BB386/BH Ultralight First Impressions

I have to admit, that when I first saw Tyler post the press release regarding BB386 Evo, initially even I thought it may have been an April Fools joke. However, after reading into it, the design started to make sense and towards the end even made me question why it hadn’t been done sooner.

BB30 cranksets are supposed to be more stiff due to their larger diameter spindle, however they still rely on essentially a standard 68mm bottom bracket shell. This is even as other manufacturers were modifying frames to accept regular spindles, yet with an 86-92mm shell. The wider shell allowed for a wider down tube and chainstay junction, which seems to be just as important as increasing the diameter of the spindle. So the question remained, why not increase the width of a BB30 bottom bracket shell and get the best of both worlds?

Well that is just what BB386 was created to do.

How does it ride? Read my initial impressions after the break!

Yesterday, the BH/Pivot demo truck was in town thanks to BH/Pivot, Pat’s Cycling Supply, and Campus Cyclery. Initially, I had planned to go down and check out some of the bikes and see what was up. That was until I was shown the BH Ultralight hiding in the back.

Hard to make out, but the scale says 13 lbs 15 oz.

 

 

After gawking at the BB386 shell, I immediately threw it up on the scale to find that it came in at a hair under 14 pounds without pedals (frame weight is 747g). Definitely not heavy, and you could still probably save some weight with a few well placed weight weenie parts. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any road shoes with me, as I honestly didn’t expect to ride any road bikes, so my Shimano SPD’s would have to suffice.

As I spun it out from the demo trailer, my first inclination as probably with most people when you tell them the bike is super stiff, was to sprint like hell. Honestly, two pedal strokes in I felt the front of the bike lift as if all of my energy was being pumped directly into the rear wheel. This bike is STIFF. I don’t know that I could pick out a road bike to really compare it to, it’s that stiff. Yet, the ride never felt harsh or jarring, just extremely efficient power on command. After riding it around the park grounds I came back with a feeling of disbelief, as it was honestly hard to believe there was that much difference between the Ultralight and any other BH bike on hand or most of the other bikes I have ridden. Obviously, without riding for a good 3+ hours, it’s hard to really give it a thorough review, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that with most road bikes that claim to be stiffer, and faster, it usually takes an expert to really notice the difference. Not this. Just about anyone who spun the Ultralight around the parking lot instantly commented on its rocket like propulsion. Whether the difference came from the BB386 and matching FSA crank, or the BH Ultralight frame itself is anyone’s guess, but if all BB386 frames are this responsive, I want one!

The BB386 FSA K-Force Light proved to be plenty stiff, while still shifting very well.

The clearance between the drive side crank and the frame is extremely tight, which makes me wonder what would happen in the event of dropping the chain to the inside.

As you can see, BB386 Evo relies on a pressfit bottom bracket, that is 86.5mm wide, or basically all the way out to each crank arm.

 

Part of the beauty of BB386, is how wide it allows manufacturers to make the junction of the down tube and seat tube. On the Ultralight, both tube flare out to create a very stiff bottom bracket with out the need for excess material. Also note the carbon braze-on front derailleur mount to decrease weight and provide maximum shifting performance.

Like most high end road bikes, the Ultralight sports a tapered head tube, 1.125 to 1.5 specifically.

Specs and Ultralight highlights from BH:

BH Bikes Ultralight
- 747 gram frame weight
- 166% torsional stiffness increase
- 125% rear end stiffness increase
- Signature BH ride quality
- Performance unparalleled

Ultralight Design Details

- Maximized tube diameters and tapered 1.5″ head tube contribute to the Ultralight’s incredible frame stiffness.
- The wider BB386EVO design allows  for a smoother transition into the Ultralight’s massive chainstays and integrated molded carbon dropouts.
- The derailleur hanger is forged from 7075 aluminum, and the design was developed through extensive finite element analysis studies used to determine the stiffest structure possible under heavy shifting loads.
- The BH Ultralight features a massive box section seat tube to increase side-to-side frame stiffness while  the integrated full carbon front derailleur mount keeps weight low and increases front derailleur mounting rigidity to the highest level possible.
- Full slotted carbon molded cable guides reduce weight and allow for easy servicing. The down tube cable guides are offset from the frame to accept barrel adjusters.
- The unique patent-pending cable guide allows cable to be routed traditionally or crossed at the guide to provide the bike a cleaner cable routing solution around the head tube.

Ultralight Fork
- As with the frame, the Ultralight’s fork was developed using cutting-edge composite molding techniques and material technologies resulting in a fork weight under 300 grams out of the mold.
- The Ultralight fork features an integrated crown race to further eliminate the need for heavy steel parts in the frame and optimizes the strength and stiffness of the transition from steer tube to the fork crown.

The Ride
Ride quality was not forsaken when developing the new Ultralight. Slim, flat seat stays and traditional 27.2mm seat post design contributes to the Ultralight’s incredible ride quality.

Comments

zeke - 05/19/11 - 4:51pm

Were you able to measure the Q-factor of the crankset?

steve m - 05/19/11 - 6:14pm

Seems like any of the ‘standards’ are completely subject to the ability of the carbon frame makers being able to get the frame out of the mold. Want a huge down tube? just make the headset bigger at the bottom to match the head tube diameter. Down tube to large for the BB shell? make it wider. The net effect is that the consumer is effectively buying a dedicated chassis. The aftermarket forks makers are toast as they have no consistent target to shoot for. Crank makers are constantly chasing the various diameters, splines, widths etc. to try and find a home on the frame platforms offered.

These are going to be disposable bikes after a few years as the market will not support the ever changing standards as components wear out or fail and need to be replaced.

This BB system makes sense though.

ZachOverholt - 05/19/11 - 11:14pm

@zeke, no sorry did not measure Q. From seat of the pants measurement though, it didn’t feel any wider than a standard road crank, and felt narrower than the mountain bikes I rode the same day.

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