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  1. #1
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    Installing a Classic Era Bottom Bracket – A Professional Job?

    So, I’ve purchased a very good condition used Italian frame dating from the late 1980s or early 1990s and a NOS Campagnolo C-Record bottom bracket. It is NOT a modern cartridge bottom bracket. I’m very mechanically capable, but my experience is limited to replacing hub bearings, adjusting handlebars, brake levers, shift levers, and calipers, etc. I have never worked on bottom brackets and headsets.

    I feel like I’m missing out by not doing the bottom bracket and headset installations myself. Should I install these myself? If so, what tools do I need?

    I’m most interested/concerned with the bottom bracket installation, as this seems to me to be critical for a bicycle that won’t simply be a display piece…it will be ridden regularly. For instance, on the bottom bracket, do I really need to use a Park Tools BTS-1 on a frame that’s already been tapped and had a bottom bracket installed in a previous lifetime? Or, do I really only need the BBT-9, BBT-4 and/or BBT-7 (the wrenches).

    Alternatively, is this really something that a good shop should do. Moreover, if a good shop does the installation, would you expect the mechanic to “retap” the threads just to make sure they’re perfect?

    Finally, what haven’t I asked…experienced mechanics please advise.

  2. #2
    FalconLvr
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    I have installed many BB's without ANY special tools. It is pretty much obvious what needs to be done, and you can get by with common tools, although it takes more effort. If you have a cartridge already in there you need to take out, I am not so sure how that goes, the special tool does make that much easier. But to install, careful use of common tools will suffice, if care is taken. Basically you have a lock ring with slots in it that can be adjusted with hammer and square-face punch, an adjustable cup that can be handled with needle nose pliers or lockring pliers, and a fixed cup that can be tightly installed with an adjustable wrench that opens to the correct width. Of course, all these things are done much easier, with less chance of scratching frame, beating up fragile lockrings, or banging knuckles, with the correct Park tools. As for the correct adjustment of the BB itself, basically you are looking for free, easy movement of the spindle with no discernible freeplay, which is always best checked with crank arms on the spindle. Piece of cake, eh?

  3. #3
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    I'm pretty sure you only need the BTS-1 if you have a brand new frame that has never had a bottom bracket installed. I've never used one.

  4. #4
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    I'm going to say the opposite of the first reply. You absolutely need the correct tools if you are working on a high-end frame, using high-end parts, and want the result to be "perfect".

    You are not going to get a fine adjustment with a hammer and punch. A BB is properly installed when it's exactly as "loose as possible while still being tight". That means the least amount of bearing preload you can get without any trace of "shake" in the bearings. With the ajustable cup tightened enough so it will not get loose as you ride.

    To this you need to be able to finese the adjustable cup with the proper tools, and you need to have the fixed cup as tight as possible.

    My method is to get everything tight but not "reefed down" holding the adjustable cup with a pin-spanner and using a lockring tool at the point where there is still just a hair of "shake" left in the bearings. Then take your lockring tool (holding it carefully with both hands, one keeping it in place on the ring) and then really reef it down letting the adjustable cup come with it. This will tighten the piss out of the lockring and should let the cup move just enough to take all the "shake" out of the bearings.

    If right the cranks should spin with no drag or noise and when pulling on the arms side to side you feel no movement at all. It sometimes takes a few trys to get this right.

    As for chasing and facing the shell. It's always a good idea, but only if your LBS has the proper tools and knows what they are doing. A lot of shops do not have Italian thread taps or mechanics with experiance in using facing tools. Again, if you want "perfect", then it should be done,

  5. #5
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    You should get the tools. Especially if this is a bike you are planning on riding. You will want to be able to open that thing up and service it from time to time. Because the fame is in good shape you only need to chase the threads if you are having problems threading the bottom bracket on smoothly.

