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Latest in the Madone bottom bracket saga.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

July
3
2013
This is how the bottom bracket bearings looked when they were replaced in January. Note the condition of the non-drive side bearing (right): it's covered in rust and sand, and it did not rotate smoothly. The drive-side bearing was in perfect shape.

This is how the bottom bracket bearings looked when they were replaced in January. Note the condition of the non-drive side bearing (right): it's covered in rust and sand, and it did not rotate smoothly. The drive-side bearing was in perfect shape.

Regular readers of my blog know that I’ve had ongoing issues with my Trek Madone 5.9’s bottom bracket. I purchased my Madone (new) from an authorized local dealer last October, and since that time I’ve had three bottom bracket issues requiring warranty work. After the first bottom bracket issue I did some research, and was not happy to find that Trek’s BB90 design has been problematic, to say the least…

The first time I had a problem was in early January: the cranks developed some play in them, and the bottom bracket bearings were loose in the frame. The shop replaced the bearings with another set, and I thought (well, hoped) that issue was a one-off and the end of it. The picture to the right shows how my bearings looked after they were pulled.

This is what my cranks and bottom bracket looked like in April.

This is what my cranks and bottom bracket looked like in April

Just a few months later, April, my cranks started knocking again. I took the bike back to the shop, and the bearings were loose in the frame once again. This time, however, the condition of the bearings, cranks and bottom bracket area were much, much worse than they were in January. As you can see in the picture to the left, the cranks and the entire bottom bracket area were covered in water, sand, rust and grit.

The shop, working directly with Trek, decided to replace the stock bearings with a slightly larger bearing (termed “V2”). The V2 bearings, unlike the stock bearings, require a bearing press to install them into the frame. I was told this would correct the problem with crank play and water intrusion. Trek also gave me a couple of nice carbon fiber water bottle cages and a supply of V2 bearings at no charge, which I thought was a nice gesture.

On June 1st I did the “4 Rivers Century” ride with the WMBC cycling club. While on that ride, another rider mentioned that my jockey wheel was squeaking (I couldn’t hear it–at least not while I was riding). I found that surprising, as I’d meticulously tuned and lubed my bike the day before the ride. The day after the ride I put my bike in the stand and isolated the high-pitched squeal: as it turns out, the squealing was coming from my bottom bracket. Sigh.

I pulled the chain and cranks, and popped off the bearing dust covers. The insides of the bearings–especially the non-drive side–were caked in rust and grit. I did not want to be without my bike at this point, and so cleaned the bearings and re-packed them with grease. This seemed to correct the problem, but clearly something was still wrong (the bearings only had 1,000 miles on them). I contacted Trek directly, and voiced my displeasure.

I have to hand it to Trek. They have been very responsive to all of my concerns, and I never once felt like they were blowing me off or making excuses. Trek acknowledges the problem, and I do feel like they are doing everything they can to solve it. I’ve corresponded with three different people at Trek, and have received several phone calls from them.

With this latest incident there was no crank knocking, but water and contaminants are clearly still finding their way into the bearings.

Even though Trek has been responsive, I made it clear that I purchased a fairly high-end new bike, and I don’t feel it’s fair that I should have to jump through hoops while they figure this thing out. I think I’ve been pretty reasonable over the past 8 months.

Trek decided to have the shop repack the bearings with water-proof marine grease, and see if that corrects the problem. Personalty I’m skeptical, as grit and other contaminants seem to be getting by the seals, too. That said, I’m not an engineer, so I’m willing to give this a try. Trek, as another gesture of goodwill, gave me a $150 pair of very nice bib shorts for free, and ordered me a bunch more V2 BB90 bearings at no charge.

I am hopeful that this is the end of the problems, as I do like this bike (BB issues aside, of course). I made it clear that if I continue to have problems I will insist on either a new bike, or a full refund.

To be continued… ?

John Stone Fitness Comments

8 Responses to “Latest in the Madone bottom bracket saga.”
  1. I’m sure this delay/appease strategy is working with many customers but they need to realize you aren’t going away and that your bike isn’t sitting in a garage collecting dust. They are going to have to eat this one.

    Based on this saga I’m standing by my vow to never purchase a Trek. How many more customers will they lose while they screw around with you?

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  2. I really do think Trek is doing their best to figure out the problem, but yeah, I’m not sure it’s solvable. Trek even alluded to that possibility during one phone call when the rep said something to the effect of, “Maybe it’s where you live, would you consider moving?” He was kidding about the moving part, but he was not kidding about the possibility of environmental conditions creating a problem like this (and he even elaborated on that with some examples).

    I think Trek’s customer service has been stellar, and I like the bike, but I am definitely at the end of my rope when it comes to this particular issue. I just want what I paid for, and if that means a new bike or a refund, we’re at that point. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

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  3. I like Trek’s road machines, but I currently own a Norco for my ‘A’ ride and an older Cannondale R1000 for my ‘B’ (Kona Cindercone for dirt). Stuff like this must really bite for people who like riding a lot. It is one of the main reasons I have a back up road bike that is always ready to go. So far it only came in handy for foul weather rides and twice when I pulled the Norco down only to find one of the tires flatted and me with no time change it before a group ride.

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  4. I am on my fifth bottom bracket in just over 2 years on a Domane 4.5, I changed the last one out three weeks ago and today they said i need to do it again, i have about 500 miles on the bike in the past 19 days and the crank looks like it hasn’t been maintenanced in 5 years, it was spotless 19 days ago. I live in Dallas, no salt air, it rains in the spring, other than that, i think we are more famous for our heat than how wet it gets. I have a Madone and a Domane, the Domane was purchased used and I cracked the frame in an accident, while it was repaired I purchased the Domane new so the Madone is older, has a cracked frame and I have never changed the bottom bracket. I am interested to hear how yours ended up because I am getting a new frame if I have to get Mr Trek on the phone himself. My bike shop has been very helpful throughout this.

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    • When you say that you’re on your 5th BB, are you talking about just the bearings? Because–and Trek will be the first to tell you this–their BB90 bearings are only designed to last about 2,000 miles. Even after this 2011 bike was replaced with a 2013, I was going through bearings every 6-8 weeks. That’s obviously not a long bearing lifespan, but it’s also not the issue I’m describing here.

      Not sure what you mean about the cranks? I was experiencing crank play (and water intrusion) due to issues with the BB bearings coming loose in frame due to, IMO, poor design, but it sounds like you’re talking about dirt and grime on the cranks, which is a maintenance item.

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  5. I bought a Trek Domane 4.5, new, from a local Trek dealer. During the time I have owned this bicycle I have ridden it 4000 miles and have had the bottom bracket repaired twice. The bearings look like yours and the owner has asked me if I ride through puddles. He also said that he replaces bottom brackets frequently in his shop as new, lighter materials are less durable than the older heavier parts. Has Trek or anyone come up with a more robust bottom bracket for this bicycle?

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