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Latest in the Madone bottom bracket saga.

Shimano Dura-Ace crankset (50/34), 90mm Bottom Bracket and Shimano Ultegra front Derailleur.
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… ?