Ask Chris King Anything | Ceramic Bearings, Freehub Noise & Bottom Bracket Standards

(upbeat music) – Now I’m at Bristol Bespoked today and this is basically the
UK’s handmade bike show and I’m joined by someone
who I am in complete and utter awe of because
he gets to make the things that we use on our bikes. How cool is that? Mr. Chris King of Chris
King Precision Components. Now we asked you recently actually, send in your questions for Chris and the good news is, he’s
gonna answer some of them. So, firstly, welcome. – Thank you. – And well let’s crack on
really with the questions ’cause I know you area a very busy man. – Well. – So let’s get started. First question from Nate Weldgood, how did you get started in
machining and manufacturing and then turn into what
Chris King is today? Do you have any advice
for a new guy who wants to make their own components or bikes? – I used to you know, hang
out at a pro bike shop with all the bike racer guys
and we used to go on rides and this kind of stuff. And one time I’d taken some
rear hub and put some better bearing in it and took it
over to show it off of course and everybody’s like oh wow,
you know, that’s really cool. And this one guy’s like,
it didn’t phase him at all. He just looked and kind
of, well whatever, right? I says, what’s up? He says, well that’s cool
and everything but you know, if you really wanted
to make something cool, you should make a better headset. And I had this idea from having wandered through the warranty department
at this medical place. So there was this drum full of these parts and there was tonnes of
these bearings in there. And I remember seeing this
and so when the guys said you should make a better
headset, I thought, huh. And I went and got a
couple of those bearings and cleaned them out, right? And made some cups, that
was the first headset. To get back to that part of the question that talks about you know, how could somebody get started in this? You either have to have a
lot of capital behind you, and time, or you just have
time and tenaciousness to stick with it long enough and a perseverance for what your goal is. Mine was quality.
– Yeah. – To stay with that in an unyielding way that ultimately builds a brand name. And in the meantime, you
know I scrapped and suffered and had a great time and
learned an incredible amount. It certainly wasn’t about
making lots of money. It was just about being passionate about wanting to make a good product. – Sure, now that leads on really, to the the next question
from Daniel Quinnell who asks how healthy is the bespoke cycle industry and is the future bright for it? – Well you know, the cycling
industry has been going through cycles since
it’s been around, right? And the bespoke part of that, I’ve seen it kind of go up
and down over the years. When I first got into cycling,
all of the bespoke-type frames and so on and so forth
that were being produced were being produced here and in Italy. – Right. – So I remember running into this one guy, he became a designer for
Specialized years ago, he had arranged for Bob Jackson
to come over to Santa Cruz and give some frame building lessons. – Wow. – And he, this particular
guy took those lessons and became a custom frame builder and that’s, that’s part
of what got the whole custom world going in the states. That was in the mid, about mid 70s. So by the early 80s, all
these custom builders were starting to pop up. So that’s people like
Eisentraut and Bruce Gordon and a bunch of the guys on the East Coast and that’s got this whole
thing going in the states. In the meantime, everything
that was going on over here was starting to kind of–
– Yeah. – Go down. And I was surprised in more recent years to find that it had almost died out, I don’t want to say completely but it had died way down
– Yeah, yeah. – Here, right?
– It certainly had, yeah. – And now we’re seeing, you know, every time I come to the show,
there’s more and more stuff. More and more people doing this. It’s started to quiet down
in the states a little bit. Where the epicentre of that is or where it’s really
happening or expanding or whatever is gonna move around. But the overall is going
to be probably kind of a consistent percentage
of the overall bike world. – Yeah. So Steve H wants to know, is
there many gains to be had from changing from a normal
bottom bracket to a ceramic one? So in terms of the bearings? – One race day, if you want the least amount of drag in your rolling components, you could actually run those bearings dry. Or with a slight dry lube or just a drop of really light oil–
– Yeah. – And eliminate all that grease drag that you might normally
have in a regular bearing. Now the bearings that we’ve
been putting in our hubs and the grease that we’ve been
using is a really low shear grease so it’s pretty good.
– Yeah. – It’s better than what you
