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Pressfit bottom bracket creaking into an early grave? Are we about to witness rise of threaded bottom brackets?

There are many ‘standards’ in the road cycling world but none that causes more ire than pressfit. 

Cannondale developed the BB30 bottom bracket in 2006 as an open standard. It used a larger 30mm axle which allowed bigger bearings and a bigger bottom bracket shell, providing extra stiffness and lower weight. But it required a precision machined shell and crank, and was expensive to manufacture with an alloy shell bonded to the carbon frame.

Pressfit soon followed in 2009 and aimed to address the high tolerances of BB30 by housing bearings in nylon composite cups that are then pressed directly into the frame. It reduced the manufacturing costs, and this helped it to be swiftly adopted by frame manufacturers. It still offered all the same weight and stiffness benefits of BB30, but with more simplicity and lower cost.

sram pressfit .jpg

sram pressfit .jpg

However, while the use of plastic shells lowered the critical need for high tolerances, variations in quality control lead to a litany of creaking bottom brackets, a result of a poor interface between the bearing and frame. Internet forums are full of frustrated cyclists trying to cure noisy pressfit bottom brackets.

- Video How To: Install a PressFit Bottom Bracket

 - How to remove press-fit bottom bracket bearings

But something interesting is happening in the industry. We’re seeing new frames being developed with conventional threaded bottom brackets replacing pressfit, to the rejoicing of cyclists everywhere deafened by creaking pressfit installations.

Open UP frame and fork - bottom bracket.jpg

Open UP frame and fork - bottom bracket.jpg

Could it be that the love affair with pressfit is over and the tide has turned back in favour of the threaded bottom bracket? We spoke to two bike brands big (Specialized) and small (Bowman Cycles) to get their perspective the future of pressfit. 

We asked these companies because Bowman’s updated Palace R frame has swapped from pressfit to threaded, and for its new Roubaix Specialized has used a threaded bottom bracket on the entry-level model and a pressfit on the top-end S-Works bikes.

Bowman Cycles

I think the primary problem with pressfit is that an error at any stage can cause the most horrendous noise problems, and they are not easy to remedy without spending money. A threaded bottom bracket, on the other hand, can be taken out, greased, retightened and fettled far more readily, and the threading does away with the need for such accuracy during the manufacture, as by nature it will tighten (as long as the frame is faced properly).

Bowman Layhams Disc prototype - bottom bracket.jpg

Bowman Layhams Disc prototype - bottom bracket.jpg

The larger pressfit shells do allow for carbon engineers to do interesting things with layup and tube size, but for metal frames, the benefits from a frame manufacturing process are limited, if you can afford to research and develop any chainstay designs tyre clearance preference require.

In metal frames, I’d suggest they should be dead as every manufacturer makes a superb chainset that fits natively. Carbon is another matter as the customer seems to want to chase the smallest number of grammes as the latest must have. Bonding in a thread for a bottom bracket is not only adding a possible failure point down the road, it also adds weight in a world where people are spending a lot of money to save six grammes making a totally hollow dropout.

The customer just needs to realise that the high tolerances needed to make a pressfit bottom bracket work in a carbon frame cost money. It can be done - and people shouldn’t be fobbed off if their high-end composite bike creaks, but they also need to be realistic. There are solutions out there that companies can use to make reliable, light frames, Colnago’s C60 has an elegant solution and a frame that still builds up stupidly light. The T47 standard is another option that privately many product managers want too use, but the gram chasing mainstream does not permit it.

So, is it dead? Yes, kinda, maybe - not quite.

- How to fit a threaded bottom bracket

Specialized

Without it sounding a cliché, Specialized is, and has to be, about rider first engineering; we have to look at the rider at every level and with every budget first to give them the bike and equipment that gives them the best riding experience and performance benefit.

Specialized Tarmac Expert - bottom bracket.jpg

Specialized Tarmac Expert - bottom bracket.jpg

So the easiest answer to this is, yes, for Specialized pressfit bottom brackets still have a future where absolute performance matters, given that they are stiffer and lighter than a conventional threaded bottom bracket.

