Listing the most common problems with bottom bracket standards

With all the bottom bracket standards on the market, it is quite shocking that the bicycle industry did not find the one that works perfectly for all applications. At Kogel Bearings we spend a good amount of our day looking at bottom brackets, so I felt it was time to share the pros and cons of all systems with our friends. This information should help you find the bottom bracket and crank combination that best fits your needs.

I’m not here to burn any frame builder for their choice for this or that system, or to push users into a certain direction. Opinions get strong when discussing bottom this problem area of the bicycle, so I have tried to stay objective and Kogel Bearings will keep on striving for the best possible solution given your choice of crank and frame.

BSA-ITA threaded bottom brackets

The good old threaded bottom bracket. Many times on forums people wish they could go back to the days where everything was simple. I argue that it was never simple, with Italian vs BSA, Campy vs. Shimano and all the different spindle lengths, but that’s another discussion.

The world was a better place when everything was threaded? I beg to differ….

The fantastic thing with threaded frames is just that: it’s threaded. The cups lock into place and align themselves. Also the system is very easy to remove and reinstall should there be an issue. All modern day set ups have the bearings running nice and wide, so stiffness is never an issue.

The main down sides of a threaded set up is that not all cranks fit. A true BB30 spindle will be too short to make it through the frame. Another problem is that it is not possible to cut threads into a carbon frame. Any carbon frame will need an aluminum bottom bracket shell glued in, which in itself could be a source of creaking and it is a no no for any designer trying to make the frame as light as possible.

BB30

Introduced by Cannondale in the early 2000s, BB30 was supposed to increase crank stiffness with it’s ‘bigger than Shimano’ spindles. While that may be true for a shorter and thicker spindle, my experience is that the narrow set up does the exact opposite: the bearings are so close together that the system becomes  unstable and power is  lost through flex. This narrow build also ramps up the stress on the bearings.

With the standard being designed to make sure the bearings do not fit too loose in the frame, another common problem is bearing compression. The bearings are pressed into an opening that is too small to fit, which causes the bearings to seize up. With this point and the above mentioned narrow spacing, BB30 bearings are known to have a very short lifespan.

The right side of this diagram shows that the bore diameter for a BB30 shell is 41.96mm with a tolerance of +0.025, which is super tight. In order not to go over the tolerance and have the bearings fit loose in the frame, many manufacturers cut the frames on the smaller side, which causes the bearings to seize up.

On the positive side, if you are looking to ride with a super narrow Q-factor BB30 is your friend.

PF30

PF30 was introduced by SRAM as an open standard for anyone to use. It built on the narrow Q-factor of the BB30 but tried to fix a few BB30 issues by pressing the bearings in a cup before they were placed in the frame. The first one is the super tight tolerances that come with a BB30 frame. The PF30 tolerance is four times bigger, which allows the frames to be built with all carbon BB shells. The down side of a larger tolerance is that it is almost impossible to make the cup press perfectly in every frame. Results are creaking and (again) bearing compression, depending where your frame sits in the range.

Bottom brackets have been confusing customers and mechanics around the globe for decades. It does not look as if that is going to change any time soon.

Pressfit (BB86/BB92)

Shimano’s answer to the press fit craze is called simply ‘press fit’, but more commonly known as BB86 for road bikes and BB92 for mountain bikes. It has the wide set up of a threaded bottom bracket and keeps the bearings in a cup similar to PF30. The system is typically very stable and stiff, because there is a wide BB area that the other frame tubes and grab onto.

A minor down side is that the BB86 shell is smaller in diameter than a PF30, so the down tube can be wide but needs to be flattened where it meets the BB shell.

A big issue with the smaller diameter of the Pressfit shell is that it does not accept 30mm spindles very well. The different solutions that are on the market between Rotor, Enduro Bearings, Race Face and our own, show  that the jury  is still out on how to tackle this problem. Even though I consider the Kogel Bearings solution best in class, I would still advise anyone to stay away from this combo if you can avoid it.

In our next post we will be looking at BBRight, 386EVO and a few other standards before we try to come to conclusions on all these options.

 

**If you have any questions about Kogel Bearings, ball bearings in general or our Ball Bearing Adventures, please ask them either in the comments section below, one of our social media channels or by email via info@kogel.cc. We will answer them in a highly professional, but not always scientific way. We do not shy away from many subjects. Please ask, we are here to answer.

