I can't find any definition of "race" in its use for example on this page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headset_(bicycle_part)

on Cambridge or Oxford dictionaries...

Someone can tell me where this word comes from ?

  • 2
    The very first instance of race on the page links to an explanation of what it is. Did that not answer your question?
    – Laurel
    Sep 11, 2020 at 18:13
  • 1
    @Laurel, the OP knows what a bearing race is, but wants to know where it comes from, I think. A reasonable question, since Etymonline doesn't show the definition at first blush. Sep 12, 2020 at 7:03

4 Answers 4


It's the third sense listed on Merriam Webster:

3 : a track or channel in which something rolls or slides

specifically : a groove for the balls in a ball bearing or rollers in a roller bearing

The analogy with a mill race seems plausible, but I haven't made any effort to check it (and it's an independent meaning now, anyway).


"Bearing race" applies to many situations beyond bicycles. My impression has been that it's used mainly for ball bearings, to refer to the slot where the bearings run. I suspect that this is by analogy to a mill race (millrace) and similar concepts:

: a canal in which water flows to and from a mill wheel
also : the current that drives the wheel


"A track or channel in which something rolls or slides" - merriam-webster


Lexico (powered by Oxford) has a definition of Race that is as follows

  1. A smooth ring-shaped groove or guide in which a ball bearing or roller bearing runs.

Which describes its use in a bike headset.

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