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sealed vs loose bearing bb

Old 08-22-12, 09:17 AM
  #1  
nevermore1701
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sealed vs loose bearing bb

can someone explain the difference to me?
i know what each looks like but what are the pros and cons of each?
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Old 08-22-12, 09:29 AM
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So-called "sealed bearings" are actually cartridge bearings - the sort you can take the ball bearings out of are called cup-and-cone bearings. Both sorts can have sealed, and in fact the seals on cup-and-cone hubs are often better than the ones on cartridge bearing hubs. Jobst Brandt and Ben Escoto explain a lot of the details here.
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Old 08-22-12, 09:32 AM
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Both in practice work perfectly fine...

One is adjustable - and easily overhauled. One typically is not - requiring unit replacement every 3-5 years. That's talking basic and replacement bottom brackets...

Performance wise, not much difference either...

The sealed units - in particular the cartridge bearing type really came around with the popular "uprising" of mountain bikes. On too many of the low to mid-range MTBs, basic and replacement loose ball bottom brackets just didn't hold up under the load - cup grind-out and cracking seemed to accelerate...remember replacing a lot of units on GTs back in early 90s.

Back then, the option we sold were the Phil Wood sealed cartridge bottom brackets...at close to 100.00 a pop. Very solid, overbuilt long lasting unit. Typical proven Phil Wood production.

But a lot of folks balked - found it sour to pay 100.00 for just that one tiny part for a bike they paid 325.00 for...

It didn't take long for Shimano to introduce their 15.00-35.00 units - just like that the transition to sealed cartridge for most if not all entry and mid-range MTBs took off...bled over the road side of things as well - cause already folks were changing over to Phil. So the Shimano sealed units showed up in the road stuff as well...either at same time or within a year?

But as I said earlier, they both work. Most cheap commuters sold in LBSes today still have the old loose ball bearing units...

=8-)
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Old 08-22-12, 09:56 AM
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right on
i have a giant sedona. just had a whole new shimano alivio drive train put on yesterday. they said i bought the wrong bb so they put a different one on. i know its a loose bearing one.you seem to know alot about bikes... what sealed unit would you suggest to me?i would like something strong and dependable and weight does not matter as i ride 17 miles a day on the street
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Old 08-22-12, 10:00 AM
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I prefer loose ball to cartridge bearings, because for a start, the bearing is designed when the part is designed, instead of having a 'bearing goes here' caption on the blueprint.

There's always less metal involved in a loose ball bearing that does the same job, they come apart with ease for cleaning and repacking, and they have adjustable preload; they crap all over cartridge bearings.

Cartridge bearings are only better if you're the sort of person who sees nothing wrong with throwing it away and buying a new one instead of fixing it (where 'it' can be anything from a biro to a car). They embody a philosophy that flies in the face of a great deal that's at the heart of cycling, IMO. They take a lot of joy out of wrenching.

If I didn't need a threadless BB on my frame, my bike wouldn't have any cartridge bearings except the jockey wheels. Kinda bumming how Shimano haven't done a loose ball external BB... those guys are the last bastion of loose balls, BBs aside.
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Old 08-22-12, 11:04 AM
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I personally kind of like the loose ball type.
It's more of a thing where I'm in control of my BB and can service/adjust it to my hearts content. Something to occupy me when the weathers too bad to ride.
However, I had to swap cranks on my bike and I simply couldn't find a short enough spindle for the new cranks. At least nothing for a budget minded person.
So now I'm a "cartridge" person.
I flip bikes on CL and I think it's a selling point to say NEW BEARINGS when it only costs about $1 to install them.

So, I'd say a major disadvantage is the lack of different size replacement spindles in the shorter lengths.
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Old 08-22-12, 11:13 AM
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You won't find a loose ball bearing BB for any of the modern oversize spindle cranks - they all use some type of cartridge bearing. If you can find one at all, it would be for an outdated square taper crank.
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Old 08-22-12, 11:15 AM
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Loose bearing BB is up to the bike owner to keep maintained.
in adjustment, and cleanly greased.. some seals are fitted in the cups
around the axle..

sealed bearings are adjusted in manufacturing them.. BB's like the Shimano UN-XX
they work or they are tossed out.. the whole assembly..

Others like Phil Wood use a standard industrial bearing,selected by them.

the bearings can be replaced.. whole cartridge, but keeping the axle & such..

PHIL made in California , has a stainless steel axle, but you can buy wear out several
$20 UN type BBs for Phils price.. but the Phil will still be running..

The bearing chosen is fitted in submersible and bilge pumps.. industrially,
best seal for the purpose.

