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  1. #1
    Senior Member southpawboston's Avatar
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    Quality BB for a 1980s tourer?

    i was going to post this in mechanics but since the bike in question if 24 years old and i want to retain its period character, i'm posting this in C&V.

    i'm in the process of a complete rebuild of a mid-80s shogun loaded tourer. upon removal of the BB spindle and cups, i'm noticing they are showing some slight pitting, mostly on the drive side. the spindle and cups are tange, and the spindle is 118mm to accomodate a triple chain ring. the cups are the early "sealed" type with the rubber o-ring, not a true sealed cartridge type. standard width bracket and threading. i'd like to upgrade to a comparable quality BB while also preserving the period look since the majority of the original components will remain. should i look for NOS cups and spindle or just upgrade to a sealed cartridge? what were some of the good vintage cups and spindle models? if i go with a new sealed cartridge, what would a comparable quality be? most of the other stock components are shimano XT "deer head" and 600 mix, so i'd like something of a similar caliber. i'm fairly new to bike mechanics and i've never had experience with cartridge BBs... i'm guessing there's a whole range of qualities out there?

    what would you do?

  2. #2
    Bianchi Goddess Bianchigirll's Avatar
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    Hello. for a loaded tourer I would certainly look for a cartridge style BB that fits your cranks. the tricky part will be finding one that is Asymetrical. also I might lok at a phil wood or the ones on VO. the bearings are a bit more outboard the shimano style.
    Bianchis '87 Sport SX, '90 Proto (2), '91 Boarala 'cross, '93 Project 3, '88 Trofeo SOLd, '86 Volpe, '89 Axis SOLD, '79 Mixte SOLD, '99 Mega Pro XL Ti SOLD, '97 Ti Megatube, , '90 something Vento 603,

    Others but still loved,; '80 RIGI, '80 Batavus Professional, '87 Cornelo, '86 Bertoni (sold), '09 Motobecane SS, '98 Hetchins M.O., '09 K2 Mainframe SOLD, '89 Trek 2000, '?? Jane Doe (still on the drawing board), '90ish Haro Escape

  3. #3
    Senior Member southpawboston's Avatar
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    my spindle is 118 mm and does have an offset-- 32-xx-35, so about 3mm longer on the drive side. can you get cartridge BBs with offsets? or are they all symmetrical?

    i looked at the one on VO. the overall spindle length is 4mm longer than mine (if i choose the 122mm one, the next smaller is 116, too small).

    so here's where i'm racking my brain:

    am i correct to figure that a symmetrical 122mm spindle will place the drive-side taper 1 mm closer to the BB shell than my current one,

    and,

    the non-drive side taper 5 mm farther away from the BB shell?

  4. #4
    Bianchi Goddess Bianchigirll's Avatar
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    your shop should be able to find a asymetrical bb for you. yes a symetrical would put your drive cranks closer to the BB and may even cause you rings to hit the stays
    Bianchis '87 Sport SX, '90 Proto (2), '91 Boarala 'cross, '93 Project 3, '88 Trofeo SOLd, '86 Volpe, '89 Axis SOLD, '79 Mixte SOLD, '99 Mega Pro XL Ti SOLD, '97 Ti Megatube, , '90 something Vento 603,

    Others but still loved,; '80 RIGI, '80 Batavus Professional, '87 Cornelo, '86 Bertoni (sold), '09 Motobecane SS, '98 Hetchins M.O., '09 K2 Mainframe SOLD, '89 Trek 2000, '?? Jane Doe (still on the drawing board), '90ish Haro Escape

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    Senior Member cyclotoine's Avatar
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    I would purchase a sealed shimano UN-5X (usually UN-52 or 54) BB. Of course it won't look period but this not a very visible part, they come in 117.5 and 121.5 lengths I believe, so the 117.5 or 118 (may be variation in advertised size) should do the trick. Of course you can cruise ebay for an original part, but if you are actually using the bike I wouldn't agonize over BB correctness.
    1 Super Record bike, 1 Nuovo Record bike, 1 Pista, 1 Road, 1 Cyclocross/Allrounder, 1 MTB, 1 Touring, 1 Fixed gear

  6. #6
    DRF aka Thrifty Bill wrk101's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyclotoine View Post
    I would purchase a sealed shimano UN-5X (usually UN-52 or 54) BB. Of course it won't look period but this not a very visible part, they come in 117.5 and 121.5 lengths I believe, so the 117.5 or 118 (may be variation in advertised size) should do the trick. Of course you can cruise ebay for an original part, but if you are actually using the bike I wouldn't agonize over BB correctness.
    +1 The UN54 BB are carried by most good bike shops. I bought one yesterday for $25. Take what you have to your favorite shop, have them match it up for you, and you should be good to go.

