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Ready to ride

Dual compound fork seals for mountain bikes

SKF has long established itself as a leading provider of engineering components for a wide variety of industrial applications. But the company’s reach knows no bounds. Even this year, a new offering for skateboarders was confirmed, as a newly developed wheel bearing – designed especially for skateboard wheels – was launched to the delight of some of the world’s top skaters.

In a similar move, amateurs and professionals from mountain biking can now enjoy a ride smoother and steadier than ever before. This is thanks to a range of sealing solutions which have been quietly in development for many years. In this article, however, we are starting with the front of the bike by homing in on SKF fork seals.

What is a bicycle fork?

Bicycle forks, circled in blue above, are critical parts for two main reasons. Firstly, they make it possible for the bike to be steered via the handlebars, as they are connected to either side of the front wheel. Secondly, and more important for sealing applications is that they can contribute to the difference between the rider enjoying a smooth or a bumpy ride. This is where suspension compression and rebound take place.

Most modern mountain bikes have very sophisticated suspension systems, which consist of one air pressure spring leg to hold the bike and rider and a second damper leg to smoothen the movement of the fork. Fork seals are crucial here. A well selected seal which has been designed with this specific application in mind, one that is designed to protect the interior fork mechanism could make the difference between winning and losing in competitive mountain biking.

Over 70 percent of championship cyclists use SKF seals in competitions such as the UCI Mountain Bike World Championships, UCI Mountain Bike World Cup, the Olympic Games and other national and local championships.

New and improved

It’s for that reason that both world champions and budding riders choose MTB fork seals from SKF, as well as some of the world’s most renowned suspension manufacturing companies in the bike world.

The newly developed SKF Dual-compound fork seal – adding to SKF’s well established fork seals range that have already been available on the market for more than 10 years – consists of newly developed rubber compounds and new geometries for both the scraper lip and the sealing lip. The co-molded combination of compounds, together with improved sealing lip properties, offers enhanced followability on the shaft. In addition, there is a new metal insert and an open wound spring on the dirt scraper lip, effectively preventing the ingress of contaminants.

Not only the sealing features are enjoyed by riders, but the colors of the design too, which give a nod to the country in which the seal was designed: Italy. After all, riders – especially in competition – want their equipment to stand out from the crowd.

How it all began

Much of SKF’s experience in two-wheeler applications has stemmed from its involvement with high-performance motorcycle applications. A range of bearing and sealing solutions, which included a fork kit featuring two fork seals, was first unveiled at Italy’s foremost motorcycle show, EICMA, back in 2009. This is where the story of the offering mentioned in this article really began.

You can meet up with SKF’s expert two-wheeler team at EICMA in Milan, between November 8 and 13. They will be pleased to answer any questions and queries from Booth C59 in Pavilion 13. Here’s a link to the event website.

“I knew we had the expertise and addressing the seal requirements of MTB manufacturers and aftermarkets. Within just one year of EICMA 2009, we had established our mountain bike seals project.”

Two wheels, many solutions

The Industrial Seals Expert blog will address and spotlight SKF’s extended two-wheeler portfolio in the near future. In the meantime, you can visit this website for even more on sealing solutions for seat post, e-drive units, and other shock absorption applications.

Download this short brochure for a summary of the product mentioned in this article.