  6. #6
    Old fart JohnDThompson's Avatar
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    An important issue with an Italian bottom bracket is getting the fixed cup tight enough so that it won't loosen as you ride. It's difficult to do with the typical stamped fixed cup tools without damaging the paint. A professional quality fixed cup tool is much more effective:


  7. #7
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    I disagree with evwxxx and Otis. I have a third opinion. You can do this without special tools, though you will have to make your own fixed cup installation tool. You cannot use an adjustable wrench that fits the cup. It won't make the cup tight enough. A fixed cup has to be installed RFT (which stands for really phucking tight). Since this is an Italian thread bike, it has to be installed even tighter than an English threaded bike. And English threaded bike has a reverse threaded fixed cup, which has a tendency to tighten itself. An Italian (forward) threaded cup will tend to loosen.

    See http://www.sheldonbrown.com/tooltips/bbcups.html and scroll down to "fixed cup tools" for instructions on making a fixed cup installation/removal tool.

    - Install the tool on the cup.
    - Screw the cup into the frame.
    - Clamp the tool to a vise.
    - Using the frame as a very long lever, tighten the cup into the frame. Lean on it well with your weight. Remember to install it RFT.

    Adjusting the adjustable and lockring without proper tools will be slower, but it's possible. It takes a lot of trial and error and therefore patience. I do recommend getting at least a lockring tool. They're $15 at most.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

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  8. #8
    Bicycle Adventurer banjo_mole's Avatar
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    Get the tools. It's well worth the money. A fixed cup tool and a pin spanner should be all you need.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Iowegian's Avatar
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    Yet another option would be the 'middle way'. Take it to a good shop and have them install the fixed cup with a tool like the one JohnDThompson showed. They could also install the adjustable cup at the same time and maybe show you how it's done. While you're there, get the tools to remove/install the adjustable cup. Then you should be able to overhaul the BB anytime you want by just removing the adjustable cup, spindle and bearings. The fixed cup can stay, well.....fixed.

    For the headset, you'll need a headset press (or a hammer, your choice). You can make one with a piece of threaded rod, nuts and washers. It's one of those things that with the proper tools a 14 year old could do all day without trouble but without the right tools takes a fair bit of skill and finesse. You can buy a decent headset press for about $50. It would be about $10 to buy the threaded rod, nuts, washers or bushings, etc if you make your own. I usually just take the frame and cups to the shop and they do it for free since it takes about 30 seconds and I buy misc. supplies there.
    Last edited by Iowegian; 07-02-09 at 11:29 AM. Reason: added headset stuff

  10. #10
    Dr.Deltron
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    btw ...

    GREASE THE THREADS!!!!!!

  11. #11
    Senior Member ricohman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr.Deltron View Post
    btw ...

    GREASE THE THREADS!!!!!!
    Because someone, somewhere down the line is going to have to take it apart again!

  12. #12
    Gammal cyklist Reynolds's Avatar
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    It can be done without the special tools, but it's easier with them. An adjustabele BB is nothing special, if you have mechanical experience you'll have no problems with it.
    As for the headset, even a 14 yr old with a headpress could mangle it if he's not careful . It can be done with a hammer and two wooden blocks as well. The critical point is to go very slowly and check that the cups go straigh each time before going on. This applies to head presses also.

  13. #13
    Senior Member miamijim's Avatar
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    The BTS-1 is 100% positively NOT needed. Why do I say that? The 2 Tommasinis, Colnago and Guericiotti I've owned never saw a facing tool and all 3 were factory built bikes.

    A very helpfull tool is the HCW-4. Loosly install the BB and tighten the fixed as much as you can by hand with the tool. Stack washers on top of the tool and hold everything in place with the crank bolt and use alot of leverage to tighten the cup.
    WWW.CYCLESPEUGEOT.COM 2005 Pinarello Dogma; 1991 Paramount PDG 70 Mtb; 1976? AD Vent Noir; 1989 LeMond Maillot Juane F&F; 1993? Basso GAP F&F; 1989 Terry Symmetry; 2003 Trek 4700 Mtb; 1983 Vitus 979

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Otis View Post
    My method is to get everything tight but not "reefed down" holding the adjustable cup with a pin-spanner and using a lockring tool at the point where there is still just a hair of "shake" left in the bearings. Then take your lockring tool (holding it carefully with both hands, one keeping it in place on the ring) and then really reef it down letting the adjustable cup come with it. This will tighten the piss out of the lockring and should let the cup move just enough to take all the "shake" out of the bearings.
    Whether that works depends on the relative friction between shell, cup, and lockring of the particular bottom bracket.

