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The direction of bottom brackets(4 posts)

The direction of bottom bracketsLeisure
Jan 16, 2002 6:31 AM
So where are road BBs going to go after mountainbikes have all shifted over to Splines (ISIS and Shimano)? ISIS is probably going to get over any tolerancing issues in the next season or two, but is arguably overbuilt for road and so far tends to be a bit heavier than square-taper. Octalink has been okay, but Campy would never use a Shimano format (and shouldn't, IMO). But then, Campy certainly can't expect to stand on square-taper after all of mountain and most of road (being Shimano) are on splines. So what's to expect? Yet another splining format? An ISIS spinoff? Pertinent question for the engineering types: the feasibility of a road-specific aluminum spindled ISIS BB?
Take a look at hollowgram from Cannondale (long)maurizio
Jan 16, 2002 7:33 AM
The trend recently has been toward shaving grams where ever one can (at the sacrifice of strength or longevity, IMO).
In the case of BBs, they have remained relatively static in their design for some time - with the exception of using carbon or devloping the splined spindle, but these are not earth shattering advances compared to other areas of the bike like Campy Ergopower/Shimano STI.
But in looking at Cannondales hollowgram crank/BB system, they have literally started something here. The design elimnates some parts and yet increases strength. What could be better? Team Saeco began testing this years ago and it appears to be a durable design.
One major drawback is that it is exclusive to their bikes as the BB shell of the frame is much oversized so until other manufacturers follow, it will be a niche product....
Recognize this....grzy
Jan 16, 2002 11:35 AM
Cannondale is also licensed to use the Shimano spline design (it's patented) and uses Shimano BB's while supplying their own cranks. Why not use ISIS or their own design on their MTBs? Ultimately do you want some expensvie or POS crank on your road bike or do you want to take advantage of years and years of experience in manaufacturing light, strong, sophisiticated (i.e. hollow) and relatively inexpensive cranks as a result of economies of scale. Ultimately it comes down to money and it's very hard to beat the cost/quality ratio of the Shimano product. Sure you can pay more (Campy) and/or get less (after market stuff) or get stuck with the next great thing with limited choices (ISIS), but why would you. Shimano was very shrewd in designing a better BB (obviously not the best) making it affordable through volume and agressive Japanese manufacturing practices, using a patent to control others who want to make it. Anyone who would like to change the paradigm faces and expensive uphill battle, but that's how "standards" get established. No one ever said they fight fair, but they are fierce competitors - as anyone in the electronics or auto industries know.

Ultimately the market doesn't see much wrong with the Shimano product. Even Campy has copied it within the legal limits. Not even Cannondale wants to take on Shimano over the BB issue and then face "problems" with getting all the other components that they need from them. Does Shimano look and act like a monopoly? Sure. The big difference is that not many Americans are currently being laid off from their jobs making bike parts due to Shimano. One of the first things you learn in business school is that a monopoly is *the* best way to make money. Then they tell you that they aren't legal in the US, but that a patent is a defacto monopoly - if no one can present a better alternative.

I see us using the current Shimano and Campy spline designs as the standard for the forseeable future (isn't that an oxymoron) and that ISIS and Hollowgram will be expensive niche options that may attract a cult following while the general bike buying population is not going to be able to ignore the cost differences.
Guess I haven't been to the LBS recently.Leisure
Jan 16, 2002 7:07 PM
So when did Campy release a splined crank/BB anyway? (That's part of the answer I was looking for) Is it Shimano-compatible? Can I check it out on their web page and what's the address? What about the Cannondale format?

But I can't help getting into the monopoly discussion (woohoo!); wasn't Shimano refusing to allow anyone to use their splines until Truvativ/Raceface/King put out ISIS anyway? ISIS arrives, and all of a sudden they're licensing the design (now under the intimidating "Octalink" moniker) to FSA, etc., whereas before they were not allowing any other company to be compatibile. ISIS may never catch on in roadbiking, but is it possible that had ISIS never come out our options to purchase a splined crank been completely limited to pure Shimano products? I'm probably going to eventually get the FSA-carbon crank myself, and it's a whole lot more attractive now knowing I can get it in some sort of spline format. It's the same reason I waited so long to get Raceface Next cranks on my mountainbike...I wanted Next cranks (ridiculously light, ridiculously stiff), and I wanted splines (even stiffer), and to the best that anyone knew Shimano was refusing to allow anyone to be compatible. Can't blame Shimano for trying to be a monopoly, but competition is still the desireable thing for the consumer, eh?. The splined Next cranks are incredible.
While I can see ISIS being a fringe product in roadbiking, largely because it was created for mountainbikes and thus overbuilt for road applications, I actually don't see it being a fringe product in it's intended market. A decent number of companies are stocking them on their mountainbikes, and it actually doesn't cost that much to buy separately. Raceface/Truvativ are not charging anyone to use it, and that's the central reason Shimano will likely never be able to force it out of the market. You can get the Raceface Prodigy ISIS BB for $30 retail, and either Truvativ or Raceface Prodigy cranks can be had for the same price as Hollowtech LX at $70-80 online. The LX is lighter, but guess what--the Prodigy setup feels stiffer! The mountainbiking consumer has competitive choices!
So what's the ripple effect going to be for roadriders? Perhaps exactly what you've concluded, Grz, especially if Campy has already defaulted to a quasi-octalink format. But it's fun to debate anyway, because there are possibilities that, though perhaps unlikely, are worth paying attention to. Here are my major points of interest:

1. Raceface now has a cyclocross version of their ISIS Turbine cranks out (double 39/53). They may be trying to bridge their way into select parts of the road market in the not-so-distant-future. They have mostly been pricey and fringy, exactly as you say, but they are starting to release some less expensive equipment in Prodigy, the development of which may bleed over if they ever seriously entertain a move to the road market.

2. FSA is using Octalink on their carbon cranks. But they are also about to release a Ti-spindled ISIS BB and already have plenty of ISIS mountain cranks that don't cost a whole bunch. They could easily release an ISIS version of their carbon cranks that could actually cost LESS than their Octalink counterparts. Hmm...

3. Truvativ appears to have already tried entering the road market with a road-specific crank, with very little market success so far. It probably wasn't very competitive, or just doesn't have the right aesthetic to appeal to roadies. But Truvativ cranks are coming as stock equipment on Trek mtbs, and the crankarms at least are stiff, inexpensive, and reliable. They still have avenues to enter the road market if they can produce a seriously competitive crankset (good rings will probably be the critical factor), and having prior contracts with Trek is one of them. It's still possible that we'll be seeing Truvativ cranks coming as stock equipment on Trek bikes. And you know they're going to use ISIS. I think it's a longshot.

4. This is the intellectual one, and I'm most interested in listening to the engineering types which includes you grz, if I'm not mistaken. ISIS so far has been too heavy for serious consideration in road applications, mostly in the (hollow) spindle, because it was overbuilt first for mountainbiking. The numbers are that it's twice as stiff as square-taper, with two or three times the impact strength. If that's the case, it's within shooting distance of being feasible to use aluminum for the spindle instead of steel (for road). We've gone over the frame materials debate plenty of times, but how do you think it applies in the context of an ISIS spindle?

5. Finally, what happens when Chris King finally gets an ISIS BB out?