Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Back in the day, you could adjust, rebuild, and make it last.
Yesterday I was in the shop doing a bike build on a frame/fork that was equipped to handle a BB-30 style bottom bracket. A real BB-30 bottom bracket. The type that has circlips and a precisely machined bearing interface. The kind that spawned the "press-fit 30" bottom brackets that so may riders and mechanics despise, but keep in mind, those Press Fit 30's are not "real BB-30 bottom bracket shells. Many do not even use a 30mm spindle either, which was the supposed reasoning behind that bigger shell anyway. Okay, I'm getting derailed here.....

The thing that made me think here was that the BB-30 uses a pressed in set of bearings which, when they get slop in them, they have to be replaced. That is not necessarily an easy thing to accomplish either. Contrast this with an old square taper bottom bracket I installed the day before. If it developed a little slop, you could adjust the bearing pre-load, without removing the crank set. Let's say something like that was introduced today. It would be lauded as a brilliant, consumer friendly development. Trouble is, it doesn't play into the "stiffer is better" philosophy that many bicycle companies adhere to, and it isn't proprietary, which for some strange reason is seen as being a bad business decision.

Well, I find it ironic that almost every entry level road bike we stock has.....square taper cranks. They use a cheesy, pseudo-cartridge bottom bracket, but still. Then, moving up a notch in spec, maybe you go to a two piece crank with a Shimano cup system. Then, on higher level models, you go to an abundance of stupidly designed, non-serviceable bottom bracket styles. If you are not a racer, which most folks are not, wouldn't it make a lot more sense to use the threaded shell, a serviceable bottom bracket, a three piece crank, and on more expensive rigs, the lighter, easier to remove and install two piece Shimano style cranks? It seems many manufacturers are starting to gravitate towards this idea after several years of nonsensical bottom bracket designs which have not really worked out very well.

The "standards" argument, well.......I am not adhering to that philosophy. I worked in the bicycle business when there were still myriads of serviceable spindles, at least four types of threaded cup variants, and 73mm and 68mm width bottom bracket shells. This required the first shop where I worked to have an eight row wide, four foot high machinists cabinet which was full of different spindles. Cups and lock rings were in another cabinet and bearings in another. Don't tell me how it was better "in the old days". No. It was just as bad, if not worse, when it came to "standards", which I find is a completely different subject than "serviceability", and we won't even get into longevity! 


james said...

It's a similar deal with vehicals. It used to be part of your maintenance to clean and repack your wheels bearings, or if your starter or alternator (or generator) took a crap, you could rebuild the thing and parts were available from your local parts house. Nowadays, you just drive it til it breaks. Is it better? Perhaps.

Tristan said...

I think a similar "cash for clunkers" program should be initiated for older bikes.

Cory said...

Ted I am a retired auto mechanic (not retired in general just from the trade). I was wrenching back when you had to clean and re pack wheel bearings at regular service intervals. If these bearings were cleaned and serviced occasionally, like they should be, they would almost last forever. Then came the dreaded "sealed" non serviceable bearings in the front wheel drive. Chrysler at least still continued to have serviceable rear wheel bearings even if the fronts were not. It seemed as if these non serviceable wheel bearings would almost detonate around 100,000 miles sometimes sooner. It was commonplace to HEAR a vehicle driving into your parking lot making a god awful grinding noise and seeing one of the wheels leaning in or out so bad it looked like it was almost ready to fall off. Fast forward to my hobby with bikes and you can see why my latest set of wheels I built I opted for a set of Shimano hubs. I don't mind servicing my hub bearings from time to time. Cory