What are the benefits of external bottom brackets?

An outboard BB includes any BB which uses the same BSA or Italian threading as older style BB's, but places a larger bearing outside the frame, rather than a s,Allen bearing inside the frame. This increases BB stiffness and durability, while reducing weight. - zenbike

So if external bearing BBs are better, why don't all bikes use them? I have never seen a low-end bike with external BB. Are they inherently harder to manufacture? To install?

  • 1
    They're more expensive and are of little benefit to the average cyclist. Oct 16, 2013 at 14:39
  • @DanielRHicks, part of my question is why are they more expensive - are they harder to manufacture, or are just not trendy yet => economy of scale. This makes a difference.
    – Vorac
    Oct 16, 2013 at 14:47
  • The answer is yes to both, plus the external BB is positioned as a "premium" product, so they'd charge more for it even if it were cheaper to make. (I'm not too cynical.) Oct 17, 2013 at 0:39
  • The last sentence here could be interesting.
    – Vorac
    Nov 1, 2013 at 14:43

1 Answer 1


The average cyclist won't notice the difference in weight and torsion stiffness. Also most bicycles that are not used for sports purposes will not live long enough that their BB will ever wear out that much that it has to be replaced, therefore also low wear is not of huge importance.

So why are conventional BBs cheaper?

It's the question of a closed cartridge (conventional BB) vs. a (some kind of) open (external BB) system. One huge advantage of the closed cartridge approach is that the manufacturer has less points where they have to meet exact dimensions: for a conventional everything is OK as long as the threading is right and the axle is square – especially the axle can handle some tolerance at the square cones where the cranks are mounted. The rest of the internals can be constructed more or less freely which makes work easy for the manufacturer.

In the external case the axle is part of the crankset, but not necessarily from the same manufacturer. Nevertheless it must fit very exactly into the bearings of the BB. That means the lead-though for the axle as well as the axle itself have to be worked very exactly to fit together also among different manufacturers. Above that, if the BB consists of two halves (Shimano Hollowtech II) then the two halves have to align very well towards each other. In sum there are more production steps that require higher precision compared to a conventional cartridge BB which makes stuff more expensive.

Another point is, that in the closed system approach the BB itself stays encapsulated if you remove the cranks. In the case of the external BB the BB is somewhat open after removing the cranks which requires to be more careful when doing maintenance work. That means it's either more time and effort for the mechanic that you have to pay or if you do it yourself there are more points where you should know what to better not touch or to keep clean.

  • Reminds me of encapsulation in programming. You have answered my question. Many thanks!
    – Vorac
    Oct 16, 2013 at 15:35
  • @Vorac Nice, didn't look at it from this point of view. It's somehow like providing an API compared to giving access to the code itself... Oct 16, 2013 at 15:40
  • I'm quite sure that my Hollowtech II BB on my MTB has sealed bearings, so there's no difference during maintenance compared to a classical BB.
    – arne
    Oct 17, 2013 at 5:22
  • @arne "open" was not meant like open bearings and the like. What I meant was that the BB is not a closed cartridge that seals the whole BB tube but that if you remove the axle you can bring dirt onto the surfaces where the axle gets in contact with the bearings which might cause annoying noises and/or wear. Oct 17, 2013 at 18:31
  • @BenediktBauer: Ah, I see. nm then.
    – arne
    Oct 18, 2013 at 6:07

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