Raise your hands if you’ve ever installed a new bottom bracket and it didn’t spin as freely as you’d like. OK, now raise ’em if you’ve ever had creaking in your BB. That everyone? We thought so.
And so did Wes Wolfenbarger and Gary Mailhiot, Jr., founders of BBinfinite. Especially peeved after Gary’s brand new $6,000+ Wilier Cento1 road bike came with cheap plastic adapters to fit Campagnolo crankset to the PFBB386 frame, they decided to do something about it.
“What we found was that pressfit frames, while technically built with a 46mm inside diameter BB hole, had a wide variance of actual measurements,” Wes told us. “Those measurements could only be off by 1/1000th of an inch, but when you add up those variances across the frame and inside and outside diameters of any plastic cups holding the bearings and adapters to fit various crank spindles, you end up with enough to wreak havoc on bearing performance. It can cause too much compression and/or ovalization, which adds friction to the system.
“Then, if a frame’s left and right cup interfaces weren’t 100% in alignment, you could end up with very slight misalignment. Once the crank spindle is forced into a misaligned system, that’s putting uneven lateral stresses on the bearings, which adds even more friction to the system. Put them together and you end up with a crankset that spins poorly and sucks power.”
And to add insult to injury, all of that can lead to mentally debilitating creaking that seems impossible to resolve. Their solution? A one piece bottom bracket module that ensures absolute precision alignment and a perfect fit in the frame…
Wes is a mechanical engineer that’s worked for Competitive Cyclist and other bike shops. Gary’s worked in motorsports building race car engines as well as worked in bike shops. Together, they bring plenty of engineering and tech experience with cycling retail and repair knowledge. They’re based in Little Rock, AR, and all of their prototypes and installation tools so far have been made there, too. Production bottom bracket shells and parts will be made in New Hampshire by a supplier that makes aerospace components, which provides the high tolerance manufacturing Wes and Gary wanted.
BBinfinite’s one-piece outer shell holds both bearings in perfect alignment with each other and in a perfectly round shell, so there are no uneven pressures on the outer race. Between the two bearings is a lightweight alloy tube that sits flush against the inside edge of the inner race. This prevents preload from installing the cranks from pushing the inner race out of alignment with the outer race. The result is a balanced, aligned groove for the bearings to roll in.
Since everything’s aligned perfectly with zero undue stresses on the bearings, it rolls super smooth. In fact, every video on their website that shows the cranks spinning is with the ABEC3 steel bearings. Ceramic bearings are available as an upgrade, though.
The two frames that started the idea (beyond Gary’s Wilier) were the Specialized OSBB and Cervelo’s BBright, which they say were notorious for having bottom bracket interface issues. Those are shown above and are available in three versions – a standard model to fit 30mm spindles, and Shimano and Campagnolo specific versions that eliminate the need for reducers or adapters to run those brands’ 24mm spindles in a frame designed around BB30 cranksets.
But, as they developed those two versions, they added a PFBB30 version for Cannondales (or any other PressFit30 frame). Those led to even more, and now they’re launching with versions for every press-fit frame iteration there is. And all will offer a Shimano and Campy specific model that eliminates adapters. All but the PF86/BB86 versions will also have a standard model that fits 30mm spindle cranksets.
Campagnolo models are shown here without the bearings, but they include them. Campy UltraTorque cranksets are sold with stock bearings already pressed onto the spindles, so you could slide them into BBinfinite’s module as-is, but to provide all customers with the same package and same quality, you get new bearings with the module. Models shown are OSBB (left) and BB86, others are available.
For mountain bikes, they offer OSBB and PFBB30 to fit the 73mm wide bottom bracket shell, both with standard 30mm and Shimano 24mm bearing options.
BBinfinite’s bottom brackets made to directly fit Shimano cranksets use a 25mm inside diameter bottom bracket and come with these “top hats”, a similar design to what Shimano provides. They slide into the bearings, then the crank’s spindle slides through them. This prevents metal-on-metal contact, which could cause creaking or other noises.
They all slide into the non-drive side of the frame except for the Cervelo BBright Direct Fit Shimano/Campagnolo. Because the fit is so good, they only spec a light grade thread lock to hold it into the frame. That simply keeps it from creeping out, and the assembled cranks also help keep it in place. They do require special tools to install -custom plastic adapters that work with the Park Tools press- and are included with each BB.
Wes says they’ve been testing the design under local athletes since late 2012, and some units have 12,000+ miles on it. He added that not a single prototype or test unit has needed any bearings replaced even through a full race season under some very, very talented riders that can not be named yet.
All models will be available in anodized red or black, and Cannondale fans will be able to get them in green, too. They’re working on trying to match the Shimano dark gray/blue finish, too, but so far haven’t been able to nail it. Weights range from about 50g up to 85g depending on model.
Everything comes with a wave washer, three spacers and dust shields if appropriate. Retail isn’t set yet because they’re using Kickstarter to get things off the ground. Check out the campaign here and nab any model BB with the standard steel bearings for just $150. Pledge $250 and you’ll get the upgraded ceramic bearing version.
Since they’ve already finished all the R&D and prototyping, the meager $12,000 ask is simply to get production up and running. Shipping is expected by early September if the Kickstarter campaign is successful. If not, they’ll continue raising money and launch them as soon as they can.