Bottom brackets generally suck. Sometimes they'll last a few years, sure, but sometimes they seem to last about twenty minutes before they start to feel rough and shitty. And there's been countless new designs over the years that have been said to offer vastly improved reliability, too; sometimes they do last longer, but it's often hit or miss.
Cane Creek is saying that their new Hellbender bottom bracket is the answer, though, thanks to its Neo bearings that are borrowed from, get this, the food industry.
On the right is a standard sealed bearing with its balls in a normal retainer. On the left is the Neo bearing, an oil-filled, solid polymer matrix retainer used in Cane Creek's Hellbender bottom bracket.
A standard sealed bearing that we're used to seeing uses steel inner and outer races and steel balls, of course, and the balls are often captured in a retainer ring that ensures they stay in the correct spot. There are some seals and grease, too, and some space between it all inside the bearing. But the Neo bearing, from the Swedish folks at SKF, uses an oil-filled, solid polymer matrix retainer that takes up all of the room between the inner and outer seals; there's no free space for grease in there, and there's also no free space for contamination.
Basically, stuff can't get into the bearing because there's no room. Cane Creek says that no maintenance is required, and pressure washing your bike won't do any damage.
No lube or grease needed, and the blue retainer leaves no space for contaminants to get into the bearing.
The blue-colored retainer is a bit soft and flexible to the touch, and SKF manufactures it by holding the balls in a jig before coating them in the polymer matrix. Because the balls are held in the retainer, there's a nip of resistance when the bottom bracket is brand new, but I was told that'll disappear after a few pedal strokes. Strangely, SKF has had these bearings in their catalog for a few years now, but Cane Creek is the first cycling company to employ them.
Apparently, machines in the food industry need to be constantly cleaned, so a bearing was needed that would run exceptionally smooth (picture conveyor belts) but also withstand high-pressure cleaning. SKF came up with their 'MTRX Technology' that sees the bearings held in a polymer retainer, which brings us to the Neo bearing in Cane Creek's bottom bracket.
Prices for complete bottom brackets range from $120 to $150 USD, and all major sizes will be available when the Hellbender hits the market in two months time.
A new preload collar (left) can replace the plastic version that comes stock on DUB cranks. Fancy some color? You can now get your eeWings crankset in an anodized fade.
It's ridiculous that many high-end and very pricey carbon fiber cranksets come with a threaded plastic collar to adjust bearing preload, often with a terrible wood screw used to clamp it in place. Cane Creek's aluminum preload ring has been sold separately for this reason for a while now, but they now have a version to fit DUB crank spindles. It's a small detail, but one worth thinking about if you enjoy working on your bike.
The last thing to see in the Cane Creek booth is the new anodized titanium eeWings crankset. No changes on the technical front, BUT LOOK AT THE COLORS. The process ensures that no two crankarms will be identical as well. The cranks are pictured here on a road bike, but there will also be a mountain bike option.