Last edited by fietsbob; 08-22-12 at 11:23 AM.
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Old 08-22-12, 11:20 AM
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Originally Posted by nevermore1701 View Post
right on
i have a giant sedona. just had a whole new shimano alivio drive train put on yesterday. they said i bought the wrong bb so they put a different one on. i know its a loose bearing one.you seem to know alot about bikes... what sealed unit would you suggest to me?i would like something strong and dependable and weight does not matter as i ride 17 miles a day on the street
Assuming you have a 7/8 sp Alivio crankset that the one in this link https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0040X81BS/..._df_B0040X81BS, the BB would need a 110/113 mm spindle. What BB did you give your LBS? BTW, cartridge BB last a ridiculously long time and require practically no maintenance. If you stay with would loose ball BB, expect you will need to do regular maintenance, involving removing the crank arms, unscrewing the left side cup, cleaning out the old grease, putting in new grease and putting it all together again. If you not the type to do such maintenance or don't want to pay your local bike shop to do it, go for a cartridge type; it will save you headaches down the road.

Last edited by onespeedbiker; 08-22-12 at 11:28 AM.
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Old 08-22-12, 01:10 PM
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Loose balls last forever if you take care of them......the others don't.

Could teach monkey to install sealed BB......Most humans have no idea how to setup loose bearings.
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Old 08-22-12, 05:16 PM
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this is the exact set i bought https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ls_o01_s00_i00 i like the idea of low maintenance. what is the exact size cartridge size i need for this? i will order a.s.a.p.
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Old 08-22-12, 05:50 PM
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123MM

https://techdocs.shimano.com/media/techdocs/content/cycle/SI/Alivio-Acera/SI_0094A/SI-0094A-001-ENG_v1_m56577569830667768.PDF


I can't imagine a shop going out of there way to install loose balls, since it takes extra effort vs a cartridge.
They must have been out of the proper size and used what they had available.
I wonder if they were new parts?

Last edited by Bill Kapaun; 08-22-12 at 06:00 PM.
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Old 08-22-12, 05:51 PM
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Used to be a dyed-in-the-wool loose ball bearing component believer, I even thought it was such a big deal that cartridge bearings might slow me down a bit on the road because of the drag from their seals. I realized later that I'm not an international caliber racer of any sort and that was just silly in my part....so heck, as I got older, I started preferring the "plug and play" nature of sealed bearing units. They usually last very long anyway and barring defective cartridges, they usually spin as smooth as glass without the trouble of adjusting them to do so. so all the periodic maintenance and adjustments you can avoid that came with loose balls are easily offset in my mind, even at the higher prices for sealed cartridge units....but if you enjoy periodiacally tinkering with loose balls, there's nothing wrong with that!

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Old 08-22-12, 09:07 PM
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will this fit my needs?https://www.amazon.com/Shimano-Square...bracket+123+mm
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Old 08-22-12, 09:27 PM
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Originally Posted by onespeedbiker View Post
If you stay with would loose ball BB, expect you will need to do regular maintenance, involving removing the crank arms, unscrewing the left side cup, cleaning out the old grease, putting in new grease and putting it all together again. If you not the type to do such maintenance or don't want to pay your local bike shop to do it, go for a cartridge type; it will save you headaches down the road.
IME loose ball BBs are pretty much set-and-forget too. Sure, you can worry about changing the grease every now and then if you like, but there's no need unless it's gone caramel... a properly set up loose BB will run just fine for years with no attention.
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Old 08-22-12, 10:24 PM
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There is one benefit I forgot to mention for sealed units versus loose ball units...assuming both are in working order:

1. With a working sealed cartridge bearing unit that can stay in 3-5 years, that's ONE instance of removal and re-installation of the crank and left arm. That's ONE opportunity for a mechanic to get it wrong and ruin a left arm or crack the crank spider.

2. With a loose ball unit, that's SEVERAL opportunities over the lifetime of yearly or semi-annual maintenance for a mechanic to ruin a left arm or crack a crank spider with the odds going up if it is a different mechanic each time.

When you know you have a competent mechanic who puts everything back together RIGHT the first time - it's nice to know that a working sealed cartridge bearing unit will KEEP IT THAT WAY for 3-5 years.

