Racers will go to just about any length to save time and make their race machines more efficient. While you can nitpick weight, bearing upgrades are often overlooked because they are incredibly expensive and high maintenance. Kogel is a small company based out of El Paso, Texas, but the company’s founder and owner, Ard Kessels, hails from Belgium, where riding conditions are notoriously harsh. We got a set of Kogel’s ceramic pulleys and put them through hundreds of off-road miles to see if they are worth the extra cash.
Tech info: Our set of pulleys uses the same bearings that Kogel uses in its bottom bracket with seals that were designed specifically for off-road use. These seals are heavier duty to keep out trail debris and moisture to prolong bearing life. Kogel uses its own ceramic bearing that was designed to reduce friction and make your drivetrain run smoother and faster. The pulley wheels are aluminum for a more durable design, and the bearings are serviceable and come with a special grease. Retail price on our set of pulleys is $130, and they are available in a couple of different colors.
On the trail: This set of pulleys does require a little bit of minor surgery on your derailleur to install. With a couple of Allen wrenches and a few minutes, we installed the pulleys on our SRAM Eagle rear derailleur. Compared to the stock SRAM pulleys, the difference in bearing friction was very subtle, but we were drawn to the aluminum wheels. We spent a full winter and spring riding these pulleys with few issues. While ceramic bearings are known for being high maintenance, the Kogel bearings required little to no extra work. We did pull apart the pulley wheels to re-grease them after a month of riding, but found that they didn’t need much else from us.