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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