    Investigate shims under the drive side to give you an asymmetric effect.

    The UN 26 BB (one step down) is even cheaper, $10 to $15 price range.

    +1 BB is not very visible, and I would consider it a wear component. Save the old one for parts.

  7. #7
    Bianchi Goddess Bianchigirll's Avatar
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    Bianchis '87 Sport SX, '90 Proto (2), '91 Boarala 'cross, '93 Project 3, '88 Trofeo SOLd, '86 Volpe, '89 Axis SOLD, '79 Mixte SOLD, '99 Mega Pro XL Ti SOLD, '97 Ti Megatube, , '90 something Vento 603,

    Others but still loved,; '80 RIGI, '80 Batavus Professional, '87 Cornelo, '86 Bertoni (sold), '09 Motobecane SS, '98 Hetchins M.O., '09 K2 Mainframe SOLD, '89 Trek 2000, '?? Jane Doe (still on the drawing board), '90ish Haro Escape

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    sorry to thread jack, but if someone can help me out in this same realm:

    is the asymetrical bb a common thing to most vintage bikes, or just certain manufacturers? Im builing my mid-70's fuji and am trying to figure out which bb to use as well. My bike came without a bb, but when I mocked up the front derailleur and roughly measured the crank width I came to 118mm as well but my rings seemed like they might hit the stays. Seems like the asymetrical issue might be my answer here as well. Can you shine some light here as well bianchigirl or someone?

    Thanks.

  9. #9
    Senior Member southpawboston's Avatar
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    okay, thanks bianchigirl, wrk101 and cyclotoine.

    so the shimano UN-54 sounds interesting. is the UN-54 suitable quality for the caliber of bike and for its intended use (loaded touring)?

    here's another question i have: how to calculate offset:

    if the non-drive side taper is 32mm from the bearing edge, and the drive side taper is 35mm from the bearing edge, is that considered a 3.0mm offset, or a 1.5mm offset? (1.5mm offset for each side, relative to a hypothetical symmetric distance of 33.5mm from taper to bearing edge). does that make sense? if so, then finding a symmetric 118mm cartridge and a 1.5mm spacer for the drive side should result in an identical offset as the original, right?

  10. #10
    )) <> (( illwafer's Avatar
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    you can pick up a new spindle and cups at harris cyclery:
    cups:
    http://harriscyclery.net/itemdetails.cfm?ID=2169

    121.5 spindle:
    http://harriscyclery.net/itemdetails.cfm?ID=1366

  11. #11
    Senior Member southpawboston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by illwafer View Post
    you can pick up a new spindle and cups at harris cyclery:
    cups:
    http://harriscyclery.net/itemdetails.cfm?ID=2169

    121.5 spindle:
    http://harriscyclery.net/itemdetails.cfm?ID=1366
    i saw those and considered them. the cups look identical to my tange ones, even though they are sugino. however, the spindle is 4.5mm too long. dang!

  12. #12
    Bianchi Goddess Bianchigirll's Avatar
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    Jracer in answer you question yes. asymetrical BBs were more comon on older bikes until the crank spider became shallower. the lenght of your spindle is more or less determined by the crankset you are going to use. what kind of cranks are you using?
    Bianchis '87 Sport SX, '90 Proto (2), '91 Boarala 'cross, '93 Project 3, '88 Trofeo SOLd, '86 Volpe, '89 Axis SOLD, '79 Mixte SOLD, '99 Mega Pro XL Ti SOLD, '97 Ti Megatube, , '90 something Vento 603,

    Others but still loved,; '80 RIGI, '80 Batavus Professional, '87 Cornelo, '86 Bertoni (sold), '09 Motobecane SS, '98 Hetchins M.O., '09 K2 Mainframe SOLD, '89 Trek 2000, '?? Jane Doe (still on the drawing board), '90ish Haro Escape

  13. #13
    Makeshift kbjack's Avatar
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    Nothing wrong with the Shimano UN 54. The spindle length is right, they function well, and they're cheaper than the generic (and ever-price-inflated) cups and spindle on offer at Harris.

    The only complaint I have with the Shimano is the plastic non-drive side cup. It's purpose is to prevent creaking sometimes caused by alloy cups, but it can be a fragile piece to install--I've cracked my fair share installing at the recommended torque (the trick is to simply thread it in until it's tight, and not pay attention to torque). And you can always pick up one of these if it bothers you too much.