The ‘but’ is that a pressfit system requires incredibly high tolerances and the highest standards in quality control in frame manufacture for it to function at its absolute best, and this realistically is achieved with high cost and low volume.

The other variable is the frame material and method of manufacture.

So, with the new Roubaix platform as an example, Pro and S-Works models have a press fit BB30 system, and Expert level and below use a conventional threaded bottom bracket.

road.cc comment

We doubt pressfit is going to vanish anytime soon. For high-end frames developed for racing the weight and stiffness benefits trump all other concerns, and some of the issues are often down to poor installation. For professional racers, bikes are regularly cleaned and maintained. For cyclists that don't have a pro mechanic washing their bike after every ride, Park Tool has interestingly developed special compounds that it reckons helps to eliminate the potential for a creaking pressfit bottom bracket. We'll be testing those soon to see if they are the perfect solution.

But it's clear pressfit has lost many fans over the years. There's no denying the simplicity and ease of installation offered by a threaded bottom bracket setup., and the bearings appear to be less susceptible to British weather and infrequent servicing plans. So, we fully expect more bike brands to follow Bowman and Specialized's lead for bikes aimed at regular everyday cyclists rather than the pro racers, who don't have to pay for or look after their bikes, and spec threaded bottom brackets. 

What do you think? Will your next bike have a pressfit bottom bracket or has the creaking driven you mad?

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

43 comments

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Langsam [52 posts] 2 weeks ago
1 like

It all seems pretty simple to me - BSA 68mm for anything sub-€1000, T47 for anything over that. As far as manufacturing costs go, apparently ´there is no significant price difference to execute a T47-compatible frame or BBs compared to PressFit 30.´ (matt phillips)

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KoenM [87 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

I don't mind Pressfit, but please make a standard, I have had 4 bikes with pressfit and most of them are different! Also, make it easier to see what u need!

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RobD [407 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

If it was my choice, I'd happily sacrifice a few grams at the bottom bracket to have a stronger and more reliable system, T47 or something similar to Colnago's solution seem like a good idea if the oversized bearings are desired.

I totally agree with bowman's, if it's a metal frame, a threaded bracket makes much more sense, the increased size for any other standard seems a little pointless unless you've got some super wide chainstay girders to weld on. Plus a Chris King or Hope BB looks so much better (with matching/contrasting headset and hubs of course).

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rookybiker [44 posts] 2 weeks ago
7 likes

People are saying 'high tolerance' when they actually mean 'low tolerance'.

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Freddy56 [240 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Threaded but only Italian  cut

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leqin [191 posts] 2 weeks ago
1 like

Oh please let this be true - I want bikes and frames without a built in creak, so the sooner this press-fit monstrosity of a idea becomes a long forgotton memory the better.
 

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Simon E [3015 posts] 2 weeks ago
11 likes

The number of people who may actually benefit from the tiny difference made by pressfit and BB30 is very, very small. But the power of marketing bollocks wins every time.

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handlebarcam [935 posts] 2 weeks ago
3 likes

Pressfit manufacturers should seek to bolster their position by putting it to a vote among the cycling community. And the perfect slogan for them has recently become available: "Vote BB30 for a strong and stable cycling future!"

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kev-s [260 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Of all the bottom bracket standards ive had over the years i much prefer Colnago's solution to the press fit bottom bracket over any others

 

They have their Threadfit system, basically its two large cups that you thread into your frame which you then press a normal press fit bottom bracket into it

 

If it develops any creaks (none so far in 5000 miles)  you can just replace the BB, grease the cups or even replace the cups

 

Plus as the cups are large to accommodate the pressfit bb means they can make the downtube/bb interface much larger increasing stiffness

 

Certainly noticed the difference when going from my  C59 with euro bb to my C60 with the threadfit system, the whole BB area is so much stiffer with notciable less flex

 

http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/colnago-c60-released-blending-tradit...

 

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Mostyn [400 posts] 2 weeks ago
0 likes

Well, that would be a fine state of affairs; we've all bought in to the "PRESS-FIT BB and now they want to change thm; well lets hope they design a fitting to go in to a Carbon Bottom Bracket shell; so that the Press-Fit can be turned in to a threaded BB. on a carbon frame.

