Bottom Bracket Ramblings

By: Brandon Mar 26

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As I was knocking the bearings out of my Parlee PF30 to 24mm spindle adapter today it got me thinking about bottom brackets. I've ridden just about every "standard" out there: BSA/Italian threaded, BB30, PF30, BB386, BB90/95, and BBRight come to mind. I've read plenty of internet arguments for and against most of them, some based in experience and some in theory.

Today though, I was thinking about why I have what I have. I ride Shimano, so a standard English threaded BB should be my go-to with all of my Shimano cranks using a 24mm spindle. Alas, virtually every bike I own right now is PF30. I wish I had a passionate stance on one over another, but in my experience as long as your bottom bracket and cranks are installed correctly, not all "standards" outside of a threaded BB are evil.

My current Parlee adapter had it's original bearings in it until this morning. It's been installed on 4 different bikes and is at least 3 years old. It's gone through winters of riding, 2 seasons of cyclocross, etc. In my opinion, a solid performance.

This all leads me to wonder: why have the "standards" continued to change so frequently? I was completely happy with my threaded bottom bracket until I got my first bike with BB30. I was happy with that until I got my first bike with PF30. And on down the line I went. Most experiences have been fine, with the exception of running through BB30 bearings far too frequently.

Why then do I have so many bikes with PF30? Luck, I guess. These Parlee adapters seem to be working so well for me that I'm happy to use them. I haven't had any of the "walking" issues I've read about online with pressfit-type BBs, the bearings were simple and inexpensive to swap, especially considering what they've endured. $20 and about 20 minutes later I had brand new bearings installed.

What do I do with this my experience, which has been primarily positive with most of the "standards" I've used? The best advice I can give is make sure everything is properly installed. Shade tree mechanics are fine for running the cables on your hybrid or commuter, but when pressing in a bottom bracket into your $3000 Gaulzetti frame, go to a true pro shop. They'll do it right the first time, they won't mess up your frame, and you'll be a much happier rider.

Now it's time to take a stance. Which standard do I like best? Well, it's hard to fault an English threaded BB. I've never once had any issue I could attribute to it, so it's a solid contender. I am a big fan of PF30 currently, but primarily because the adapters are so good. You do have the opportunity to run just about any crankset on the market if you bike is PF30, and it allows some tubing/bonding choices with the shell being so large. Currently, if I were in the market for a new bike, I guess it would have to have a threaded BB or PF30. There, that's about as passionate as I can get on bottom brackets. Line drawn.

What have your experiences been? Have you used a "standard" that consistently gave you a poor result/experience? Any guesses on why?

photos and words by Brandon Elliott


Shimano R-785 Hydraulic Disc Setup

By: Brandon Mar 12

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The Shimano R-785 hydraulic Di2 setup has been a long time coming. Let's say you're the early adopter, or just lucky and were able to land a kit early. It's not uncommon for guys to come from the road to cyclocross, or to be curious about road hydro disc, but not have a ton of experience with hydraulic brakes. They've been commonplace for years on the trails, and because of that mountain bikers tend to be a bit more familiar with the bleed process for their disc brakes.

Have no fear, though. The bleed process for Shimano disc brakes really is relatively painless once you've done it a few times, it's those first few times that can get you. Shimano does publish a really good step-by-step manual, even though they make it a bit hard to find. Including this manual in the packaging with your new brakes seems like smart move.

Now I've told you it's not that hard to bleed your new brakes. I've shown you where to find the manual to properly bleed your brakes. Next step? Take them to a professional. You heard that right. The bleed process is not that hard, but a professional mechanic, a good mechanic, can ensure it's done right the first time, that your brakes work well from the get-go, as well as stand behind their work.

The pictures above give a few notes into the process:

1. You need the full Shimano bleed kit, TL-BT03. It's $105. Do not bleed your brakes without it. I have no doubt it's possible to bypass using this kit, but I feel confident in saying the bleed will either be less optimal, messy, or both.

2. ALWAYS remove the wheel/rotor and pads and use the supplied bleed block. Even a drop or two of mineral oil will leave your brakes howling uncontrollably and reduce their power.

