Bottom Bracket woes

Ok, it doesn’t look like I ever wrote about my BB woes with the Sirius…… I ought to start at the beginning, and I can’t remember exactly when that was!

A good while back I developed some play in the bottom bracket, it was winter 2009/2010 I think, defo winter because I decided to ride it out till the weather was a little better so the replacement got a good start in life, so to speak!

In the spring, when I stripped it out, to my absolute horror, I discovered that it wasn’t the bearings that had shot, in fact the entire cartridge had worked loose and had worn away the threads in the frame…. “Write off” I thought. Then a bike mechanic/mate put me on to a threadless BB from EBC (Edinburgh Bike coop) a mere snip at £14. This lasted till October 2010 when it developed a hideous creak which had me replace the entire chainset in my quest to cure!

Now in steps the Velo Orange Grand Cru Threadless BB…. The following excellent review is from here:

Review, Velo Orange Grand Cru Threadless Bottom Bracket

Threadless Bottom Bracket from velo-orange here is what you get IMG_1140
This is a pretty simple and well executed design, each cup of the bb has a taper with a sliding split sleeve on it. As you screw the two halves of the bb into each other the sleeves slide up the taper, expanding against the inside of the shell. When you can’t tighten it anymore, it is wedged in there good. You are done. The bottom bracket is available for $60 from Velo Orange
update 1/5/10: Lots of questions about “will this work on my fisher or fat-chance or merlin with no thread BB shells or a thompson bb, etc…” I do not know, but I do know this: the silver split ring measures at just above 33.5mm when placed all the way down the taper, and 34mm all the way up. I think the ID (at thread tips) of most bottom brackets (english swiss french) is something like 33.75. You basically have to have the ID of the bb be between 33.5 and 34 for this to work. Might be a little slop at the outer ranges, but not much.
I tried installing this BB on 5 different frames. 2 were very easy , one took some work, and two were impossible due to problems with the frames.
Oddly colored bottom bracket. Alas it does not match the classic bullseye hub IMG_1151
Playing with the bottom bracket on the table the bottom bracket begins to engage at about 78mm in between the cups inner flange. After three full turns the distance between the inner flanges is just over 75mm.
three turns and you are at 75mm flange to flange IMG_1147 When the bb is completely tightened to the point of bearings binding, the inner flange diameter is just below 68mm. However, the inner flange diameter has little relation to where the tool will actually tighten down in a given BB. Both flanges do not make it all the way to the bb shell. Due to the internally expanding design and variations in ID of the BB shell and roundness, the spacing between the flanges is usually a tiny bit to more than that wider than the BB shell. Alas, this means that there is virtually no way you can use this BB for a Raleigh twenty with a 76mm bottom bracket shell.
The bearings are replaceable cartridge bearings. Bearing assembly is held together with a snap ring. I did attempt to disassemble the bottom bracket, but the snap ring had larger holes than my snap ring remover, so I gave up. Update 1/5: Per the comments, the snapring does sit in a groove just outboard of the bearing. This is a stress riser in an already highly stressed area.
Update 1/8/10: Tom from Velo Orange responds in the comments: “the BB spindle material is much different from the 70’s Viscount/ Lambert BB’s that were sold back in the day. Newer material (Boron hardened steel) with a newer alloying process produces a BB spindle that is less brittle and may significantly reduce the chance of failure from where the snap-ring groove is. Of course, if there is ever an issue, Velo Orange will stand behind the product and cover it under warranty.” IMG_1150
The cups have 6 lock ring cuts on the outer diameter as well as large pin holes on the face. The cups are all aluminum, and the lock ring notches can strip out when you are cranking hard on it with a single point lockring wrench. I used a variety of bb specific lock ring wrenches as well as a couple headset and track ones, not one interfaced securely enough to avoid the possibility of stripping the notches when tightening. The pin holes are large and deep, but I did not try to use them for installation. None of the modern shimano BB tools interface with this bottom bracket (Park tools BBT-18, BBT-8, ) I believe the correct tool for this job is a Park BBT-4 with the 6 notches. I have every bb tool ever, but not this one, so I can’t confirm it. update 1/5/10: commenter points out the bbt-4 is not the right tool. It has rounded notches, not squared ones. Velo orange says single point BB tool is the right one and cranking hard is not necessary
I did install and remove the BB on 5 different frames and thus subjected the bottom bracket to repeated installation and really cranked on it to see if it would loosen over time, so I am pretty sure you can get this seated well without stripping the notches with a single point lock ring wrench. I also cranked on the drive side cup after fully tightening the non-drive side, I had multiple notch stripping here, this is probably not a good idea.I did this on the frame where the drive side flange was not seated on the BB-shell. If you do this, you may find it very difficult to remove the drive side of the BB. When I did this it sort of bound on itself and did not move. This is a great sign for the solidness of the bottom bracket, to remove the bottom bracket (if there is room ) you can insert a screwdriver between the flange and the silver slider and wedge it out. update 1/5/10: Velo orange says single point BB tool is the right one. In retrospect for normal installation, they are correct, it does work fine for a single installation and removal, as long as you don’t crank on it too hard.
