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Bearing Info


Fact: Ceramic bearings do roll better than all-steel bearings. Why? Unlike an all-steel bearing, thick grease is not required with ceramic bearings since there is no metal-to-metal contact. Any time you have metal-to-metal contact, you get galling when pressure is applied. Since there is no galling possible with either a hybrid ceramic bearing (steel races/rings and ceramic balls) or full ceramic bearings, you can get by with using oil-ChainL or ProLink as lubrication. If you prefer, you can still use grease, but the thicker and/or more grease you put in, the more rolling resistance you are introducing. To also help reduce rolling resistance, high quality/low friction Teflon lined seals are used in TPS bearings. When Si3N4 balls are used, they will not deform, flat-spot, crack, chip, fracture or wear out, but steel balls will.

Watts Saved - Researching Bicycle and Wheel manufacturer's websites and their corresponding technical reports, here is a summarization of their combined findings comparing watts saved using hybrid ceramic bearings vs. conventional steel bearings. Note: Full ceramics save even more watts.



































8% grade equiv weight savings


7.5 lbs

Classifications - Ceramic Ball Grade & ABEC Ratings
- Bearings are rated in two distinct ways: BALL GRADE and ABEC  

Ball Grade

Ball grade is a rating of the individual ceramic ball. The ball grade is a measurement of the roundness of, or how perfect the ball is. For the cycling industry, this is the single most important factor of a bearing. If you buy a bearing based on a single rating or spec, ball grade would be what you would be looking at.

Most commonly, balls are graded on a scale of 3 to 200, where the lower the number, the better quality the ball. TPS ceramic balls and bearings use only high quality Si3N4 (Silicon Nitride) grade 3 and grade 5 balls (please refer to Table 1 in the Appendix for detailed information on grades and tolerances). A grade 3 ball is round to 3 millionths of an inch, where most all-steel bearings use balls that are grade 25 and higher, often using balls with a grade of 100 or 200. In fact, I have seen other ceramic suppliers use grade 25 balls for their "high quality" bearings. Remember, the higher the grade number, the lower quality the ball. For example, say you had a grade 3 steel ball and a grade 3 ceramic ball. While similarly round, the ceramic still has the edge in hardness and durability. The Si3N4 ceramic ball will not deform, flat-spot, crack, chip, fracture or wear out, but the steel ball will! Also, since ceramic is slightly porous, the ceramic ball self-lubes and will clean the bearing race with use, making the bearing faster and much more durable.


The purpose of the ABEC committee (Annular Bearing Engineers Committee) is to establish dimensions, tolerances, geometry, and noise standards for bearings in an attempt to aid industrial bearing manufacturers and users in the production, comparison and selection of bearings. The larger the ABEC number, the tighter the tolerance of the bearing. ABEC is often misunderstood and thought to be the "defining" rating in a bearing. ABEC simply refers to the overall tolerance of the bearing only. The tolerance rating is useful for industries where high RPM motors (10,000 RPMs or more) are used. The higher ABEC classes provide better precision, efficiency, and greater speed capabilities, but do not necessarily make the components spin faster. The ABEC rating does not specify many other critical factors, such as smoothness of the rolling contact surfaces, ball precision or quality, type of steel or material used. The bearing material is not specified in the ABEC grades. Bearings not conforming to at least ABEC 1 cannot be classified as precision bearings as their tolerances are too loose. High ABEC rated bearings allow optimal performance of critical applications requiring very high RPM and smooth operation. Please refer to Table 2 and Table 3 - ABEC Tolerances, ABEC Quality Classes - in the Appendix for detailed information.

A better ABEC rating does not impact the speed of the bearing in bicycle applications. Many cyclists request ABEC 9, incorrectly thinking their wheels will roll faster. I have seen quite a few bicycle bearing manufacturers push ABEC 7 and ABEC 9 bearings as their main selling point.

In summary:

- A piece of machinery spinning at 10,000+ RPMs would require a high ABEC rating, such as ABEC 9.

- For cycling, a rating of ABEC 5 is exceptional and ABEC 7 is more than a cyclist would ever need.

- TPS has found ABEC 5 and ABEC 7 the perfect match for cycling bearings, and we make the fastest ceramic bearing solutions for cycling.

The results: ABEC 5/7/9 were found to be virtually identical in terms of performance. ABEC 7 and especially ABEC 9 are very tight tolerances and are way beyond the requirements of cycling. Mainly ABEC 5 and a few ABEC 7 ceramic bearings are what TPS now carries in inventory.