 

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TypeVertigo [348 posts] 2 weeks ago
1 like

The major problem is the sheer number of press-fit standards (BB86/92, BB90/95, BB386/392EVO, PF30, BBright). Even BB30 itself, and all its variants, is still technically press-fit because you're still pushing bearings into a shell and not spinning them into a threaded one.

My TCX has a BB86 shell. So far so good. Out of the press-fit bottom bracket formats it's the one I've heard the least headaches about; on the other end of the spectrum are BB30 and PF30.

You also have BB30 to thank for introducing the idea of a 30 mm aluminum crank spindle, which introduces all sorts of bearing-related problems on its own. Shimano and Campagnolo, for the most part, haven't seen the need to graduate from their current 24 and 25 mm steel crank spindles.

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TypeVertigo [348 posts] 2 weeks ago
1 like
rookybiker wrote:

People are saying 'high tolerance' when they actually mean 'low tolerance'.

As applied to bottom bracket standards, the appropriate word I believe is "sloppy" - especially with PF30.

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BehindTheBikesheds [310 posts] 1 week ago
4 likes

68mm threaded in my KTM CF frame (one of the reasons I chose it) and I have no problems at all with a 1000 watt peak power input.

I don't seem to remember the pros having much difficulty knocking out ridiculously high watt numbers on threaded frames on all materials on a very regular basis, nor indeed on track frames so unless you feel you're losing something in efficiency that is critical to your riding then a threaded BB frame shouldn't be an issue at all.

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Boss Hogg [86 posts] 1 week ago
3 likes

I've been riding BB30/BB30a and PF30/PF30a Cannondale frames for years without the slightest issue. Honestly, I don't understand what the fuss is all about.

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Chrisc [150 posts] 1 week ago
4 likes
Boss Hogg wrote:

I've been riding BB30/BB30a and PF30/PF30a Cannondale frames for years without the slightest issue. Honestly, I don't understand what the fuss is all about.

 

I've been riding a Cannondale PF30 for a year and it's driven me to strip the group off the frame and fit it to a threaded bb frame. Creak, clunk, knock bang. I've lost a year of enjoying my rides because of this POS system.  2 

 

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Boss Hogg [86 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes
Chrisc wrote:
Boss Hogg wrote:

I've been riding BB30/BB30a and PF30/PF30a Cannondale frames for years without the slightest issue. Honestly, I don't understand what the fuss is all about.

 

I've been riding a Cannondale PF30 for a year and it's driven me to strip the group off the frame and fit it to a threaded bb frame. Creak, clunk, knock bang. I've lost a year of enjoying my rides because of this POS system.  2 

 

"Creak, clunk, knock bang" - c'mon, that's definitely exaggerated.

In any case, Cannondale frames have lifetime warranty, so if it's really that bad, you can ask for a replacement. 

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jterrier [98 posts] 1 week ago
1 like
Boss Hogg wrote:
Chrisc wrote:
Boss Hogg wrote:

I've been riding BB30/BB30a and PF30/PF30a Cannondale frames for years without the slightest issue. Honestly, I don't understand what the fuss is all about.

 

I've been riding a Cannondale PF30 for a year and it's driven me to strip the group off the frame and fit it to a threaded bb frame. Creak, clunk, knock bang. I've lost a year of enjoying my rides because of this POS system.  2 

 

"Creak, clunk, knock bang" - c'mon, that's definitely exaggerated.

In any case, Cannondale frames have lifetime warranty, so if it's really that bad, you can ask for a replacement. 

Hilarious. My first proper road bike was a Caad8 and it pretty much creaked out of the shop door, and Cannondale wouldnt do a thing warranty wise.

Avatar
Boss Hogg [86 posts] 1 week ago
1 like
jterrier wrote:
Boss Hogg wrote:
Chrisc wrote:
Boss Hogg wrote:

I've been riding BB30/BB30a and PF30/PF30a Cannondale frames for years without the slightest issue. Honestly, I don't understand what the fuss is all about.