    Consider that the act of tightening a lockring tends to loosen a BB cup if the cup does not rotate also. (This is the opposite to what happens when you tighten a locknut on a hub axle or headset.) So there are two approaches. One is Otis's: figure that driving the lockring clockwise will drag the cup with it and thus tighten it, counteracting the tendency of the lockring to draw the cup outward as it tightens against the frame. The other approach (which I find works better with high-end Campy brackets where the cup tends to stay put and not rotate when you turn the lockring) is to set the cup in so it's just a little tighter than you want while the lockring is still slack. Then, immobilizing the cup with the pin spanner -- it won't take much strength--, tighten the lockring down against the BB shell. This should untighten the cup to just where you want it. And yes, it usually takes several tries to get it right no matter which method you use. Once you've got it, give the lockring a little extra torque to set it using Otis's two-hand method. At that point, the cup is already thrust backward against the shell threads and won't loosen further even without a third hand holding it with the pin spanner.

    And yes, for sure, for Italian (and French) bottom brackets you must reef in the fixed cup RFT (love that!!!) with as much torque as your ingenuity can devise. The hard part is devising a home tool that will not slip off the flats of the cup as you bear down on it.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Back to the original question:

    OEM-installed ball/cup BBs tended to last at least a decade without heavy insults due to rain, dust, and sand, and can last much longer with periodic overhauls. If you want to start on the road to that kind of durability, find a pro who really understands the technology, and have the job done there. Ask him to chase/face as needed, because you really want it right. That BB when right will be one of the best-feeling upgrades you can make. Plus due to its rarity you really want it to last, or you'll be going back through this whole problem in a few years.

    Same for the headset. The idea seems to have grown in the bike world that headsets and BBs are annual maintainance upgrades. But loose-ball bearings when installed correctly have much more potential than that, and correct replacements are now harder to find than a few years ago, and will be harder to find a few years from now.

    It's also an investment: if you don't want to install those parts carefully, sell them to someone who will, and buy parts that don't cost as much.

  16. #16
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Has the bottom-bracket shell been faced? If you don't know the answer and no one can tell you with authority - get the shell faced at your LBS. You want this done absolutely right from start to finish. Yes to the RFT on the fixed-cup. Yes - use a pin-spanner - green-handled one from Park Tool works great. And a good spanner, for the lockring, should be bought - I suggest the one from Hozan Tool from Japan. You will be taking this apart (aside from the RFT fixed-cup) yearly - I hope - to overhaul. I've had a Campy Record on my PUCH since 1983. I maintain same properly, and it still looks and feels like day 1. Get a bag of 1/4" grade 25 chromium-steel ball-bearings. I replace mine yearly regardless of signs of wear.

    Your machine will be mint! I'm jealous! I wish I was doing this.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  17. #17
    Senior Member Homebrew01's Avatar
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    Another vote for getting the right tools, especially when working with aluminum components. I'm fortunate to have some original Campy tools ... a pleasure to use.

    As for the homemade headset press, I made my own after selling off most of my Campy toolset years ago. I'd be leery of using threaded rod with big washers on an aluminum headset for fear of deforming the cups by bearing on a non-bearing surface. Next time I need to do this, I'll probably look for a section of pipe that fits inside the headset so I'm pressing on the correct area.
    Bikes: Old steel race bikes, old Cannondale race bikes, less old Cannondale race bike, crappy old mtn bike

  18. #18
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panthers007 View Post


    Get a bag of 1/4" grade 25 chromium-steel ball-bearings.

