Everything You Need To Know When Shopping For Bicycle Bearings

Bearings may be very tiny components, but they’re responsible for a bicycle’s life. They’re used in many parts, including the pedals, headsets, bottom breaks, and derailleur pulleys. Some bicycle brands even have them on their frames and seat tubes to enhance a pivoting motion.

It’s easy to overlook the role of these components until you have a malfunctioning pedal or headset. So, when shopping for them at Aire Velo Bearings, here are some things you should know:


Bearings come in three main styles: loose ball, cartridge, and needle. Loose ball bearings are the most conventional and require a cone and mated cup to function. Despite their age, they’re considered superior because they provide excellent maintenance and superb angular contact.

Furthermore, they can also be used in a retainer. However, this is popular in cheaper versions. When used together with the retainer, they look attractive and perform better.

Needle bearings, also known as roller bearings, are quite uncommon though they’re used in pedals. Unfortunately, they’ve lost their ground to newer and cheaper forms. Just like their name suggests, they’re needle-shaped and can create stable platforms and smooth-rolling when you subject them to higher loads. Most people in the cycling industry shy away from them because of their price.

If improperly mated, they’ll fatigue quickly. You can replace them with many rows of cartridge bearings.

Cartridge bearings are the newest bearings in town and have gained popularity from their high tolerances in frame, hub, and component bores. They require an elaborate system and precision to function well. As more advanced bikes are created, the frequency of the application also rises.

The cartridges have cones, cups, and bowls that are installed in bores. This package makes their use simple and gives them an upper hand over the other bearings.

Angular Vs. Radial Cartridge

The two most common types of cartridge bearings are angular and radial contact. Radials are more popular because they’re cheaper. They carry loads in a direction that’s vertical to the suspension pivots, cranks, and hubs. They don’t work very effectively because of the non-radial vector forces generated in their moving parts. That makes them have decreased tolerance.

If you’re looking for precision, radial cartridges are not the right option. However, you can use them in applications that aren’t expensive because they’re less tolerance-dependent.

Conversely, angular bearings need high tolerance due to their directional feature. Their design has an outside and inside component resembling that of the old-style cup-and-cone system. They help the radial to withstand the loads exerted by the rotating bike components. However, they need extreme tolerances in their bores to perform optimally.

Angular bearings are mostly used in suspensions, cranks, and hubs. Unfortunately, many frames and hubs don’t have mating bores to complement the angular cartridge’s precision.

What Bearings Are Made From

Most bearings are made from 440C stainless steel, chromium steel, silicon nitride, and super nitrogen stainless. These materials vary in terms of their hardness. However, too hard materials may make the balls brittle, just like two soft ones. For proper maintenance, balance their uses.

Bottom Line

Knowing more about the bearings can help you select the appropriate ones to use on your bicycle. Your bicycle is a pretty gadget that needs to be maintained to enhance performance.