Bottom Bracket Mar16

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Bottom Bracket

As I continue my fool’s tour of bicycle anatomy, let me guide you to the next in a long line of misunderstood components: the bottom bracket. While its job seems to be a pretty simple one (connect the two crank arms and spin!), the bottom bracket acts like that crappy employee that we all have at our respective jobs, the one who makes themselves indispensable through complexity. They use a bunch of fancy words until we say “Fine! You can stay. But only because I don’t have the time to Wikipedia what you’re talking about!”

ISIS? Giga-X-Pipe? Hollowtech? Ultra-Torque? These aren’t bike parts; these are names of American Gladiators dressed in star spangled leotards. And I can only guess at the number of thrown wrenches by people discovering that they needed to specify English of Italian or French threaded. What it wrong with you, Italy?! Why the fuck did you need new threads? Oh jeez, this is about the war again, isn’t it? It’s OVER. Tom Cruise killed Hitler while wearing an eye patch.

I initially wanted to compare the bottom bracket to the human coccyx, as an example of a component that has been made useless through evolution. But it turns out that you can’t build a bike without one (and by “one” I mean bottom bracket, not a coccyx.) But you CAN win a Scrabble game with one (and by “one” I mean coccyx, not a bottom bracket.)

Really, the bottom bracket is more like a spleen. Buried deep within the system, and totally unnoticed until broken or missing.

Just like the stem, the cost of a bottom bracket is based primarily on the name that it printed on it. The best ones have mens names (like Phil and Chris) because they help a cyclist develop a personal bond with the bottom bracket. But unlike the stem, you should buy an expensive, high quality bottom bracket right off the bat. Because you will most likely forget about it once installed. Sure, people can’t see it. But having a cheap bottom bracket will be a dirty little secret that weighs on you until a mechanic discovers it, just like the secret porn stashes that IP professionals find on 98% of work computers.

You’ll blush and turn red and talk about how your son was playing with your bike, and you’re not sure how that Nashbar BB got in there. But it’s there, and everyone will know about it eventually.

gladiators-copy