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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

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

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

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

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.

59 comments

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CXR94Di2 [2689 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

I've three bikes with pressfit BB. 2 now have Hope PF46 conversions. The other uses Sram adaptor cups, with threaded shimano bearings. So, pressfit is not reliable bottom bracket idea.

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huntswheelers [182 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

From the sharp end....in the workshop... I must say, I prefer screw in Bottom Brackets.... Press Fit are okay in principal but really they were only designed for the "weight weenies" for lightness but with the trade off with creaks etc..... However... I have never had issues in swapping out press fits of all the standards for customers... but really the screw in BB's are way better, the ultegra ones are pretty robust units....  I predict a steady drift back to threaded types in the next few years.... 

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srchar [1528 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

If you have problems with your press fit BB, as I did with my BBRight/Ultra Torque setup, I can't recommend Wishbone bottom brackets highly enough. They seem to have a version for every combination of BB and chainset standard out there. I'd have got rid of my R5 if not for these.

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Chris Hayes [457 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

Hope so....getting irritated from the squeeking of BBs on sportives lately.  Did one in Norfolk last week that sounded like a swarm of crickets creeking its way around the county.   Must be far worse riding one of the damn things!

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700c [1267 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Although a happy BB86 + campag UT user, it's clear many press fit installations don't work properly due to minute variations in frame/ component specs . This would explain the huge variations in customer experience even within one standard.

In general the fewer interfaces the better, even using a 'threaded adapter' still needs a press-in component somewhere, which may creak.  

for Campag users I would highly recommend  a solution that uses their own metal cups to press into the frame, as this keeps bearings in the same position as intended. No extra sleeves/ adaptors etc to creak. YMMV however.

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TypeVertigo [429 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
700c wrote:

In general the fewer interfaces the better, even using a 'threaded adapter' still needs a press-in component somewhere, which may creak.  

To this end, I think US firm BBinfinite have a nifty solution. The entire bottom bracket comes as a single solid metal unit you just press into the frame BB shell - not in two halves, as most others. Certainly intriguing, IMO, and worth taking a look into.

https://www.bikerumor.com/2015/03/04/review-bbinfinites-amazingly-smooth...

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garuda [37 posts] 2 years ago
1 like
Boss Hogg wrote:
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.

same here. 2013 synapse has never creaked with its bb30. I like bb30 so much, i spec'd it on the custom ti bike, nary a creak there either

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CXR94Di2 [2689 posts] 2 years ago
2 likes

I was out with club run on Sunday, half the bikes creaked or clicked, the others were threaded bottom brackets yes

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urbane [100 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

Threaded outer-bearing standards like Hollowtech remove all the brute force required for internal and press-fit bearings, especially tricky square-taper cassettes which need a removal tool with locking bolt and a car torque wrench! Hollow-tech was piss easy to fit and remove, unlike square taper cassettes and I assume press-fit bearings! I really don't get press-fit at all; it was an arse to replace press-fit headset bearings with the not-cheap removal and fitting tools.

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dottigirl [864 posts] 2 years ago
1 like
CXR94Di2 wrote:

I was out with club run on Sunday, half the bikes creaked or clicked, the others were threaded bottom brackets yes

Ditto. Horrific noises emanating from some bikes on my club run too. One of the guys insisted he'd had his creaking BB fixed, but it had since developed another, different noise.

I used to guerilla-lube chains and pedals (identify the culprit, wait for a cafe/pub stop or mechanical, and sneak up with a little tester bottle that I keep in my saddle bag - hey presto, a bit of peace and quiet) but there's not much I can do for a creaking bb.  2

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steviemarco [248 posts] 2 years ago
1 like

I'm getting a Wheels Manufacturing 386Evo BB fitted later today due to a sound from my BB akin to the frame snapping under any load from the crank. Hopefully this type of BB, due to it's screw in nature, will eliminate the creaking nois? Will keep you posted.

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Strathbean [38 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
steviemarco wrote:

I'm getting a Wheels Manufacturing 386Evo BB fitted later today due to a sound from my BB akin to the frame snapping under any load from the crank. Hopefully this type of BB, due to it's screw in nature, will eliminate the creaking nois? Will keep you posted.

