New Balls Please : The CeramicSpeed Advantage

   Words by Dave Butcher

   on 13/03/2019 10:48:28

CeramicSpeed are a Danish company founded in 1998 and they specialise (indeed they are the benchmark) in the production of Hybrid Ceramic bearings for industry (including food and aerospace) and sports markets, with a large proportion given over to Cycling specific products. Their focus is to produce bearings that reduce friction and that continue to perform for a very long time. The fundamental benefits in all areas being greater efficiency and power saving - be that in your bike or in huge factory production lines that ultimately result in greener companies.


Over the last 7 years I’ve been invited to numerous events by distributors, manufacturers and brands; from factory tours and launch events to VIP days at Grand Tours. On all but perhaps 2 occasions I have been unable to attend - such is the life of the small retailer.

Earlier this month I was invited to attend the CeramicSpeed European Shifter Summit at the company’s headquarters in Holstebro, Denmark. In a rare turn of fate, I was actually in a position to attend.


British Weather, Danish Hospitality

To my mind the Danish make things properly; pastries (though it’s not a thing for them), chairs, lighting, Hi-Fi, bearings, bikes - and these are all things that I appreciate, as is their approach. Two of my first ‘proper’ road bikes were Principia - a Danish brand now sadly defunct. They were two of the lightest most lively riding road bikes I have owned and were aluminium at a time when carbon was on the rise. They are a big part of the reason that my love for road cycling grew and quickly threw my previous bad experience of a lesser carbon machine into the shadows. I loved those bikes and they were - like most things Danish - impeccably designed and incredibly well made.

I’ve been to Denmark before and thoroughly enjoyed my brief stay in the capital, Copenhagen. Denmark in my limited experience, is a proud place. The parts of Copenhagen that I visited were exceptionally clean - I cannot recall another city that can beat the Danes on this score, the food was excellent (who doesn’t like pastry served by the metre) and it is evident that they work as hard as they play.

One of the most obvious, and indeed pleasing things about the Danes though, is that they share a very similar sense of humour to us Brits. Spend a brief time with them and you bond quickly and are readily ensconced in their lives. This was immediately the case with the CeramicSpeed team.


2 by 2 : Examples of CeramicSpeed vs Standard - including two Principia frames (Principe)

The trip was essentially 2 days spent touring the facilities and discussing the brand’s ethos and approach, as well as where the brand is headed and how they could best work with distributors and retailers to help better the consumer understanding of the brand.

Walking into the building you are greeted by a wide corridor flanked on the left by a Noah’s Ark pairing of product examples from cycling, motorsport and industry : one version with the industry standard bearings and one optimised with CeramicSpeed bearings, all of which you can spin or play with in order to be able to feel the difference. Further along are examples of giant chain links used in the harsh environment of a Rockwool production facility, with normal bearing failures after 13 weeks and still functioning CS examples at 50 weeks. On the right, above the line of staff & pro bikes and the company’s test fleet, are framed, signed jerseys - including Sagan’s 3 World Champion.


During our first day we were lucky enough to see the entirety of the CeramicSpeed process: from the 3D printing in the R&D department (no photos!); rigorous testing facilities (no photos!); pristine bearing & product construction areas that would put some hospital conditions to shame (no photos!), to the UFO Chain Optimisation process and packing and shipping departments.

The highlight of the day for most though, was the opportunity to construct not only our own bearing (otherwise known as an adult Fidget Spinner) but also our own OSPW system - the most well known of the CeramicSpeed products.

IMG_0901  IMG_0902  IMG_0903-1  IMG_0905

Hand building our own bearings

As we were guided through the processes of construction it was abundantly clear that CeramicSpeed are a company whose focus is on precision. Nothing highlights just how precise more than knowing that, for each complete bearing (balls within races) there are 12 different sizes of ball, each bigger or smaller than the industry ‘standard’ size for a given race, in increments of 2 microns. For clarity that’s 2 millionths of a metre, or half the width of a red blood cell.

This approach, in combination with the best balls in the industry (an accolade I’ve been striving for for years), is what sets CeramicSpeed apart.

To clarify. Say for example you have a wheel that uses a 61903 bearing (ignore the numbers - it’s a common size in multiple brands of wheel) and you want to upgrade to ceramic bearings for a performance advantage. You can buy a generic Ceramic 61903 bearing from any number of suppliers and it will fit inside the hub shell.

Simple, right?

The problem is that the axle that fits through the hub exerts a force on the inside of the bearing in the same way that the hub shell exerts a force on the outside of the bearing. These combined forces will vary from hub manufacturer to manufacturer. In one wheel the bearing will perhaps run optimally, while in another the bearing may run with too much play or with over compressed bearings, both of which result in poorer performance and lower bearing life. The same is true for bottom brackets, headsets and jockey wheels.

If you buy CeramicSpeed then they will perform perfectly since they take the time to test which of the 12 variant ball sizes available per bearing, best works within the races when installed in a specific hub with a specific axle. Moreover, they only test in complete wheels since the tension of the spokes in wheels deforms the hub shell. Ultimately, regardless of application, you as a consumer can be sure that any product - be it wheel bearing, bottom bracket or jockey wheel - will perform as well as it possibly can from the perspective of both friction reduction and bearing life.

Not all bearings are created equal.


CeramicSpeed have chosen an exceptionally difficult product to market within our sport. Unless you are a tech-focused nerd like me or an engineer, it is unlikely that the average consumer will spend much time considering things that remain largely unseen on their bicycle, preferring instead to focus on the visible elements that they, their friends and cycling buddies can see. It’s why the OSPW (Oversized Pulley Wheel system) - while delivering lower power savings than either a wheel bearing or UFO chain upgrade - is the biggest selling product in their range.


OSPW in the hands of U23 Cyclocross World Champ, Tom Pidcock

It has long been my experience that brands hide cost savings inside bike frames : compare a bike manufacturer’s own model with a similarly priced bike from a company that pays a 3rd party to produce it and it’s almost a guarantee that the bearings in the headset for example, will be of a lesser quality.

“Bearings are one of the most fundamental elements of a bike. They literally drive performance yet are probably the least considered components by those who ride; until they go wrong. Because of this, many are unwilling to invest in and/or understand little about the importance of quality bearings. “

The need for education in our sport is massive - not only with bearings. It’s all too easy to be fooled by the marketing of companies whose budget is bigger and whose product is inferior, regardless of product or application. Similarly it’s easy to simply buy blind and on price without considering why something is more expensive. At the top of our sport, the best stuff is rarely cheap – or indeed discounted - but that’s not simply because it can be rather because the R&D, testing, material and labour costs involved in producing the best kit are higher.

CeramicSpeed have a team of just 85 employees globally. They produce bearings by hand; their chain optimisation is simple but incredibly time consuming. Yet this approach is what defines them. They are incredibly adaptable and deliver product that is guaranteed to perform best & last longest; products that each member of the team is hugely personally invested in. They go out of their way to ensure that what you receive meets their exacting standards and delivers what they say it will.

The performance gains offered by CeramicSpeed are tangible too. Hold a standard Shimano or Sram BB in your hand and turn the bearings, spin a factory fitted jockey wheel from any of the big 3, then do the same with CeramicSpeed's option - the difference is astounding and you'll immediately understand what you're paying for, but more importantly - what you are gaining.

Everywhere and nowhere….

It’s no secret that CeramicSpeed are in the pro-peloton but they simply aren’t that visible. This is changing with AG2R’s Factor bikes using the OSPW in recent years. Cav has been using them for over a decade. The Pro circuit is driven by sponsorship and as a result it is difficult to have CeramicSpeed openly displayed as part of a Sram / Shimano groupset for example, since when a team wins, these large suppliers want the acclaim. It is interesting to know then, that your favourite team is sending its groupsets and wheels to CeramicSpeed to have the factory ball bearings replaced and the lubrication changed in order to gain every advantage in their races!


OSPW in use with AG2R La Mondiale

CeramicSpeed are often viewed as just expensive - this goes back to what I was saying about visibility and understanding of the importance of the hidden elements on a bike. It is something that CeramicSpeed are keen to address. They have always pitched their product as a performance one - which is undeniably the case, but they are also much longer lasting than any other bearing available.


CeramicSpeed Drive Testing : Random depositing of sand, dirt and lube simulates riding conditions.

Unlike many fields where performance advantages are often at the cost of longevity, or vice-versa, CeramicSpeed deliver on both fronts with no compromise on either - something that stems from the precision I spoke about earlier. Their continual development and mind-bendingly thorough testing, coupled with the recent acquisition of the Friction Facts Testing Facility in Colorado, allows the CeramicSpeed team to consistently drive up the quality and efficiency of their products.