3. Have some disc brake cleaner and alcohol ready to clean any messes. A little drop here and there of spillage happens during bleeding brakes, cleaning everything to spotless before inserting pads/rotors is essential.

4. Gloves. Wear them. Always. Mineral oil and disc brake cleaner, it's probably not a good idea to get all over yourself. Play it safe.

5. Follow the recommended bedding procedures. Your new disc brakes will be less than wonderful out of the stand. The pads and rotor need to break in during bedding, when the pads leave material on the rotor. Properly bedding your brakes will make or brake (see what I did there?) the performance of your brakes.

The final picture in the gallery (also shown below) shows what happens when the pads get contaminated. In the middle of the photo you'll see a torn o-ring. That tiny o-ring allowed fluid to leak from the system and coat the pads. The honking was unreal, but more importantly enough fluid was gone from the system that the lever could be pulled to the bar without really providing any meaningful amount of stopping power.

This picture below is particularly important because it shows how important every last piece is when it comes to hydraulic brakes. That tiny o-ring rendered the entire front brake useless.

If you have questions, contact us here. We'd be more than happy to shed some light when we can on the setup of your new brakes.

photos and words by Brandon Elliott


A Clean Ring Drive is a Happy Ring Drive

By: Brandon Feb 26

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It should come as no surprise that we are fans of the products coming out of Portland from Chris King. It's hard to fault their durability, but in recent years it seems people are taking "durable" to mean "no service needed".

Of course, that's not true, and their R45 hubs are no different. I've seen them go years on end without service and look brand new inside, but I've also seen them get pretty nasty in a single season. Rather than wonder how yours are doing, take a little time, clean them up, and know they'll last well beyond their 5-year warranty.

One of the greatest aspects of a basic cleaning of the R45 hub is how few tools are needed. A 2.5mm and 5mm hex wrench, and a tiny flat-head screwdriver. That's it. Compressed air, some WD-40, and RingDrive lube should also be on hand, though.

Up first, loosen the adjusting clamp screw (shown below) holding the adjusting clamp tight.

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Up next, after loosening the adjusting clamp and pulling off the end cap, you'll see your axle and non-drive-side bearing as shown below.

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Once the adjusting clamp is off, the entire axle assembly will slip right out.

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Now that your axle is out, you'll be looking at the bearings ready for service. First you'll need to remove the silver snap ring with your small flat-head screwdriver. This can be a delicate process, take your time. I've seen more than a few people mangle this tiny snap ring or destroy the rubber seal below it. Below you'll find some pictures of the snap ring, the rubber seal below it, and the exposed bearing last.

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Cleaning the bearings from here is simple: carefully apply some solvent-base spray, like your WD-40, and make sure of one thing: NOTHING CITRUS-BASED. Scrub the bearing down with a soft-bristled brush (I like a toothbrush). Flip your wheel and do the same to the drive-side bearing as well as the RingDrive. Once everything has been scrubbed down, apply a bit more of your solvent, then blow clean with compressed air.

Once clean, reinstall the rubber seal, then the snap ring. Carefully ensure the snap ring has clipped completely into place. Next up, apply some synthetic oil to the driven ring inside of the hub body, it doesn't take much. A couple drops of Tri-Flow onto the o-rings on the axle, and slip the axle back into the hub body. Rotating the axle as you press it into the hub will allow it to snap into place.

With the axle installed, apply a little grease to the adjusting clamp and adjusting clamp screw, then thread both onto the non-drive-side of the axle.

Rear hub adjustment is simple from here: clamp a 5mm hex in a vise with the "L" end pointing straight up. Slip the drive-side onto the "L" of the hex so the non-drive-side is facing up. Press down on the hub shell which compresses a spacer spring and ensures the bearings seat properly. Now, while continuing to press down, tighten the adjusting clamp until it stops against the bearing, but do NOT over tighten. Tighten the adjusting clamp bolt to 1.1 Nm.

Install the wheel back into the frame and check for bearing play. If adjustments need to be made, repeat the last paragraph until you're satisfied.

Maybe a bit more reading than you were expecting? Don't worry, once you've done this a few times it's a breeze. The R45 major hub and bearing overhaul is much more complex, and requires the King tool kit. Don't attempt that at home, let your mechanic do it.

photos and words by Brandon Elliott


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