What to Look For
Ceramic bearings represent the best quality bike hub bearings currently available, according to industry-trusted tool manufacturer and mechanic advisory Park Tool and online cycle resource and retailer Bicycle.net. Sealed ceramic bearings offer ceramic balls in steels shells or lighter stronger full ceramic offerings. Unsealed ceramic bearings typically sell by the ball. Sealed bearings only work in bicycle components accepting sealed bearings. Several sizes of sealed bicycle bearings exist. Not all sealed bearing sizes have replacement ceramic bearings. Measure bearings and bearing housings using a micrometer, or take your bicycle to a local bicycle shop for ceramic bearing measurement.
Most cyclists believe the lighter weight of ceramic bearing results in the improved performance of ceramic over traditional steel bearings. Park Tool states ceramic bearings, though lighter, achieve greater momentum and last longer due to hardness. Steel bearings have a hardness measured to roughly 30 million pounds per square inch. Ceramic bearing hardness can reach roughly 47 million pound a square inch. Ceramic bearings require no special lubrication or adjustment, according to Park Tool. Several special ceramic greases, often far more expensive than traditional grease, exist, but such grease represents an entirely unnecessary expense.
Where to Buy
Many local bicycle shops, online retailers and bearing manufacturers sell bicycle ceramic bearings. Loose ball bearings and sealed mechanism bearings often differ in sizes by less than 1/16 of an inch. Common sealed bearings measure in millimeters while loose ball bearings typically measure in inches. If measuring at home, purchase a micrometer utilizing both measurements. Use the micrometer to measure loose ball bearing diameters in inches. Measure metric width, inside diameter and outside diameter for sealed bearings. Local bicycle shops often have measurement tools and lists of available ceramic bearing sizes.
Loose ball ceramic bearings cost $3 to $10 each depending on size. A bicycle utilizing only loose ball bearings for wheel hubs, headset and bottom bracket may require more than 50 individual bearings. Steel shelled sealed ceramic bearings cost from $20 to $60 each depending on size, quality and manufacturer. Full ceramic bearings commonly cost from $50 to $120 each. Many manufacturers provide ceramic bearings for rear derailleur pulleys or full suspension bicycle frame pivots as well. Ceramic derailleur pulleys sell for $80 to $150 a pair. Frame pivot bearing costs change immensely depending on number and size of bearings and manufacturer.