Lizard Skins – Bottom Bracket Seal??

Well, Lizard Skins don’t officially make a BB seal this is, in truth, the venerable Headset Seal that has been around for MANY years but that doesn’t mean that we can’t give them a go to see if they help keep sand out of the outboard bottom bracket bearings like you might find on a fat-bike with cranks like the Surly Mr. Whirly, RaceFace or e*thirteen XCX.

Initially, we wondered if the seals would even stay on a bottom bracket with the crank whirling away but Gomez has been running them on his Moonlander for several weeks and many rides and they are still there. I’ve had mine on my Tatanka for a couple of rides with it hanging tough and we just put a couple on Sam D’s Moonlander for more testing.

On my Schlick Tatanka the e-type derailleur mount makes it tough to install on the drive side but this presents an opportunity to test using the Lizard Skin seal on the left side versus not on the right side of my Chris King bottom bracket to see if there is a difference in wear. I just did a 3-month service on the Chris King (look for a Chris King BB report soon!) so we have a good baseline to start from. Time will tell!

Why bother?

Bikes like the Moonlander that use the widest of wide cranks are particularly vulnerable to contamination because of the cone-shaped spacer that is used to push the crank arms out from the BB to create the wide chain line needed to clear the massive 5.0 fat-bike tires. This spacer rotates with the crank making trapped  sand/water do lots of nastiness to your bearing/cups. Note that any fat-bike using an outboard BB is vulnerable just that the widest cranks present even more of an issue.

Above is the cone washer, used on the wide Mr. Whirly, that has been on a fat-bike that has been ridden on the beach. Not sure how long this particular washer was installed but about 6 months is a fair guess and probably a dozen beach rides of about 15 miles or so. 180 miles on the beach, give or take, along with many more miles on the trails around SE WI.

Above is the Sand-ground Hat Sleeve that the cone washer rides up against. Sand gets trapped in between and does a great job wearing down the plastic.

This is a stock Moonlander bearing with the Hat Sleeve and the bearing seal removed. After sand compromises the seal, water gets in the bearing and reeks havoc and rust and such. This bearing was completely seized.

This is what happens to your hat sleeve when the bearing seizes. Good news is that the crank still rotates. Kind of. Bad news is that it should be rotating on the bearings, not on the plastic sleeve! Hard to move the crank? Better have a look!

Another problem is that the cone-shaped spacer takes up space on the splined portion of the Mr. Whirly. As shown in this photo, the portion that is sandy was under the cone washer. This also shows evidence of the cone washer rotating and wearing away the BB Cup that holds the bearing. This Chris King BB is undergoing a 3-month maintenance. Approximately 8 beach rides. 120 miles more or less.

The two bearing/cups above are Mr. Whirly pieces. Stock OE on the left and the aftermarket Surly replacement, with Enduro bearings, on the right. Same basic cup with different bearings. Same result though. Seized. While the bearing on the right may look a little better in the photo, it is just as seized!

So, is the Lizard Skin seal the solution? We aim to find out! After a thorough overhaul and new grease. We’ve got the Chris King BB all ready to go as in the photo at the top of the page. Sam D is rocking a Chris King with ceramic bearings and Gomez has a fairly new set of Aftermarket Surly cups on his Moonlander. Stay tuned down the beach as we see what happens!


  1. As you know from my Readers Ride’s post that I have been running impromptu Lizard skins in many places on my bikes for 25 years. I have seals that are 25 years old and work like new on some of my bikes. I Don’t know how it will work for the salt water and sand of coastal riding, but I a positive it will help extend the life of the bearing….Wheres my Check Lizard skins!

  2. May I suggest triple guard Marine Grease…the shit is pretty Diesel and impervious to the salt wash…via the atmosphere or direct spray…it’s like blue/purple in color…Majik Man…Cape Cod Mountain Bike Racing.

  3. ps the sand crystals are loaded with salt and creating lots of negative Ions…in laymen’ s terms washing out the grease and introducing the sand and salt…and of coarse the oxidation. I could be wrong…however it’s worth a try…the Triple guard is formulated to withstand those conditions… I have worked with it…

  4. That Marine grease is NOT indicated for use in bearings or ball joints, according to their website. Just a heads-up…

  5. Whoa, you guys are really putting me off external bearings, I found this article very interesting. I was thinking of going the external route if I “upgraded” my Pugsley crankset but my FSA ISIS (often maligned) BBs have been impervious to sand and salt-water in 8 years of beach riding. I hose the bike down after every ride, maybe old-tech is the way to go?

    I swapped-out the first ISIS after 4 years of hard (singlespeed) riding and thousands of beach miles. It was smooth as new but some play had developed that annoyed me. The new FSA has no play after another 4 years.

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