typically get in a shop. But at the same time, there’s
still a bunch of that in there and as the faster you go,
the more it wants to resist. When you make that thing dry, you definitely get way better performance. The thing that we’ve also found, at least in our bearing technology, by going to a ceramic
ball, you actually wind up with a bearing that, our bearings become even more durable with those balls. – Right. – Where you have people
using our components in bad weather conditions
and dirty weather conditions, all that kind of stuff,
the ceramic bearings are probably gonna be superior. – What makes a stiff wheel? Stiff rims or stiff hubs? – Well it’s all of it.
– Yeah. – Obviously. I think largely, you know, each component that goes into the wheel
build is going to either contribute or not contribute
to the overall stiffness of it. And then how do you actually
lace that thing together? How tight, how much do
you tension the spokes? You know, my hoop is pretty damn important because most of the time, I’m sitting on the hoop unsupported. – Yeah. – So the rest of the
hoop has to add to that. How that hoop is then
supported from the hub out becomes very critical
because if I don’t support the top properly, and the
two the sides properly, they can do this or
that, then that bottom’s gonna be able to move around
a lot or whatever, right? So you can see that the whole
thing is pretty critical. – Yeah. – Types of spokes, spoke
tension, cross patterns, so you know, it depends on what you’re looking for out of that stuff, right? If you’re looking for
durability of the wheel and say a downhill application
or something like that, well chances are you want something that’s a little more symmetrical. But if you’re looking for
really like sprint performance, you probably want that dish in the back, to a certain degree.
– Yeah. – I mean, you’re fighting
between how well it hooks up and delivers power to the ground to how well it stays, you
know, laterally stable, right? – Sure. – There’s a kind of cross
of those two things, right? – Got a question from Ellen,
Alan sorry, Zarczynski. Now I’m presuming he’s
got one of your old hubs, he says, is there a way to
change his old mountain bike disc rear hub to fit modern road bike? Now it doesn’t leave any standards or anything like that, but I’m guessing that there’s probably some axles and kits. – We do some axle kits for conversions and depending on the road bike, you know, you could have a bike built
with a slightly wider spacing because the old mountain stuff was 135 and your typical road’s
130, it’s not very far. A lot of the cross stuff
that I’ve seen go by in more recent years
has been built to 135. We certainly, you know, you
could certainly do that. – Yeah. – Whether you get, the
big issue with using a fixed mount disc rotor type of hub, which is what we make now,
then becomes where does it put the disc?
– Sure. – You can get, there’s an axle arrangement that we probably sell
– Yeah, it will fit but– – Where you can get it in,
you’re just a standard road bike at a 130 spacing but whether
or not you’re gonna get that disc at 15 millimetres
away from the dropout face, that’s another story.
– Yeah. – Now, if you have a
calliper or a way of mounting that calliper that can make
up for that difference, you’re off and running.
– Fill your boots. – I’ve got one then, Ben
Vinson, how did 72 points of engagement come to be a
standard for your rear hub? Now it’s not a standard across, is it? – The idea of making
this, the type of ratchet that we have now–
– Yeah. – That idea goes back to high school. And we were still using
screw on free wheels at that point, right?
– Yeah. – So it was gonna be in
that kind of a thing. The idea of using a
helix with it came later. That was in the very early
90s when it dawned on me that I could make that
thing move on a helix and it would have a clamping effect. I was trying to at that
point, simulate the rapid engagement that you would
get from a roller clutch. – Yeah. – ‘Cause that was theoretically,
practically speaking it wasn’t zero but it was a very small amount of movement, right? So the initial prototype
for all made it 90 teeth. – Wow. – 90 teeth is about
four degrees of movement between engagements.
– Yeah. – When you calculated
through your typical low gear on a mountain bike, back to your crank, back to your pedal, you
get about somewhere between 3.5 to four degrees of actual motion before you’re actually delivering power to the ground, right?
– Yeah. – So four degrees was
my target at the time. – Yeah. – That was 90 teeth. When we went to 72, I
think it moved up to about 12 millimetres but it was still, compared to the typical 18 or 20 engagement systems that were out there, I think Shimano at the time was 16, that was like two or three inches. – Right. – When you try to dice your
way up some little climb or something like that and
