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Best bottom bracket option for touring

Old 08-06-13, 11:27 AM
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Best bottom bracket option for touring

I am considering switching my old touring bike from a triple to a double compact crankset. Currently I have an Ultegra triple with an internal bottom bracket.

Searching eBay for compact cranks there are options for cranks which utilize both internal and external bottom brackets.

Am I correct in assuming I can easily convert an internal BB to an external one?

If so, would it be better than an internal BB?

I recently pedaled from Alaska to the tip of Baja and I'm foolishly considering riding the rest of the way to Tierra del Fuego some day. Assuming I'll have to replace the BB or crank at some point, would an internal or external BB be easier to replace in Latin America?

Finally, does anyone have any good experience or suggestions for reliable BB/compact cranks for a 12,000 mile tour? Are any better or more popular, I.e. Hollowtech, MegaExo, etc?

Sorry about so many questions, but I'd sure appreciate any help.

Thanks,

Pat
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Old 08-06-13, 11:36 AM
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Doing the kind of riding you are doing and planning on doing, I'd pick up a phil wood square taper BB and a sugino triple (110/74) to go with it. It will work very well, it will require little if any servicing, and parts should not be a major problem given how long this design has been around.
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Old 08-06-13, 12:09 PM
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SKF sells the only bottom brackets that claim 65,000 mile maintenance free lifespan (including bearings) and provide a 10 year warranty to back up that claim. They are available for three different axle styles. They also retail for $150.

+1 to the Sugino tripple 110/74. Another option is the velo orange triple which is also 110/74
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Old 08-06-13, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by pataspen
I am considering switching my old touring bike from a triple to a double compact crankset. Currently I have an Ultegra triple with an internal bottom bracket.

Searching eBay for compact cranks there are options for cranks which utilize both internal and external bottom brackets.

Am I correct in assuming I can easily convert an internal BB to an external one?

If so, would it be better than an internal BB?

I recently pedaled from Alaska to the tip of Baja and I'm foolishly considering riding the rest of the way to Tierra del Fuego some day. Assuming I'll have to replace the BB or crank at some point, would an internal or external BB be easier to replace in Latin America?

Finally, does anyone have any good experience or suggestions for reliable BB/compact cranks for a 12,000 mile tour? Are any better or more popular, I.e. Hollowtech, MegaExo, etc?

Sorry about so many questions, but I'd sure appreciate any help.

Thanks,

Pat
I don't know what people do to kill their bearings but, frankly, I've never worn out a cartridge type bottom bracket of any kind...internal or external. I use both and have them on bikes that are used for daily commuting year around. Touring babies them comparatively.

I don't know if one or the other would be easier to replace in Latin America. If you got an external bearing crank and used the appropriate Phil Wood bottom bracket, I don't you'd need to worry about it. But the bearings on the Phil unit are replaceable with a standard bearing that should be readily available most anywhere that has cars.

Consider, also, how you would remove and replace an internal bearing BB. You'll need a wrench to remove the crank bolts. Either an 8mm allen wench or a 14mm socket. You have to have something to pull the cranks off. Can you find that readily in Latin America? There are integral crank pullers that you can use on square taper cranks but, in my experience, they take a 6mm allen wrench that just isn't up to the torque needed to remove the crank. Then you need a special tool to remove and replace the BB. Can you find that readily in Latin America? Then you are going to need a BB with the proper spindle length. How easy is that to find?

Compare that with an external bearing BB. If you go with Shimano...and, as much as it pains me to say this, you should...you'll need a 5 mm allen wrench to remove the crank. You can carry the tool to remove the external cups but you can also remove them with a large adjustable jaw pliers (aka Channelock) or a pipe wrench both of which you should be able to find just about anywhere. You might even be able to do it with a strap wrench or a belt. Removing and replacing the bearings might take a bit of Mcgyvering in the field but it would be doable.