    As far as matching the 'caliber' of the touring bike, I'd side with the "it's a freakin' bottom bracket, get it in there and get riding" crowd.

  14. #14
    Senior Member southpawboston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bianchigirll View Post
    Jracer in answer you question yes. asymetrical BBs were more comon on older bikes until the crank spider became shallower. the lenght of your spindle is more or less determined by the crankset you are going to use. what kind of cranks are you using?
    takagi AR-T

    i'll reassemble the BB with the cranks and look at what kind of clearances i have to work with. but it looks like the UN54 and a spacer should work just fine.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by southpawboston View Post
    okay, thanks bianchigirl, wrk101 and cyclotoine.

    so the shimano UN-54 sounds interesting. is the UN-54 suitable quality for the caliber of bike and for its intended use (loaded touring)?

    here's another question i have: how to calculate offset:

    if the non-drive side taper is 32mm from the bearing edge, and the drive side taper is 35mm from the bearing edge, is that considered a 3.0mm offset, or a 1.5mm offset? (1.5mm offset for each side, relative to a hypothetical symmetric distance of 33.5mm from taper to bearing edge). does that make sense? if so, then finding a symmetric 118mm cartridge and a 1.5mm spacer for the drive side should result in an identical offset as the original, right?
    I'm impressed. You're really thinking, and its nice to assist someone who notes the fine details. You're absolutely right here, assuming the manfacturers are considering all these details in the same way. In the real world, sometimes things work a little different than they do on paper, but your calculations are right here, and you'd do fine following them.

    Its too bad Shimano uses a cheap, flanged plastic non-drive side "cup" for their cartridge bbs, and if you space out the drive side, the non drive side cup will have to thread in further to snug up against the cartridge inside the shell. The plastic flange will want to prevent that, but if you file it down, you should be able to thread it in further to meet and snug up with the rest of the bb, so it holds everything in place. Really poor design (and material) for the nds cup, otherwise a good component. Other manufacturers have better cups, but they're not as common or available in as many lengths.

    edit: the un54 would be fine for loaded touring, and its cheap enough to carry a spare in case of any problems.
    Last edited by krems81; 10-14-09 at 09:00 PM.
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  16. #16
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    The other factor is the cutoff size of the spindle. Almost all square spindles have a 2-degree taper, but there have been at least two, maybe three, standards for the final cutoff width, and this governs how far the cranks will fit onto the spindle. Since you are presumably putting Shimano cranks onto a Shimano cartridge, you should have no problem, but this is a heads-up for those with older European cranks, which will not seat all the way onto most Shimano spindles.
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  17. #17
    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wrk101 View Post
    BB is not very visible, and I would consider it a wear component.
    I have never regretted installing a Campagnolo cartridge BB in Capo #1, and I have yet to hear any grief about it from anyone who looks at the bike.
    "Early to bed, early to rise. Work like hell, and advertise." -- George Stahlman
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  18. #18
    Senior Member southpawboston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krems81 View Post
    I'm impressed. You're really thinking, and its nice to assist someone who notes the fine details. You're absolutely right here, assuming the manfacturers are considering all these details in the same way. In the real world, sometimes things work a little different than they do on paper, but your calculations are right here, and you'd do fine following them.

    Its too bad Shimano uses a cheap, flanged plastic non-drive side "cup" for their cartridge bbs, and if you space out the drive side, the non drive side cup will have to thread in further to snug up against the cartridge inside the shell. The plastic flange will want to prevent that, but if you file it down, you should be able to thread it in further to meet and snug up with the rest of the bb, so it holds everything in place. Really poor design (and material) for the nds cup, otherwise a good component. Other manufacturers have better cups, but they're not as common or available in as many lengths.

    edit: the un54 would be fine for loaded touring, and its cheap enough to carry a spare in case of any problems.
    thanks, krems. as a scientist by day, it's my job to think about this sort of stuff, but only as it applies to molecules :-). i posted my interpretation of offset here with some apprehension, because it doesn't jibe with sheldon's interpretation.

    i noted the plastic NDS cup, that's why i initially questioned whether this was a quality BB (couldn't they at least mold it in black???). it seems that it's a newer design and that previous iterations of this BB used a metal one? at any rate, thanks for the tip on threading the NDS cup after spacing out the DS. i assume this flange is designed to seat against the outside of the BB shell when tightened?
    Last edited by southpawboston; 10-14-09 at 10:12 PM.

