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The Chris King Bottom Bracket Review

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The crankset is the connection that makes you propel the bike forward. Often overlooked, the bottom bracket is an equally important part. Most of the times it is just a consumable item, like your brake pads or tyres, albeit a consumable that requires fancy (shop) tools for installation. With the advent of sealed cartridge bearings, regular servicing is something Sheldon Brown mentions from the days I am too young to remember.  The usual smoothness is bound to be replaced by a grinding noise and loose bearings. “It’s ok,” you say “I will just get a new one,” while your old bottom bracket ends up neglected in a bin. There is only so much you can do. Although I am diligent with (preventive) maintenance, I am not a fan of having to throw out components just because they have reached their planned service life due to “not user serviceable-ness.”

Well the people at Chris King seemed to have a similar attitude. Renowned for their indestructible headsets and smooth rolling hubs, now they have  improved on something as simple as the bottom bracket. While patient to see whether the outboard bearing systems were here to stay, now that Shimano and SRAM have set the standard, Chris King have released their Road and Mountain bottom brackets. The basic model fits all Shimano Hollowtech II compatible cranksets. With an upgrade/conversion kit you can have a GXP/SRAM stepped spindle compatible unit. Same installation tools required, user-serviceable, 5 year warranty, renowned Chris King durability, customer service and 10 anodized colors.

While picking up the components for my dream bike build I was more than happy to have a matching bottom bracket to my pink hubs.  In addition, my rain/winter bike was in a dire need of new bearings to battle the many rainy miles ahead, so I got a second hand Chris King bottom bracket. While installing the bearing cups you can use a thin piece of paper between the tool and the sparkly finish in order to avoid damaging the beautiful surface. Voilá you are done.

Chris King Bottom Bracket Grease Injector Tool Review
Chris King Bottom Bracket Grease Injector Review

Now is the time to mention that besides the pretty colors, the bearings are easily serviceable. Either the old fashioned way by removing the seals and cleaning/regreasing – or the Chris King way with the special grease injector tool. You just remove the plastic sleeves, insert the tool, attach it to a standard grease gun and ‘refresh’ the grease. It is as easy as it sounds. (Re-) Install the cranks and go ride.

Angular_Contact_BearingsWhat makes Chris King bearings so good is the fact that they are precision machined and thoroughly hardened and polished to resist wear. Second, all Chris King bearings are the so called “angular contact” bearings. As they break in they get polished even more and as they wear ever so slightly (like any bearing) they will develop some play. However, unlike radial bearings you can take up that play by just adjusting the preload (pressing the two races against each other to account for the wear).

So I went out and rode a lot. My rain bike saw a lot of rain, grit and sweat from using it on the indoor trainer. After an initial thorough service, since it was a second hand unit, I only used the tool once. My Tarmac saw about 2000 mostly dry kilometers before developing a clicking noise under high pedal loads. It drove me NUTS! Until one day while switching out my SRM crankset between bikes I noticed that the drive-side bearing had quite some play. Uh-oh. I contacted Chris King via e-mail and in one day I had a return authorization number. Couple of weeks (3-4?) later I had a repaired bottom bracket. In times when “Please Hold” and impersonal automated e-mails are the norm, Chris King’s customer service with their matter-of-fact attitude was impressive.

Unfortunately, the Chris King bottom bracket is was only available for BSA/British/Standard threads. It is one of the reasons I never considered a BB30/PF30 frame. Pressfit systems might have some performance advantages, however, anything that needs fancy tools and a HAMMER?!?!?! for maintenance does not inspire confidence. As of Interbike 2012 Chris King will be offering Pressfit compatible bottom brackets, together with conversion adaptors and user-service tools.

Additionally, the bottom brackets are available with ceramic bearings. Price runs about $140-$199(ceramic), which is not cheap, however, down the road, shop visits and/or new bottom brackets add up. Also you can’t put a price on having a smoothly running bike for miles and miles.=)

NOTE: Road and Mountain bottom brackets are NOT interchangeable!

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Home » Equipment » Reviews » The Chris King Bottom Bracket Review

2 replies on “The Chris King Bottom Bracket Review”

I am considering Chris King hubs, but I was informed that they require a special tool set. Is that an issue?

Hi Graham,

You can maintain, clean/regrease, adjust all Chris King hubs with just basic tools (small screwdriver, WD-40, etc.). The dedicated tools you mention are needed for complete disassembly i.e. pressing bearings in/out the hub shell, etc. Any of these operations is needed when something REALLY goes wrong/is defective/gets broken – extremely rare with Chris King. In the unlikely event you will require the special tool and since you are in the US you have two options: 1 – contact CK customer service, they are extremely helpful and/or 2 – find a local bike shop that has the tools and they will help you. CK is much more popular in your part fo the world than in Europe and all the shops that carry the parts actually need to fulfil certain criteria for customer service unlike the travesty that are European Chris King importers. Of course, if you are mechanically inclined and want to purchase the tools, do not let me dissuade you.=)

In short I highly recommend all Chris King products.

Best,

-Nikola

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