Personally, I'd go external for the ease of installation and the ease of servicing in the rare case you'd need to do it.
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Old 08-06-13, 01:22 PM
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I think the external BB is definitely easier to deal with, and they're supposed to be more ridged and weigh a little less. All you need for crank and BB removal is a hex wrench and a pair of channel locks. Square taper requires 2 special tools. If I ended up having to overnight a replacement BB for some reason, I'd rather it were an external that only requires basic tools that a small town is more likely to have(You'll probably have a hex wrench, but not channel locks). I'd also think they're less available since the good ol' square taper was in use for soooo many years. Lots of them are still around, new and used. That's the route I'd go if I were touring in another part of the world for a very long time. At the same time, how long are you going to be in South America? If you get an external BB now, I'd think it'll last a couple years until you're done with that trip. If you don't take that trip for several years and your BB is starting to feel less than perfect by then, just put on a new one before you go. A perfectly decent Shimano BB only costs ~$30. And there's nicer stuff available of course if you want it. Plenty of mountain bikers manage to put a lot of tough, dirty miles on their standard Shimanos, though. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

EDIT: Oh, and if you go external, I'd stick with Shimano. I'm not sure about particular the area's you'll be heading, but they're the most popular overall.

Last edited by 3speed; 08-06-13 at 01:27 PM.
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Old 08-06-13, 01:39 PM
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Currently I have an Ultegra triple with an internal bottom bracket.


as others suggest , going with Phil Wood BB is a good choice.

after mounting I NB, they have an extra mud shield to fit in the mounting rings,

Bene Sugg, slip an O ring over the spindle and that will add another seal potential

to force gunk, to pass through to get to Phil's Bearings.

He specifies a sealed bearing type, as used in submersible water pumps ..

IDK if you have a desire for the Andes passes , maybe a MTB 22,32,44 crank would be a better gear set.
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Old 08-06-13, 02:01 PM
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If you decide to go with the Phil Wood bottom bracket, be sure to use locktite. I have read at least one report where the cups had come loose and the axle slipped sideways (Bike quarterly article where author was home machining an old style bottom bracket).
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Old 08-06-13, 05:56 PM
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The only bottom bracket I ruined was an ISIS unit that was submerged at a point in its life and it still spun fine for a few hundred km. The only other ruined ones I've seen are ones that are exposed to salt water from our winter roads here. I'd honestly expect any decent crank and BB to hold for 10,000+ miles. It doesn't seem like that much and there are lots of folks riding many more miles on plain old shimano units of all kinds. I'd avoid anything that wasn't square taper or shimano-style external, since those are by far the most common types of bottom brackets. If you do your own work and wanna carry tools the ones for external BBs might pack easier.
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Old 08-06-13, 06:08 PM
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I don't remember the bottom bracket make/model that I have on my bike right now. I replaced the same unit a month or so ago(only 20K miles on it). The sealed bearing unit split apart on me. It was almost like the factory had press fitted the sealing unit together and the sealing unit had split apart. Their was no indication of welding or crimping anywhere. Yeah, the unit was on its way to becoming unusable. I wouldn't say they are infalliable.
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Old 08-06-13, 06:19 PM
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two installation tools and tightening them against each other torques them a bit so way less likely to unwind,..


seems the external bearing installation tool is not light, but if you dont replace the bearings its not needed..

thing about Phil is though the bearings they specify is to their choice.. its a normal bearing cartridge.. ,

has a standard substitute .. number.. in a pinch,,
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Old 08-06-13, 10:44 PM
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If you wanted to carry the Shimano external BB specific tool, it is pretty light and small. Much less to carry than internal BB tools. Otherwise, as I said, if you were in a town where they didn't have a BB and had one over-nighted, you can remove one with a channel lock. Just squeeze tight and turn and it'll come out. The old one is ruined anyway, so no need to worry about scoring the metal with the channel lock. When putting the new one in, just put a rag over the BB so as not to score the metal and the channel locks will get it plenty tight enough.
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Old 08-07-13, 06:03 AM
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Last summer I went on a group tour with 16 people, about 350 miles. Other than flats, there were only two mechanical failures, a fairly new external bottom bracket failed and a front derailleur that was several years old had a spring break.

I suggest square taper, pick the brand you wish. Almost every one of my bikes has a square taper including the one I finished building up a couple months ago. (Exceptions are two of three bikes that are over 40 years old are not square taper.)

I do not have a lot of experience with self extracting bolts for square taper, but a friend of mine that works at a bike shop swears by them and has them on all of his square taper bikes. That could reduce the amount of tool weight you need to carry.