you have to reset your pedals to get through some tight spot– – Yeah. – There’s a huge difference in how that feels.
– Yeah, yeah. – So having something
that was really quick was really important. – Yeah, snappy engagement. – Snappy engagement. – Now right, so I’m gonna
stay with a rear hub and this is something I
get asked so many times regarding free hubs. Now they want to know,
is there any relationship between sound and the
efficiency of the hubs? So is a silent hub more
efficient than the loud one? ‘Cause obviously your hubs,
they’ve got that buzz sound, the angry bee, some people call it. (Chris laughing) – And that’s just a funny thing, I mean having started that
project with a roller clutch, those were perfectly silent.
– Yeah. – And my goal was to have
the ratchet be silent also. So we had started on a
grease project to have an acoustical quality
to it that would keep the bubs sort of quiet.
– Right. – We got about half way
through that grease project, we got all the lubricity part of it done and so on and so forth
and we were about to move to the acoustical side of
that and we just started getting this feedback that
everybody loved that sound. (Interviewer laughing) Oh, ’cause I tell people,
oh you know our next step is to make the thing silent. – Yeah. – Whoa, you’re not gonna
make ’em silent, are you? No we like that noise. I mean are you kidding me, c’mon, really? The angry bee, right?
– Yeah. – If you look at the roller clutch, someone might say well here’s something that’s perfectly silent, right? Roller clutches use
kind of a wedging system for wedging the roller
into a tight space– – Yeah. – Thus jamming it up,
creating this friction between the roller clutch itself and the shaft that’s spinning in it. In order for it to be
engageable in the first place, those rollers always
have to drag on the shaft that they’re trying to lock up. – Yeah. – So, even though it
may be perfectly silent, there’s some kind of drag involved in ultimately getting it to engage. – Yeah. – The new Shimano hub that’s
supposed to coming out that’s silent is gonna have
a similar issue to that. There’s gonna be some
kind of drag involved that’s gonna be there
to have the mechanism cause the engagement to happen
once you start peddling. – Yeah. – So, now the argument becomes, is that drag more or less
than the amount of energy that’s going into that clacking noise? – John Leach, he’s curious,
have you ever experimented with other materials
in your product range? Magnesium, titanium, that kind of thing? – Of course.
– Yeah. – And you know, sometimes… you get a bright idea, it’s like, ah wouldn’t it be cool
to make this out of this or that and you get down
that road and it’s like, oh you know, it’s strong enough, it’s well it’s kind of hard to machine but we can still do that, you get down, and sometimes you just don’t see a problem that really is gonna come along with that. – Yeah. – When we first produced the R45, they came with titanium dry rings. – Yeah. – So we thought, well,
we can make the thing a little lighter, we can machine titanium, it’s not that big of a deal. I mean, it does take a little longer and the material is more
expensive, by a long shot, But we thought that that
would be kind of cool and roadies tend to like
that high-techy stuff and all that stuff. – Stuart Dryer, he says, if
you were King of the World, well he’s the king of the
bike industry, isn’t he? Chris King, after all. What bottom bracket
standard would prevail? – Well.
– It’s a tough one, this. – I’ll just, you know, I’d say T47. – Of course (laughing). – And I think we came up with something that’s absolutely workable, right? The one millimetre pitch, some people say, oh it’s too fine… Yeah, maybe it should
have been a little coarser but we didn’t have the ability
to go deeper on the thread because of the tubes available and stuff. And I wanted something
that, quite honestly, you could run the taps into
a press fit bottom bracket and turn it into a
threaded bottom bracket. – Yeah. – [Chris] So we wound up
getting all of that in T47. – [Interviewer] Neat solution, really. – [Chris] It’s genius. And to think, I mean we’ve been using threaded bottom brackets for how long now? – [Interviewer] Oh, donkey’s
years, I don’t know. – Decades and decades. – I still use one with
my bikes, so you know. – In terms of what’s out there right now, I think T47’s kind of the answer. – Alright. – And I’m, you know I’m not
trying to sell bottom brackets (interviewer laughing) but I have one on my bike. – Well you’ve designed it,
so why not talk about it? – It wasn’t, it was a, It was a group effort–
– You were involved, yeah. – To do that, so. – A massive thanks to
Chris for his time here. Make sure you give this
video a big thumbs up. Like it, share it with all your friends and also, remember to check
out more of our great content so click down here for
the latest GCN Tech Show.

