Optimization is applied to the design of a spiral bevel gear reduction for maximum life at a given size. A modified feasible directions search algorithm permits a wide variety of inequality constraints and exact design requirements to be met with low sensitivity to initial values. Gear tooth bending strength and minimum contact ration under load are included in the active constraints. The optimal design of the spiral bevel gear reduction includes the selection of bearing and shaft proportions in addition to gear mesh parameters. System life is maximized subject to a fixed back-cone distance of the spiral bevel gear set for a specified speed ratio, shaft angle, input torque and power. Significant parameters in the design are the spiral angle, the pressure angle, the numbers of teeth on the pinion and gear and the location and size of the four support bearings. Interpolated polynomials expand the discrete bearing properties and proportions into continuous variables for gradient optimization. After finding the continuous optimum, a designer can analyze near-optimal designs for comparison and selection. Design examples show the influence of the bearing lives on the gear parameters in the optimal configurations. For a fixed back-cone distance, optimal designs with larger shaft angles have larger service lives.