=8-)
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Old 08-22-12, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by nevermore1701 View Post
That should do the job. (either 122.5 or 123 is pretty much the same)
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Old 08-22-12, 10:51 PM
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Originally Posted by nevermore1701 View Post
Well, yea and no, this is what is spec'd for your crank https://www.amazon.com/SHIMANO-BB-UN2.../dp/B0052UDX20 Your crank is spec'd for a 50mm chainline; the BB you chose is designed around a 47.5mm (standard). One could play with different length spindles to find the right one to give a 50mm chainline or buy the BB spec'd for your cranks (the UN-26 K; the K seems to designates a 50mm chain line and I don't know why they come with a .7mm washer). OTOH, you might find the UN55 in 127.5mm might also give you a 50 mm chainline, but you would want to caliper how much spindle is on the drive side.
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Old 08-23-12, 12:39 AM
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I wouldn't worry about 2.5mm unless it was a SS; I'd rather have the cranks centred.
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Old 08-23-12, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
IME loose ball BBs are pretty much set-and-forget too. Sure, you can worry about changing the grease every now and then if you like, but there's no need unless it's gone caramel... a properly set up loose BB will run just fine for years with no attention.
I have 5 bikes, (only 3 that I actually ride) on one of them I decided to try out an idea that I had while greasing the buddy bearing on my boat trailer. I took the bottom bearings out and placed a layer of fiber glass tape with epoxy over the open tube ends where they entered into the bottom bracket. This was to keep grease that was under pressure from going into the bike tubes. On my BB was a plastic cable guide that was held in place with a screw. I removed this screw and drilled and tap to except a grease fitting. I reassembled the BB then filled the bracket with grease through the grease fitting until the grease started coming out the seals. Whenever I feel the BB should be serviced I just fill it with fresh grease. I did this back in 1986 that was 26 years ago (the BB has not been taken apart since). I have ridden that bike many miles since then and if you were to spin that crank this morning it would turn as smooth as silk. The point is that a properly greased loose ball bearing BB will last for years without having to be overhauled every six months to a year. Below is a picture of the BB on this bike.



Grease fitting BB


Grease fitting BB3

Last edited by GrandaddyBiker; 08-23-12 at 08:02 AM. Reason: add a word
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Old 08-23-12, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by GrandaddyBiker View Post
I have 5 bikes, (only 3 that I actually ride) on one of them I decided to try out an idea that I had while greasing the buddy bearing on my boat trailer. I took the bottom bearings out and placed a layer of fiber glass tape with epoxy over the open tube ends where they entered into the bottom bracket. This was to keep grease that was under pressure from going into the bike tubes. On my BB was a plastic cable guide that was held in place with a screw. I removed this screw and drilled and tap to except a grease fitting. I reassembled the BB then filled the bracket with grease through the grease fitting until the grease started coming out the seals. Whenever I feel the BB should be serviced I just fill it with fresh grease. I did this back in 1986 that was 26 years ago (the BB has not been taken apart since). I have ridden that bike many mikes since then and if you were to spin that crank this morning it would turn as smooth as silk.
Reminds me of the old SunTour/WTB "GreaseGuard" system:

https://velobase.com/ViewComponent.as...m=119&AbsPos=0
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Old 08-23-12, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by GrandaddyBiker View Post
I have 5 bikes, (only 3 that I actually ride) on one of them I decided to try out an idea that I had while greasing the buddy bearing on my boat trailer. I took the bottom bearings out and placed a layer of fiber glass tape with epoxy over the open tube ends where they entered into the bottom bracket. This was to keep grease that was under pressure from going into the bike tubes. On my BB was a plastic cable guide that was held in place with a screw. I removed this screw and drilled and tap to except a grease fitting. I reassembled the BB then filled the bracket with grease through the grease fitting until the grease started coming out the seals. Whenever I feel the BB should be serviced I just fill it with fresh grease. I did this back in 1986 that was 26 years ago (the BB has not been taken apart since). I have ridden that bike many mikes since then and if you were to spin that crank this morning it would turn a smooth as silk. The point is that a properly greased loose ball bearing BB will last for years without having to be overhauled every six months to a year. Below is a picture of the BB on this bike.



Grease fitting BB


Grease fitting BB3

Careful there...

Long time ago, way back when, probably mid-80s, I ran into this kind of setup. An old 50s or 60s British commuter with the sealed loose ball bearing bottom bracket, with a fitting in the shell designed for grease injection and flushing. Gramps...yes I'll say gramps, swore it was the best design every requiring no maintenance and was smooth as silk.

Yes, it was smooth as silk...turning the spindle by hand - super duper ultra smooth.

Gramps however brought the bike in on the other hand noticing that something just wasn't right when peddling...

Upon disassembling the ultra smooth bottom bracket - bearings were a fraction of their original size, spindle was ground out with well defined ground out tracks.

Point is...

There's delayed maintenance and there's delaying the inevitable...with a fine line between the two.