Again, if your inner BB-shell is out of round or dirty or subsized, the flanges will not seat on the shell. I think the best bet would be to do all the tightening from the non-drive side. If I was redesigning this, I would make sure it interfaced with either the BB-18 tool (Shimano Isis 8 notch) or the BBT-9 tool (18 external notches) for the outboard bearing cranks, both of which are easier to find in a shop right now.
well seated in a miyata Terra Runner IMG_1157
So in total I easily installed this BB in a: 1980s Miyata Terra runner ATB frame with a English threaded BB shell width of 72mm A 1970’s track frame with a french threaded BB shell, 68mm width
Raleigh Sports with bottom bracket installed IMG_1161
I was able to install it in: 1960’s Raleigh Sports, with a 71mm raleigh threaded BB shell. However due to some rock hard grease on the shell between the threads, the tapers would not seat fully. The down tube and seat tube protrude through the bb shell lug on this frame, they may also impinge upon the bb slightly. Even after cleaning the grease, the bottom bracket did not seat fully. I do not believe that this will affect the function of the Bottom bracket. Installed in Raleigh Sports, note drive (blue) side flange not fully seated IMG_1158
I was not able to install this bottom bracket in my Raleigh Twenty with 71mm bottom bracket. The interior of the bb is actually slightly smaller than the threaded portion, preventing the silver sliders from entering the frame fully, which prevented the two bottom bracket halves to thread into each other.
I was not able to get the BB to install in my Raleigh Twenty with 76mm bottom bracket. It may be possible to get the threads started on a bottom bracket this wide, but I do not see it as a likely bet. It certainly did not work on mine. As with many Raleigh frames, the worksmanship is sloppy, and there are some weld blips in the bottom bracket shell between the threaded region that may prevent this bottom bracket from working at all, despite the length. It is probably possible to hacksaw the bb shell down and use this bottom bracket, I don’t particularly recommend this, although sheldon brown did (here, search for hacksaw).
For wider shells, remember that the nondrive side cup will stick out a little farther than the shell and I could see this interfering with the crank arm. All the extra width will affect where the outer flange on the non-drive side sits. Not the drive side. So a 73mm shell, for example, will have the non-drive side bb axle effectively 5mm closer to the centerline of the bike than it would on a 68mm shell. Not a big deal on longer bottom brackets probably, but not great if you are really trying to use a narrow bottom bracket in a wide shelled frame, as you might with a SA hubbed raleigh sports for example.
I had no trouble reinstalling threaded bottom brackets in two of the frames I tried this on. The threads do not seem to be affected at all. All these frames are steel! This could be an issue with aluminum frames, but I do not know.
Finally, the BB came with no instructions. Based on my experiences, here is what I would recommend. 0. Check to see if there are any obstructions in the bottom bracket shell that stand proud of the threads, if there are and they are removable, do so, if not, consider not ordering this bottom bracket. 1. Clean well the BB shell of the frame you want to install this bottom bracket in. 2. Grease the bottom bracket shell. 3. Remove the silver sliders from the bottom bracket 4. Grease the threads on the bottom bracket. 5. Lightly grease the tapered section of the bottom bracket. 6. Lightly grease the inside and outside of the silver sliders 7. Reinstall the silver sliders and push them down the tapers as far as they go. 8. Place the drive side of the bottom bracket into the shell, press as deeply as you can. 9. Place the non-drive side of the bottom bracket into the bb shell, until it makes contact with the other side. 10. Turn non-drive side threading it into the drive side. Turn until it is tight.
And then you are done. In fairness, I did none of this on the Miyata and the french track frame, I just threaded it in and it worked fine.
In conclusion, I think this product works great. I think this will work nicely on most frames. It is a nice solution to dealing with swiss threaded bb’s, french threaded bb’s or frames with slightly munged up bb threads. Depending on your BB width, this may work great on your old Raleigh Sports. It may not work though, due to characteristic Raleigh sloppy worksmanship. Furthermore, I do not believe it will work on any Raleigh twenties with 76mm bottom brackets. If there is anything in a frame’s bottom bracket shell that stands proud of the threads, this bottom bracket might not work. Tool Notes: I removed the cottered cranks and bottom brackets off of three different raleigh frames. Two twenty and a sports. They were all at least 30 years old and one of them had probably never had the bb pulled. I used a cotter pin press and raleigh bb tool from Mark Stonich’s bike smith design. If you work on bikes with cottered cranks and have lots of old raleighs with the annoying subliminally flatted raleigh drive side cups, these tools are completely worth it. They are not cheap, but they are very well made.
Finally, I received this bottom bracket to review from Chris at Velo-Orange. And review it I have. I will keep it installed on the raleigh sports for now and build that up with a coaster braked 650B wheelset I built up and report back with any issues as i put mileage on it over the next month or so.

