Hawk Racing, Folmer Tech Move Beyond Ceramics with Lighter, Slicker Bearing Tech
Folmer Technology has announced new bearing lubrication technology to the cycling world with claims of 10% lighter weight and up to 80% less drag than ceramic bearings.
The tech made it’s debut in Hawk Racing’s new bottom brackets and hubs at Interbike, and they’re starting to ship now.
“I wanted to get more benefit out of my bike for a given amount of training. I was reading all about ceramics, but wanted to build something more durable,” said company owner Sven Folmer.
“We took lubricants from the aerospace industry and tinkered with them to work for cycling products.
“Bearings in airplanes have to withstand a wide range of environmental conditions and insane RPMs, and when we first started it was a bit rough. The lubricant was too thick. We tinkered with a number of consistencies and variations…some where too thin, some broke down too quickly…until we came up with our current patent-pending formulation.”
But the lubricant is only half the story…
Initially the company started looking at improving aerodynamics, but quickly shifted focus to reducing friction, which Sven thought will benefit a much, much broader audience.
How’d they do it?
First, they chose ABEC 3-rated stainless steel ball bearings from Japan with non-stainless races on the inside and outside. The products were created for long-term, low-friction performance on road and triathlon bikes. They’re developing a full stainless steel bearing (balls and races) version for mountain bikes and cyclocross to better withstand water (stream crossings, severe mud, etc.), however Sven said that he’s running their current BB on his mountain bike and that he knows plenty of people running it on their ‘cross bikes without issue.
The ABEC rating tells the production tolerance of the bearing. For bikes, ABEC 3 is pretty high. When specifying the ABEC rating of their bearings, they have to take into consideration the tolerance of the hub or BB shell production, too, and Sven says the benefit of any higher quality bearing would be lost on cyclists, it would only drive up the cost. Hawk Racing’s bearings are made in Japan from the same manufacturer that makes bearings for Boeing.
From there, they seal their bearings on both sides, not just the outside, and they still claim to spin smoother than ceramic bearings. Even better, they’re about a quarter of the cost of a ceramic BB. Prices start at $89 for the BB30 PressFit set and run to $119 for the SRAM GXP.
So, then, how do you get a metal-bearing BB lighter than ceramic ones? Well, the bearings are only part of the story.
“The way we produce the cups and bearings together, we were able to produce an English threaded standard BB weighs in at 82g,” said Sven.
They offer a wide variety of sizes and standards, including your basic 24mm Shimano outboard style bottom brackets, SRAM GXP (via a special bushing), BB30 and BB86. Sven says “We’re working with Trek to create a BB90 version. Teschner puts Hawk Racing wheels and bottom brackets on their complete bikes. Felt’s asked us to make adapters to let riders use Shimano systems on their BB30 bikes, and we’re talking to Cannondale and other manufacturers, too. Further down the road we’ll start on Campagnolo versions if the demand is there.”
Oh, and BMX Olympic Champ Maris Stromberg rides them, among others. All parts are pressed together and assembled in their Florida warehouse, where both Folmer Technology and Hawk Racing are based.
Because of this attention to detail, they have a one-year service interval rating…meaning you can install them and not even think about touching it (or paying a shop to touch it…I’m looking at you, triathletes) for at least a year, assuming you’re riding in “normal” conditions.
7075 pulleys with same bearings, 4g lighter than next leading pulley wheels (Sven’s words). Inner caps also available in a couple other colors.
Their hubs use a 6-pawl design to reduce the engagement down to 7.5º, which is 1/3 to 1/2 quicker than most other hubs.
They use pure Niobium for the rim, which Sven says is stronger than aluminum, and a 15mm thru-axle on our hubs, which creates an incredibly stiff hub with virtually no flex, even for the strongest riders. To eliminate preload, the axle reduces down to the quick release dropouts, so your skewer isn’t going to put drag on the wheels even if you really clamp ‘em down hard.