I've seen the same for Campy Tipo and NR hubs with grease injection nipples added, mostly on bikes belonging to folks racing local criteriums and the like...and their owners knew full well it was for the convenience of easy grease flushing and refreshing - overhauls every 2-3 years were still required.

=8-)
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Old 08-23-12, 08:21 AM
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Originally Posted by nevermore1701 View Post
right on
i have a giant sedona. just had a whole new shimano alivio drive train put on yesterday. they said i bought the wrong bb so they put a different one on. i know its a loose bearing one.you seem to know alot about bikes... what sealed unit would you suggest to me?i would like something strong and dependable and weight does not matter as i ride 17 miles a day on the street
I find it very hard to believe that anyone would install a new loose bearing bottom bracket today. Loose bearing bottom brackets have gone the way of the 27" tire...they are out there but only the retrogrouch still use them...or even likes them.

Originally Posted by Booger1 View Post
Loose balls last forever if you take care of them......the others don't.

Could teach monkey to install sealed BB......Most humans have no idea how to setup loose bearings.
Cartridge bearing bottom brackets last almost forever and you don't have to care for them at all. Back in the bad old days, I'd go through a loose bearing bottom bracket on a mountain bike on a roughly annual basis. I can't recall having a cartridge bottom bracket fail since I switched over to them.

Originally Posted by Kimmo View Post
IME loose ball BBs are pretty much set-and-forget too. Sure, you can worry about changing the grease every now and then if you like, but there's no need unless it's gone caramel... a properly set up loose BB will run just fine for years with no attention.
Not in my experience. If you ride off-road, they don't last very long at all. On the road, they last a little longer but they need grease changes at least annually.

Originally Posted by mrrabbit View Post
There is one benefit I forgot to mention for sealed units versus loose ball units...assuming both are in working order:

1. With a working sealed cartridge bearing unit that can stay in 3-5 years, that's ONE instance of removal and re-installation of the crank and left arm. That's ONE opportunity for a mechanic to get it wrong and ruin a left arm or crack the crank spider.

2. With a loose ball unit, that's SEVERAL opportunities over the lifetime of yearly or semi-annual maintenance for a mechanic to ruin a left arm or crack a crank spider with the odds going up if it is a different mechanic each time.

When you know you have a competent mechanic who puts everything back together RIGHT the first time - it's nice to know that a working sealed cartridge bearing unit will KEEP IT THAT WAY for 3-5 years.

=8-)
You are absolutely correct. Even if a mechanic is competent, there is always the chance for damaging the crank arm through removal and re-installation. The very nature of the tapered spindle makes damage possible, even if the proper torque is used on the crank bolt since you are wedging on a soft part.
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Old 08-23-12, 12:24 PM
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Originally Posted by mrrabbit View Post
Careful there...

Long time ago, way back when, probably mid-80s, I ran into this kind of setup. An old 50s or 60s British commuter with the sealed loose ball bearing bottom bracket, with a fitting in the shell designed for grease injection and flushing. Gramps...yes I'll say gramps, swore it was the best design every requiring no maintenance and was smooth as silk.

Yes, it was smooth as silk...turning the spindle by hand - super duper ultra smooth.

Gramps however brought the bike in on the other hand noticing that something just wasn't right when peddling...

Upon disassembling the ultra smooth bottom bracket - bearings were a fraction of their original size, spindle was ground out with well defined ground out tracks.

Point is...

There's delayed maintenance and there's delaying the inevitable...with a fine line between the two.

I've seen the same for Campy Tipo and NR hubs with grease injection nipples added, mostly on bikes belonging to folks racing local criteriums and the like...and their owners knew full well it was for the convenience of easy grease flushing and refreshing - overhauls every 2-3 years were still required.

=8-)
About half of what you said there is totally untrue. When people make assumptions without knowing the facts then it is understandable that they may get it wrong. I bought the bike in 1986 and the bike was almost brand new when I came up with the idea of putting grease fitting on the bottom bracket. A first I was proud of coming up with the idea but then I found out that a good many other people had already done it ahead of me.

My Bottom Bracket has not been overhauled in 26 years and it still turns smooth. How do you like those apples?
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Old 08-23-12, 01:31 PM
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Calling me a flat out liar?

Have also seen the same with a heavy duty tandem with heavy duty steel frame and 2.6mm / .105 guage spoked steel wheels. Bottom bracket with an injection port - nice smooth operation when operated by hand. Owner reporting clunking feel and sound...upon disassembly - despite what appeared to be reasonably clean grease or what others might call gear oil - spindle shot and one bearing completely destroyed.

I'm not an expert in lubrication chemistry and fluid dynamics...but I suspect some lubricants and weights can mask stuff.

Perhaps an expert will chime in?

=8-)
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