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It's Not Just All Ball Bearings Nowadays — CKPC Part II

by Michael Webber |

Many years ago, while working at a shop back in Washington DC, I was discussing the nature of some of the small inner workings of bicycles. Ball bearings, pawl springs, etc—all those seemingly insignificant pieces that actually perform the lion’s share of a bicycle’s work. Somewhere I began pulling his leg, even fooling myself as I uttered the non-sequitur for the first time: what do you think the BB, in BB gun, stands for? I asked. Ball bearings, of course! It made sense to me at the time, and it completely blew his mind.


Evidently, the items that are shot from your old Red Ryder BB gun are not the equivalent at all with the balls we find in a bicycle’s bearings. (Those balls are called such by their class of grade “BB” for your marksmanship’s pleasure). By significant contrast, the balls that are contained in our bicycle’s hubs, bottom brackets, and headsets are a bit more intricate and consequential indeed: force- and load-bearing mechanisms critical to the sheer functionality of these machines we all love so much.


As mentioned in Part I of this series, Chris King bearings are the result of consistency and control; leaving nothing up to chance, they control the source of their balls (outsourced, but domestically produced, and of a precision grade that’s kept secret). “Trust but verify”, is one philosophy; having a process performed in-house ensures QC standards are maintained. This is why virtually everything else concerning a Chris King bearing is performed at 2801 NW Nela St: from grinding, heat treating, and polishing to the actual assembly of the bearing itself. Pretty much all by hand.


Not that one should draw parallels between lead shot and alternative brands of bicycle bearing components, but the amount of home-grown technology that has gone into a bearing from Chris King is impressive and oftentimes overlooked. One can find the word “Legendary” many times on the CK website. It’s not an overwrought redundancy, but a legend that has been carefully innovated and constructed upon past trial’s and error’s that have—up to this point in a history as old as I am—been consistently developing bearings of a proprietary nature that thrives on precision.


Across the CK line are featured angular contact bearing interfaces that distribute loads in a more consistent and durable nature result in a long-lasting bearing. This longevity also can be attributed to the fact they are user serviceable; and with proper maintenance, will handily outlast the bicycle they are installed on. Simply accessing the bearing will allow a user to pop the snap ring and rubber seal off, scrub the bearing and seal, dry, add fresh lubrication, and reassemble for extending the life of your CK component. Every so often bringing your Chris King adorned bicycle to Above Category will allow us to perform a full service by completely overhauling the bearings and rear hub’s RingDrive mechanism. A process that, to this day, I thoroughly enjoy performing.


What are the Chris King components seen frequently coming out of the Above Category workshop? There’s those clever named often overlooked work-horses:


NoThreadSet, the seminal product that proved it all, the headset for threadless steerer tubes; the hidden feature in plain sight is precision! Also available in Ti….


GripLock basically makes installing and [initial] adjustment of your headset the last time you need to think about it. Ron Popeil would be proud. This is achieved by a set of o-rings, a precision machined split-ring, and calculated compression that “grip” on the fork’s steerer tube. This gripping force successfully counteracts any of the forces that commonly cause a headset to become loose or creaky. The newest kid on the block using GripLock tech, the DropSet 1, 2, or 3 will be a featured upgrade going forward on our popular Open UP/UPPER builds. Diving into the integrated and semi-integrated headset standard, a noble attempt to keep with the multitude of headset fitment standards out there, the folks in Portland introduced the InSet headset design: from the InSet 1, through InSet 8; but not InSet 6? There’s a few within that range that I’ve never had the pleasure of installing personally, but rest assure, Above Category will help you navigate those options.


ThreadFit, more than just a cute name, but likely a reference to the ample threads on the component to most thoroughly engage your BSA threaded bottom bracket shell; the extreme precision these threads demand a properly prepared bottom bracket. Available for 24 & 30mm spindles, as well as the latest T47 spec.


RingDrive, this is digging into the design elegance of Chris King rear hubs. Speaking again to the seemingly insignificant small parts that literally drive the bike, the Chris King RingDrive is a masterpiece. Not to leave anything like a tiny spring and pawl to chance fatigue or adjustment failure, the RingDrive makes use of one large spring and either 45 or 72 points of engagement (depending on hub model) ensuring your pedal power goes nearly instantaneously to the driving force of the rear wheel. It has been rumored, but not tested, that even the spring itself is a mere redundancy as the helical nature of the RingDrive spline will naturally bite and release as needed.


This is just some of the tech Above Category can throw at you from our friends in Portland; come visit, drop a line, and stay tuned for the next CKPC installment and see what anodized elegance we can upgrade your bicycle within Part III.


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