By Brandon Bilyeu
In addition to reviewing a couple Enduro Bearings products we had the chance to submit a few questions via email to Enduro co-founder Matt Harvey. Matt has been around the cycling industry for a long time and before Enduro he helped design the full suspension Bianchi that the UCI banned on the start line of Paris Roubaix in 1994.
Enduro Bearings, based in Oakland, CA, has been manufacturing both industrial and cycling specific bearings since 1996. Their bearings are used by many OEM and aftermarket bicycle and parts manufacturers as well as offering parts directly to consumers. Besides cartridge bearings for wheels, headsets and suspension pivots, Enduro also makes ready to install Bottom Brackets and Derailleur Pulleys.
RBR: Do bearings really make a difference for the average recreational cyclist?
Matt Harvey: I believe they do especially in regards to service intervals and efficiencies. A Recreational cyclist could be considered from someone who rides a few miles on a local bike path every day to a gravel enthusiast who enters a couple of events a year and rides regularly to train. In either case you probably want to minimize your trips to the local bike shop to address new found slop in your wheels or a creaking bottom bracket. Let’s say you bring your bicycle into the shop for the wheels.
The labor to change the bearings might be $50-100, and the bearings could be from $5 each. Let’s say you spend a little more, $10-15 each to get some of our ABEC-5 wheel bearings with better grease fill and better seals to resist water intrusion. Instead of having to bring it in next year, now you are probably good for 2-3 years. It not only saves you money, but the bearings will be rolling smoother without getting sloppy for that entire time.
RBR: How do you know if your current bearings suck? (Either because of poor quality or just messed up and worn out.)
MH: Usually the things you notice are noises (creaking, squeaking, groaning, popping, etc.). Or an excessive amount of play in the components. In either case it’s time to take a look and see what’s going on inside the bearing assembly. It could just be an adjustment, but it would also be a good time to remove the seals from the bearings and see if there is still good grease inside. Are metal particles falling out or is the color a rusty orange and the grease has turned to some ugly black mass? Good bearings can often be serviced, but it they have been run out of adjustment for a long period of time or have rusted out, it’s time to replace them.
RBR: Why do some bearings develop lateral play and how do you (the rider) fix it?
There are two types of wear in common radial bearings: galling and ball path compaction. Galling is when brittle parts of the steel pit or break out due to carbon migration or interstices come together. It’s somewhat like a pot hole in the road. The bearing becomes rough, but is generally still tight. What you refer to above is when the steel races are soft and the ball is harder, resulting in the ball “rolling out” the ball path and creating more play between the races and the ball. This is common in stainless bearings, especially 440A or 440B stainless and could be either a chromium steel ball, a stainless ball, or a ceramic ball. A sphere is a particularly strong form, and even in the same material will generally be harder than the race. There is really no fixing extra play in a bearing when this is happening. If you have a pre-load adjuster, you can tighten down and remove the play. However, it will simply continue to compress and you will get lateral play again.
Radial bearings all have an internal clearance to begin with, and these tolerances can be quite wide for cheaper bearings. There are two clearances generally used in the bearing world, C-3 (towards the loose side, 0.011-0.021 mm) and C-N (tighter, 0.003-0.012 mm). Enduro uses a smaller more accurate range than the industry standard. Depending on the factory for the components and press fit, one or the other may be used.
RBR: What could you actually expect from upgrading your bearings?
MH: We strive first at making bearings long lasting at every level, even our entry level ABEC 3 “Blue seal” bearings. The Blue seal is an LLB seal, which means it has 2 sealing lips that ride in the dynamic groove. This helps keep the 80% grease fill inside and the dirt out. These “LLB” seals as opposed to “2RS” bearing seals which is a generic term for “Two Rubber Seals” and could be anything. But usually with this type there is no groove and it is a single lip. We also design every cycling bearing with the largest ball possible in each size, and the deepest grooves permitting to support the axial loads with the most advantage. This design standard is in every bearing we make up to the XD-15 Ceramic top of the line. In sum, you can expect longer life and time in between service intervals. Which also translates to more efficient bearings and less wattage drain.
RBR: Where should you spend your money if you’re upgrading them?
MH: The most challenged component of your bicycle is always the Bottom Bracket, so if you want to get the most bang for your buck, buy an Enduro TorqTite bottom bracket with Stainless or XD-15 bearings. It will be money well spent. You won’t have any noise coming from there and it will usually outlast the bike you are riding while most efficiently transferring your power along the way. Next would be looking at your wheel bearings. In this case I would also recommend Enduro XD-15 bearings because they last forever, never need service, and spin the best, but it is a chunk to spend. We have some that have been in race bikes over 10 years now and still spin with no play or noise like new, so we have the experience to back it up. If that is not in your budget, then our ABEC-5 wheel bearings are a great deal and you will get the same smooth spinning and a long life.
RBR: Ceramic bearings are expensive. Are they worth it?
MH: When ceramic bearings first became popular in cycling, there was a lot of talk about how durable and efficient they were. Of course, there were a lot of bad ones out there, or hurried to market, and it left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths. We went through a long development and testing process before we finally produced XD-15 ceramic bearings. The XD-15 race material is made for ceramic balls, it will not wear out in even the worst conditions, they only get smoother and better.
They can be used for Gravel or MTB with NO service, which is the opposite of what people think of when they hear ceramic bearings. We are busy still spreading the word, because these will outlast the best all steel bearings. All the while producing the lowest wattage suck of any other bearing out there you can find. Again, they are a commitment in terms of price, but if you ride a lot, I can think of a lot other expensive cycling products that I would put behind them.
Brandon Bilyeu is an avid recreational roadie who lives in Portland, Oregon, and enjoys road, track and ‘cross racing. He’s also a year-round bike commuter and is a mechanical design engineer by trade. Click to read Brandon’s full bio.