100 thoughts on “Ask Chris King Anything | Ceramic Bearings, Freehub Noise & Bottom Bracket Standards

  1. I think Chris King wanted to say BSA BB standard, but since he's trying to sell the solution to the BB30 bikes out there that can have threads cut into them to accept his BB, he said T47. Myself, I'm avoiding any bike that is not BSA standard. No metal bike takes advantage of any press-fit designs because metal tubing is always optimal power/weight at smaller diameters..

  2. That text on the wall in the background. Demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of what torque is. Horrible distraction!

  3. Whoever edited this, kudos! The conversation still works but it looks like much effort was taken to get to the point of the question.

  4. This and Emma Pooley's Taiwan KOM bike video on the main channel are easily among the best interviews you guys have done.

  5. So what happened to the answer about titanium dry rings and the problem down the road @ 14:28?
    Seems to be way more things to talk about here in ceramic bearings and what is the difference in his product line compared to the shimano and Sram. I've never even heard of this stuff before and only recently the term ceramic bearings. So whats it all about? Who is he, What did he start, How does it change performance, where do you buy this stuff, what stuff is it? headsets? What a ceramic head set? Are there ceramic pedals? No grease is faster? This interview is blowing my mind and it was way to short!
    Everything about ceramic bearings yes/ no?

  6. Chris King makes some of the best bicycle components on the earth! He’s the only manufacturer that Im aware of who produces his own bearings. I have 3 headsets and 4 hubs from the beginning of production. All still are running the original bearings they came with. I know they’re pricey, but if you are the type who buys quality for the long run (and MAINTAIN IT)these components will last a lifetime. I use my gear hard, riding all terrain in all weathers and seasons. I dont baby it but I do maintain it regularly.
    I was also a machinist and appreciate well engineered AMERICAN MADE!! products.

  7. One of my favourite GCN videos 😁👍
    Genuinely interesting interview!! 🚴‍♂️🚴‍♀️
    More please.. 🤔

  8. 7:35 he says for durability we should consider to choose symmetrical hoop.

    So asymmetric is just for performance and not giving much for durability?

  9. May be a dumb question but when you all need to walk up a hill with your bike, do you walk up as a walker would (facing traffic) while pushing your bike or do you walk your bike on the same side you ride it? I’m not ashamed to admit I’m still new to bike riding and there are lots of “walk of shames” in my life, lol.

  10. Wow, really enjoyed this one! Must be like meeting one of your heroes. Fantastic to have information like this straight from the horse's mouth (not calling you a horse Chris). A very interesting insight. Thank you very much for bringing this to us. The power of YouTube, you ain't gonna' be seeing this sort of thing on the TV! Happy riding! Or should I say "ride on" (I just spent a week in Watopia, my wife thinks I've been doing the garden). All the best, Tim

  11. About 13:35 – the louder sound is a safety feature, as well, when riding in a large group ride that is close-together. It helps to know the rider ahead of me, or perhaps the next rider up ahead of him, started to free-wheel.

  12. How I would love to sit down in a pub with Chris King and Mike Burrows and just talk bikes!

  13. I love the chris King Products, and the Sound of the Hub. I have made a Video about the new Chris king hub with enve M930. Watch it on my channel.

  14. Wow, such an interesting watch. I knew he made high quality products, but I'm so impressed by all the knowledge in his head! Legend.

  15. Well, that sums it up, ceramic bearings does not make you faster, the grease no matter if ceramic or not will resist the spin. Period

  16. Can anybody write up what Chris says regarding the BB standard if Chris King was the king of the world

  17. Spoke technology, except for materials like carbon fiber spokes, is not new technology. Spokes that screw into the hub and spokes that hook into hub have been around since the beginning invention of metal spoked wheels. Look at car from the 1800s and you will see spokes that thread into the hub. Spokes that hook into wheels are easier to build and repair, but those spokes break more often than threaded spokes in my experience. In either case both wheels are durable if built correctly and the material is durable.

  18. Should have asked: why has King never produced a hub designed around straight-pull spokes? Philosophical opposition? Trouble with production & therefore commercial viability (as if King can't charge WHATEVER they want, and lots of people won't pay it…)? Other issue altogether? I was hoping to see this issue addressed, and would have sent in the question myself, if I had been aware of the possibility of participating ahead of time…

  19. I really enjoyed listening to Mr. King. You can tell his breadth and depth of knowledge is vast and he explains things in a thoughtful and easy to understand manor.

  20. Awsome interview!! Been using king head sets for years. They are the absolute best. The t47 sounds like a great idea. Threaded bottom brackets have always been the best way!! The rest is all pretty much crap!!

  21. Chris King are expensive, but they are so worth it. I bought a hope pressfit BB last year and the bearings went within 6 months. My 10 year old thread fit bb is still going strong with the origional bearings. I generally keep my bikes for 5 years or so, and I know that fitting Chris King bearings will save me time and money and effort over that time. Its just a shame standards have changed and my older 142 and 100mm hubs wont fit on my new boost bike, otherwise they would be straight on.