  19. #19
    Senior Member southpawboston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E View Post
    The other factor is the cutoff size of the spindle. Almost all square spindles have a 2-degree taper, but there have been at least two, maybe three, standards for the final cutoff width, and this governs how far the cranks will fit onto the spindle. Since you are presumably putting Shimano cranks onto a Shimano cartridge, you should have no problem, but this is a heads-up for those with older European cranks, which will not seat all the way onto most Shimano spindles.
    oy, more i have to worry about, this is all new to me. i'm using takagi cranks. takagi was a japanese crank mfr back in the 80s. i would hope they followed the standard JIS taper (is that the 2-degree standard you were referring to?)

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    Quote Originally Posted by southpawboston View Post
    thanks, krems. as a scientist by day, it's my job to think about this sort of stuff, but only as it applies to molecules :-). i posted my interpretation of offset here with some apprehension, because it doesn't jibe with sheldon's interpretation.

    i noted the plastic NDS cup, that's why i initially questioned whether this was a quality BB (couldn't they at least mold it in black???). it seems that it's a newer design and that previous iterations of this BB used a metal one? at any rate, thanks for the tip on threading the NDS cup after spacing out the DS. i assume this flange is designed to seat against the outside of the BB shell when tightened?
    What did Sheldon say? Most other cartridge bb producers use a metal nds cup with no flange. Yes, the flange rests on the bb shell, but if you file it down it will recess ~1.5mm, as it should when used with a spaced drive side.

    Quote Originally Posted by southpawboston View Post
    oy, more i have to worry about, this is all new to me. i'm using takagi cranks. takagi was a japanese crank mfr back in the 80s. i would hope they followed the standard JIS taper (is that the 2-degree standard you were referring to?)
    You should be ok. JIS and iso taper are both two degrees, iso just tapers down thinner before being cut off. I think John E is talking about variations among JIS spindles. There is a bit, but you should be ok. Some things are trial and error. Take your best shot with a 118 and spacer, and if it doesn't work you'll know what to correct.
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  21. #21
    afraid of whales Mr IGH's Avatar
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    Another fan of the ULN-54 for vintage BB replacement. Sealed, should last forever compared to the old school BBs!
    IGH's, Dyno Hubs, LED lights and old frames

  22. #22
    Senior Member Road Fan's Avatar
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    Another thought is to take a second look at your old parts, and to verify that they are toast. Often there is a grey track worn in by the balls, and if you don't look very closely or trace the track with a stylus and FEEL the contour, you might mistake this light wear for pitting. Pitting is very bad because it represents the ground and hardened surface having broken down, and it should continue to do so. The light wear track is a situation that should stabilize with clean grease, round and matched balls, and correct adjustment not overtightened. Another thing that will prolong the life of old bearings is to rebuild with loose balls rather than caged balls. If it will rebuild to a smooth, free-spinning condition, it will have a long, reliable remaining service with maintenance. A trial build with clean grease is the final test.

  23. #23
    Senior Member southpawboston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by krems81 View Post
    What did Sheldon say? Most other cartridge bb producers use a metal nds cup with no flange. Yes, the flange rests on the bb shell, but if you file it down it will recess ~1.5mm, as it should when used with a spaced drive side.
    nevermind about my interpretation not jibing with sheldon. i was wrong, it does jibe. sheldon has a conversion table, which indicates that the corresponding symmetric spindle to replace mine and maintain the chainline within ~0.5mm would be a 122mm, but that the NDS taper would stick out 3-4 mm. when i redid the math, he was right. still, i like the idea of a 118mm BB with 1.5mm spacer better.

    i wonder what the purpose of the flange is, if other mfrs of metal NDS cups don't include a flange? i would expect the flange to be a benefit, in that it provides tension against the BB shell for the NDS side of the cartridge. wouldn't that help reduce creaking? otherwise what tensions the cartridge against the BB shell other than the threading?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mr IGH View Post
    Another fan of the ULN-54 for vintage BB replacement. Sealed, should last forever compared to the old school BBs!
    thanks, this seems to be the consensus, so UN-54 it is. i love this forum!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Road Fan View Post
    Another thought is to take a second look at your old parts, and to verify that they are toast. Often there is a grey track worn in by the balls, and if you don't look very closely or trace the track with a stylus and FEEL the contour, you might mistake this light wear for pitting. Pitting is very bad because it represents the ground and hardened surface having broken down, and it should continue to do so. The light wear track is a situation that should stabilize with clean grease, round and matched balls, and correct adjustment not overtightened. Another thing that will prolong the life of old bearings is to rebuild with loose balls rather than caged balls. If it will rebuild to a smooth, free-spinning condition, it will have a long, reliable remaining service with maintenance. A trial build with clean grease is the final test.
    road fan, this is a good point, thanks for asking. i'm new to this, so i made an assumption based on intuition that any pitting = destroyed. however, i could be over-reacting and dismissing acceptable tolerances of pitting/wear. my only other prior "references" in this regard are two other, old spindle/cup BBs that i recently serviced:

