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Bottom bracket woes

Old 04-21-22, 10:33 AM
  #1  
pipeliner
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Bottom bracket woes

Iím 245 lbs and ride MTb as well as road and gravel quite a bit. I have big legs. My stoker also works out quite a bit, is pretty strong. Between the two of us we have been wrecking BBs and cranks on our tandem. It is equipped with Ultegra cranks with the Octalink cartridge style BB. It is an older triple and I have to run the longest BB spindle in order to get a proper chainline (which also increases stress on the bearings). This weekend we hit a steep incline and stripped out the drive side crank arm splinesÖ for the 2nd time. This will be our 4th Shimano BB. Simply put, I am sick of repairing this bike and am prepared to buy a different bike but am open to suggestion. This bike is a 90s vintage Meridian alum frame that seems to be well built but doesnít fit us that good. Iím not at all in favor of dumping more money into it with a whole new drivetrain.

I found a 2008 Cannondale tandem that would fit us better, it has a Campy drivetrain and Cannondale cranksets. Can anyone comment on the durability of these BBs and cranks? Do they use a cartridge style BB? It is 500 mi away and I canít tell much from pics.

Any insights for a reasonably priced repair on our current bike?
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Old 04-22-22, 07:17 AM
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Octalink and ISIS both have smaller bearings to allow larger spindles while keeping the bearings inside the BB shell. If you are looking for more durable bottom brackets, I'd avoid either of those. Especially if the Meridian doesn't fit, then I think a new bike is probably in order. Can you get the 'dale seller to send you closeups of the cranks to try to tell what the design is?

I wonder if stepping all the way back in technology to something like the Davinci cranks with a phil wood bottom bracket might make sense as opposed to going to the newer external bottom bracket design?
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Old 04-22-22, 11:17 AM
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I’m trying to get pics of that BB. I have quite a bit of experience with external BBs and mtn bike cranks, know what can take abuse and what cant. I have no doubt that external BB with 30mm spindle would be far superior to what I’m fighting now.
Pretty fed up because we took the tandem on a recent trip and it really was a let down when we blew it up within our first mile.
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Old 04-23-22, 04:36 PM
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1. Just to make sure, you've been through 2 crank arms and 4 bottom brackets?
2. Are you sure you have the right bottom bracket, IE Octalink V1 and V2 are not compatible in either direction. A V1 crank can be be forced onto a V2 spindle, but will fail in short order. If I remember correctly Ultegra is V1, and other than XTR, all of the MTB (with perhaps longer spindles?) versions are V2.
3. If the bike doesn't fit, I'd consider changing just for that. If your current frame did fit, replacing the cranks with a different type is always an option, though tandem parts aren't as easy to come by.
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Old 04-23-22, 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted by pipeliner View Post
Any insights for a reasonably priced repair on our current bike?
You can get an FSA Gossamer triple tandem crankset for about $400. It includes the MegaExo spindle which is 24 mm. That seems to be the most reasonably priced tandem crank.
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Old 04-24-22, 03:22 PM
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Iím not sure about the tandem version, but the non tandem version of MegaExo is sensitive to having proper torque on the spindle bolt, so use care if you go that route.
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Old 04-25-22, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by jccaclimber View Post
1. Just to make sure, you've been through 2 crank arms and 4 bottom brackets?
2. Are you sure you have the right bottom bracket, IE Octalink V1 and V2 are not compatible in either direction. A V1 crank can be be forced onto a V2 spindle, but will fail in short order. If I remember correctly Ultegra is V1, and other than XTR, all of the MTB (with perhaps longer spindles?) versions are V2.
3. If the bike doesn't fit, I'd consider changing just for that. If your current frame did fit, replacing the cranks with a different type is always an option, though tandem parts aren't as easy to come by.
We have been ruining the bearings in the BBs. Over the course of less than 1000 miles we have ruined 3 of them and the current one is noisy. They start popping and cracking and I replace them.

I didnít know there were incompatible Octalink systems. I will look into that and make sure that isnít why we have stripped out the cranks.
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Old 04-25-22, 02:30 PM
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Also if you are "stripping out" the driveside splines it is possible that you may have made an installation error where the crankarm was never fully seated onto the splines. These are tricky to install properly the first time. The one key release may make you think you can just pull the crankarm onto the splines by tightening the one key release with the correct size metric Allen wrench. You might get lucky and it will pull together fine or you might have it off ever so slightly such that the first time you put any torque on it the crankarm will shift and it will now be loose on the splines. I use a 3/8" T-bar with 3/8" drive metric sockets to do this. The advantage of the T-bar is that you can actually feel if it is being pulled onto the splined axle correctly.
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Old 04-25-22, 03:26 PM
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Originally Posted by pipeliner View Post
We have been ruining the bearings in the BBs. Over the course of less than 1000 miles we have ruined 3 of them and the current one is noisy. They start popping and cracking and I replace them.

