This just in: Biltin bearings rock. The Bustin shop just started carrying these a few weeks ago, and I haven’t quite figured it out yet, but no matter how much I tell people how sweet these bearings are, they want Bones. And I have nothing against Bones bearings; they make a great product. But the only time I have ever experienced a performance difference between bearings was when I did my first downhill race a few weeks ago and was getting left in the dust by guys on ceramics. And you could really tell a difference. Some of the guys you’d ride right along with. Then there were a couple who would start down the hill, us all at the same speed, and even when I’m sucking behind them in a draft, they’re pulling away from me at about a foot per second.
So I’ve talked myself into ceramic bearings for racing now. But for every other ride, I stick with Biltins. Why? Because they are pretty cheap ($30 here at the store vs Reds at $20 or Super Reds at $26, and significantly cheaper than any of the Bones Swiss lines), they are super strong, there are virtually no parts to screw up, and they make everything easier.
Biltins have a built-in bearing spacer. Each one has an extended inner race, which, when you add two together, fit right in the wheel as if you put a 10mm bearing spacer in there. They also extend in the other direction, meaning you no longer have to worry about losing those tiny little speed rings when you’re switching wheels out. Also, when switching your wheels, you don’t have to do the jiggle to try and get the bearing spacer in line with the bearing holes to fit everything around the axle. You just put the wheel on, tighten down the nut (all the way, mind you), and go.
All this said, I haven’t found our standard 10-dollar ABEC-7 bearings to be any slower than Biltins or even Bones Swiss. The one thing I’ll give to the Swiss line is that they have really nice shields in them and will last you a long time, and the Super Swiss 6 line has the advantage of being a 6-ball bearing, which means less surface area touching the raceway aka less friction and more speed. The only unfortunate thing about the Super Swiss 6 is that they’re fairly expensive.
So rather than worrying about what bearings to buy, I get the bearings that make my life the easiest, and I protect my choice by knowing how to clean them, because that makes the biggest difference. Keep buying the Bones if you like. I’m not here to argue, just to inform, and we got them Biltins baby!
Til next time,