How to clean your bicycle and protect the bearings

In this feature I will address bicycle maintenance, especially cleaning and how to avoid damaging your bearings while doing this. Riding for decades in Belgium and The Netherlands and now living in the Southwest US desert, I understand that the level of cleaning is not  only depending on the type of riding your bike is exposed to, but also depending on your geographical location. A CX bike in Tucson, AZ probably lives an easier life than a road bike in Oudenaarde, Belgium.

How much cleaning does your bike need?

As I brought up in previous posts, bicycle maintenance is very much about being honest with yourself. Think what your prized possession has been exposed to and choose a matching level TLC. If you are a roadie in Southern California, chances are good that your bike can do with a wipe down every week or two weeks and a drive train cleaning every now and then. If you live in a wet climate and your Sunday rides will happen rain or shine, you will probably need a bucket with some brushes, a large sponge and soapy water to restore the showroom shine. Mountain bikes live a harder life and might need some garden hose treatment after a muddy ride. I know cyclocross mechanics that drive straight from the race course to the car wash to get all the muck off bike and kit.

when racing elite CX in Belgium, bikes are not the only things that are hard to clean. Stef Wyman shows how to deal with the reality of getting that national champ jersey back to it’s original colors.

 

While we never recommend power washing bicycles, in CX there simply are no options. Since the bikes get several treatments during the race already, the one after the race probably cannot do a lot more damage. The result is simple: drive home from the carwash and take the bike apart in order to remove any stagnant water from the frame, hubs and headset.

Do the minimum, but make sure it is sufficient

Once you have determined the contamination level, it is time to determine the minimum cleaning level you can get away with.  It is no secret that moving parts on bicycles are no fan of water. If you can avoid using it: good. One of my favorite cleaning products for years has been Pedros Bike Lust. It is a liquid that comes in a spray bottle, perfect for taking dust off a bike, and leaves a shiny residue on your parts that actually repels dirt. It’s a weird slippery goop, so keep it off brake surfaces of rims, disks and brake pads. The goal with this minimal cleaning approach is not to cut corners, the goal is to get the bike back to showroom condition with the least amount of work.

Pedros bike lust was my secret weapon in Belgium. I loved how customer’s jaws dropped to the floor when they met their revitalized bike again.

 

What if you have to use water for bike cleaning?

Again, the minimal cleaning rule applies: a bucket with soapy water is better than the garden hose and the carwash should be avoided when possible. Remember that the deeper you let the water penetrate, the more time you will be spending cleaning and drying the internals of your two wheel wonder.

JOrge Romero of the UnitedHealthcare pro racing team shows that bicycle cleaning requires eye for detail. Small paint brushes are perfect for degreasing a drive train and not getting aggressive products all over the frame.
Jorge Romero of the UnitedHealthcare pro cycling team shows that bicycle cleaning requires eye for detail. Small paint brushes are perfect for degreasing a drive train and not getting aggressive products all over the frame.

How to protect ball bearings during cleaning?

Trying to keep water off your bearings is the first step. Avoid spraying water directly into the headset, bottom bracket and suspension pivots is next. There are some steps you can take if you know your next cross race is going to be sloppy. Pack the outside of your bearings with a water resistant grease. When I was a mechanic in Belgium, I would take the fork out of the every bike during service and literally cover the lower headset bearing in a marine grade grease. It was a given that my customers at one point or another would be riding in heavy rain. The same can be done with bottom bracket and suspension bearings. Simply take off the covers, apply a layer of grease on the outside of the seals and put the covers back where they came from. Typically this adds a bit of friction, but nothing close to the friction caused by rusty races.

The last step is to always think about stagnant water in a bike. Taking out your crank and cleaning the inside of your bottom bracket shell is a good one, but think of the water that can get trapped inside suspension pivot points, inside brake levers and derailleur pivots. This is where compressed air is your friend. If you are the lucky owner of an air compressor, get a gun with a long nozzle and blow every nook and cranny dry. As with pressurized water, I am always afraid that compressed air will actually force water underneath the bearing seals, but I have never been able to prove this. Keep a bit of distance when aiming directly at your rotating parts.

