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Old 02-07-09, 08:27 PM   #1
entplex
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Cup and Cone Style BB, Ditch the Bearing Cages and add 2 balls... Does it work?

So today I was working on overhauling my bottom bracket on a project bike (old Miyata) and a friend suggested that I ditch the bearing cages and add 2 balls on each side. To me this seems a bit weird, since the ball bearings would end up rubbing against each other. He said some old mechanic had told him it some how was a good idea. Has anyone else heard of this? Is there any benefit? I went ahead and said why the hell not and gave it a try, figuring it's an old BB that I'll have to replace soon at some point anyways.
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Old 02-07-09, 08:46 PM   #2
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It's a good idea.

On any loose ball assembly except a headset, add bearing balls until the last one won't seat properly, take that one out, and you have the correct number in there. On headsets, do the same thing, but remove that last ball plus one more.

By having more bearing balls in the aseembly than you do with caged bearings, you're spreading the bearing load out over more balls.

Again, it's generally a good idea.
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Old 02-07-09, 08:47 PM   #3
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There is benefit to having more balls. The normal amount of 1/4" balls is 11 per side. If your cage holds 11, there is much less, if any benefit. I know that some high quality (Campagnolo) bottom brackets came with caged bearings that held 11. There's a bit about it here if you scroll down.
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Old 02-07-09, 09:19 PM   #4
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well biked is correct -- it will be beneficial. The primary reasons the manufacturers use the retainer rings is cost and convenience of assembly. You won't necessarily add exactly 2 bearings -- depends on the specific bb, hub, or headset and the size of the balls -- place bearings until you have a gap equal to approximately one bearing, or put in as many bearings as will fit and then remove one.
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Old 02-07-09, 09:36 PM   #5
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On headsets, do the same thing, but remove that last ball plus one more.
Both cups?
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Old 02-07-09, 10:05 PM   #6
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Better yet, ditch the BB altogether and install a sealed cartridge BB. bk
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Old 02-07-09, 10:24 PM   #7
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Both cups?
Yes. If you don't remove one extra ball (in each cup) with headsets, the steering won't work like it should, it will bind.
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Old 02-08-09, 12:05 AM   #8
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Disadvantage is that it can be sort of a pain assembling and disassemblying stuff yourself when you need to lube it or something.
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Old 02-08-09, 12:13 AM   #9
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Better yet, ditch the BB altogether and install a sealed cartridge BB. bk
A conventional bottom bracket without cages can be far smoother and support loads far better than any cartridge bb due to the increased number and size of the bearings... they also tend to enjoy a longer service life if they are well maintained.

As such, I still run a great number of them on my bicycles.

For folks who can't be bothered or for bikes where parts are difficult to find a cartridge bb can make excellent sense.
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Old 02-08-09, 12:27 AM   #10
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I have a Campagnolo Record BB on my vintage racing-bike. I wouldn't have it any other way. Installed it, new, in 1982. I overhaul it faithfully and feed it fresh 1/4" ball-bearings - loose. It's the smoothest spinning BB I've ever had. If it should die on me someday and I couldn't get another one - I'd go for a Phil Wood sealed BB. I wouldn't swap it out for an Octalink or Hollowtech II. Not on this bicycle. I would on a lesser steed. I don't know how fond you are of your Miyata, but on my Puch this would be sacrilege!
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Old 02-08-09, 12:33 AM   #11
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Has anyone else heard of this?.
It's pretty much the consensus on this forum to use 11 loose balls per side.

Waste of money to install a cartridge if your C&C system is still good!
In fact, I just spent about $25 on a pair of new cups, spindle & bearings that should be good for another 22 years! That's IF they don't get any maintenance like the first set-
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Old 02-08-09, 06:53 AM   #12
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Generally this suggestion is really good. "adding two balls" isn't necessarily the right answer, tho. It just depends how they fit. It's no problem for the balls to rub against each other, because the grease film protects them if the grease is clean.

A second advantage is that the ball to race contact points are more random and occur over the entire bearing. With caged bearings you can get fixed contact and grinding as dirt accumulates, leading to faster wear.

You can't always solve BB problems by going to a sealed BB. For old Campy for example, Campy doesn't make sealed replacements for the NR and SR products (however, Phil Woods does). There was a wide range of spindle lengths in those loose spindle days, and they're not necessarily the same lengths as today. It's also not smart to replace NR/SR campy with Shimano BBs even if the lengths are the same, because the square ends are not the same, and the crank will not torque down to the same width. The tapers are also not the same, and the Shimano BB can overstress the Campy arms. So if you're running vintage Campy, you need to either stay original or be very careful.

Similar issues but probably worse with vintage Zeus or Stronglight, simply due to less availability of parts. Keep the old stuff working!
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