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The dreaded BB30 creak

My Cannondale is the first bike that I have had with press fit bottom bracket bearings. I knew going in that some may develop creaking or clicks but I prayed to the BB gods and hoped it wouldn’t happen to me. Well apparently my token sacrifices didn’t suffice and on a training ride last Sunday my cranks developed a click. Here is a good video showing what I all of a sudden had to deal with. This isn’t my bike, but symptoms are exactly the same.

If you do a little research you’ll find a variety of info and remedies online. From a simple re-greasing of the bearings, to replacing the bearings to installing the bearings with Loctite 609. Interestingly a lot of people complain about the creaking/clicking starting after a rain ride or washing the bike. The day the problem started it was after a rain and the roads had a little water on them but not enough to cause issues I would think, but who knows. I could have taken it to the shop since the bike is under warranty, and although bearings are wear items this shouldn’t be happening within the first 2000 miles, I figured I’d take apart the crank and give everything a good cleaning and re-greasing. I didn’t have anything to loose except maybe 30 mins of my time.

Crank came off with no issues (it’s nice to have the right tools on hand) and then I popped the seals off the bearings. They looked pretty dry to me. One felt like there might be a bit of sand in it, so a blast with some solvent made it smooth again and then I added a little Park Tools grease back to each bearing and reinstalled the seals. Then I greased the outside of the bearings to keep water away, reinstalled the dust cover, spacers, washers, etc and put the crank back together and torqued the crank bolt down. It gets torqued to 30ft/lbs which got me thinking – I was able to undue the bolt with a 3/8″ drive ratchet without much force, could the bolt possibly not have been torqued properly and was the cause of the clicking? But why did it wait so long to do it?

Anyway with it all back together it spun fine but felt a little stiff (with the chain off) but I figured it was a the new grease and it would wear in. I also noticed that now my front derailleur was a little off, I was getting some chain rub – again making me think the crank bolt was loose or not tightened all the way. Inspecting my work I noticed that the wavy washer was almost flat. Cannondale says it should still have a slight wave but I had to look hard for that wave. My crank did have 2 .5 mm shims installed and I put them back but if the crank wasn’t tightened to spec before, that may have been why they put 2 shims on the crank. So I pulled the crank arm again, and I confirmed that I can’t undo a properly torqued crank bolt with a small ratchet and I needed to use a long bar, I pulled one shim and torqued it all back up. Now there was a proper slight wave in the washer and the stiffness I felt before was no gone. So I’m guessing it was poor assembly of the crank that may have been the root cause of my issue. The good news is that everything is properly greased, sealed and torqued now so hopefully I won’t have any more issues.

I’ve been on several rides since I performed this surgery and everything seems fine, no more unexpected noises and it’s still very smooth and fast.

I guess my bike was built on a Friday because the QC kinda sucked. I even went over the bike with a fine tooth comb when I got it, I just didn’t break out the big torque wrench to check the cranks. I’m a little disappointed that the shop didn’t catch it either. I suppose it could have loosened up over time but that doesn’t explain the extra unnecessary shim.

6 Comments

  1. It’s not the BB 30 bottom bracket that is creaking, it’s the dirt that gets behind the wavy washer. I had this same problem on my Veng, my wife has the same problem with her Alias. When you ride in the rain, you have to take apart the crank and clean it. It is absolutely not a warranty issue, though if you have a decent relationship with the shop you might get it cleaned once.

    I upgraded to the S-Works crankset and it doesn’t use a wavy washer. No more trouble

    • Oh, by the way, don’t ever blast the bearings with solvent/degreaser. Even though they’re sealed bearings, they’re not that sealed. Wipe the bearings down with a towel to get all of the grit out of there. The grit is the problem. If you get any solvent in the bearings you’ll break down the grease in the bearings themselves – then you’ll have to completely clean and repack them too.

      The BB-30 bottom bracket is a beautiful solution to the bottom bracket – all you have to worry about is two press-fit bearings that don’t require any special tools to remove.

      The crank and wavy washer setup simply allow grit into that setup so it must be cleaned after a wet ride. Eventually you’ll be able to perform this cleaning process in ten minutes. I do (on my wife’s bike).

      • No worries, I pulled the bearing seals and repacked with grease. Externally the bearings were clean (as in no dirt or grease! factory getting cheap I think) After 20 something years of working on cars bearings are easy peasy. 🙂 I’m still not sold on the BB30, external cups like on my Spesh to be are just easier (I already have the special socket).

        • I don’t know, I’ll take my BB-30 over the setup on my ’99 Trek 5200 any day of the week and twice on Sunday! It’s just easier to maintain.

    • No doubt it was dirt, plus a few other issues to complicate things. Kinda like the perfect storm of problems.

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