Tag Archives: bottom bracket

Velodome, Belgium. Arguably the best looking bike shop I have seen

During a recent trip to Belgium, I had a chance to sit down with Philippe van Eekhout of Velodome in Antwerp.

You know you're doing things right when The Cannibal shows up shopping for bikes.
You know you’re doing things right when The Cannibal shows up shopping for bikes.

See the full Velodome interview here.

We discussed how he and his partners built a concept store and restaurant in the former stables of the De Koninck brewery, how they turned a 200 year old building into a modern bike shop.

Velodome was the exclusive Rapha dealer for the entire Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg. We look at the new brands they found and promote since Rapha decided to end their presence in retail stores.

Another interesting subject was the enormous rise of e-bikes in Europe, how they took over the majority of bike sales in a shop that was mostly aimed at road and mountain bikes. We look at how the EU supports people with tax benefits to get them out of their cars and onto e-bikes, but at the same time is struggling with regulating these hyper fast bikes on public roads.

Modern bikes on a centuries old cobblestone shop floor. Velodome is a travel destination.
Modern bikes on a centuries old cobblestone shop floor. Velodome is a travel destination.

Thanks to all partners: Philippe, Stijn and Maarten for their time in producing this video and for bringing better bikes to the people. See the interview on the Kogel Bearings Youtube channel

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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.

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.

How often should I service my bearings?

At Kogel Bearings we get a lot questions about the service interval of our bearings. The official answer is  that you should service your bearings once per year. It is not difficult to see that this is a very generic, almost randomly chosen time period. It does not take the mileage, weather conditions, bicycle type or overall maintenance of the bicycle into consideration.

In order to give a more detailed answer to the questions about bearing service, let’s have a look at what causes the need for service.

Bearing Contamination

This one is very obvious: just like mud on your chain, water and sand make an excellent paste to grind the internal parts of your precious bearings to pieces. In our production facilities we spend an unbelievable amount of time to polish the balls and races that are used for our bearings. After that, we consider the process to be finished. You are probably not going to improve the polish quality during your ride.

When your bearings are contaminated, you can easily feel this by removing the cranks or wheel axle, sticking your finger inside the bearing and spinning it. Smooth spinning is good, the slightest hint of gritty feeling is due to stuff inside your bearing that should not be there.

The picture of the left is a generic bottom bracket after three muddy  rides. The PF30-24 on the right is boxfresh and ready for action.
This is what our competitors bearings looked like after three muddy rides. Some TLC is due. The PF30-24 on the right is boxfresh and ready for action.

Being not much of a scientist and a lot of a common sense guy myself, being honest with yourself brings a lot of answers. Did your last mountain bike adventures involve river crossings? Have you been out riding in the rain? Did you take your bike to the carwash and not tell anyone about this horrible offense? In all cases it is good to give your bearings (and complete bike while you’re at it) a quick check.

Bearing Lubrication

Our high quality hybrid ceramic bearings require very little lubrication. During production we usually fill them a bit more than necessary, since we feel that your bearings should be for everyday use and not a race day or velodrome only product. While the road bearings feel very smooth rolling out of the box, they usually feel better after a couple hundred miles. This is due to the grease being pushed to the sides of the bearings, leaving only a thin film on the raceways and balls.

Nothing looks better than some freshly cleaned and repacked bearings

Since the bearings are made to run with minimal amounts of our Secret Grease Mix, I consider it not so much of a factor for the service interval. A light swishy swishy sound (as opposed to scraping and grinding sound to stay fully scientific) coming from your bottom bracket while spinning the crank is not necessarily a bad thing. Most of our bearings sound like that after break in.

The 1 year interval is probably a good indication here, unless you are lucky enough to find time to ride over 10.000 miles per year of course. Remember common sense!

Have a look at this video, which was shot while preparing some sample bearings for the UnitedHealthcare team time trial camp. These bearings are running completely dry. The riders were given bearings that had only a drop of oil with the intention to give them a top level performance that lasts for about 50 miles.

kogel bearings spin test

dry running bearings spin faster than anything, but it can cause heat build up and affects durability

Wear and tear of the bearing seals

The bearing seals are one of the few parts on your bike where a non-moving part is pressed against a moving part. By definition this causes friction and friction causes wear. Compare it to skidding your rear tire on the road or trail.

Bearing seals wear out over time, changing the quality from ‘fully sealed’ to ‘fully unprotected’. They are also cheap and easy to install. For anyone that has ever tried to remove a bearing seal without damaging it, you know it’s a gamble. I have tried it once or twice myself and consider it a 50/50 chance of success. Let us take the frustration out of it for you, it really feels good to be able to yank those seals out without caring if you bend or break them. It will save you some time too. Do this with every bearing service and you will live a happier life, promise!

Conclusion

In conclusion to all the above: Officially we recommend to service Kogel Bearings once per year, but this does not mean you can ignore these hard workers that sit at the center of every rotating part of your  bicyle. Keep an eye out for contamination, at least minimal lubrication and replace those seals with every service.

 

In a next blog post we will show a step by step of how to perform a bearing service.

What makes a good bottom bracket a great bottom bracket? Part 2

In part 1 of this blog post, we looked at different bottom bracket types and at adapters. Part two will go a bit more in depth about the best location for bearings and installation techniques.

Bearing stance and bottom bracket stiffness

Imagine the bottom bracket area of your bike to be very similar to the transmission in a car. You can have the strongest engine and the widest tires with the most grip. As long as the parts connecting them are not as stiff as they should be, all that power is not going to result in maximum acceleration.

