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Rant of Sorts: anyone else miss the old style BB system....(7 posts)

Rant of Sorts: anyone else miss the old style BB system....sprockets2
Jul 23, 2002 9:00 AM
I am wondering if newer cartridge style BBs are an improvement. Understand, I am not a Retro-only kind of cyclist. I embrace progress where it provides improvement. I have new bikes with BB cartridges, I have put BB cartridges into some of my old bikes when no other alternative was available, or I just wanted to get away from French/Swiss threads.

But, I have several older bikes with the pre-cartridge, old style BB kit that have a zillion miles on them, have been serviced regularly and they keep going and going and you know the story. Nothing at all wrong with them, and I will never change them over. No need.

I am at the LBS the other day having them dink around with the front BB on my tandem, which had seemed a bit squirrely, and as I could tell it wasn't the arm/spindle junction, I wanted them to examine it because I haven't ever torn into a front tandem BB and I wasn't sure about all that adjustable stuff. This had cropped up in the middle of a two hundred mile journey when I first noticed it and with no tools for the BB on hand all I could do was ride....oh well.

ANYWAY, the LBS wrench says to me that the spindle (axle) is pitted and it needs to be replaced, nothing is wrong with any of the other stuff in the BB. The factory installation/dealer adjustment was probably wrong, says the LBS wrench. Fine, I think. New spindle and I am outa here. Wrong. They don't have no stinkin' spindles, they have cartridges. Whaddya mean, no spindles? Far too many out there to stock even the most popular types, and besides everyone is going to cartridges, says the LBS wrench.

In one hand I hold the existing spindle, cups, bearings, and plastic gizmo, and in the other hand I hold the ALLOY Shimano cartrige the wrench proposes to sell me. I say to him "you know this friggin' cartridge weighs about twice what the existing BB kit weighs". "That's progress", he says.

The problem with the BB was a poor initial installation/adjustment, nothing inherent in this style BB. Now with the BB cartrdge, we have a heavier, seemingly less precise, and higher friction alternative. Have we gone backwards? Thanks for reading.
Jul 23, 2002 9:07 AM
Are you sure the old style is lighter? The old style in my 1980 Bianchi seems like pig iron compared to a Record or Dura Ace, or even Ultregra bottom bracket.

Also, with the new style, is it possible that the shell can be a little lighter/weaker because the cartridge keeps everything aligned?

heavier? only somewhatTom C
Jul 23, 2002 11:10 AM
In the september/October 1982 issue of Bicycling Frank Berto did an article comparing Campy/Shimano/Suntour. He weighed the N.R. BB cups and bearings at 125 grams plus the spindle at 156 for a total weight of 281. Super Record which was flexy weighed in at 195 grams total. Modern record is 190 with chorus at 220. Dura-Ace came in at 234 total. The grass is greener weightwise presently but the pig iron comparison is an exaggeration. And lets face it cartridges are disposable while it's unlikely I'll outlive even a 20 year old N.R. BB.
Jul 23, 2002 2:18 PM
105 spindle is solid while Ultegra and DA is hollow - big difference in weight. Then DA ups the ante and isn't really a full cartridge system - it has no "shell". So you want light weight and all the fun of adjusting a BB then get a DA - you get a double set of bearings (one roller and one ball) on each side. Should be just about enough to keep you happy. Tearing the thing down completely and cleaning every single part and reassembling takes about two hours if you're quick.

Funny thing is that it's really hard to pit a spindle and not have damage on both the balls and cups - it's just harder to see. Afterall they are the mating parts and are about as hard and exposed to the same forces and nasty elements. You're making an arguement for being able to hear one hand clapping. When precision bearings and races go they tend to go together and the reason they went most likely is b/c you neglected the maintenance. So while you complain about having to go to a cartridge when your spindle wore out due to neglect its for this very reason that they went to cartridges in the first place. Does the word irony mean anything here? No doubt you could order the right spindle, etc. and in about a week or two it would be in. A LBS just can't afford to stock every single BB spindle ever made - especially when you start introducing tandem stuff to the mix.
You hit it perfectly, without even realizing it...TJeanloz
Jul 23, 2002 9:20 AM
"I have several older bikes with the pre-cartridge, old style BB kit that have a zillion miles on them, have been serviced regularly and they keep going"

Most people don't like to service their bikes. Install it and forget about it has been the bicycle consumer mantra for the past several years. Look at the current issue with the Dura-Ace vs. Ultegra BB- nobody wants the Dura-Ace because it needs regular maintenance and adjustment. Cartridge bottom brackets make life easier for people- they last nearly forever without maintenance, for a penalty of a tiny bit of weight. Most people will pay that price.

For those who won't there are some good, old style, BB's out there. Phil Wood comes to mind.

That being said, any bicycle shop worth its salt should keep Campagnolo, and a couple of oddball BB spindles in stock....
Oh, good--another one of my skills has become useless.cory
Jul 23, 2002 11:00 AM
I'm with you, at least about durability and ease of service. I cleared out my garage a year or so ago and donated the bikes I didn't ride anymore, but there were a couple of 20+ year old old-style BBs in there that were still smooth. My newer bikes (Allez, Atlantis, Cannondale MB) are all cartridge, and I dunno how to work on them and don't have the tools. I'll figure it out just like I did before, but this is one of those things like integrated headsets that forces me to accept an answer to a question I didn't ask.
re: Rant of Sorts: anyone else miss the old style BB system....Fred the Cross Poser
Jul 24, 2002 5:57 AM
I think the real reason behind the change in bottom bracket design is ease on installation and maintenance. Consider the typical local LBS - one or two people who know what they are doing and several high schoolers who barely get by on new bike set ups. Most of these latter types would not be able to set up an old style bottom bracket. But they can certainly screw in a threaded cylinder!

I brought in my old Univega to switch an old suntour bottom bracket to an old, but still servicable, Shimano 600 bottom bracket when I was building my cross bike. The "kids" in the shop didn't know what to do. They called in the "pro" mechanic to the service area who then promptly overtightened and ruined both of them. But it took them only 5 minutes to screw in the free replacement UN-72 cartridge bottom bracket that they gave me.

Consider, even when they were common, few folks knew how to tear down and set up a bottom bracket correctly.

Sprockets2 initial problem seems to have come from an incorrect bottom bracket set up. With a cartridge, there would be no way to make the same mistake.