FSA have secured backing from major brands for the BB30 threadless bottom bracket standard.
At the engineering launch of FSA's BB30 in Taichung City, Taiwan last week, the firm revealed they have the support of 16 bike manufacturers, including Cannondale, Giant, Kona, Specialized and Trek. FSA said at least 10 more major bike companies are yet to be announced.
The most important designers and engineers from Taiwan and the world's bike industry were present at the technical briefing. FSA managing director Matt VanEnkevort was on hand, along with Douglas Chiang, MD and engineering supremo of FSA’s partner TH.
Production of frames compatible with the press-fit BB30 standard is a more involved process than with traditional bottom brackets, with tolerances for the revolutionary inboard bearing design being plus or minus just 0.2 of a millimetre for the circlip recess and an incredible 0.0025mm (+/-) for bearing fit.
To aid the manufacturers in achieving this, FSA are providing a full set of high-quality tooling to those who have signed up.
From nylon mockups to production
Before the launch, we visited FSA's HQ to see at first-hand the production of the new BB30-ready chainset range.
FSA have been innovating through their R&D design teams in the US and Italy for many years, with the final design and engineering processes developed at the company’s manufacturing plant in Taiwan. The designers develop new ideas and perfect existing models using the latest 3D modelling technology, thanks to a partnership with AMD computers.
This is linked to a fast prototype CNC machine in the testing department which can produce an accurate nylon mock-up of any FSA part within a couple of hours of the designer in the studio pushing the button from his desktop.
FSA have invested millions of dollars in quality control, really ramping it up in the last few years as part of the A-Team, a consortium of Taiwan's leading cycle industry manufacturers founded in 2003.
This is apparent even from the earliest stages of production. For example, the raw aluminium billets have a full three-dimensional metallurgic analysis before they are cleared to be used in the CNC machines producing FSA components. Similarly, every bearing is put through high-speed testing before it is put into the assembly process.
With carbon fibre, again nothing is left to chance, with every hollow carbon product being X-rayed before it is released for finishing - final machining and the application of lacquer and graphics.
Distortion in the central hollow spine means this crank fails its X-ray
This one, meanwhile, is perfect and can be released for finishing
So why BB30?
The first major benefit is weight saving. By eliminating the BB cups of existing systems (think Shimano or Campagnolo) and being able, because of its shorter length, to use an alloy BB spindle rather than chromoly, weight is reduced by up to 12 percent.
Secondly, the BB30 is significantly narrower than current bottom brackets. For performance cyclists and especially TT riders, a super narrow Q-Factor (the distance between the pedal platforms) is the holy grail for power and aerodynamics.
Another benefit is that, because the crank spider can be mounted significantly closer to the BB shell, the crank arms have to bend out more. This gives much greater heel clearance over the crank centre, so new carbon cranks should no longer look second-hand after a couple of weeks' use.
Fourthly, bigger bearings and shells mean FSA can produce a significantly bigger axle, making the BB stiffer. According to German testing institute EFBe, this means gains in stiffness in the case of the range topping SLK-Light of 27 percent over the previous MegaExo model. It is also 23g lighter. Bigger savings can be found in the mid-range Gossamer, where 113g can be saved and it is 37 percent stiffer.
Lastly, the BB30 is claimed to be much more durable. A bigger bearing assembly should result in longer bearing life, there are no threads on the frameset to keep clean and with the inboard bearings are out of the grime.
This remains to be seen, but with FSA promising to deliver us a BB30 equipped bike imminently we’ll be able to get that into our long-term testing program and report back in due course.
Major bike brands signed up to BB30:
- Argon 18
- Diamond Back
- Raleigh USA
- Specialized (under their own version)
Manufacturers at the engineering launch:
- Advanced Int'l Multitech Co., Ltd.
- Alu. Mega Industrial Co., Ltd.
- Alu-Mate Industrial Co., Ltd.
- A-Pro Tech Co., Ltd.
- Asiana International Co., Ltd.
- Axman Enterprise Co., Ltd.
- Cannondale Sports Group
- Castello Cycle Co., Ltd.
- Chuan Well Co., Ltd
- Ciclogic Ind. Co., Ltd.
- Dahon California Inc.
- Dodsun Bicycle & Machinery Mfgers
- Forever Machine Ind. Co., Ltd.
- Fritz Jou Mfg. Co., Ltd.
- Genio Bikes Inc.
- Giant Mfg. Co., Ltd.
- Great Go Cycle Inc.
- Hsu Sheng Bicycle Ind. Co., Ltd.
- Ideal Bike Corp.
- Joy Move Co. Ltd.
- Kenstone Metal Co., Ltd.
- Leeche Int'l Sports Co., Ltd.
- Merida Industry Co., Ltd.
- Ming Cycle Ind. Co., Ltd.
- Ora Engineering Co., Ltd.
- Oyama Industrial Co., Ltd.
- Radiant Long Bicycle Co., Ltd.
- Rikulau International Co., Ltd.
- Sanfa Bicycle Industrial Co.,Ltd.
- Shine Wheel Ind. Corp.
- Southern Cross International Corp.
- Taiwan Hodaka Industrial Co.,Ltd.
- Three Peaks Bicycle Comp.
- Top Image Int'l Inc.
- Trans Link International Co., Ltd.
- Trek Taiwan
- Wei Chieh Bicycle Compony Ltd.
- Wheeler Ind. Co., Ltd.
- Willing Ind. Co., Ltd.
- Youn Live Industry Co., Ltd.
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