I hope it works out for you. In my own experience, it didnt. My bb86 (sram gxp) started to tick after 18 months use, for some reason i thought it would be a good idea to try an expensive and beautifully engineered screw together design on the basis that the screw togetherness would hold it in place more tightly and itd never make a noise again... It creaked, ticked and popped immediately and much more frequently than the one it replaced. I confess i swore a little and contemplated flinging the bike in a hedge.

At that point i did what i should have done in the first place and went to my LBS, they took one look, said aluminium cups in carbon frames always creak, put a new standard sram one (plastic cups) back in, now its silent again. Every day is a school day!

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neilwheel [133 posts] 2 years ago
3 likes

A bit of history here to maybe add to the discussion (or throw a spanner in the works).

For most of my working life I was involved in frame & bike manufacturing, working in the UK, Far-East, Italy and other places.

I’ve seen trends come & go; sat back and watched new designs first fêted then slated, watched other perfectly acceptable solutions dropped and buried in pursuit of the next big thing.

I’ve also did a fair bit of mechanicking and spent many a day/week trying to track down and eliminate phantom knocks, creaks and rattles. Along the way I’ve been fortunate to work with some superb framebuilders and mechanics who steered me in the right direction and kept me from veering off down dead-ends.

 

The first thing I’ll say is this; bottom brackets and bracket shells get a bad rap.

They get blamed for everything, regardless of size, shape or standard.  A bad rap because a lot of the time the fault lies elsewhere.  Even the much-lauded threaded BB can end up under attack from a rider or mechanic too inexperienced, indifferent or adventurous to fully investigate.

Here's one example.

In the early 80’s, I worked for a major retailer in Central London who also produced own-label stuff.  One of their bikes came back not long after delivery with a creaking bracket. The BB cups and bearings were duly replaced. The creak stayed.  Another was fitted, everything double-checked and the bike went back on the road. Next day the bike was back. This time, new cranks, chainrings and bolts were fitted with everything disassembled and reassembled with a good coating of locking compound and/or grease where appropriate. Still no joy; the creak remained.

Eventually, after a few more failed remedial solutions, the wheels were swapped out. The creak remained but this time sounded different. This led to discovering  the real culprit, the freewheel (ask yer granny). The creak was coming from a poorly machined sprocket, but anyone and everyone who inspected that bike would swear the creak was coming from the BB.

Lesson learned; sound will travel along tubes and be echoed and amplified in the BB shell.

I’ve come across a similar example where the culprit was a poorly fitted headset cup, but the BB was initially blamed.

When the whole TIG-welded alloy frame thing gathered steam in the late ‘80’s, it was first welcomed because of the favourable weight and stiffness properties of oversize alu frames.

But mechanics were soon finding out they came with unexpected baggage, in the form of creaky BB’s.

Back then, BB’s were threaded across the board, regardless of metal or material.

Frames were, for the large part, manufactured in the far-east, but there was still plenty of European sources in those days. At first, mass production/poor tolerances were seen as the culprits, but frames made in Italy or USA would creak just as bad as those from Taiwan.

Poor machining was blamed for a while, but didn’t really solve anything because the first thing a good mechanic would do was clear/align threads and face shells when trying to sort things out. Again, a lot of the time, creaks were appearing to be in the BB due to the echo-chamber effect of noise travelling along tubes. But behind it all was another reason still not really acknowledged today. This goes back to the initial frame manufacturing.

One thing you don’t really get with lugged frames is tube-on tube friction. It happens all the time on lugless frames. Traditional framebuilders knew about it way back in the day when building steel lugless frames (Americanized to ‘fillet-brazed’) and the good ones knew how to do something about it. But this knowledge really didn’t filter through to the production runs in the far-east, southern Europe or USA.

Likewise, the same wisdom is largely lost to the latest generation of ‘learn-as-you-go, worry-about-it-later’ framebuilders who’ve cropped up in the last 10-15 years. Perhaps this is due to the fact the full apprenticeship is a thing of last century.  It could be that the knowledge/experience/wisdom pool has dried up. It’s probably not helped by the internet/social media-driven ‘want-it-all, want-it-now’ mindset so prevalent in clickbait-friendly microbrands.