    Your machine will be mint! I'm jealous! I wish I was doing this.
    Panthers, +1 to everything you're saying, just, I'm pretty sure the C-record BB is the one that uses a smaller ball than the NR and SR, and other conventional BBs of the day.

    The OP should buy a bag of balls, but should measure the one that came out first, and match that.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dr.Deltron View Post
    btw ...

    GREASE THE THREADS!!!!!!
    Yes, on the topic of greasing the threads, I've read that if you don't grease them, they could lock up if left without maintenance for a long period, right? But what about the fact that pedal rotation loosens one side of the Italian thread? I might have read someone advise somewhere that you should use some loctite threadlocker to prevent loosening of the assembly. Is there a commonly accepted wisdom on this issue?
    ...

  20. #20
    Death fork? Naaaah!! top506's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xpacpal1x View Post
    I might have read someone advise somewhere that you should use some loctite threadlocker to prevent loosening of the assembly. Is there a commonly accepted wisdom on this issue?
    No. Some do, some don't.
    I use a little grease and the RFT torque spec on my Italian BBs, and never had trouble, cup-and-cone or cartridge.
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  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by top506 View Post
    No. Some do, some don't.
    I use a little grease and the RFT torque spec on my Italian BBs, and never had trouble, cup-and-cone or cartridge.
    Top
    I understand the concept of torque and torque wrenches...but what do you mean by "RFT torque spec".

  22. #22
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    I coined the term RFT earlier in the thread. It stands for "really phucking tight!"
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

    Tom Reingold, noglider@pobox.com
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by xpacpal1x View Post
    Yes, on the topic of greasing the threads, I've read that if you don't grease them, they could lock up if left without maintenance for a long period, right? But what about the fact that pedal rotation loosens one side of the Italian thread? I might have read someone advise somewhere that you should use some loctite threadlocker to prevent loosening of the assembly. Is there a commonly accepted wisdom on this issue?
    I've owned many Italian bikes since the late 70's and never once had a drive side cup come loose that was installed with grease and tightened correctly.

    I have also worked on a lot of bikes that somebody used Loctite on the BB threads and it's always a disaster when it comes time to remove the BB.

    I think "pedal rotation loosening" is more myth than fact.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by Otis View Post
    I think "pedal rotation loosening" is more myth than fact.
    Not quite myth, but close. My Italian-threaded fixed cup came loose once, 20 years ago, after I had installed the replacement upgrade myself, must not have got it RFT. Never came loose again. I also have a French-threaded cup that had sat in there obediently for 30 years or so, outliving probably half-a-dozen spindles. Then when I saw a Campy French-threaded BB on eBay last year I loosened it a bit to be sure it really was French before I placed a bid. It was, so I tightened it back up but not RFT. Sure enough, just around the time the new BB arrived in the mail, the old one came loose. It's replacement hasn't budged, and it is in there RFT I tell you.

  25. #25
    JML
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    Senior Member JML's Avatar
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    For a BB fixed-cup and headset installation in this situation the smartest and most economical solution would be to find a really good pro shop or framebuilder who can do the job for you, and do it well. It's not an expensive job, and the associated tools are things you will likely need very, very rarely. They're the ONLY two bike setup tasks I would not do myself, if only because the tools are rarely used by most cyclists and an error can be extraordinarily costly to fix.

    After the fixed cup and headset parts are installed on the frame, you can play with all the other related pieces on the BB and adjust the headset if necessary.

    Research the shop & mechanic, however, before you give them your trust. You want a real expert to do the job, and to do it right the first time, with the right tools.

    And, frankly, working on parts of that vintage and quality means having the right tools. Park tools are great, but Campy BB tools from that era were in a class by themselves. And probably still are.
    Last edited by JML; 07-03-09 at 09:56 PM.
    1984 3Rensho Super-Record Export Road & Campy NR/SR Grouppo

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