Which bearings do I need? This question is asked all of the time. To help you in your decision, The Parts Shoppe (TPS) has put together a summary of what we carry as well as best-use recommendations to assist you in your purchase.

Full Ceramic - The races and balls are Silicon Nitride Si3N4 Ceramic. This is the ultimate go-fast bearing! These bearings are fully sealed with Teflon seals to keep the dirt and grit out and the light oil lubrication in. Teflon ball retainers are also used to keep rolling resistance to a minimum. These bearings are recommended for Bottom Brackets and Track Wheels only. Did I mention that these are the ultimate go-fast bearings!

Hybrid Ceramic - Two options exist for the races - tool steel and stainless steel. TPS hybrid ceramic bearings (a) use fully heat treated and hardened races, (b) are fully sealed, (c) utilize a high quality steel ball retainer, (d) use a specialty light grease. All of this adds up to low friction performance, ultra smooth operaion, high mileage and maintenance free operation. These bearings are recommended for use as wheel bearings, bottom bracket bearings and rear derailleur pulley wheel bearings.
  • 52100 High carbon alloy tool steel - Two options are available for this bearing. Option 1 uses grade 3 Si3N4 balls (the best), option 2 uses grade 5 (next best) Si3N4 balls. Currently, since there is not that much difference in price, TPS recommends the grade 3 ball option. This bearing is the 'all-around' workhorse bearing providing high performance at an affordable price.
  • 440C High carbon chromium stainless steel - This is more of a specialty bearing and uses grade 5 Si3N4 balls. This bearing is recommended for applications where corrosion resistance is a concern, including mountain biking, wet roads, and winter riding where road salt is present. 440C bearings are also recommended for motorcycle/sportbike wheel bearing solutions.

Full Steel - These high quality low cost bearings are made from 52100 bearing steel including races, balls and ball retainer. These bearings utilize grade 10 steel balls which are twice as round as top of the line OEM balls and the races are fully sealed to prevent dirt and grit from getting into the bearing. A high-quality low-friction grease is used to further reduce rolling friction. These bearings are acceptable replacements for any OEM bicycle bearing and are economical and long lasting.

Maintenance & Recommendations:

Break-in period: Ceramic bearings start out rolling very smoothly and will only get better over time. Give the bearings at least 300 miles to break in.

As with any high-quality bearing, it is recommended to perform periodic maintenance. Bearings can be removed using a bearing puller and reinstalled using a wheel bearing press or a quick release skewer for wheels. Do not pound the bearings out or back in with a hammer/blunt object. The seals are easily Removed and Replaced by using a common push pin. To ensure long bearing life:
  • Inspect the bearings every 3-months. Spin the bearing by hand to notice if it is spinning smoothly or if there a feeling of grit inside.
  • Clean and re-lube every 1-2 years, or if they are no longer running smoothly by first removing both seals and the ball retainer. Then, scrub using a soft bristled brush and a mild cleaner/degreaser. Finish off by re-lubing with some light oil.

Lastly, when shopping around, here are some things to look out for:

  • Companies advertising 'too-good-to-be-true' prices. Why? Because you will notice that they never mention the grade quality of the ball. Many of their low quality bearings use ceramic grade of 200 or worse. TPS uses only grade 3 (the best) and grade 5 (the next best) ceramic balls in our ceramic bearings.
  • Companies advertising 'we use the best, we use grade 0 balls'. Why? Grade 0 balls are actually 'ungraded'. The ball manufacturer will take all of the reject balls that fail quality control at any grade level and throw these rejects into a big container. Then, they will make bearings utilizing these rejected balls and call them grade 0. It doesnt get any worse than grade 0, so watch out for these.
  • Companies advertising 'Stainless Steel' bearings. Why? There are many classifications and grades of stainless steel, but, to simplify this, there are stainless steels that can be heat-treated/hardened, and those that can't. The difference is in making a bearing out of the same soft, non-hardenable stainless steel a butter knife is made out of vs. a fully through-hardened and wear-resistant stainless steel a custom knife or a milling machine cutting tool is made out of. The company that has nothing to hide will tell you exactly what material is being used, where a company that has something to hide will say 'stainless steel'. TPS uses heat-treated 440C stainless steel hardened to 58 RC in our 'stainless steel' bearings.
  • Companies utilizing plastic ball retainers. Why? Solvents that are incorporated into greases attack the plastic ball retainers causing breakdown where small broken off pieces of ball retainer will jam the balls and lockup the bearing from spinning. TPS uses high quality steel ball retainers in all bearings except the full ceramic which utilizes a teflon ball retainer.

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