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    Bottom Bracket Lateral Play - How much is too much?

    Friends,

    I reassembled the (cup and cone) bottom bracket on my 1987 Peugeot Iseran yesterday, and tried adjusting it per Sheldon Brown's instructions. Exactly what he said happens - if I tighten the adjustable cup even a couple of degrees - the bracket starts binding. If I back it off, I have quite a bit of lateral play.

    So, my question is how much later play is too much? Here are a couple of quick videos that hopefully show what I have going on.
    *** I promise I did not shoot a vertical video, the iPhone just decided that I did on it's own ... sorry 'bout that.




    Second question - I read that there is a torque spec on the crank bolts (that attach the cranks to the BB) - but I can't find what that is. Any suggestions?

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    When you had things apart did you ensure that the balls, spindle and cups were in good condition, not rough or pitted? Any roughness will make it difficult to get a satisfactory adjustment. As mentioned in the article the adjustment is finicky and you may need several tries to get it as close to perfect as possible. Try moving the adjustment half (or less) as much as you have done, a very tiny movement will make all of the difference between good and crappy.

  3. #3
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    +1 - Did you carefully check the spindle and cups for pitting? (the 'ball' of a Biro can be useful to feel pits that are virtually invisible to the naked eye )

    Also, you do want at least a smidge of 'preload' so that all the bearings are in contact with the races whilst spinning.

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    Yes, I cleaned everything and checked everything over. The ball bearings looked OK (not rusted, not pitted), but I did not replace them.
    Does the movement shows in the video look abnormal / too much?

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregaz View Post
    Yes, I cleaned everything and checked everything over.
    But did you check the spindle and the cups carefully for pits?

    Quote Originally Posted by gregaz View Post
    The ball bearings looked OK (not rusted, not pitted), but I did not replace them.
    I would rebuild with new bearings anyway - they're dirt cheap. Were the old ones held in cages, or where they loose? The cages (if they're present) might be deformed, and you also might have put them in the wrong way - a lot people think it best to leave out the cages, and just use some thick grease to hold loose bearings in place.

    Quote Originally Posted by gregaz View Post
    Does the movement shows in the video look abnormal / too much?
    Yes - for sure. The wobble doesn't look even, either, which makes me think about maybe deformed or wrongly inserted cages.

    There should be a small amount of 'drag' which comes from applying the correct amount of preload.
    Last edited by Continuity; 04-13-13 at 05:39 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Continuity View Post
    But did you check the spindle and the cups carefully for pits?
    I did, but I am a n00b, so who knows what I didn't see ...

    Quote Originally Posted by Continuity View Post
    I would rebuild with new bearings anyway - they're dirt cheap. Were the old ones held in races, or where they loose? The races (if they're present) might be deformed, and you also might have put them in the wrong way - a lot people think it best to leave out the races, and just use some thick grease to hold loose bearings in place.
    They were in races - I will get some news ones. This may sound stupid, but where do I buy some?

    Quote Originally Posted by Continuity View Post
    Yes - for sure. The wobble doesn't look even, either, which makes me think about maybe deformed or wrongly inserted races.

    There should be a small amount of 'drag' which comes from applying the correct amount of preload.
    Yeah ... I thought it seemed too much. Let's hope the new bearings do the trick

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    that wobble is really bad. Are the bearings caged? It almost looks like you might have put the caged bearings in backwards so that when you tighten them down, you get serious binding but when you loosen it a tad, you get tons of play.

    Something isn't right in there if you tighten the adjustable cup just enough to take the play out of the arm and it then is binding badly.

    it is normally better to have a bearing set a little bit too tight than too loose. Yes, you will get a little bit of grittiness but it won't wear as bad as if you had it too loose. So even if you set the bearing play so that it is no longer there, it might be a little gritty but it should not be really binding.
    "When dealing with stuff like this consider that this is a bicycle, not a spaceship." -- FBinNY

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    Quote Originally Posted by gregaz View Post



    They were in races - I will get some news ones. This may sound stupid, but where do I buy some?
    u

    I'm assuming that you mean that the bearings were in cages, right? Check to make sure you didn't put the cages in backwards, very common thing to do if you are new at this.

    You can get loose bearings at any bike shop or machine shop supply store.
    "When dealing with stuff like this consider that this is a bicycle, not a spaceship." -- FBinNY

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    Yes, the bearings are caged. I am going to go ahead and replace them to be sure.

    Thank you for the good advice on tight vs. loose. Unfortunately my only reference at the time was the Sheldon Brown article, and he clearly states that they should spin freely.

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    I also think I can tell that you have the cages in backwards because the video showing the adjustable lock nut has way too much thread showing. When the adjustable cup is seated properly and you put the locknut on, you normally would not see any threads at all.
    "When dealing with stuff like this consider that this is a bicycle, not a spaceship." -- FBinNY

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    Yes, that is what I meant, sorry ... the balls are facing the spindle on both sides - I triple checked it. Is that incorrect?

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    Quote Originally Posted by gregaz View Post
    Yes, the bearings are caged. I am going to go ahead and replace them to be sure.

    Thank you for the good advice on tight vs. loose. Unfortunately my only reference at the time was the Sheldon Brown article, and he clearly states that they should spin freely.
    Before you go buy anything, just check to see if the cages are in backwards. If you do buy new loose bearings, just pop the olds ones out of the cages and put the new ones in the cages.
    "When dealing with stuff like this consider that this is a bicycle, not a spaceship." -- FBinNY

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    Quote Originally Posted by gregaz View Post
    Yes, that is what I meant, sorry ... the balls are facing the spindle on both sides - I triple checked it. Is that incorrect?
    The side of the bearing cages with the exposed balls should face the outer races (the cups). If you have the cages aligned so that the exposed ball sides of the cages are facing the middle of the spindle, then that is incorrect.
    "When dealing with stuff like this consider that this is a bicycle, not a spaceship." -- FBinNY

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobotech View Post
    The side of the bearing cages with the exposed balls should face the outer races (the cups). If you have the cages aligned so that the exposed ball sides of the cages are facing the middle of the spindle, then that is incorrect.
    Yes, that is what I did. So, they are in backwards.


