legend has it that the bottom bracket in the original steel colnago (still out in the bike shed, unridden for many a long day - sniff) stuck fast due to over application of loctite by a ham fisted mechanic (yes, i have to hold my hand up to this one). since pretty much every bottom bracket nowadays is of the cartridge type, and this is one of them, they use much less fearsome tools for their supposed removal than used to be the case in the halcyon days of yore.
i still have a selection of home-made and var tools that would remove a stuck bottom bracket just by pointing the said tools in the general direction of the said bottom bracket. fixed cups in particular were removed with a tool obtained from mel bentley's in leeds (anyone remember mel?) that could also be used to lever atlas rockets on to their transport at cape canaveral. unfortunately, the campag veloce bottom bracket that was fitted to the colnago's steel frame was supposed to be removed using a tool bearing a remarkable resemblance to a shimano cassette lockring tool. despite being able to secure the tool in the bracket's socket by fitting the crank bolt into the spindle, no amount of grunting and groaning would persuade the fixed cup to disown its very apt description. and no real wonder, since the diameter of the tool and its socket are probably less than a couple of centimetres. not much leverage there.
now, since aluminium is a lot softer than steel and melts at a lower point than steel, so an adequate form of removal is suitable application of heat, thereby melting the bottom bracket's cups out of the bb shell. all should then be well and the frame is merely a coat of paint and a new bottom bracket away from being perfectly serviceable again.
i really don't know whatever was wrong with the old cup and cone bracket, one of which is still sitting in a wee cardboard box in the very same shed housing the colnago. for those who have missed out on the cup and cone era, and i'm beginning to think that there are quite a number that fit into this category, bottom brackets used to consist of four separate and replaceable components: a fixed cup that threads in anti-clockwise on the drive side of the frame if it's an english bottom bracket, and clockwise on the same side if the bottom bracket is italian threaded. on the non-drive side, the adjustable cup threaded in clockwise irrespective of the nationality of the bottom bracket shell. naturally enough, there was a bottom bracket spindle, at least of boron steel and at best of something exotic like titanium and the whole shebang was rounded off with two sets of bearings placed inside each cup.
to aid 'mass production' of the bicycle, these bearings were usually encased in cheap steel cages, and these were pretty much the only bits that could go wrong - when the cages eventually disintegrated, there were insufficient bearings to fill the space available, at which point the bottom bracket displayed varying degrees of wobbliness (generally known as lateral play), and lots of crunchy noises. the easy repair for this was to dismantle the whole thing by removing the two cups, cleaning them, regreasing and placing sufficient loose bearings to fill the space(s). the bottom bracket would then function beautifully for years and years with only modest regreasing from time to time, because there was nothing to wear out (much).
now i am making the assumption that the emergence of the cartridge bottom bracket was brought about by shimano's endless tinkering and the need for a simpler and faster way to assemble bicycles in the factory. at the lower end, these cartridge bbs are a mite heavier than their predecessors, though the exotica can actually be slightly lighter, though somewhat more expensive, through the use of so called 'space age' materials.
the worst part about cartridge bottom brackets is maintenance. or rather the lack of it. cartridge bottom brackets generally cannot be repaired. at all. when play, or strange noises start being produced from this lowly part of the bicycle, the best that can be done is to remove the offending component and throw it away (though it might be an idea to check the length of the spindle before it hits the bottom of the wheely bin).
with this very fact in mind, and also my first point about melting a stuck alloy bracket out of a steel frame, palpitations occasionally set in regarding my current machine, a colnago c40hp. and it occurs that this could, perhaps, become a problem for us all in the not too distant future, if the recent bout of cycle shows are anything to go by.
since it is impractical to attempt to cut threads in carbon fibre for anything that requires to be stressed - and the bottom bracket more than fits that requirement - the bb shell on the colnago originally had two threaded alloy inserts which were more recently replaced with threaded titanium. and it is the latter that forms a part of thewashingmachineposts' current transport. titanium doesn't corrode, but it does have a nasty habit of binding on micro granules of titanium that break off when parts are threaded together. the smart way round this is to use an anti-seize compound such as copa-slip (as opposed to grease) which prevents these miniature bits of titanium from sticking everything in situ.
i have no idea how many other manufacturers use titanium into which bottom brackets should be threaded but since carbon fibre has become much more prevalent and at lower cost in the modern bicycle frame (i've seen the photos from the shows), it might be worth finding out at point of sale. if a bottom bracket gets stuck in a carbon frame, how the heck do you get it out? i'm embarrassed to say i have no idea. and to be honest, i'm hoping i never find out. and the only way to keep it that way is preventative maintenance. on saturday morning, i took the chainset off and removed the campag record bottom bracket which has a carbon casing that nobody ever gets to see - more's the pity. the cups and inserts were liberally plastered with anti seize compound and the whole set-up re-fitted. and i would suggest that those of you with really cool bikes that you'd like to keep riding forever do the same thing at very regular intervals. now that we've entered autumn and heading seriously towards winter, there is endless amounts of crud on the roads that evolution has honed into component eating molecules, all strategically aimed at your bottom bracket. you can't stop this crud reaching the nether components, but you can prevent it from doing serious harm.
now i have to nip online and order a new chain for my six monthly chain change. you can never be too careful.
this website got its name because scotland's graeme obree built his championship winning 'old faithful' using bits from a defunct washing machine.
on a slightly different note, my regular reader will have noted the addition of a 'colnago c40' rollover to the left. this contains a reprint of a recent article featured in cycle sport magazine, which they were very kind to let me present here (because i'm a colnago geek) there are also links to cycling weekly reviews of the colnago c50 and colnago dream b-stay. i have also found an excellent review of the colnago c40hp here
i have been asked to add the following link to the post by wheelygoodcause. they're a cycling club dedicated to arranging epic rides for charity and do not charge charities for the pleasure. They ride because they want to. here's the link.
Remember, you can still read the review of 'the dancing chain' the utterly excellent book on the history of the derailleur bicycle by clicking here
any of the books reviewed on the washing machine post can probably be purchased from amazon.co.uk or amazon.com
as always, if you have any comments on this nonsense, please feel free to e-mail and thanks for reading.
this column almost never appears in the dead tree version of the ileach but appears, regular as clockwork on this website every two weeks. (ok so i lied) sometimes there are bits added in between times, but it all adds to the excitement.
on a completely unrelated topic, ie nothing to do with bicycles, every aspect of the washing machine post was created on apple macintosh powerbook g4, and imac computers, using adobe golive cs and adobe photoshop cs. needless to say it is also best viewed on an apple macintosh computer.