It really is a very nice bit of kit, but sadly mine was badly machined on the non drive side which required a little bit of butchering to get the tool to fit, I flagged this with their customer care department, that conversation went a little like this:

From: Velo Orange [] Sent: 01 October 2010 16:47 To:  Subject: Re: Quality Control….

Thanks for the note. We’re actually changing the shell a little on the next batch, which should solve the problem.

Best, Pat On Fri, Oct 1, 2010 at 8:44  wrote:

Hey guys,   I thought I better drop you a line to mention this, since, the way I see it, if no one tells you, how would you know!?

I love your kit, it’s great, beautiful, classically styled, y’know, that’s why you design it that way, I’m sure you get no shortage of compliments.

I took delivery of a Grand Cru threadless BB last night, ordered from Fresh Tripe UK. Firstly, I would like to add, THANKYOU for designing and manufacturing such a great solution to knackered BB shells, it’s so light too! The reason I felt I ought to mail you guys though, is mine was faulty. 😦   …..The non drive side cup was badly machined, being a machinist in a previous job, I’m assuming once it comes off the lathe, it is mounted in a jig perhaps for the notches to be milled? The notches on my shell weren’t uniform, meaning my tool didn’t fit. (It fitted the drive side perfect, I like that side, it’s pretty!). I should have returned it, but I desperately needed to get my all-weather commuter back on the road now the rain has come, so I had to ease the shallow notches with a file and finally got it to fit the tool, it aint pretty though! Point is, the machinist let this one go to the finishers, when it should have been rejected.   Not havin’ a go, just givin you a heads up…….   Love the kit, keep up the good work.

Like I said, if no one tells them, how will they know! Anyway, as per the review above, it went in perfectly, and has worked perfectly, untill the start of 2012! I bunny-hopped a manhole cover and bang, the non drive bearing let go. 😦

When I installed it, I made a note of the cartridge bearing’s serial number in case it became illegible over time, but I couldn’t find my note, so I had to strip it first… Good job I did, this was when I discovered it was seized, and with the thread being concealed in the BB shell, there was nothing I could do. I emailed VO again, this is how that conversation went:


Couple of ideas- one is to use a strap wrench to grab the outside and turn it loose, another was to use a dremel and cut in some notches so that a Hozen lock ring wrench could be used to turn the flange. You will have to, unfortunately, go somewhat “medieval” on it, it sounds like, but at least those ideas should not damage the frame at all. We don’t have spare flanges unfortunately.

Hope this helps,

On Thu, Jan 26, 2012 at 9:00 AM, wrote:

Hi,   Looking at the mail message below, it looks like I’ve had 15 months use out of my Grand Cru Threadless BB. Not bad on a 100 mile a week commute, in all-weather (UK) with a fixed wheel. Sadly though, the bearings finally let go last week, as I landed a bunny hop clearing a grid….

Here’s the thing, I can’t get it out! The Pink flange won’t budge, completely seized and already the notches are beginning to round from my efforts. Any suggestions before I get medieval on it? Unfortunately I’d had to ease the notches with a file from new (read below) this probably hasn’t helped.

I’m resigned to the fact that the Flanges probably aren’t going to see further use, I suspect they will be ruined on removal, at least the pink side anyway….. (Do you offer that side as a spare?). My real concern is not damaging the frame during my efforts, so if you have any ideas, I’d appreciate hearing them.

Ok so the strap wrench didn’t work, but at least I now own one! And the flange was already getting pretty chewed from using the correct tool. Wanna see what happened next!?

I had to carefull cut the non-drive flange away with a baby hack saw, and drift the assembly out using a lump hammer! Luckily the frame didn’t suffer any more damage!

So, with the Shell now clear, I got on to Fresh Tripe to order a replacement, only to find they didn’t have a 107mm in stock. So I ordered a 110mm with the intention of swapping in my axle from the old one. Well, every cloud has a silver lining an’ all that…. I got an email from them the next day saying the 110mm was out of stock, but they were getting new stock in 2 weeks, did I want a refund or could I wait? I wrote back and explained my situation, and got a reply explaining that by a stroke of luck, they had abrand new 107mm sitting on the shelf missing it’s collars, and that if I wanted it, they’d knock a tenner off! They even went out of their way to check the maching on the flange with their tool! Top guys at Fresh Tripe!

So, it’s in the post, and with the sun shining all week, I’ve been out on the Parkes! 🙂


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