Some of their products have been so good on the test-bench, they've given up trying to test to destruction for fear of running out of time - that can only be a good thing for us riders. As an example, CS are currently working on solving the problem of pivot bearing wear in full suspension mountain bikes. Testing consists of putting a standard bearing in a pivot and cycling it through the typical range of motion (about 30 degrees) until it fails - around 600,000 cycles. With their bearing in place they stopped testing at 1.8million cycles; point made!

All CeramicSpeed Balls are made of the highest quality Grade 3 Silicon Nitride, featuring the highest achievable surface finish and roundness. Indeed, of the 70 day manufacturing process, 21 days are spent grinding and polishing to achieve this. The quality of the balls is what determines the performance and lifetime of a bearing. The CeramicSpeed Balls feature unparalleled impact strength, smoothness, roundness and brittleness, proven to be superior to both ceramic and steel balls typically used in cycling components.

CeramicSpeed offer 2 levels of bearing for the majority of their products : STANDARD and COATED. While the standard bearings reduce friction by around 75% over industry norms, the COATED variants offer a further 50% drag reduction over CS's standard bearings while also delivering an even greater service life. The quality and precise construction allows CeramicSpeed to offer 4 and 6 year warranties on their standard and coated products respectively - and there is a good chance that the coated warranty will increase to around 10 years if our 2nd day discussions are anything to go by! 

CeramicSpeed technology focuses on reducing friction and producing bearings with an unmatched lifetime. Their range of cycling products centres around ball bearings but they also reduce friction through chain optimisation and the now famous OSPW Pulley wheel systems that reduce the angles through which a chain moves in order to further reduce friction in combination with ceramic bearings. With CeramicSpeed products in your hubs, pulley wheels and bottom bracket, tests show that you’ll save between 6–9 watts compared to using standard bearings. Those savings increase further with the use of a CeramicSpeed UFO Racing Chain which will save between 2–5 watts, taking your competitive advantage up to 14 watts.


UFO Chain Optimisation – Phase 1 : Pre Stretch

What do those numbers mean to you?

Well, riding a flat 40km route at around 19mph / 32kph with a full CeramicSpeed arsenal will save you 2:40 min.

Bump that ride up to 90km and you're coming in 6 minutes faster. Add hills into that same 90km ride and the time savings are in the region of 9 minutes.

Thanks to the incredible materials and high quality hand-built construction, this performance advantage remains consistent long after you would have replaced your normal, off-the-shelf bearings up to 8 times.

When viewed in those terms, the cost of a top of the range Coated CeramicSpeed Bottom Bracket for example, is likely to be less than normal bearings over the same time frame - all while reducing the time your bike is in a work-stand, lowering servicing costs and making you faster and enabling you to ride further; regardless of the level you ride at and how you enjoy your cycling.

Many will spend £300 on a handlebar, £200 on a seat post and perhaps the same on a stem and realistically, these elements of a bike yield little advantage to the rider (save in the instance of Bike Fit), that c.£700 would arguably be far better spent on CeramicSpeed wheels bearings, bottom bracket and OSPW. The amount of money saved in servicing and replacement costs over the lifetime of those products would likely yield the cash to replace the bar, stem and seat post anyway…..


To my mind CeramicSpeed represent excellent value. Real value. Like so many things in cycling - and in any area - value is not low price, rather it is a high quality product with a genuine advantage, be that quality, performance or longevity. In the case of CeramicSpeed, it’s all 3.  More importantly it is those elements tangibly delivered while remaining unrivalled.

Ceramicspeed Key points:

  • Unrivalled construction
  • Unmatched precision
  • Highest quality hybrid Ceramic bearings
  • Huge, tangible performance benefits that will make you faster - regardless of how you ride
  • Incredible service life that will save you money over time
  • Hand made product, produced in Denmark
  • Great value

Ceramic Speed Products and their power savings:

Check out the CeramicSpeed range (New products added all the time!)  or come in and talk to us about them:  See and feel the difference that these incredible products make to your ride and perhaps, let us optimise your bike!

CeramicSpeed are a young, dynamic company whose employees are wholly invested in the brand, the ethos and the product they produce. They are all also devastatingly lean, fit and either handsome or beautiful. Damn them!

My time at the CeramicSpeed European Shifter Summit was fun - it was also incredibly tiring, I returned home on the Friday night a costume of a man. The Danes work hard and the days were full on - but enjoyable. They also play hard. Their hospitality was unbounded, from our arrival, to meals out, to refreshments on hand at all times - they couldn’t do enough for us. To an individual they were all accessible while we were there and I would like to thank them for that.

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