So whether the frame is coming out the gates of a 50000- frames-per-annum factory or from a 5-a-year shed makes no difference. If you don’t get it right at the earliest stages of the frame being built, down the line the bike will be a creaker.  Alu, steel or composite frames are all susceptible to this and its something that won’t go away overnight or by adding or removing threads to a bracket shell or designing ‘new’ standards.

There’s a solution, but it means looking backward instead of forward.  It would be pretty much impossible to implement & activate other than tracking down or digging up some post-war, pre-millennium South London framebuilders and sending them to China on some kind of evangelistic framebuilding missionary work.

Very difficult, very unlikely.  

So for the large part, creaks are here to stay,  like it or not.  They might change tone or note, but they're going nowhere. 

BTW, apologies for the length of this post - - - blame the morning coffee!

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dave_t [32 posts] 2 years ago
1 like
neilwheel wrote:

In the early 80’s, I worked for a major retailer in Central London who also produced own-label stuff.  One of their bikes came back not long after delivery with a creaking bracket. The BB cups and bearings were duly replaced. The creak stayed.  Another was fitted, everything double-checked and the bike went back on the road. Next day the bike was back. This time, new cranks, chainrings and bolts were fitted with everything disassembled and reassembled with a good coating of locking compound and/or grease where appropriate. Still no joy; the creak remained.

Eventually, after a few more failed remedial solutions, the wheels were swapped out. The creak remained but this time sounded different. This led to discovering  the real culprit, the freewheel (ask yer granny). The creak was coming from a poorly machined sprocket, but anyone and everyone who inspected that bike would swear the creak was coming from the BB.

Lesson learned; sound will travel along tubes and be echoed and amplified in the BB shell.

I had a similar experience, swore my BB was making a horrible clicking noise so swapped it out ... no joy. Put a new chain on (it needed it anyway), still no joy and still absolutely certain the noise was coming from the BB. Anyway long story short it ended up being the rear skewer not being seated properly, took me about 10 seconds to undo and re-tighten the skewer then blissful silence! Seems to me if you think you have BB noise issue you should look everywhere else before considering the BB itself!

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dave_t [32 posts] 2 years ago
1 like
neilwheel wrote:

In the early 80’s, I worked for a major retailer in Central London who also produced own-label stuff.  One of their bikes came back not long after delivery with a creaking bracket. The BB cups and bearings were duly replaced. The creak stayed.  Another was fitted, everything double-checked and the bike went back on the road. Next day the bike was back. This time, new cranks, chainrings and bolts were fitted with everything disassembled and reassembled with a good coating of locking compound and/or grease where appropriate. Still no joy; the creak remained.

Eventually, after a few more failed remedial solutions, the wheels were swapped out. The creak remained but this time sounded different. This led to discovering  the real culprit, the freewheel (ask yer granny). The creak was coming from a poorly machined sprocket, but anyone and everyone who inspected that bike would swear the creak was coming from the BB.

Lesson learned; sound will travel along tubes and be echoed and amplified in the BB shell.

I had a similar experience, swore my BB was making a horrible clicking noise so swapped it out ... no joy. Put a new chain on (it needed it anyway), still no joy and still absolutely certain the noise was coming from the BB. Anyway long story short it ended up being the rear skewer not being seated properly, took me about 10 seconds to undo and re-tighten the skewer then blissful silence! Seems to me if you think you have BB noise issue you should look everywhere else before considering the BB itself!

Avatar
garuda [37 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
Boss Hogg wrote:
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.

welcome, member of noncreaking Cannondale bike rider! My bb30 synapse of 4 years has remained silent. So much so that i had no problem tempting fate by speccing a titanium bike with bb30 a year after that. This one is also a noncreaker. 

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dottigirl [864 posts] 2 years ago
1 like
dave_t wrote:

Anyway long story short it ended up being the rear skewer not being seated properly, took me about 10 seconds to undo and re-tighten the skewer then blissful silence!

A mechanic friend says 90% of the bikes he work on have one or both of the QRs/wheels incorrectly seated/tightened - the first thing he does to any bike is check them. 

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hawkinspeter [3909 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes
garuda wrote:
Boss Hogg wrote:

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.

welcome, member of noncreaking Cannondale bike rider! My bb30 synapse of 4 years has remained silent. So much so that i had no problem tempting fate by speccing a titanium bike with bb30 a year after that. This one is also a noncreaker.

