Editor's Note: This post was first published by Chandler Snyder here, and while we may not look to go to the places a triathlete goes or buy into the wattage claims of every last manufacturer, we do like to learn about new products that seem to really be holding their own.
Bottom Brackets. Yes, the proverbial piece of the bicycle puzzle that has been the subject of so much change and scrutiny over the past few years. Any seasoned mechanic can give themselves a migraine dealing with memorizing which companies are using which design. Threaded BSA, Threaded Italian, BB30, PFBB30, BB86/92, BBRIGHT and all the other iterations on the market. Add to that the increasing issues of noise, failure, replacement costs as well as the myriad of adapter(s) available to make “square pegs fit in round holes” and you have quite the Sudoku puzzle of frame mechanics to deal with while not wanting to reach for the can of gasoline and a lighter.
As a mechanic who’s seen the progression of Bottom Bracket design over the past couple of decades I’ve come to form my own opinions on the current state of the industry in this area. Mating plastic pressfit sleeves into carbon, or aluminum shells with epoxies, and resins, is arguably not the best way to install this new wave of Bottom Bracket. Increasing popularity of Gravel/Off Road Racing/Riding and Cyclocross has shined new attention to this area of the bike where previously you just assumed that your road bike stuff would “last longer” than your mountain bike would when it came to things like bottom brackets, headsets, hubs…things that don’t get “thrashed” as much as they do when off road.
Enter Kogel Bearings.
Kogel came onto my radar about a year ago when I saw a couple people post photos on social media. After doing some web scouring, and reading, I reached out to one my social contacts who’s been a vocal supporter of Kogel, to see why he likes them so much and what he knew of the company besides what’s on the interwebs. After some email exchanging, I was put in contact with Ard Kessels, the owner of Kogel Bearings.
I sent Ard an email introducing myself and explaining my interest in his company. Kogel claims “The entire line of Kogel Bearings bottombrackets is designed to stop creaking while increasing the overall stiffness ofthe bottom bracket area. Every single item will hold in a frame with grease,not glue or epoxy.” To me this sounds like magic, so I proposed a testing of his bearings, and bottom brackets throughout the cyclocross season. One reason was because while there are several testimonials on the site, I couldn’t find anyone who’d done a long term test on several different models of bottom bracket, and while I trust many of the opinions of those listed on the site, I'm a visual learner and need to see and touch products myself and watch them from start to finish on my bikes being raced locally by people who put just as many hours and miles in as the Pros do. Long story short, the project is officially going to start this week.
Kogel claims to not need adapters for its bottom bracket designs in that they make a bottom bracket for every design out there, both crank and frame. They also make headset bearings, derailleur pulleys and sell specially formulated greases for all products. The bearings come with two (2) seal options…Road and MTB/Cross. The bearings options are either steel or ceramic, and both using top quality rated materials.
So over the next few months there will be 3 bottom brackets ridden throughout the Chicago Cyclocross Cup season by 3 riders, maintained by Yours Truly per Kogel instructions, and then feedback given from the testers as well as myself at the end of the year. The bottom brackets that will be tested are: Threaded BSA SRAM GXP version, BB86 version and BB30 version.
Out of the box impressions are positive. The craftsmanship and finish is top notch. Turning the bearings in my hand, they felt smoother than anticipated, this is because the Cross versions supposedly use a special seal to keep the elements out and with “more seal” one could assume there would naturally be more friction in the system. Not seeing a plastic sleeve on the BB86 version made me breathe easy. The SRAM BB86, for those who have installed them, uses a plastic sleeve that is not optimal for the stresses of being pressed into a frame and expected to retain its integrity both from a structural standpoint as well as allowing the the bearing to rotate freely. There have been many times where the bearing feels great outside of the frame while in the sleeve, only to suffer noticeable changes after being pressed into a frame.
Installation of the Bottom Brackets was super easy. I used some of The Morgan Blue waterproof grease which Kogel sent with the bottom brackets to lubricate threads and coat surfaces per Kogel spec. The Outboard BSA version for 24mm spindles comes with 3 washers to use a GXP style crank with the system. Installing the non-drive side spacers is different than other BB’s Ive used. You install one on the Inside of the non-drive cup, then install the cup into the frame. Once that’s torqued to spec, you install the final washer between the non-drive crank arm and the bearing. I have not felt a bottom bracket spin so freely upon initial installation, especially one that’s marketed as having special seals for MTB/Cross use. Usually you run into the issue of friction due to increased seals, or grease in order to last longer in conditions much worse than are usually seen on the road. I cannot wait to see how long it lasts.
The riders who will be putting these bottom brackets through their paces represent a great range of demographic in the industry, and their feedback will be given at the end of the project. Ill be following up with 2 more pieces this Cyclocross Season, the 2nd piece will be more in depth on Kogel as a company and an interview with Ard Kessels himself on what got him into the bearing business, especially the cycling side. The third, and final, piece will be the end of season project results and findings. We’ll look at the aspect Kogel claims set them apart from other products. Did the bearings truly not need epoxies? Did they stay quiet for the season? Did they hold up to power washing, sub-freezing temps and the use and abuse that comes from an entire season of being raced in some of the worst conditions possible. The riders/testers will give their feedback as well, and you’ll be introduced to them.
So stay tuned for the results, I know I'm excited about experiencing Kogel Bearings and I hope you are too!
We'll follow along with Chandler through the rest of the season to see how these bottom brackets hold up.