Motion Plastics for the bicycle industry

Whether outdoor mountain bikes, record-breaking lightweight racing bikes or ultra-robust e-cargo bikes, igus will present at Eurobike new components made of high-performance plastic as an alternative to metal solutions for the bikes of the future 2022 in Frankfurt.

In the mounted rear wheel suspensions of mountain bikes, many manufacturers have traditionally relied on metal ball or needle bearings. “However, lubrication-free plain bearings made of high-performance plastic prove to be easier to maintain, up to 80% lighter and dirt-resistant,” says Alexander Welcker, Director of Bicycle Industry at igus. At Eurobike 2022, the company is presenting a new line of iglidur M210 thick-walled polymer plain bearings. The new type of bearing makes it possible to quickly replace needle bearings in the rear wheel swingarms of mountain bikes without redesigning the shaft or the frame. Minimal effort with great effect. “Lightweight plastic components reduce the load on the frame and can make the bike easier to maneuver.” Due to their greater flexibility, the bearings also have better vibration damping than metal bearing solutions, a specification that ensures better shock absorption and greater comfort for the rider.

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Polymer bearings are also ideal for the bicycle industry for their resistance to dirt. The material components of the bearings are not applied in layers but are homogeneously mixed and therefore there is no sliding film which can be worn away under loads, as is the case with traditional solutions with hard shells and soft liners – e.g. metal PTFE coated plain bearings. But it can still be improved, which is why igus is also presenting the new plain bearings of the iglidur SG03 series with felt seals at Eurobike 2022. These bearings offer additional protection against the ingress of dirt. “Felt seals are suitable for coarse tolerances where other seals may have problems. They also have a very low coefficient of friction,” says Welcker. “The new polymer bearings of the iglidur SG03 series are therefore ideally suited for use in, for example, bicycle pedals. There they can ensure an increase in smooth running compared to metal bearings. Another novelty launched in Frankfurt are the plastic plain bearings of the iglidur E series. igus has developed them especially for suspension forks. The bearings are exceptionally suitable for linear movements in guiding dip tubes.

Alexander Welcker

The next innovation concerns the heart of e-bikes: the motor. At the fair, igus will present iglidur high-performance plastic planetary gearboxes. “Tests carried out in our in-house test laboratory show that iglidur gears clearly outperform other plastic alternatives in terms of service life,” emphasizes Welcker. They are also quieter and lighter than metal solutions and can be delivered faster in many cases. “Designers can design and commission the gears in just minutes using an online tool on the igus website. Production is carried out with 3D printers or by injection molding – from one piece to multi-million series production. Finally, igus will present at the fair a solution for cargo bikes, which play an increasingly important role in the logistics traffic of city centers: the metal-plastic ball joints of the igubal 2.0 series. Components that combine the advantages of stainless steel and plastic. A stainless steel housing and a spherical ball in combination with an iglidur polymer inner ring guarantee high stability and vibration damping. “Combined with the advantages of being lubrication-free, maintenance-free and dirt-resistant, hybrid stem ends are a perfect fit for cargo bike steering stems,” says Welcker. And igus also offers a solution for loading box sliding doors with flat guides of the drylin N series. “The linear sliding system consisting of rail and guide carriage is compact with an installation height of between 9 and 12 mm and impresses with its consistent, rattle-free performance,” he added.

igus’ vision is to introduce high performance plastics instead of metal for use in more and more places on the bike. But where does this transformation stop? There are no limits to the imagination, as evidenced by the igus bicycle project, the concept of a bicycle made of more than 90% plastic – from the frame and bearings to the toothed belt. A high proportion of the necessary raw materials can be covered by recycling plastic waste. As a partner, the startup mtrl presents the first model. The Dutch company will start producing and selling the mtrl bike by the end of this year. The city bike will be launched in Germany at the beginning of 2023.

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