Life is complicated enough, so why must we have so many unnecessary choices?
Buying toilet paper seems like an easy task compared to understanding today’s bottom bracket “standards”.
Editor’s Note: The Angry Singlespeeder is a collection of mercurial musings from contributing editor Kurt Gensheimer. In no way do his maniacal diatribes about all things bike oriented represent the opinions of Mtbr, RoadBikeReview, or any of their employees, contractors, janitorial staff, family members, household pets, or any other creature, living or dead. You can submit questions or comments to Kurt at firstname.lastname@example.org. And make sure to check out Kurt’s previous columns.
Our lives are complicated with too many choices. Have you ever bought toilet paper? Not only are there so many brands that your eyes glaze over, but you need about five minutes to decipher all the different kinds you can buy. Every time you go to the store, you’ll see at least three people standing wide-eyed in the toilet paper aisle staring for minutes on end. I’ve seriously considered just starting a brand called Toilet Paper. Single ply. No padding. No lame patterns. No impregnated lotions. No designer colors. Just some basic friggin’ TP.
The cycling world is suffering from the same decision paralysis that can be found in the world of toilet tissue. It’s bad enough we now have three wheel sizes to choose from, but what am I supposed to call this hot new mountain bike wheel size, 27.5 or 650B? I can’t figure it out, and after a week wandering the sunburnt tarmac of Sea Otter, it seems manufacturers can’t either.
Focus calls their new Raven a 650B. Scott calls their new Scale a 27.5. Marin calls their prototype Rocky Ridge a 27.5. Schwalbe labels their tweener tires 650B. Ritchey is completely confused, trying to cover both by advertising their Vantage WCS wheels as 27.5 and their WCS Shield tires by actually printing 27.5 and 650B on the same tire. I even heard somebody in the industry refer to it as 27B. Can we get some consensus here, please?
Ritchey actually prints both 27.5 and 650B on their WCS Shield tires.
It seems pretty clear to me what it should be called. Since mountain bikes are measured in inches and not centimeters, 27.5 should be the preferred nomenclature. 650B is a metric standard that has most commonly been used in the road, touring and triathlon scene. How it crept its way into the mountain biking world, I’m not sure, but let’s keep 650B to the skinny tires. Cool?
Personally, I like to call 27.5 bikes “Goldilocks”, since after riding a few different 27.5ers, the wheels aren’t too big or too small; they’re just right. So now that whole Goldilocks taxonomy issue is out of the way, let’s focus on a much bigger and more problematic dilemma that really gets me pissed; bottom bracket “standards”. The true irony of this whole debacle is that there are so many different versions of bottom brackets these days that the last thing you can legitimately call them is a standard. The only thing standard about bottom brackets is that there is no standard.
BB30, FT30, BB386EVO, BB86, BB90, BB91, BB92, OSBB, BBRight, BBLeft, BBUp, BBDown. Not only does this nonsense make the art of pirating parts off one bike to build another completely impossible, but it gives bike shops huge headaches when trying to stock and install the choking mass of different bottom brackets, shims, adapters and whatever else.
What the hell is wrong with your traditional, good old threaded bottom bracket? Besides a few extra grams in weight, I never saw a problem with it. Sure, you might not be able to pull off a thicker, beefier bottom bracket area for more lateral stiffness, but I’d much rather have a slightly less stiff bottom bracket area that doesn’t creak endlessly like a neglected door hinge and has bearings that can actually outlast a set of tires.
The flagship Felt FRD is a 19 lb. XC wunderbike that uses a traditional threaded bottom bracket.
Apparently there are a few manufacturers who agree with my frustrations, with Felt’s new flagship FRD hardtail 29er wunderbike sporting a traditional threaded bottom bracket. Weighing in at a scant 19 pounds featuring insane amounts of lateral stiffness for ridiculously fast acceleration, apparently you can design a fast and light bike with a traditional threaded shell. When I asked Eddie McDonald of Felt why they used a threaded bottom bracket, his response was, “Have you ever ridden a BB30 frame?” My response was, “Yeah, it creaked like hell.” All he did was nod.
So if we can simplify matters, why aren’t we? Looking at the bottom bracket standards issue from a manufacturer’s perspective, it makes more sense to have a molded bottom bracket for a couple of reasons. For one, manufacturing cost is less. Two, it reduces weight and adds design flexibility. And three, because it cuts weight and enables new designs, manufacturers can market it as a feature, enabling them to charge more money while costing them less to make. Plus, if it’s proprietary, it makes switching from one brand to another more difficult. Seems like these bottom bracket “standards” benefit manufacturers far more than they benefit consumers.
This QBP video is a mind-numbing 8 minutes long and all it talks about is bottom brackets.
Quality Bicycle Products has an eight minute video on YouTube devoted to talking about nothing but bottom bracket standards. Four minutes into the video your brain wants to explode. A Tibetan monk doesn’t have that kind of patience and attention span.
Even the Barnett Bicycle Institute is devoting more than five times on bottom bracket maintenance and repair in its classes than it did five years ago. With more than 100 pages of bottom bracket nonsense in the Barnett’s Manual, bike shop owners will pretty soon have to hire a mechanic who only works on bottom brackets.
Praxis Works and Real World Cycling are now making – get this – threaded cartridge design bottom brackets to fit inside BB30-sized frame shells to help eliminate that God-awful creaking. So basically we’re innovating ourselves backward to threaded style bottom brackets.
After sorting through the sea of different bottom bracket standards, the once befuddling mission of buying toilet paper now seems like a refreshingly simple and easy task. So if you’ll excuse me, I have to jump on Goldilocks and go run an errand.