 

I've been riding a Cannondale PF30 for a year and it's driven me to strip the group off the frame and fit it to a threaded bb frame. Creak, clunk, knock bang. I've lost a year of enjoying my rides because of this POS system.  2 

 

"Creak, clunk, knock bang" - c'mon, that's definitely exaggerated.

In any case, Cannondale frames have lifetime warranty, so if it's really that bad, you can ask for a replacement. 

Hilarious. My first proper road bike was a Caad8 and it pretty much creaked out of the shop door, and Cannondale wouldnt do a thing warranty wise.

Hilarious indeed. Apparently I am the only customer who got Cannondale frames that don't creak.

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dottigirl [557 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes

There's good words for Colnago above, but my cousin's creaked like hell until he did the Praxis (or similar) thing. And Sigma didn't do anything about it. 

It was really annoying to cycle with him - the noise was painfully loud.

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turboprannet [239 posts] 1 week ago
1 like
Boss Hogg wrote:

 

"Creak, clunk, knock bang" - c'mon, that's definitely exaggerated.

In any case, Cannondale frames have lifetime warranty, so if it's really that bad, you can ask for a replacement. 

 

I had three Cannondales, two frames done under warranty.

 

Click. Crack. Creak. Click. Crack. Knock. No.

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Boss Hogg [86 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes
turboprannet wrote:
Boss Hogg wrote:

 

"Creak, clunk, knock bang" - c'mon, that's definitely exaggerated.

 

In any case, Cannondale frames have lifetime warranty, so if it's really that bad, you can ask for a replacement. 

 

I had three Cannondales, two frames done under warranty.

 

Click. Crack. Creak. Click. Crack. Knock. No.

So I guess I must be one of the rare cases of a breakdown-free Cannondale user. And I've had seven of them so far.

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OR_biker [12 posts] 1 week ago
2 likes

Got my first road bike a couple years ago - a CAAD8.  Developed a 'click' within the first 1,000 miles (started hearing it 30 miles into my first century ride).  Wasn't always constant, but just a single click whenever the left crank was at about 10 o'clock.  Read some forums/watched some videos, and after a good cleaning/regreasing of the bearings and shell, the clicking stopped... temporarily.  

After another ~1,000ish miles or so it came back.  Then I replaced the bearings and cleaned and greased everything again.  Seemed good good for quite a while this time (granted, by this point the weather had turned nicer - not as much wet riding).  It did eventually come back (maybe ~2000 miles since the last regreasing), but I just dealt with it for a while as I didn't have much time to fiddle with it.

But then the teeth on the stock FSA cranks started looking fairly worn.  Was able to get a really good deal on some Ultegra cranks, so tried the plastic adapter things to get them to work with the BB30.  Bad idea.  Made it about 100 miles before not only the 'click' returned, but now some creaking/cracking sounds.  Tried cleaning/regreasing/tightening/loosening/adding spacers... sounds never went away.  Went ahead and got an actual metal, screw-together adapter: https://fairwheelbikes.com/kcnc-bb30-adapter-bottom-brackets

Made it through some really wet rides this spring, and no creaking at all.  But then I decided to finally give my bike a really good, thorough cleaning... :-(.  Back to its creaking ways.  May need to try going back to a 30mm crankset to see if that helps, but don't have the money at the moment and also afraid that it won't help anyways.

tl;dr version --> my next bike will NOT have BB30/BB30A!  But at least I'm not afraid of working on bottom brackets anymore

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OR_biker [12 posts] 1 week ago
1 like
handlebarcam wrote:

Pressfit manufacturers should seek to bolster their position by putting it to a vote among the cycling community. And the perfect slogan for them has recently become available: "Vote BB30 for a strong and stable cycling future!"

I think they'd be better off with something like, "Don't get screwed, just push it in!"   1

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Nixster [356 posts] 1 week ago
1 like

I've had no major issues with BB30, although bearing life doesn't seem that great. I'm now also on PF30a which is okay so far but if it develops a problem other than the bearings wearing out then I'll be moving to a thread together cup solution like a Wheels Manufacturing. This basically makes PF30 more like BB30 as far as I can see.

I do have an issue with the sealing of BB30/PF30 though, it's entirely reliant on the bearing seals which I believe results in premature bearing wear. Once you've got the hang of changing the bearings this is just a running cost issue though, not a source of psychological trauma. 

I haven't seen the Colnago solution although from the comments above it sounds great. Like others I don't see why you wouldn't cut a thread in a metal frame BB, compared to the rest of the work in making a metal frame it seems a fairly trivial thing to do. 

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P3t3 [382 posts] 1 week ago
2 likes
Quote:

Hilarious indeed. Apparently I am the only customer who got Cannondale frames that don't creak.

The bb on my cannondale doesn't creak. The bike creaks, but its because of the cable routing around the head tube. I changed the bb before I worked it out. I suspect a lot of folk are blaming bb30 for other creaks too.

In a metal frame bb30 shouldn't be hard to get right because the bb shell can be reamed at the end of manufacturing and the correct interference on the fit can be gained. To add threads for a threaded solution you'd require similar starting tolerance before tapping anyway.

The best BBs are of course the SKF cartridge type which last many tens of thousands of km due to proper sealing.

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srchar [451 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes
jterrier wrote:

Hilarious. My first proper road bike was a Caad8 and it pretty much creaked out of the shop door, and Cannondale wouldnt do a thing warranty wise.

The low-end CAAD8 with Sora has a threaded BB - have you asked about swapping your frame for one of those?  When I bought the Mrs her first road bike, I deliberately went for the low end one for this very reason, then binned off the Sora groupset for new Tiagra.

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Jack Osbourne snr [596 posts] 1 week ago
3 likes

My only experience of PF30 has been on the Boardman CX that I use for commuting.

 

Feckin' nightmare. Must have spent £150 on various attempts to stop it creaking until a cheapo PF30/BSA adapter and a Tiagra Hollowtech chainset finally solved the issue.

 

Wouldn't touch press fit again. Even better if it ceases to be an option in mid range offerings.

 

To be fair to the format though, the machining on the Boardman frame was clearly done to a price, so as suggested above it may well be absolutely fine for high-end frames where exacting tolerances are employed.

 

 

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Boss Hogg [86 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes
P3t3 wrote:
Quote:

Hilarious indeed. Apparently I am the only customer who got Cannondale frames that don't creak.

The bb on my cannondale doesn't creak. The bike creaks, but its because of the cable routing around the head tube. I changed the bb before I worked it out. I suspect a lot of folk are blaming bb30 for other creaks too. In a metal frame bb30 shouldn't be hard to get right because the bb shell can be reamed at the end of manufacturing and the correct interference on the fit can be gained. To add threads for a threaded solution you'd require similar starting tolerance before tapping anyway. The best BBs are of course the SKF cartridge type which last many tens of thousands of km due to proper sealing.

 

Yes, SKF bearings are top quality at very reasonable prices, incomparably better (and most times cheaper) than those marketed as bicycle bearings.

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Rapha Nadal [488 posts] 1 week ago
0 likes
Boss Hogg wrote:

I've been riding BB30/BB30a and PF30/PF30a Cannondale frames for years without the slightest issue. Honestly, I don't understand what the fuss is all about.

Yeah, same here.  Nothing with PF30 and nothing with OSBB.  Maybe it's the quality of the C-Bear bottom brackets I fit into the frames?  

Avatar
Chrisc [150 posts] 1 week ago
1 like
Boss Hogg wrote:
Chrisc wrote:
Boss Hogg wrote:

I've been riding BB30/BB30a and PF30/PF30a Cannondale frames for years without the slightest issue. Honestly, I don't understand what the fuss is all about.

 

I've been riding a Cannondale PF30 for a year and it's driven me to strip the group off the frame and fit it to a threaded bb frame. Creak, clunk, knock bang. I've lost a year of enjoying my rides because of this POS system.  2 

 

"Creak, clunk, knock bang" - c'mon, that's definitely exaggerated.

In any case, Cannondale frames have lifetime warranty, so if it's really that bad, you can ask for a replacement. 

 

Nope, it was stripped a refitted 3 times, glued in to manufacturers spec and knocked every ride the first 3 miles till it settled and found somewhere to grip. Drove me to distraction.

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