A Chris King bottom bracket is an excellent option that will last you years if you service it periodically.
It's the law in the world of cycling that you have to like Chris King stuff. If you don't, you're not In The Know. That's the way it works. Unlike lots of the nonsense that masquerades as truth, this one is grounded in reality. In my experience, Chris King components are superbly engineered, better still they work too.
I've been using this Chris King bottom bracket on my posh bike for a few months now. As you can see, the aluminium bearings cups are of the outboard variety and, as you can't see, the bearings themselves are ceramic rather than the usual stainless steel. I'll come back to the ceramic-ness in a minute.
What sets the Chris King bottom bracket apart from the crowd? For a start, they use more balls than usual – 24 in each bearing – to increase strength. If you go for the BB with steel bearings (£132.99), they're made in-house and they're very high quality.
Plus, the sealing is good and you can service the bearings, unlike most modern bottom brackets that aren't serviceable. Stay on top of the maintenance and this bottom bracket should last you years.
Re-lubing the bearing is easy with the Chris King BB injector tool. You just remove your cranks, lift out a sleeve and inject new grease. It's a little more complicated without that tool, but you still don't need to remove the bottom bracket from your bike. If the bearings get gritty and need a clean as well as a re-lube, that's pretty straightforward too.
I've re-lubed the bearings a couple of times as much to see how it's done as anything else. The performance has been flawless so far: smooth spinning and not a hint of creaking.
What's the benefit of ceramic? Chris King's marketing says the ceramic balls are 'lighter, harder... with greater roundness than stainless balls, for a bearing with exceptional speed and strength'.
Okay. Plus, the dependability of Chris King's sealing means you only need a small amount of low-viscosity lube in there to keep the drag low against the stainless steel races. The overall result is extremely low friction for efficient pedalling.
That's the theory. Can you discern that lack of friction out on the road? Nah, there's too much else going on to be able to isolate it. The ceramic bearings might have a slight performance advantage but that's not the reason I'd buy a Chris King bottom bracket. It's the high-quality design and the serviceability that are the real draw, which is why I'd probably save money and opt for the standard BB over the ceramic version.
The Chris King bottom bracket comes in road and mountain bike versions, and in Shimano and SRAM models. Between them they are compatible with most current 24mm crank axles – check the Chris King website for a list. They come in BSA thread only – there's no Italian version – with a 5-year warranty, and they're available in a variety of different colours.
Superbly engineered bottom bracket that's fully user-serviceable; should last an age although the steel-balled version offers better value
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Make and model: Chris King Ceramic Bottom Bracket
Size tested: Mango
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
This is the road version. This ceramic version is aimed at performance riders although the advantages over a steel-balled version are marginal.
This is the Chris King write up:
"The Chris King Ceramic Bearing Bottom Bracket is identical in construction and compatibility to our stainless steel bearing bottom bracket. All the Chris King qualities you love remain the same - Durability, Serviceability, Performance & Made in the USA. To this we've added ceramic balls, which are lighter, harder and with greater roundness than stainless balls, for a bearing with exceptional speed and strength.
Chris's bearing design allows us to use more rolling elements, or balls, than production-house bearings and we squeeze 24 into each bearing. More balls per bearing amplifies the greater strength of the individual ceramic ball and when built into our acclaimed stainless steel races make a foundation for smooth and strong pedaling. The ceramic balls are harder and lighter which translates to faster movement with reduced friction. The combination of these factors when paired with our reliable sealing system allows us to use a very small amount of low-viscosity lube in the bearing meaning very little drag in the bearing. The result? You pedal with greater efficiency.
Partner this bottom bracket with our BB Injector Tool to quickly and easily repack your bearing grease and you have a high-performance bottom bracket that will last a long, long time."
High-quality design, high-quality materials, precision made.
Should last ages thanks to the user serviceability.
Depends how you look at it. It's a big outlay, but could easily work out cheaper in the long run thanks to serviceability and potential to last ages.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fact that you can service it.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It's a shame you need to buy a specific tool to make maintenance easy (although you can manage without).
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Age: 41 Height: 190cm Weight: 75kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.