You mention you want to switch from a triple to a double, but I (along with others, above) suggest you keep the option of a 74mm BCD granny gear. That means you could get a triple crank but only set it up as a double, then if the need arises you could add a 24t (or other size) granny gear if needed.
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Old 08-07-13, 10:38 AM
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...and if you choose a triple crankset, then you'd need a triple front derailleur. (Apparently double front derailleurs can't be modified to use it with a triple crankset.)
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Old 08-07-13, 04:51 PM
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Originally Posted by hybridbkrdr
...and if you choose a triple crankset, then you'd need a triple front derailleur. (Apparently double front derailleurs can't be modified to use it with a triple crankset.)
If he or she currently has a triple derailleur, I assumed he or she would keep using that since that was not cited as something that needed to be changed.

I use vintage Suntour front derailleurs from the 1970s and 80s, they work with anything.
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Old 08-07-13, 10:44 PM
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I'm not much of a car mechanic, but i was doing a brake job on my F-150, and it was suggested that I at the same time I replace the wheel bearings. Same rough size as the bearings in my BB, though they are roller bearing which are a whole other cat of tough. I was just slathering on the grease, and I put them on re-assembled, and then realized this had been sorta an afterthought type thing. I figured I would hear them wail after a while, but they ran hundreds of K and were fine until the motor seized. The f-150 is like 7000 pounds. Long trips like the one you are contemplating are super huge endeavours but they don't really push the mileage on bearings. The Phil Wood is supposed to be good for 30 thousand miles. If you get anything pretty good it should go the distance, if it can be kept anything like dry.
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Old 08-08-13, 07:17 PM
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I'm surprised the same people who insist on 26" wheels for touring in remote areas wouldn't also insist on a Shimano MTB crankset for the same reasons. They're dead simple to remove and install with readily available tools. You only need the special outboard bearing tool if you're worried about scratching the finish. If a tiny bike shop in a remote village has any crank parts at all, they'll be MTB parts. If there's any such thing as a "universal" bike type around the world, it's probably the standard MTB.
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Old 08-08-13, 10:46 PM
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^ That sounds about right to me.
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Old 08-09-13, 04:25 AM
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Pat, Welcome to the forum.

For the ease of repair/replacement an external BB would require fewer special tools you'd need to carry. They also fit standard BB shells and you could carry a second one with little weight penalty. WRT your question of whether an external BB is better than an internal one, I don't know. External BBs are fairly new and don't yet have a broad experience base, but the signs are good so far. I think that if you are going to use an external BB you should have the BB shell faced to insure they're parallel.

Brad
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Old 08-16-13, 11:42 AM
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Hi all,

Thank you everybody for your ideas/input. It seems to me there are plenty of options, including external or cartridge bottom brackets.

The SKF option is intriguing. I'd hate to drop $150 on a BB, but if it is guaranteed to last 100,000 km it might be the way to go for s long trip.

To answer cyccommutes's question... my Shimano 105 BB worked well from Alaska through Mexico. But torrential rains in British Columbia and lots and lots of sand in Baja did slow it down. When I tore the bike apart after the trip there was definitely some stickiness in the BB. I probably could have gone another 1000 miles without a problem, but it's definitely time to replace it.

I'm skiing in Argentina right now and will be in Uruguay next week. If I come across any bike shops I'll ask about what type of BB is most common in small South American towns.

Again, thanks for your help everybody.

Pat
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Old 08-16-13, 12:09 PM
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Something else to consider

Caveat: I haven't been to South America since the late 1990's. If you're going to be asking about parts availability in small towns throughout South America, also ask a few shop owners about tire availability. When I was down there 26" tires were almost universally available, 700c were only really available in the bigger cities. FWIW: 26" tires were the only thing I saw in Bolivia, and it was tough to find a 700C tire even in LaPaz (Santa Cruz Bolivia might be different, but I wasn't there long enough to get a good idea). Also ask about tubes, Presta valves weren't too common, Schraeder valves were. I wasn't bike touring down there, but still liked to look at what folks were riding for future reference. Nah, I ain't gonna go touring down there at this stage in life; those dreams have died away for me.
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