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Qualitative Analysis of CeramicSpeed

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One of the newest trends in triathlon is using CeramicSpeed to improve cycling times. Drivechain efficiency is not new, but CeramicSpeed has done it well. Pro cycling teams and pro triathletes have officially (and unofficially) used CeramicSpeed for a few years now and it is almost becoming standard components on pro bikes. And who wouldn’t want to use it since CeramicSpeed has claimed to save you 10-12 watts!

Many of the discussions regarding CeramicSpeed have been on the quantitative side looking at how many watts are you really saving. While this is somewhat useful, it is not easy to understand the true meaning of the test results. So I wanted to take a different approach to evaluating CeramicSpeed using a qualitative analysis.

What is a Qualitative Analysis? You can think of a qualitative analysis as a description of the thing you are interested in. This is a bit different than quantitative analysis where you look for different ways to measure (and ultimately assign a number to) a thing you are interested in.

To do our analysis we will look at these 3 things,

  • The science behind CeramicSpeed
  • The ride feel
  • The durability of parts 
CeramicSpeed Setup

    The Science Behind CeramicSpeed

    The idea was simple, a wheel that keeps spinning takes less energy to keep at speed. The founder of CeramicSpeed Jacob Csizmadia was busy setting the World 24 hour inline skating distance record when he noticed his wheels would stop spinning when his foot was in the air. After changing to ceramic bearings his wheels would keep spinning when his foot was in the air. His 24 hour world record distance increased from 402km to 470km. The same concept hold for cycling, the less drivetrain resistance the better your power transfers from pedals to wheels.

    What sets CeramicSpeed apart from other ceramic bearings is the tight tolerances they keep in production. This results in a smoother bearing with less imperfections and space for dirt, grime, sweat etc. This has the effect of lengthening the effective life of the bearings. This is also the reason behind the 4 and 6 year warranty CeramicSpeed has on their parts.

    CeramicSpeed Ride Feel

    We can chat all day about the science, the testing, the theory, but at the end of the day we race outside on our bike. I recently raced at Gulf Coast 70.3 using a CeramicSpeed bottom bracket, oversized pulley wheels, and a UFO racing chain. These are the things I noticed while racing.

    Under zero load the pedals spin for a long time.

    This was the first experience that got me super interested in CeramicSpeed. You can spin the pedals on a bike while it is in a stand and the pedals keep going, often for a minute or more. My previous setup, with a ceramic bottom bracket (not CeramicSpeed, but with ceramic bearings) and regular pulleys, would result in 1 or maybe 2 revolutions. It is the friction and resistance in the drivetrain slow your pedals here. 

    I also noticed after my race that my pedals spun even better under zero load. I attribute this to the grease in the bearings settling into place. As I was walking my bike out of transition I would notice that occasionally my pedals started slowly turning.

    Cresting Hills

    Gulf coast is not a great course to talk about cresting hills. It is a very flat course but does have an overpass bring and light rolling, or better, some pitching roads. By cresting hills I mean that as I ride into the hill I shift to an easier gear as my cadence slows. I fought to maintain a 90 cadence the whole ride. When I was near the top I would then down shift to a harder gear as the grade decreased and it turned into a downhill.

    This downshifting part of cresting is where I find my cadence will drop to the mid to low 80s and I would muscle through to get it back up. This process of returning to my race cadence seemed to be easier. I also noticed this the week prior on my gravel bike, also outfitted with a CermicSpeed bottom bracket and pulley system. The course I was on was much hillier but I noticed that cresting the hills seemed to be a bit easier to get back up to cadence.

    Flat Road Cadence

    Gulf Coast is a great place to test the feel of a flat hard effort. Since the swim was canceled the race started in time trial fashion. Every 4 seconds a rider left transition. This meant the entire bike course was spread out more than normal. I was towards the back, like 10 from the end, so I had a lot of riders ahead of me.

    To get this out of the way, CeramicSpeed does not make pedaling easier. You still have to push hard on the pedals. Effort wise I was trusting my powermeter and staying within my limits, for the most part

    I did feel as though my power was transferring better to my wheels than previously. I determined this when coasting into the turns. I would slow or stop pedaling briefly and then start back up. It was almost like I never stopped pedaling. There was almost zero resistance until I was back at my previous power and cadence.

    Remember the spinning pedals under zero load, you get this same effect when coasting. And the resistance doesn’t kick in until you are back pushing the pedals as hard as before. This felt amazing on the ride.

    Durability of Parts

    Time will tell with durability since my setup is under a month old and has less than 100 miles on it. I can say that for maintenance these bearings need to be fully serviced about every 6 months. But they should be oiled more frequently than that. I purchased the non-coated version so I have a 4 year warranty on the parts. The coated version gets you a 6 year warranty. 

    Conclusion

    The goal of this article is not to tell you that you can buy speed. Rather I wanted to give you an idea of what changes you may notice with CeramicSpeed. Cost is a major factor here, this stuff isn’t cheap as with most everything in triathlon. Generally you are going to spend $360 for a bottom bracket and the oversized pulley wheel system is $500. My advice if you want to move to CeramicSpeed is to do both at the same time. That is where you will experience the things I described above. Check out our selection of CeramicSpeed Here

    As a note, there are a lot of different bottom brackets out there and it is a unique combination of your bike and crank. Always triple check you are ordering the correct type. Never hesitate to give us a call to double check.

    Lastly, never underestimate the benefits of a clean chain! Before any big race we get to see the dirtiest of bikes. A lot of these on wore out chains. After switching the rider usually comments that it shifts and rides so much better…something that could have been accomplished with a little love, a dash of lube, and a lot of degreaser.

    If you have more questions on CeramicSpeed or want us to price out a set for your specific bike give us a call at 770-587-9994 Mon – Sat 10-6pm EST. You can also drop us an email at customerservice@all3sports.com.

    1 comment

    • Brian Faulkner: June 06, 2017

      I’d like to see some of that “the science, the testing” before laying out $850. Feel is nice but it’s generally unreliable and too easily influenced by a multitude of factors.

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