I didnít know there were incompatible Octalink systems. I will look into that and make sure that isnít why we have stripped out the cranks.
Common causes of trashing bottom bracket bearings include a bottom bracket shell that is not radially aligned side to side and/or a timing chain that is way too taught possibly coupled with one or both of the chainrings being non-concentric about the bottom bracket spindle

The former is typically implicated for separate bearing cups such as in Hollowtech where the bearings may not be aligned due to poor bottom bracket frame machining. I would believe that an Octalink cartridge would not have this issue.

The latter may be something to look at. If the timing chain is very taught and/or changes "taughtness" through the 360 degree rotation of the crank, I would give some focus there. Changing radial load on a bearing through each rotation can significantly reduce the operational life of the bearing. This may be the cause of your shortened bearing life.
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Old 04-25-22, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by pipeliner View Post
We have been ruining the bearings in the BBs. Over the course of less than 1000 miles we have ruined 3 of them and the current one is noisy. They start popping and cracking and I replace them.

I didnít know there were incompatible Octalink systems. I will look into that and make sure that isnít why we have stripped out the cranks.
Are you certain the noise is the bearings and not the spindle to crank arm interface?
Warning, Iím going to speculate a bit here: Every trashed ISIS BB Iíve opened had unreasonably small ball bearings, and nothing else. This is why the die so fast. The SKF one may not have that issue as it has rollers, but Iíve never seen one in person. Every Octalink BB Iíve opened (not all that many, and non-cartridge) has had both ball and roller bearings, and has been much, much more durable. Iíd be surprised if one of those is dying that fast, even on a tandem.
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Old 04-25-22, 09:05 PM
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Without getting too deep into the weeds here... OK I'm diving into the weeds...We have had the bike 3 years. I tore things down tonight and looked them over; the first bad BB I replaced was the rear, which didn't have good chain alignment before or after replacement because of the very wide rear hub spacing on this bike. The BB bearings were bad, real bad. The short spindle made for very poor chain alignment and even though my replacement BB was correct style for the crankset:V1 it had a crappy chainline and shifting performance was terrible. We eventually stripped out the driveside crank. Maybe partly due to chainline but not ruling out installation error either.

I then started having trouble with the front BB so I looked for and found the longer spindle v2 and moved my not-so-old rear BB to the front. It started making noise but is still in the front and is the correct V1 BB for the crank arms. It really pings and cracks when I get on the gas hard. So this BB has been in the back and now front and is going bad. We got out on the bike for a brief ride last fall and the chainline and shifting performance improved a great deal. Happiness on our last ride before stowing the bike for winter but my mistake of forcing the V1 marriage with the V2 BB is why the crankarm stripped this time around. Now both rear cranks are toast.

I think this bike had some sort of special BB when new and had a chainline that was wider than the standard 118 wide spindle offers. It really is an odd-looking axle setup. Very wide hub spacing. Shifting performance (chainline) simply had to be better than this when the bike was new. Either that, or there is some obscure wide spindle Octalink V1 BB available that I haven't found. As it is, I don't want to put this thing back together with a 118mm BB and a couple used crank arms. I know how it performs and it is sucks. Even if I do, I would need to run a right side crank arm backwards and run two right side pedals... not sure if that even works.
We really enjoy tandem riding and I think it's time to part this thing out and go buy a better rig that fits us better. Pretty paranoid about drivetrain durability though. Tandems really open up the wide world of weird in components.

My track record with BB durability isn't good so that influenced my decision making. I've wrecked a lot of drivetrain stuff (especially BB's) over the years because of my size and had no experience at all with this older Shimano road stuff.

