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

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
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