Well, it seems as though Ceramicspeed has finally decided to play dirty! After many years of developing high-performance bearings for road riders, they’re now stepping to the MTB table with an intriguing first offer- Pivot bearings that will last for at least four years with no maintenance.

Ceramicspeed SLT bearings, solid polymer lubricant

The most interesting component of the Ceramicspeed SLT pivot bearings is their lubricant. See the white piece that’s sitting where the seal would normally cover? That’s the lube, also seen on its own in the tray to the right. It’s a plastic polymer that starts as a liquid, then gets infused with oil and baked at over 150ºC (302ºF) changing it into a solid form.

The polymer fills up the bearing like an ice cube tray, and is cooked into the assembly. The solidified polymer fits so precisely around the races and ball bearings that it very effectively seals the bearings and cage on its own, without a typical seal. In MTB applications the production bearings will still use seals, but they’re merely for UV protection.

Ceramicspeed SLT bearings, wear chart
This chart shows how the SLT bearings resist internal wear vs. typical pivot bearings.

This polymer technology was actually created for the bearings Cermicspeed makes for meat processing machinery, which gets powerwashed daily. These bearings have been in use for two years already, and that’s how Ceramicspeed estimated the 4-5 year life span for them. So, feel free to hose down your bike.

Word is this solid polymer lubricant is ideal for applications where the bearings move back and forth rapidly, rather than spinning continuously as wheel bearings would. So, don’t expect it to show up on wheel or drivetrain bearings anytime soon.

Ceramicspeed SLT bearings, top display

The lubricant works in temperatures exceeding 100ºC (212ºF), which is well over what it would endure in a bike frame. Oil infusion life is 4-5 years, and again there is no maintenance required. Eventually the polymer lubricant layer will dry out, but until it does it should deliver consistent performance.

While many pivot bearings are full-ball style, (built with ball bearings completely circling their inner race) Cermicspeed’s SLT bearings use a cage assembly with anywhere between 8-12 ball bearings.

Ceramicspeed SLT bearings, headset and pivot bearings

Pivots aren’t the only application for the SLT bearing tech- Ceramicspeed is also already working on headset bearings too. Since the company already makes headsets, these might actually beat the pivot bearings to the aftermarket.

The pivot bearings will first be marketed directly to manufacturers, as OEM equipment for high-end bikes. Depending on who hops on board and how quickly, they could begin to appear on 2020 model year bicycles. Cermicspeed does hope to move these bearings into the aftermarket, but the massive range of bearings out there (some bikes have up to 12 bearings, and there are no industry standards) will likely take a while to sift through. Consumers will likely see some of the bigger MTB brands’ bikes covered with upgrade kits first.

The SLT pivot bearings will cost more than other high-end bearings that are currently available (exact pricing is not yet determined), but Ceramicspeed feels their longevity will more than offset the cost difference.

Ceramicspeed SLT bearings, telecomm satellite bearing

And just for fun, Ceramicspeed had this interesting little piece to show off too- This tiny bearing was developed for a European telecommunications satellite. It had to be maintenance free, and withstand five G’s of force to survive takeoff.

ceramicspeed.com

21 COMMENTS

  1. There is no reason to make them ceramic. You can get the same benefits of the solid lube with steel bearings. SKF is doing it.

    • YES! Solid lube bearings are not a new or magical thing. I use them in the ski tuning machines in my shop where the constant exposure to coolant was ruining even nice stainless bearings in short order.

      Ceramicspeed continually amazes me with how boldly they spew blatant marketing nonsense. This is second only to how readily most cycling media passes it on with no critical thought. In this case, somehow a bearing designed for a constant, high RPM task (meat processing) is somehow extrapolated to work just well in a periodic task that does not even include a full rotation of the bearing (pivots). If somebody told you that pants were a fantastically improved substitute for a hat, you’d look at them like they were nuts. This is no different.

      Andwrong – Just hit skf.com and search ‘solid oil.’ That’ll get you what you want.

        • Brian, yes and no. A full ceramic bearing, used in the correct application, AND properly maintained, will have less drag than a stainless bearing. You can’t fight the laws of physics and material science.

          However, from a practical standpoint, bicycles see both higher off-axis loads and lower RPM than many ceramic bearings were designed for. Additionally, the outdoors is not a factory or lab floor, there’s all sorts of small, hard particulate crap floating around out there. If you do not regularly lube and service your bearings, you’re looking at a contaminated ceramic bearing that performs at ABEC 5-7 levels, tops, after maybe 10 rides. Given that few people but pro riders and the 1% set have the money/ability to have techs regularly pull, flush, and lubricate their cartridges, ceramics are a poor choice for all but the most demanding racing situations. They are fine for wheel bearings, and maybe crank bearings, but are unnecessary for all other applications in the cycling world. I promise that none of us can pedal at 25,000 RPM, no matter how much a badass you believe yourself to be.

          • Erich, I see that you have a pretty solid engineering background, but having used partially ceramic bearings in a skateboard for years, I can attest to their real world performance and longevity.

            This is a common sentiment in skateboarding, where you can actually feel the difference. They’re quite beloved. Additionally, they seem to stand up much better than a traditional ABEC3, 5, and 7 bearings. Skateboard “bearing” companies also acknowledge that ABEC ratings don’t map well to the rotational or load needs of a skateboard wheel.

            I think we’d have to see testing to validate your assumptions. But I really like the idea of testing used bearings to bear out real world conditions.

            • Brian – not a direct reply to you but the conversation in general.

              There isn’t an “ABEC” bearing. There are bearings that are manufactured to a tolerance that will allow them to state they meet “3” “5” etc…
              ABEC ratings are a tolerance rating and designed to ensure stack tolerances are met and reliable operation under certain conditions and shaft speeds.

              ABEC rating do NOT translate directly to rolling resistance.
              ABEC ratings to NOT address performance aspects outside of dimensional tolerance of races and if I recall correctly, ball raceway for preload purposes.
              Furthermore, the rating don’t clearly translate to installation such as bikes or skateboards unless you are installing and running the bearing with the recommended preload and clearance (depending on fit of inner and outer race to shaft/housing).

              It is very likely “ABEC 5” or “ABEC 7” bearings perform better as their higher price, justified by marketing, allows the manufacture to ensure other aspects of the bearing are high quality (i.e. ball roundness, race finish, cage design and material, etc) while still making money. Full ceramic bearings tend to work well as ceramic balls tend to be much rounder than their steel counterparts. But the ABEC rating isn’t responsible for that roundness.

              “ABEC” for recreational equipment, is largely a marketing slogan to state (hopefully) a higher quality bearing is being used that will roll better and last longer…hence your (Brian) experience with ceramic bearings in skateboards.

      • You’re right. My apologies.
        And yeah, I’d have to agree with you. A normal steel / steel bearing with solid lube sounds like it’d be more than enough.
        I was also looking through SKF’s website, and while I found info on solid lube bearings, I had a hard time finding a complete list showing what sizes they did make. (I was looking specifically for the 6803 as that is what I need for my bike, and couldn’t find it).
        Hopefully Enduro releases some solid lube bearings soon.

  2. Been done for years by SKF

    It’s not the grease which kills bearings but degreaser spray and crud. These will die like everything else.

COMMENT HERE: (For best results, log in through Wordpress or your social media account. Anonymous/fake email comments may be unapproved or deleted. ALL first-time commenter's posts are held for moderation. Check our Comment Policy for full details.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.