The Devolution of Bottom Brackets

Around 2001, BMX frames started changing fast. The first technology to change came in the form of the bottom bracket. Almost overnight, BMX companies started equipping their frames with Euro bottom brackets. Though the technology wasn’t really tested very much in BMX, it seemed to be a good starting point for streamlining frames and reducing weight. And it was working for a while. But some weren’t too into the idea of the Euro B/B, and along came the Spanish bearing. Then something weird happened. Instead of progressing to a smaller bottom bracket, most every frame went straight in the opposite direction back to the traditional BMX bottom bracket, only now it was called “Mid” and didn’t come with cups. Personally, I think it’s ass backwards and indicative of an industry that’s afraid of trying something new. But that’s not my only gripe here. I’m tired of hammering. I just got two new bikes. One with a Spanish B/B (went together smoothly without hammering), one with a Mid B/B (hammered the shit out of the bearings to get them into the frame, in 29 degree temps). And it got me thinking. Hammering is a caveman’s BMX tool. If we can get to a place where headset bearings simply fit into a frame without anything aside from some grease, then BMX sure as hell should be able to do the same thing with a bottom bracket. So without further adieu, I present my halfass rundown on BMX bottom bracket devolution over the past several years.

bb_euro.jpg

EURO BOTTOM BRACKETS: The first step away from the traditional American bottom bracket that I had grown up on. No hammer needed (which is awesome), looks great (cause it’s smaller), but I don’t think any companies really invested much time in researching quality European bottom bracket systems that could withstand the abuse of BMX riding. I rode a few frames with Euro cups over the years. Assembly was easy and I never stripped out Euro threads in a frame, but the cups (not the bearings) always broke apart. I can’t blame this on pedaling, cause road bikes use Euro bottom brackets and those dudes pedal a hell of a lot more than BMXers do. It was the aluminum cups that always either broke apart in the frame or got crushed after a while. When Euro B/B’s were first around, I had a Euro B/B with stainless steel cups that was indestructible and didn’t strip out when you tightened it down with vice grips or something else that didn’t fit properly (like aluminum Euro B/B cups do). Then, Euro B/B’s were issued with aluminum cups, probably due to the weight issue. I don’t know the weights of the original steel Euro B/B I had, but I know it was at least comparable to an BMX B/B, that it looked better than an BMX B/B when built up on a bike and that I didn’t need a hammer to put it on my bike. In my humble opinion, the Euro B/B never got a fair chance in BMX…

spanishbotbkt.JPGSPANISH BOTTOM BRACKET: I rode a Federal Hamilton with a Spanish B/B for two years on the exact same bearings and never had a problem. It required no hammer for assembly, still looked pretty awesome (as it was a fair deal smaller than a traditional BMX B/B) and seriously never messed up after two years of pedaling, riding, disassembling and reassembling. It was perfect. A lot of companies seemed to shy away from this system for pretty vague reasons even though it worked great. Some still utilize it; to them I say rock on.

product_164.jpgMID BOTTOM BRACKET: Right back where we started. Let’s take the aluminum cup off of the traditional BMX bottom bracket bearing and put that directly into the frame. But let’s make those kids need a hammer to get the bearings in. I’ve got no problem with the Mid bottom bracket and I don’t think I ever will. It’s strong, it’s a proven size and do to the impossibility of fitting a Mid bearing into a frame without a lot of hammering, the bearing won’t blow out too easily. But it’s almost as big as the bottom bracket shells before any of this hullabaloo started. And you need a hammer, and it’s not really technologically advanced. So why did it gain popularity and come to be the size by which most of the BMX industry stands? I haven’t a clue.

What does it all mean? I’m no engineer. So don’t ask me. I’ve seen bottom brackets that are screw-in cartridges threaded for Euro B/B’s. Those seem like a great way for me to ditch the hammer and assemble a bike late at night in an apartment building without waking the neighbors. But I also don’t see why so many companies seem to be afraid of taking a chance on something that came from BMX and is aimed at reducing weight while making bike assembly easier; the Spanish bottom bracket. If it can stand up to Ruben Alcantara, it’s strong enough for the rest of us. But what do I know…

Edit: When I say “hammer,” I mean that as a verb/action. I use a mallet, but if I had said “I’m tired of malleting,” nobody would know what I was saying. It’s the action of hammering/malleting/forcing bearings by blunt force into a frame that seems antiquated to me, and a lot of people are either missing that point or using this entry as a means to reinforce their own agendas. Tons of people don’t have access to cup presses, don’t have garages to house any elaborate tools, or don’t have access to a bike shop if they’re putting together a new frame late at night during the week. And like it or not, that same tons of people group invariably uses a hammer/mallet/block of wood combo to get bearings into frames. If you’ve got a cup press and don’t have a problem getting bearings into your frame, that’s great and I’m happy for you. If you think Mid is great, that’s also fine and I’m happy for you. But if you wanna point out the inconsistencies on the thousands of people that use a hammer/mallet/block of wood combo to get bearings into a frame, take it to Bike Guide, another BMX message board or your own blog.

Think outside of your own box and quit with the literal translations…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *