How to Service Your Bike Bearings [Video]

We roll on them, they help our suspension work properly, and they let us pedal. We’ve got a lot to thank bearings for, but we often take them for granted. So let’s show them bearings some love.

Video Transcription

00:10 S1: So how do you know if your bearings need a bit of attention? Well, you’ll feel some roughness in them. So give them a spin. If you can feel any sort of friction in there, that’s a good sign that they’ll need a bit of grease and a bit of work. Also, give them a wobble. Bearings get worn out just by normal use, but what really kills them is getting water and grit into them. So the best way of keeping them fresh and spinning for longer is keeping them clean and stopping that dirt from getting into them. Some bearings are sealed, others, not so. However, washing your bike often is actually gonna force some dirt into there. Jet washing is notoriously bad for this, and it can wash out the grease that’s in the bearing. That’s not to say that jet washing is wrong, just bear in mind that the more you do it, and actually the more you wash your bike, in general, the more you’ll have to keep those bearings nice and greased.

00:57 S1: So how do you service your bearings? Well, actually, some of them, you can’t. Most bottom brackets are sealed units, so when they start to get rough and worn out, it’s just time to replace that bottom bracket. But there’s plenty on the bike you can look after: Headsets, wheel bearings, suspension pivot bearing, pedal bearings, and jockey wheel bearings. You might find your bike has a few different types of bearing, sealed or loose open bearings. Actually, the better quality of the components, the more often you’ll find they have sealed bearings, and by their nature, less dirt gets into those bearings. The exception to this rule is actually Shimano hubs that use open cone and cup system because they believe they have less friction in those bearings.

01:40 S1: You can see this headset has loose bearings in there. You can see the ball bearings are in a race that just rolls around against this tapered surface, and that’s what helps your headset spin. So it’s really important that tapered surface is nice and clean and there aren’t any sort of pits in there. You’ll get those if you get your headset really wet and leave it to rust in one spot. You might find the bearings just make a little hole in there, and it’s never gonna spin very nice if you do that. And so it’s very important to keep them clean and rust-free.

02:10 S1: So what you can do, generally, is they’ll have this little plastic sort of seal on there, really carefully, just pick that off, I’m not trying to deform it, and now I can get into those ball bearings and give them a really good clean-out. So I’ve got myself a rag and I’m gonna use some solvent, I like to use disc brake cleaner, but any sort of degrease will work, and it’s just gonna get in there and get rid of any of the old grease that’s holding on to that dirt and grime. So give it a good real good wash out, use your rag to get rid of any of that old grime. You can feel it spinning nice and free now. So with those ball bearings dry, I’m gonna get in there and just re-grease it with some fresh grease. Don’t go too mental, but just make sure they’re nice and covered, spin them round slightly.

02:56 S1: And the truth is you can get all sorts of different types of grease but it doesn’t really matter, as long as you’re doing it nice and regularly. I like to use a fairly lightish, I don’t go too thick with the grease, but make sure they’re nice and greased. And same with the tapered sort of race that goes into that bearing, just put a little bit of grease on that. Put your seal back on, make sure your little tapered race is ready to roll. And that’s your headset, nice and greased up, and should spin freely again for a while.

03:25 S1: These are sealed bearings that you’ll often find on your suspension linkage, your jockey wheels, and also sometimes in your headset. You can see the outer race and then you’ve got this seal that stops stuff getting into the bearings. So they are much more resilient to water and grime than open bearings, but they still need a bit of love occasionally. To do that, you’re gonna wanna really carefully just peel that seal off that’s covering the bearing. So I’m using a Stanley blade, obviously be super careful if you’re doing this, but you just wanna try and get that seal off without damaging it at all. Actually, I’m just starting to pick it out. You can see behind there, it’s nicely greased up, this one, but there’s the ball bearings, just like you saw on that open bearing earlier. And this is where same sort of thing applies, really, you wanna clean that out, get your degreaser in there, spin that round, get it nice and clear, and then re-grease it and away you go. Just be careful to not damage that seal when you’re taking it off and also just go around and place it back on nice and carefully, because if that deforms slightly, it can put a bit more friction into that bearing.

04:30 S1: So once you’ve cleaned out and re-greased your sealed bearing, just give it a little spin in your fingers, see how it feels. If it still feels a bit notchy, you’ll have pits in there or if it’s still a bit loose and not very smooth, then it’s time to think about replacing those bearings. And that normally happens if you’ve just left it too long before you’ve serviced your bearing. With these sealed bearings, I also like to add a really nice, light coating of grease around the edge of the seal just as an extra barrier to stop any water getting in there. Same goes with the headset, and we’ve done a video on how to service your headset already, but it’s a very similar theory to how we’re dealing with these sealed bearings.

05:09 S1: I’ve got a couple of different types of bearing in my pedals here. I’ve got a steel ball bearing in this end and an open needle bearing in here. So I’ll show you how to do that as well, I just need to wind this end cap off, take the pedal apart. So you see that open needle bearing in this end of the pedal, it’s almost like a long, cylindrical roller that spins round. I can deal with that just like I would with an open ball bearing. Just spraying with degreaser in there, clean it up, get it nice and dry, then re-grease it, making sure my axle and my seal have got plenty of grease on there to just stop that water and grime getting in that end.

05:42 S1: So keeping your bearings nice and fresh is all about making sure they’re clean and nicely greased. If you let them get too worn, there’s no coming back from that. So stay on top of it and your bike will feel fresh. And whilst you’re here, why not check out some more videos? If you click up there, that’ll take you through to how to service your headset. So it’s much along the lines of what I’ve been doing today. If you click down there, there’s the rest of the maintenance playlist, so you can keep your bike feeling really nice. Click in the middle to subscribe to the channel, if you haven’t done already, it’s totally free.

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