Bottom brackets, bearings and pulleys are arguably one of the most essential part of the bicycle that is the most overlooked. Run by the bearing master Ard Kessels, Kogel has built itself to one of the most high end makers of all things that run smooth. Lets start with the bottom bracket. For this build, we've paired a Kogel Ceramic bb386 bottom bracket onto a Felt FR 1 frame.
The bottom bracket weighs in at a svelte 104 grams on our scale. The first instinct of any rider is to feel how smooth they are when you rotate them. They are buttery smooth with a seemingly magical zero resistance.
Installation was a snap. In fact it was so easy, that the mechanic remarked it was one of the smoothest bottom bracket installs he's ever done. For reference the old bottom bracket I was riding on was an Enduro Ceramic PF 30. That requires you use one of their proprietary tools for installation and removal. Kogel eliminates that step by using a stock BB press. Once the Dura Ace 9000 cranks were on, I gave it a spin. Not an actual spin where you involve pedaling and riding around mind you. The spin you do when you have a new bottom bracket and just the crank and no chain. It spun so fast I could swear it could double as a fan for keeping things cool.
Once the Felt was built up, it was taken for a spin, then a hard ride, then some climbing, then sprints, then a race...in the rain...in June. One of the things people think about when it comes to their bottom brackets is a very binary way of thinking. Either it works or it doesn't. When it doesn't, it gets bad. Really bad. Knocking, rattling, resistance, water you name it. When it goes well and works. It's sad to say you don't really think about it. It just works. Smooth and quiet like. This bottom bracket is the latter. So far, the BB area is silent as a baby in deep sleep. There was a bit of squeaking when I took the bike up one of my steep climbs but it turns out it the cleat of my shoe was the culprit. With a quick fix, pedaling, under really hard load sounded like the inside of a library.
Pulleys seem to be the next choice for watts savings after bottom brackets. Kogel has several versions of them. The pulleys of choice for me was the Aluminum derailleur pulleys with ceramic bearings. You can get them for road and cross conditions so naturally I chose road for the smoothest friction. Unlike some of the competitors, they are not in your face or oversize but rather understated except for some color on the inside of the pulley. When spun compared with my old stock Shimano pulleys, they definitely run smoother and longer. They were installed on a Dura Ace 9070 Di2 rear mech. Weighing in at just twenty grams they are extremely light and smooth.
Together with the bottom bracket, the pulleys, a brand new KMC gold chain, new 11X28 cassette and only slightly used Dura Ace Chainrings, the drivetrain is very smooth. The question people might be wondering is, "Is it faster?" When compared with my old bike with a completely different drivetrain not to mention tires and even tire pressures, then yes it is. When I'm riding now thinking about problems or issues with the pulleys, and especially bottom bracket is an afterthought and maybe that's a good thing. The last thing while suffering up a hill or shifting down a couple gears in a sprint is to be hearing unwanted noises or creaks. This setup has none of those issues. What about the psychological affect? Absolutely! Knowing you have a tried and true battle tested product in the hardest races in the world, with ceramic bits might give you more than a few psychological watts. There absolutely nothing wrong with that. Ard Kessels, the man behind the company has taken a part that people rarely think about except when it doesn't work and made it sexy. Not an easy task in a highly competitive market but people are demanding more from their machines all the time. Why not invest in the hardest working parts on the bike?
Products Tested: Kogel BB386 Evo Ceramic Bottom Bracket/Aluminum Derailleur Pulleys with Ceramic Bearings
Price: $189 for Bottom Bracket/ $99 for Derailleur Pulley's
• Smoothest, lowest friction BB out there
• Ease of installation
• Quiet and low maintenance
You Might Not Love
• Pricey for lower end bikes
• Not as "flashy" as other brands