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On Show: Sea Otter Classic, April 22, 2008

The end of the threaded bottom bracket?

By James Huang

BB30 makes major inroads for 2009

It may be sooner rather than later
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The bottom bracket itself is remarkably simple
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Cannondale was accused of needlessly stirring the industry pot when it introduced its BB30 integrated bottom bracket standard years ago. However, much like Manitou and its 74mm post mount brake tabs, Cannondale can now proudly say 'I told you so' as the now-open BB30 bottom bracket and crank standard will be far more widely adopted for 2009.

From a strictly engineering standpoint, BB30 is an easy sell: all other things being equal, it's lighter and stiffer than current external-type bottom bracket systems while also offering reduced pedal stance widths and longer bearing lives thanks to the narrower, but larger diameter, bottom bracket shell.

FSA readily admits that the most dramatic weight savings probably won't come at the high end, though: by its own calculations, the BB30 version of its SL-K Light crankset sheds just 24g. Thankfully, the biggest benefits will likely be found at the mid-range. For example, FSA's standard Gossamer crankset weighs 936g complete but the BB30 version is just 830g.

The new standard will obviously create some compatibility headaches moving forward but a number of companies apparently feel the advantages are too great to ignore. At a BB30 presentation during this year's Sea Otter Classic, manufacturers such as Cannondale, Kona, Jamis, Titus and Caribou all showed off BB30-compatible bicycles while event host FSA displayed no fewer than seven corresponding cranksets covering a wide range of uses. Specialized frames equipped with its house brand integrated cranks are also apparently BB30-compatible even though the company doesn't tout them as such.

Even with this impending wave, though, some of the growing pains may be ameliorated by the fact that any BB30 shell can be fitted with an adapter to allow the use of standard threaded bottom brackets.

Cannondale Rize and Moto models highlight effectiveness of systems integration

Cannondale was the first to develop and use BB30
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Among the BB30 adopters is Jamis
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Cannondale, the originator of the BB30 standard, showed off its new Rize trail bike platform that highlighted the effectiveness of its integrated approach to bicycle design. The Rize is claimed to weigh as little as 10.7kg (23.5lb), roughly the same as many high-end full-suspension race bikes, but offers 130mm of travel at either end while supposedly still delivering top-end bump performance and chassis rigidity.

Much of the credit for the feathery weight of the top-end Rize 1 assuredly belongs to the carbon-and-aluminum frame and premium spec but a pair of proprietary parts also lends helping hands. For example, the new Lefty Max Carbon PBR fork is among the stiffest front suspension platforms we've laid hands on (two legs or one) yet is said to weigh just 1.3kg (2.9lb), thanks in part to the integrated stem and steerer tube. Likewise, the BB30-standard Hollowgram crank continues the 'light but stiff' theme with its directly pressed-in bearings and 30mm-diameter aluminum spindle.

In Cannondale's case, the integrated approach is anything but new but the company has proven that sticking to its once-unorthodox design principles works well.

While not necessarily rife with integrated systems, Cannondale's new Moto looks to be an impressive bit of kit nonetheless as it offers 160mm of travel front and rear in a no-compromise package claimed to weigh under 13.6kg (30.0lb). The top-end Moto 1's shock linkage is cleverly designed such that its carbon front triangle is always under tensile, rather than compressive, load and the stout single pivot rear end is bridged at no fewer than four locations for good torsional rigidity.

Titus explores the BB30 possibilities

Titus brought its Isogrid concept off-road
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Titus also displayed an Exogrid-equipped TRX 'cross bike.
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There's lots of clearance here
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Arizona-based builder Titus showed off its own BB30-equipped hardtail and it was quite the stunner. The unnamed prototype was essentially an off-road version of its Ligero road machine, complete with an Isogrid co-molded carbon fiber-and-titanium top tube and down tube as well as an integrated seat mast capped with a Ritchey head. Convertible rear dropouts also allow for either geared or singlespeed use. Claimed frame weight is just 1.54kg (3.4lb) with an uncut mast.

Why bother with such an extravagant hardtail, though, when full-suspension seems like the default choice these days, you ask? According to PR man Jeff Titone, Titus' own hardtail sales have soared 50 percent last year as more and more riders re-embrace the performance appeal of their lighter weight and increased responsiveness. If the new frame also delivers on its promise of offering similar ride characteristics to the Ligero, easily one of the sweetest riding road frames we've handled in recent memory, sign us up.

Titone said the new frame was still in the experimental phase for now as it still had to undergo testing. Assuming everything goes well in that department, it's entirely possible that we'll see it in the 2009 lineup along with a BB30 option for other models. Projected cost on the prototype hardtail hasn't been set yet, but Titone said it'd likely be 'no less than US$3500". Better start saving now.


For a thumbnail gallery of these images, click here

Images by James Huang/Cyclingnews.com

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