Bottom bracket stiffness is super important. Besides avoiding plastic and unnecessary parts, you want to look at a bottom bracket with a wide bearing stance. The closer the bearings are to the crank arms, the wider the base for your spindle to rest on. This translates in a stiff set up and speaking from our experience, a lot less wear on the bearings.

bottom bracket adapters
A clear demonstration of a narrow bottom bracket shell mated with a long crank spindle. All the adapter space is wasted real estate. Moving the bearings as far out as possible will increase stiffness and bearing life.

Installation and removal

This is something to consider for any press fit type bottom bracket. Threaded bottom brackets are installed with the appropriate tool and removed with the same.

Installing and removing threaded cups is done with the same tool.

Switch to anything pressed and information is all over the place: instructions range from using Loctite to epoxy to grease or nothing at all. In our opinion, you should think about removing a bottom bracket before installing it: anything glued into the frame is going to leave a residue, which needs to be removed before installing something new. In the case of epoxy, this could mean you spend the next twenty minutes toying with a box cutter or Dremel tool. Kogel Bearings prefers grease for installation. It helps the bottom bracket slide into place, helps to silence potential creaking points and can be cleaned with a rag after removal.

install kogel bearings with grease.
any loctite or epoxy used in a bottom bracket is going to dry out and needs to be removed before the next installation. This can be a time consuming task.

While you are thinking about removing a bottom bracket, have a look on the inside of the cups. Press fit bottom brackets are often removed with a hammer and some sort of punch. Now look on the inside of your cup, is there something your tool can grip on and take a beating if the cups are tight in the frame?

Conclusion

In short, there are many things to consider for a quality bottom bracket:

  • Type: threaded, press fit or threaded press fit, whichever fits best with your frame
  • Materials and small parts: look for a high quality build with as few parts as possible
  • Bearing stance and  stiffness: look for bearings placed as far apart as possible
  • Ease of installation and removal: how easy is it to get the bottom bracket in the frame and how easy is it to remove and prep the frame  for the next bottom bracket

Notice how we did not speak about weight? If you follow all these steps (alu cups, wide stance, quality build), you  will no doubt end up with a bottom bracket that  is a handful of grams heavier than a plastic, narrow  stance  bottom bracket with adapters. In our eyes, there are only a few grams to be saved on a bottom bracket and if choosing those extra grams is going to help you transfer more of your watts to the road, they are well spent.

***

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.

What makes a good bottom bracket a great bottom bracket? Part 1

At Kogel Bearings we spend a lot of time looking at one particular part of the bicycle: the bottom bracket. We tend to nerd out over the smallest possible details. With my personal history in product development for fashion companies, the discussions about bearing types and insert depth are not unsimilar to the discussions I used to have about raising a collar height by two millimeters. As with many things in life, the devil is in the details. In this blog post we will try to give you the tools to determine what makes a good bottom bracket and what makes the best bottom bracket for your bike.

Threaded, press fit or threaded press fit?

When it comes to bottom brackets, traditionally there have been two types: those that thread into the frame and those that press into the frame. Your frame will determine which one you will need. A few years ago, a third option was introduced. What we like to call the ‘threaded press fit’ bottom bracket. Basically this is a press fit bottom bracket where the two shells thread together in the center.

Threaded or Pressfit is determined by your frame. Threaded cups are stable and relatively problem free. The downside of this is that it is only possible in metal frames or carbon frames with a metal bottom bracket shell.

A traditional threaded bottom bracket by Shimano.

With frame makers looking to build the lightest possible frames, press fit bottom brackets are most popular on higher-end bicycles. The frame has a hollow sleeve which is made with high precision to accept bottom bracket cups. The bottom bracket is pressed in with specific tools. ‘Precision’ is the key word in that sentence. Cups and frame need to match together within 1/20th of a millimeter. Too loose and the cups will fall out of the frame, too tight and the bearings will seize up or the frame could even crack during installation.

A Kogel Bearings PF30 bottom bracket

 

The idea behind the threaded press fit is to securely lock the two press fit cups together to avoid creaking issues and increase stability. At Kogel Bearings we believe that this type of set up puts stresses on the frame in a direction that it was not designed for. Most brands use rubber O-rings in their construction to compensate for tolerances in the BB shell. Some require a lot of torque on the installation tool to fix the bottom bracket in the shell.

A threaded press fit bottom bracket by Hope. Courtesy of Bikerumor.com

 

What is the best solution here? It depends on your bike. We believe in press fit solutions for press fit problems. All Kogel bottom brackets are designed to maximize the contact area between the frame and cup to ensure a proper seating of the bottom bracket. If your frame happens to be on the large side of the BB shell tolerance and suffers from constant creaking, a threaded press fit might be able to lock the bearing cups laterally.

A threaded bottom bracket is generally seen as the trouble free solution, but it requires a metal insert in the frame (which in itself is prone to creaking if glued in a carbon frame) and limits the cranks that can be used.

Bottom bracket adapters, materials and small parts

At Kogel Bearings we realize that lots of bottom brackets have issues with creaking, popping and knocking. One way to stop this is starting from quality materials. As a general rule, aluminum is better than plastic, since aluminum can be produced to much tighter tolerances and will be better at retaining it’s shape over hundreds of thousands of crank revolutions.

Stacking spacers and adapters on top of each other, just to make things fit, is not helping the situation. In order to avoid unwanted sounds, we design all bottom brackets with as few parts as possible. One press location on each cup, one contact point per cup for the crank spindle. By reducing the amount of parts, we avoid possible locations to develop play or gather dirt.

stashing a pile of spacers, washers and adapters on top of eachother, just to make things fit, is never the best solution.

 

In Part 2 of this blog we will address bearing stance, installation and try to come to a conclusion. Stay tuned to our ball bearing adventures.

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.