Last edited by pipeliner; 04-25-22 at 09:35 PM.
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Old 04-26-22, 06:30 PM
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The travesties that the bike industry has unloaded on us are ongoing. BB's are a case in point. In their initial mindset of advancement was to change the interface design to a spline like cassettes. Seems reasonable, but wait, the BB axial has far more non-axial stress than a cassette, so the BB interface had better mesh well. However, that didn’t do much for weight reduction and was no better than square tapers, so was cast aside (octa-stuff). Next, let’s try a large open tube in place of the solid BB axle. Great, but now the bearing won’t fit. Let’s “try” putting the bearing external like the headset. And, headsets are now press fit, so let “try” that with BB’s. Oops, so surprised, BB’s have far more non-axial stress than headsets, so with small bearings the BB’s have short life or the BB is not rigidly held to the bike, so it creaks and wears. More space in needed and so another new standard is born ****T47****Haaa Raaa. Maybe they have finally made an advancement. I’m fine with square taper until the dust settles.
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Old 04-27-22, 04:43 AM
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For outright durability itís hard to beat a Sugino tandem crankset with square taper BBs.
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Old 04-27-22, 06:50 PM
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Originally Posted by bboy314 View Post
For outright durability itís hard to beat a Sugino tandem crankset with square taper BBs.
True!
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Old 05-06-22, 09:22 AM
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Originally Posted by jccaclimber View Post
Iím not sure about the tandem version, but the non tandem version of MegaExo is sensitive to having proper torque on the spindle bolt, so use care if you go that route.
Also, be sure to install a ďwave washerĒ between the non-drive side crank and bearing. This is very important otherwise you will be torquing the crank into the side of the bearing assembly itself and will cause drag and eventually damage.
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Old 05-06-22, 09:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Freerojo View Post
Also, be sure to install a ďwave washerĒ between the non-drive side crank and bearing. This is very important otherwise you will be torquing the crank into the side of the bearing assembly itself and will cause drag and eventually damage.
Iím not sure about that. I thought the spindle bottoms out before the spring washer. The washer should just be preloading the bearings and preventing side to side play. Important, but not quite the same.
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Old 05-13-22, 01:08 PM
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Update for those interested: I went ahead and bought a new v1 BB in the wider axle width because I found brand new 105 cranks on EBay for an amazing $14 each. I am running a right side crank backwards for the stoker so I put locktite on the pedal threads… we’ll see how that holds up. The chainline sucks again but Is worst on the small ring of the triple so we’ll live with it until I can find a suitable bike that fits us better…. maybe ride less big climbs since that is an option where we live. It may take a while but I plan to scrounge up a used bike that is specific to what I want.

And yes, the front BB is pretty bad. If we ride this one much longer I will have to replace it again. I did put a bit more slack in the timing chain as one poster had suggested a tight timing chain may have contributed to my problems.

We really enjoy traveling with it so a coupler equipped bike that we can run wide tires on (45ish or 650b) and big disc brakes is what I’m seeking now.
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Old 05-14-22, 01:45 AM
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Ensuring the cranks spin all the way around smoothly by hand is critical to BB bearing life, irrespective of the power applied. Most chainrings are just a tiny bit eccentric. As a result, if itís snug in the loosest position itíll be really tight in the opposite position, and overload the bearings once per pedal revolution.
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Old 05-23-22, 10:57 AM
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Suggestions

Perhaps trying with cranks out of phase to spread the load out..

Might check the repair parts page at Santana site as they have been making / using 160mm rear spacing for a long time. Likely have BB sizes that could fit better.
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Old 05-24-22, 09:44 AM
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FYI Meridian tandems with 160mm rear spacing use 127.5mm BB axles, not the "standard" 118 that is commonly used on other tandems with 145mm spacing. (Meridian used the same rear spacing as Santana IIRC.) Using 118 will result in the poor chainline you mentioned.

I'll throw this out there: you could consider running square-taper cranks and matching high-quality BBs (e.g, Phil Wood or Hadley). I have these on my Santana MTB tandem and they are indestructible so far (had them since 2001 and used on several tandems).
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Old 05-25-22, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by ksisler View Post
Perhaps trying with cranks out of phase to spread the load out..

Might check the repair parts page at Santana site as they have been making / using 160mm rear spacing for a long time. Likely have BB sizes that could fit better.
Darned good idea. Iíll do that.
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Old 05-25-22, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Philly Tandem View Post
FYI Meridian tandems with 160mm rear spacing use 127.5mm BB axles, not the "standard" 118 that is commonly used on other tandems with 145mm spacing. (Meridian used the same rear spacing as Santana IIRC.) Using 118 will result in the poor chainline you mentioned.

I'll throw this out there: you could consider running square-taper cranks and matching high-quality BBs (e.g, Phil Wood or Hadley). I have these on my Santana MTB tandem and they are indestructible so far (had them since 2001 and used on several tandems).
Thanks for the excellent info. If I keep this bike I will go the square taper route next time.

Suppose a 127.5mm V1 bottom bracket could be found anywhere on earth?
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Old 05-27-22, 04:21 PM
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Originally Posted by pipeliner View Post
Thanks for the excellent info. If I keep this bike I will go the square taper route next time.

Suppose a 127.5mm V1 bottom bracket could be found anywhere on earth?
Yes, I have a few squirreled away in my parts bin. But I also have three Santana tandems, so I'm not going to part with them anytime soon ;-)
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