  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregaz View Post
    Yes, that is what I did. So, they are in backwards.

    LOL doh!

    Just flip them around and tighten everything up and you should be good to go. You will end up noticing how much different it feels once you put it back together and set the bearing play.
    "When dealing with stuff like this consider that this is a bicycle, not a spaceship." -- FBinNY

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    Quote Originally Posted by bobotech View Post
    LOL doh!

    Just flip them around and tighten everything up and you should be good to go. You will end up noticing how much different it feels once you put it back together and set the bearing play.
    Thank you very much for the assistance. In my defense, the guy at the coop told me to do it this way. In his defense, I should've done my homework. I am going to have to wait until co-op since I don't have the crank puller tool, but I will definitely report back once I take it apart and reassemble it.

    Again, THANK YOU!

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    Quote Originally Posted by gregaz View Post
    Friends, I reassembled the (cup and cone) bottom bracket on my 1987 Peugeot Iseran yesterday, and tried adjusting it per Sheldon Brown's instructions. Exactly what he said happens - if I tighten the adjustable cup even a couple of degrees - the bracket starts binding. If I back it off, I have quite a bit of lateral play.

    So, my question is how much later play is too much? Here are a couple of quick videos that hopefully show what I have going on.
    ***I promise I did not shoot a vertical video, the iPhone just decided that I did on it's own ... sorry 'bout that. ...
    OP; Not even close to being adjusted well. Roll it in about 10 degrees at a time, tighten the lockring, and give it a new spin. When just looser than binding, if it still wobbles, its trashed.

    Actually I suspect that one of your cups is not in straight (probably the adjustable one). Check the crank side one to ensure that there is no gap between the cup face and the bottom bracket shell. A bent spindle could also be the culprit. Spin it and see if both sides wobble in sync or out of sync...

    If you are near a properly equipped LBS, recommend asking them to face the shell, run the taps in, and then put in a new bottom bracket. If the bike is French threaded, the LBS will likely not have the French threaded tools in house any more. They are expensive enough that you don't want to buy them for a one-time use. There's a bottom bracket from Velo Orange that doesn't use the threads at all which could avoid the French thread and/or damaged threads issue entirely for about $50.

  18. #18
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    We collectively managed to figure out his problem - he put the caged bearings in the wrong way round.

    gregaz - When you pull it again to correct the bearings/cages - take that opportunity to examine the spindle and cups for pitting. As I said, using the ball at the business end of a Biro pen is good for 'feeling' out any irregularities like pitting - you can detect it far more easily than by naked eye.

    Also, you *did* reassemble using fresh grease after wiping any old stuff off everything, didn't you?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Continuity View Post
    We collectively managed to figure out his problem - he put the caged bearings in the wrong way round.

    gregaz - When you pull it again to correct the bearings/cages - take that opportunity to examine the spindle and cups for pitting. As I said, using the ball at the business end of a Biro pen is good for 'feeling' out any irregularities like pitting - you can detect it far more easily than by naked eye.

    Also, you *did* reassemble using fresh grease after wiping any old stuff off everything, didn't you?
    Thank you for the BIRO pen tip - didn't know that. And yes, I cleaned everything out with brake cleaner, then gave the parts a solvent bath, and then even polished the working surfaces with a Dremel with a felt tip.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregaz View Post
    Thank you for the BIRO pen tip - didn't know that. And yes, I cleaned everything out with brake cleaner, then gave the parts a solvent bath, and then even polished the working surfaces with a Dremel with a felt tip.
    Good!! That is a cool idea if one really wants their races smooth, to polish them up with the dremal. Nifty!
    "When dealing with stuff like this consider that this is a bicycle, not a spaceship." -- FBinNY

  21. #21
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    Remember this: On a convention BB, if the LHS adjustable cup has lots of threads still exposed and the spindle binds, number one reason is you have the caged bearings backwards. I didn't view this thread until just now, but the second picture showing the lockring on but still with that much thread on the cup exposed nominated backwards races as the leading culprit. Not sure where I learned that, but it could be the reason why most of my vintage bikes with conventional BBs run loose bearing.
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobotech View Post
    Good!! That is a cool idea if one really wants their races smooth, to polish them up with the dremal. Nifty!
    Well, I had the Dremel out when polishing my cranks (here), so I figured "while I am at it ..." I may be a total bike n00b, but I am not a mechanics n00b. Started out on MB diesels about 15 years ago, then had a fling with Volvos, and currently updating / remodeling a VW Vanagon Westfalia.

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    I don't think this has been mentioned before, but take a look at your caged bearings (if they are not already back in the BB) and make sure the cage did not get bent or deformed while inserted backwards. Also, if you go to loose balls (I recommend it) be aware that you will need more of them. Fill a vertical bearing with as many balls as will fit. Do the same with a horizontal bearing, but take one out.
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    yes, it is possible to damage the ball bearing cage if they are put in backwards. i can't say this from personal experience, but i think my ...er brother-in-law has done it once or twice. ahhh...yeah, that's right, my brother-in-law.

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    So, I pulled the BB yesterday, and reversed the bearings. TOTALLY different feel, and very little lateral play. And not a whole lot of thread showing on the adjustable cup. Thanks a TON everyone!

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