Most cyclists care more about their bikes than many other things in life. There is a good chance you dropped serious cash when you rescued yours from the shop. It deserves the best care you can give it. Remember minimal but sufficient cleaning and prevention when you know things are going to be bad.  Washing your  bikes frequently will help you build up a procedure to do it thoroughly and quick. The  above video of team Tinkoff Saxo shows incredible amounts of muscle  memory and hand-eye coordination. Something that can only be achieved after years of repeating the same exercise over and over.

Will you sponsor me?

Sponsorship is a sensitive subject at Kogel Bearings. We get questions about it almost as much as we get questions about how to install a bottom bracket. And I understand it. Cycling is an expensive sport for most people, although that is relative if your other hobby is racing Aston Martins on the weekend. Add race registrations and travel expenses to your bike purchase and you’re looking at a pretty penny.

I also understand that everybody loves free stuff, as you can witness if you ever visit the Tour de France caravan. People ending up in fist fights over beer coolers with the name of an insurance company printed on it or even better: used water bottles thrown out by pro riders. The big problem for Kogel Bearings is that by giving you our products in exchange for only your race results, it becomes just like the used water bottle: free stuff. The shine wears off within minutes of scoring what looked like a precious gem at one point.

Will Kogel Bearings sponsor our team? We will put your logo on our jersey.

So, you have a team and some are landing podium spots. Awesome! At any time we will be happy to give you a team deal if it does not conflict with the below points or one of our local dealers. Here’s the catch though: The entire team proudly wearing the Kogel Bearings logo on their jerseys but Chris King and Shimano bottom brackets in their bikes makes us look silly. Before you ask that question, have a team meeting and see if every single rider is willing to make a discounted purchase.

Does anyone spot a sponsorship conflict in this picture?

How do you represent our business?

Here’s an obvious one: if you ride around with our logo on your jersey, you all of a sudden become the face of our business. If you race like a douche or tell the slowest person on the training ride to hurry up because you need to be home in time to watch Bar Rescue, this person is probably not going to become a Kogel Bearings fan. Be nice to people, even when you don’t want to. After your worst racing day ever, we still expect you to go to the podium ceremony and applaud the winners.

While you’re at it, make sure your social media makes us want to be you. Athletes posting pictures sunsets and post ride espressos are more likely to get our support than athletes having strong opinions on controversial political topics.

kogel bearings mountain biker cries
So you trained hard for your big race, but someone else wanted it more? You even dropped a chain? If your reaction ends up on youtube like this video, expect the contract negotiation with your sponsor to be up tomorrow at 8am.

See the full video here.

Sponsorship is all about the money

When you approach a business and ask to receive their products for free, always keep in mind the number one goal of any business, which is to show a profit at the end of the year.  By sending you a free bottom bracket or set of wheel bearings, you have just put a $200 negative transaction in our account books. Always keep in mind what you do to replace that money and a bit more. That makes the transaction valuable to your sponsor. This could come in the form of promoting the brand to your friends and fans in such a way that they want to buy, it could be in getting a review written on your personal blog or better yet in a magazine. By doing that, you have just saved the company some advertising dollars or generated a sale for them. Imagine if you would talk to your local bike shop and turn them into a devoted Kogel Bearings dealer. You’re guaranteed a spot on our team for a good while.

Be an ambassador for the brands that support you

So now that you have decided to be nice, sponsor logo correct and understand the business side of your deal, try to have fun with it! This womens team recently came on my radar. At the time of writing, Fearless Femme p/b Haute Wheels Racing still have to start their first race and I already consider myself a fan. A team of badass girls in well-coordinated kits, riding expensive custom frames and with Lexus team cars. On top of that they will kick most people’s rear end on a thirty minute climb or in a sprint finish. What struck me most is that every single post on their Facebook is about having fun and shows that they think outside the box. We would be honored to have them promoting our brand next year. In fact, Amy Cutler is already part of the Kogel family for some time.

Helen Wyman is another racer we have been proud to be involved with. Here she is, exchanging high fives with fans right the first ever world cup race on home soil. She did not finish in the spot she was aiming for, but she was still all smiles in front of these people and the cameras.

But, I asked if you will sponsor ME?

That’s entirely up to you. Although road and mountain bike racing season is in full swing, cross season is coming up. Reach out at any time with a well thought out proposal and Kogel Bearings will be all ears.