  22. 18 years on, CK mtb and road headsets are spot-on, original steel bearings, re-lube every year or so if I think about it, compared to every other Headset which have worn, corroded, developed play, ovalized the headtube, and in one new bike circa 1990, actually exploded into pieces after 25 miles (warrantied by brand, OEM versions of the famous S brand were flawed).
    CK has lasted because like a few rare start-ups in this and other industries, strongly idiocyncratic ideals combined with a genius for designing entirely new solutions to old problems, or simplifying /lightening /sealing / toughening weak areas of parts production make for industry-wide advances. Surviving financially has always been harder for many brilliant engineers; niche boutique bike markets may help support small folks, but quality takes real know-how, and is expensive, and the go fund me approach is not really looking like much more than a way to fund designer concepts because owning a one-off jacket is way different from owning a one-off derailleur or wheelset.

  23. my dream is to have a farm, a barn, and inside that a tool and die shop/ machine shop where i can make tools to make things. bikey things ! bikey bikes!

  24. A very candid and fascinating discussion. I have always appreciated Chris King Bling but the prices make most of it borderline unattainable. I got a nice set of hubs from a certain UK company that also have that swarm of bees sound and didn't have to take out a loan. Maybe someday I will splurge on a headset. Nice job Jon!

  25. My CK ISO disc hubs were purchased in 2000. They have been through 5 bikes and 4 wheelsets. Still going strong. What do you say to that?

  26. I don't know man his stuff is super expensive. I've never had any trouble with Cain Creek, Sram, or Shimano. I'm just a Trail bikerider

  27. Has GCN Tech ever done a comparison of the Top 3 (or 5 )Bearing Products in each category – Wheel Hubs, Bottom Brackets, etc. If not a comparison, at least show them side by side. Then subscribers could share their experience / thoughts / opinions on each one.

  28. Cyclists are so weird, some wear sandals in winter, some think wearing tight spandex clothes showing how skinny they are is actually good, some are nuts, absolutely nuts about hub sounds, damn how I love this

  29. A difficult interview to watch. Make that endure. Boring doesn't come close. Tedious. Self indulgent. It did improve when he got onto technical rather than memory lane. But personalities like this shouldn't be in front of a camera. Big mistake GCN.

  30. hey cool now i know the face on the jerk that over prices the shit out of some fancy headsets I could buy two K-mart bikes for one headset haha

  31. Not about making a bunch of money yet his hubs/headsets are 2 1/2 times as expensive as the competition lol

  32. Was such a honour to be their tech rep at the Bike Motion bike show in Holland for a few years, best job ever.

  33. 13:45 the real question is where u want to lose energy, at the acceleration in a split second or every time u roll

  34. After destroying my fourth mountain tandem hub, I was considering what hub would withstand high off-road tandem torque loads (Think Slickrock Trail with two riders, low gearing, no front wheel lift, and no rear wheel spin.). I luckily had the chance to discuss my issue with not only Willie Hügi at Interbike, but the man himself, Chris King. However, at this time, he was still using the aluminum spline drive engagement ratchet. After going through three Hügi steel star ratchets, I was VERY wary of a hub using aluminum engagement ratchets. I ended up going with Phil Wood (which I split in half on Slickrock, so the saga continued. However, Phil Wood replaced the hub no charge, so they're golden.*) because I just couldn't imagine the aluminum ratchets (even with spline drive engagement) would withstand my stoker's and my HUGE thighs!!!
    Fast forward a few years and I notice Chris King switched over to stainless steel spline drive ratchets…. Ha! I KNEW Al wasn't a good idea! See Chris, I TOLD you so!
    And another cool anecdote… I ordered a used King hub service tool online and the seller included a bunch of extra bits & ring drive lube. Very nice of him! Well, included in the box was an old aluminum spline drive ratchet! It's totally worn out, but this Ebay seller could never have known how cool it was that he sent that, given my conversation with Chris King over a decade ago.

    Anyway, thought I would share.

    *Ha, and get this: when I was a little twerp just getting into road bikes, my Dad's partner was Phil Wood's doctor! Dammit, I could have met Phil Wood, THE Phil Wood! Oh well, I was too young to know at the time how cool that would have been.

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