Motorcycle Bearings: The Unsung Heroes Of The Biking World

We all know that motorcycles comprise of many different parts. Just like cars, today’s motorbikes have a range of modern innovations designed to make life on the road a bit safer. But one of the unsung heroes of the biking world are bearings, believe it or not!


The thing about bearings is that they get used as part of many components in motorcycles. Without them, bike maintenance costs would be higher because things would fail more often! So, how much do you know about motorcycle bearings?

Why are bearings used on motorcycles?

Bearings are elements that help to reduce friction. And  they constrain relative motion between moving parts. They also ensure that the movement of those parts only occurs in a particular way. For instance, they could offer linear movement or free rotation around a fixed axis.

In layman’s terms, bearings do two jobs. First, they prevent friction between two or more parts in particular directions. And, second, they enable one part to support (“bear”) the weight of another. If manufacturers didn’t use bearings in motorbikes, mechanical parts would soon fail.

Do bearings last forever?

The sad truth is, like with all mechanical objects, they only have a finite life. When bearings start to fail, they cause the parts connected to them to not operate as efficiently as they used to.  The good news is that bearings can get replaced when they reach the end of their usable life.

When you replace failed bearings on a motorcycle, they give the bike a new lease of life. In many cases, it can make a tired old motorbike feel as good as new!

Are all bearings the same?

To the average Joe, a bearing is “just a bearing.” But, did you know that there are several different types of bearings on the market? In particular, different ones used on motorcycles?

Take angular contact bearings, for instance. They have inner and outer “races” that get shaped, so that the parts that make contact with them are at an angle (hence the name). The greater the angle, the greater the axial load it can bear.

At their lowest level, one can categorize motorcycle bearings into two separate formats. They are “ball” and “roller” bearings.

Ball bearings consist of small metal “balls” that get fitted between the inner and outer races. Roller bearings are ones where they get shaped like cylinders or cones. For applications that need a greater load bearing capacity, roller bearings get used.

What types of bearings get used on motorcycles?

There are many different forms of bearings that today’s modern bikes use. For example, on the steering head, most bikes built after 1979 used tapered and sealed roller bearings. Models built up to that year use loose ball bearings. Many enthusiasts of older bikes ditch the stock bearings and fit tapered roller ones instead.

In fact, if I were to list all the different types of bearings used on past and present bikes, you’d need an hour to go read all about them! So, let’s all spare a thought for the unsung heroes of our motorbikes. And don’t forget to check yours are in tip-top condition for your next ride!

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