    a campagnolo GS BB, on my raleigh comp GS. upon removal and degreasing of those cups and spindle, i found only a smooth gray track from contact with the rotating balls. it was absolutely smooth on both the cups and spindle. so, i repacked and reassembled. the serviced BB felt perfectly smooth, almost frictionless.

    my other reference was an old raleigh DL1 26 TPI BB whose spindle was severely pitted, which could even be felt when pedaling (cups were fine, however). i could even dig my fingernail right into some of the pits, they were that large! i was lucky enough to find a used spindle with the same A-D measurements and no pitting, and after servicing the BB with the new spindle, it is smooth as silk.

    what i'm observing with the tange cups and spindle on this bike is more than a gray track. the track appears ground down into a minor groove, and more so in some places than in others (see below). there are also some small pits which i can readily feel with the edge of my fingernail as i run it around the track.

    i marked the orientation of the fixed cup before removal, and found that the lowest point of the fixed cup has the worst wear and pitting. it seems logical that the DS cup sees more wear because of the drivetrain. my guess for the unevenness of the wear is that the bottom of the cup experiences more force as the rider applies downward force on the crank. if the balls are not properly tensioned such that the force is distributed around the entire cup, only those balls at the bottom of the cup are going to be "pushing" against the cup with a lot of force, while the balls at the top of the cup are transferring very little force.

    the DS bearing track on the spindle also has real pitting, very minor, but which i can feel with my fingernail, but no groove formation like on the cups.

    so, is a little pitting okay? i mock-reassembled the degreased spindle and balls into one cup at a time and spun it in my hand, and it seemed smooth enough, but i have no idea how well that smoothness will translate when repacked and tensioned properly inside the BB shell.

    is it worth just repacking and installing in the BB shell to test the smoothness? if there is slight pitting now will it get worse quickly? or will the fresh repacking preserve it for several years of use? i think at this point it just makes sense to go with a new UN54 like everyone is recommending.

    next, i have another question. this time it is regarding tensioning:

    as i said above, i had a guess as to why the fixed cup had worse wear at the bottom-- i was guessing that more pressure is placed on the bottom of the cup by the balls than the top of the cup. however, my reasoning is that this should only happen when the balls are not properly tensioned, and loose. i can see how over-tensioning the balls can cause premature wear, but couldn't under-tensioning also cause the uneven wear that i noticed? sheldon theorizes that the cups stretch under crank pressure, and that the balls should be "pre-tensioned" such that under pedaling pressure, the force remains evenly distributed among all the balls as the cup "stretches", not just the ones at the bottom of the cup

    so, how do i determine the optimal tension? what do you all do? do you tension them such that there is no free play in the spindle but no resistance to rotation either? or do you tension them such that there is some resistance to the spindle rotating? i realize this is moot point for cartridges which are already set from the factory, and only applies to old spindle/cup setups. but i'm curious nonetheless because all my bikes have this old setup!

    sorry for the long-winded posts, but the expertise of you all is much appreciated!!!
    Last edited by southpawboston; 10-15-09 at 09:30 AM.

  24. #24
    Senior Member due ruote's Avatar
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    I skimmed so sorry if I missed the details. Are you using loose balls or cages? Loose balls are preferable. If you're getting ready to do a long tour, I'd put the cartridge in and be done with it. Otoh, if you're just riding locally, why not build it back up with fresh grease and bearings and see how it works? There's really nothing to lose, and your description makes it seem that there may be some more miles left in it.

  25. #25
    Senior Member southpawboston's Avatar
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    why are loose balls preferable? i understand that more balls is preferable, and that you can fit more loose balls than you can with a cage. on the other hand, i've heard that the cage keeps the balls evenly spaced and prevents then from rubbing on each other. the cage itself is a softer metal and so shouldn't wear the balls from rubbing on them.

    strangely, both the campy GS cups and the tange cups take 11 1/4" balls, but the campy balls come with a campy cage while the tange balls are loose.

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