenance.