When was the last time you grease your wheel bearings? Do you even realise that without this essential part of your bike, you may not be able to go anywhere or at least not that fast?
Well, if you’re hearing this for the first time, you’re in the right place. This article will start by introducing you to arguably the hardest working part of your bike. Then, it will go over how wheel bearings affect your cycling performance. At the end of this piece, you’ll appreciate wheel bearings better and maintain them to avoid the unnecessarily expensive wheel bearing replacement cost. However, if your wheel bearings are already in need of replacement, check this to learn more about the cost of replacement.
What Is A Wheel Bearing?
A wheel bearing is the part of a bike that connects the axle to the wheel, therefore connecting the bike frame to the wheel. It consists of steel or taper balls that are held together by a metal ring. When these balls move, they steer the wheel bearing to move, which then causes the bike to move. Therefore, the entire bike will move slowly if the balls move slowly. Additionally, the bicycle wheels aren’t protected from friction if you have no wheel bearings. Any motion is resisted, which explains why the bike doesn’t move at all or moves very slowly.
There are three standard types of wheel bearings:
1. Loose Bearings
This type of bearing is considered the design of the original bearings. It’s therefore natural that it’s the preferred type of bearing for many cyclists. Additionally, the loose bearing may easily pass as the best type of wheel bearing for your bicycles. Balls in a loose wheel bearing come enclosed in either a cup or a cone.
2. Cartridge Balls
These are the most recent design of bearings. Their design allows easy servicing and replacement whenever needed. Moreover, cycling experts associate cartridge bearings with improved bike performance. Therefore, although pricey, this type of bearing is quickly gaining traction.
3. Needle Bearings
The needle bearings are cylinder-shaped. They’re among the earliest types of bearings, and they have maintained a track record of great performance. However, for a needle bearing to perform well, its design and interface have to be well structured. Unfortunately, the process of designing a needle home is costly, meaning that the product is equally expensive. Due to their high price, the needle bearings are slowly being phased out.
Now that you know what a wheel bearing is and the three standard types of wheel bearings, how does it affect your cycling performance? Here’s how:
Although not all bikes are built for speed, speed is still a significant factor in your cycling performance. The last thing you want is to put so much effort into pedalling without feeling the impact on the speed of your movement. Either way, everyone wants to cycle with the least effort on their pedals.
Wheel bearings are found in various parts of your bike, including:
- The front and rear hubs
- The freewheel
- The bottom bracket
- The fork tube
- The pedals
It’s the wheel bearings found in the hub that control your bike’s speed. When you pedal, the wheel bearings in your hub roll. Every roll causes the hub to move. The hub is connected to the axle, which is connected to the wheel that moves the bike frame.
Therefore, if there’s a drug in your wheel bearings, they won’t roll as fast. The result is slowed movement in your hub, and the same is reciprocated in the speed of your bicycle. On the other hand, if the wheel bearings roll faster, the hub will spin equally as fast, and so will the wheel, increasing speed with your bike.
Another way your bearings affect your performance is through the weight of your bike. The heavier the bearing, the heavier your wheels are. That’s why experts recommend that you use polymer bearings since they’re lightweight. With that said, how does weight affect your cycling performance?
To start, it takes more energy to peddle a heavy bike at the same speed as another person whose bike is lighter. Secondly, how fast your bike accelerates depends on its weight. If your bike is heavy due to heavy bearings, inertia is increased. The more the inertia, the slower your bike picks up speed.
The weight of your bike also affects your performance at climbing. According to experts, you’ll need more energy to climb up a hill. Additionally, if you’re a hefty person, cycling up a hill will require more energy. Therefore, if you intend to climb up hills, you want to make sure that the weight of your bearings is manageable.
Far from cycling, your weight will determine the shelf life of your bicycle’s wheels and sidewall. The heavier the bike is, the more resistance the wheels roll. When there’s a lot of resistance, the wheel trends tend to wear and tire quickly. The sidewalls of your wheels also have wear and tear, and soon enough, you may need to replace them.
Having a lighter bicycle will save you the frequent cost of replacing your tires and side wheels, significantly affecting your performance as a cyclist. If you keep digging into your pockets to maintain your bike, you may eventually shy off from cycling altogether.
Last but not least, should you need to push your bike or lift it across a flight of stairs, the last thing you want is a heavy bike. Therefore, the next time you’re replacing your wheel brins, check on their weight and preferably go for lighter bearings
Wheel Bearings Prevent Friction
As mentioned before, one of the main benefits of wheel bearings is that it prevents friction between your bicycle parts. Other than less friction leading to more speed, when the parts of your bike barely touch, it increases the shelf life of your bicycle parts.
Otherwise, without bearings and, most importantly, well-maintained bearings, your bike will soon start making unpleasant creak noises. Such noises can be a nuisance while you’re cycling. As such, you not only need wheel bearings, but you also need to make sure you frequently lubricate them.
Wheel bearings are a very small part of your bicycle. As such, you can easily ignore them. However, doing this would come at a great expense. This is because the availability and condition of your wheel bearings directly impact your cycling speed. If your wheel bearings roll slowly, your speed will be slow. Besides that, your bike will be heavy if your bearings are heavy. A heavy bike reduces your acceleration, ability to climb, and ability to take swift turns. Furthermore, your bearings are very important at guarding your bike’s metal parts against friction. The lesser the friction, the longer the shelf life of your bike and its parts.