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Jockey wheels seem like the most pointless thing to upgrade on a bike. I can see swapping out the usual grey ceramic jockey wheels for an anodized alloy one to match the look of the rest of the bike, but I can't see any possible performance related reason to do so.

Do they aid in shifting quality at all? I know that dura-ace and ultegra derailleurs use jockey wheels with bearings instead of bushings to improve durability, but they still use ceramics.

Is there any benefit of using the alloy jockey wheels?enter image description here

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My impression has been that the non-metallic jockey wheels are not ceramic but rather some sort of composite plastic. –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 24 '12 at 20:04
    
Yes... BUT lets face it gentlemen, the best reason to get alloy jockeys is so that once you're finished with them you can drill a hole in one and use it as an awesome keyring :) My keys with circa 1999 jockey on them –  Mere Development Jan 24 '12 at 21:36
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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

The material itself is not so important, I think, but for sure the alloy jockeys last longer than plastic ones.

Besides that, the main adventage comes with the (often coming together with alloy pulleys) BEARING you already mentioned. Besides eliminating lateral play and so improving shifting precision (in my perception), they also decrease rolling resistance and improve drivetrain efficiency. Finally, these bearings work better suffer less without lube (don't wear out inside like plastic pulleys), and require much less lubing in the first place.

Well, these are my insights. Hope it helps.

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+1 for increased drivetrain efficiency –  nick3216 Jan 24 '12 at 16:32
    
I'll add that the jockey wheels do wear out, both the "sprockets" and the bearings, and replacing them from time to time can improve shifting, even if replacing with the same type. (Can't guestimate what a reasonable lifetime for them is, though -- would depend on a lot of factors.) –  Daniel R Hicks Jan 24 '12 at 18:23
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As someone who has given numerous dérailleurs smacks against rocks, which were light enough impacts to just be able to bend the cage back, but strong enough to split the jockey wheel - I'd say yes!

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I could see the scenario of riding in really sandy gritty condition where grit might become embedded into the plastic and be transfered to the chain. I have noticed that after cleaning they still have a rough texture.Even if the allloy jockey wheels were softer than the abrasive grit the anodized finish would take a while to wear off. You would also benefit from the bearing being held in position against a machined surface versus a less accurate molded surface

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