Kogel Bearings is the brainchild of Ard Kessels, a Dutchman that has raced, worked as a team mechanic, and managed a successful bike shop in Belgium. He became interested in ceramic bearings and bottom brackets while selling C-Bear’s products and with a few ideas of his own, he founded Kogel Bearings in 2014 after relocating to the U.S.A.
One of those ideas was to offer a choice of two kinds of seals for the bearings, non-contact versus a heavy-duty. While the former is less weather-resistant, it offers the kind of low friction prized by road cyclists. In contrast, the latter produces some bearing drag but is a better option for contending with the demands of CX, MTB, and all-weather commuting.
Kessels wasn’t content to leave it at that though. He specifies a different grease formulation for each kind of seal, such that low-friction grease is used for bearings with Kogel’s so-called non-contact “Road” seals, while a thicker, more weather-resistant grease is used for bearings with the heavy-duty “Cross” seals.
All Kogel bearings are built with high-grade (grade 3) ceramic ball bearings and steel races. According to Kessels, each set of races is highly polished to reduce friction then meticulously matched to the bearings to meet the requirements for an ABEC5 precision bearing.
The majority of Kogel’s bearings are incorporated into bottom brackets, with the company specialising in conversion kits that address many of the incompatible frame and crank combinations in the bike industry. Thus, there are dozens of Kogel bottom brackets with one to suit almost any combination of a crank axle (Shimano 24mm, BB30 30mm, SRAM GXP, Campagnolo Ultra-Torque, Rotor 24mm, Rotor 30mm, Race Face/FSA 24mm, BB386 30mm) and bottom bracket (BSA, ITA, BB30, PF30, OSBB, BB30A, PF30A, BB86, BB386, BBright) that can be found in the market today.
The alloy bearing cups/retainers used in each bottom bracket are precision-machined with generous shoulders and small tolerances to reduce the risk of creaking. At the same time, the bearings are spaced so as to minimise or eliminate the need for spacer/shims/reducers that can contribute to creaking.
Every Kogel bottom bracket is supplied with a 12-month “few questions asked” warranty that can be extended by another 12 months if the owner has it serviced and new seals installed by a professional mechanic after the first year of use.
This extendable warranty also applies to Kogel’s derailleur jockey wheels too, which spin on the same grade 3 ABEC 5 hybrid ceramic bearings as the bottom brackets with a choice of Road or Cross seals.
Over the last two decades, there has been a significant rise in creaky bottom brackets as the industry has abandoned steel in favour of first, aluminium alloy, and then carbon composites. Along with the change in frame materials, there has been the introduction of threadless bottom brackets, which have added to the problem.
Kogel’s bottom brackets go some of the way to providing relief to owners suffering from a creaking bottom bracket, however the precision-machined cups will not compensate for a frame with poor tolerances. Under those circumstances, a bottom bracket that offers an expanding fit (such as Praxis) is perhaps the only remedy.
It is far better to view Kogel’s bottom brackets as a high-end product than a problem-solver, though the sheer number of options on offer in the brand’s catalogue will solve many problems when trying to fit a seemingly incompatible crankset to a particular frame/bottom bracket shell.
Kogel’s bearings are buttery smooth and provided they aren’t neglected, promise to serve buyers for at least a couple of years, by which time the extra expense will be long forgotten. Comparing the Road seals with Cross seals, there is some drag in the latter, however the bearing action remains remarkably smooth. As such, I consider the Cross seals a sounder choice so that the owner needn’t worry about getting caught in a shower.
Nevertheless, for those riders that derive enormous satisfaction from free-spinning cranks, Kogel’s ceramic bearings with road seals should impress. The same applies to their jockey wheels, with an expense-be-damned version the company has dubbed “Not for Instagram” because they keep spinning and spinning.
Price: Derailleur jockey wheels, AUD$160-180/US$100-110; threaded bottom brackets, AUD$240-285/US$160-190; threadless bottom brackets, AUD$240-300/US$160-200; BB30/Campagnolo bearings, AUD$185/US$100.