My Synapse developed a BB30 creak after a wet winter and re-greasing it only helped temporarily, but a little bit of Loctite on the interface between the frame and the bearing shell solved it.

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surly_by_name [570 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

Threaded BBs are easier to fit and replace (and pretty much priced as a disposable item, so good on a cross bike where they might only last a wet season) but I've got a couple of bikes with PF BBs and they have been fit and forget. I've had no creaks with the Hope BB, which has a threaded sleeve. Given the number of manufacturers offering these in the after market (e.g., Praxis, Wheels MFG), I rather thought that this (threaded) solution would have become ubiquitous by now but it doesn't seem to have as Shimano and SRAM continue to offer only conventional press fit. On the other hand, I've also had no problems (or noise) from a cheap plastic Shimano PF BB on a MTB, so maybe its down to individual frame tolerances.

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number9dream [66 posts] 2 years ago
0 likes

I can thoroughly recommend the Praxis BB shell conversion for Specialized PF30 to allow use with Shimano cranks - works perfectly, silent and easy to fit. 

Alternatively I have also experienced no problems with the larger axle S-works crankset with the same BB, but had terrible creaking issues with the conversion from BB30 to shimano - i think this is where the problem often lies. 

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Jamminatrix [203 posts] 1 year ago
0 likes

"Cannondale developed the BB30 bottom bracket in 2006"

Actually they made it turn of the millennium with their SI system...and it worked fine because the frames, BB, and crankset were all made by the same company. It's when the BB30 concept went open market did things go to shit because tolerance went out the window.

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dazzlin_darryl [6 posts] 11 months ago
0 likes
Boss Hogg wrote:
turboprannet wrote:
Boss Hogg wrote:

I've also got a Cannondale, ridden 4000 miles and no creaks either.

 

"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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1cyclist [2 posts] 5 months ago
1 like

Carbon fiber doesn't take threads.  You have to glue and/or press something into it.  That's just a fact.  The question is just how well it's all done.

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Bigfoz [182 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

My alloy Ribble creaked constantly. Isolated it to the BB, swapped the BB out, creak came back within weeks. I've since redeployed the creaky BB into a 1983 Carlton frame, with zero creak. I suspect the creaks are alloy frame related and not BB related as all 3 of my alloy frames have creaked and groaned. I replaced the Ribble with a box full of parts and put the frame in the bin.

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s_lim [223 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
700c wrote:

Although a happy BB86 + campag UT user, it's clear many press fit installations don't work properly due to minute variations in frame/ component specs . This would explain the huge variations in customer experience even within one standard.

In general the fewer interfaces the better, even using a 'threaded adapter' still needs a press-in component somewhere, which may creak.  

for Campag users I would highly recommend  a solution that uses their own metal cups to press into the frame, as this keeps bearings in the same position as intended. No extra sleeves/ adaptors etc to creak. YMMV however.

 

Agree 100% with this - Campy UT chainsets have always had the bearings pressed onto the chainsets, so PF BBs haven't been a major issue. Had no issues with mine on alloy/ti bikes. 

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tailwind10 [50 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes

I love my BB30 bottom brackets. The bearings are proprietary and cheap as chips. Replacement takes minutes and I’ve never had a creak in either carbon or aluminium frames from them.

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CXR94Di2 [2689 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
tailwind10 wrote:

I love my BB30 bottom brackets. The bearings are proprietary and cheap as chips. Replacement takes minutes and I’ve never had a creak in either carbon or aluminium frames from them.

 

For every rider who doesnt have a problem there are fifty owners who hate the creaking,clicking from pressfit BB

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martybsays [30 posts] 5 months ago
0 likes
OR_biker wrote:

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.  

 

 

I had that exact same thing. Drove me nuts for months. Turned out my rear QR was slightly off line. BB click disappeared, because it was never really there. 

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maxw [1 post] 3 months ago
0 likes

Just wondering how the Italian brands and now Specialized bond a threaded shell for BBR60 to carbon frame.  That never seems to be mentioned, but must be reliable as no one seems to mention failures with Italian bikes. 

Also, one supposed advantage of Press-Fit is a larger diameter BB and thus stiffer frame.  Probably not significant for most, but wondering how they achieve same frame stiffness if using smaller bottom bracket tube?

Glad to see there are domestic options like the Roubaix now avaiable.

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