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by Dave Rome
September 9, 2019
Photography by Dave Rome
Cane Creek, the market-leader in headsets, is now throwing its top cap into the ring of bottom brackets. Designed to complement Cane Creek’s desirable eeWing titanium cranks, the new range of Hellbender bottom brackets takes a fresh approach to sealed bearings which are said to be completely maintenance-free and extremely durable.
Add to that yet another limited edition run of its eeBrake, and a clever little upgrade for newer SRAM cranks, and Cane Creek’s had plenty of fancy pieces to show at Eurobike.
The key feature is the bearing itself, a product of Swedish bearing giant SKF and one which uses the company’s patented MTRX technology — effectively an oil-filled solid polymer material that fills all the surrounding space around the ball bearings. The bearings themselves are held in place with the polymer that’s baked solid, and as a result, don’t feature a regular retaining cage. Likewise, traditional sealed cartridge bearings rely on grease to lubricate the bearings, and external seals to keep the grease in and the dirt out. By contrast, the polymer is self-lubricating, grease-free and technically allows no space for water or dirt to cause issues. To that point, they say this is a bottom bracket that can be pressure washed without issue.
An example of the polymer-filled bearing (not identical to that used in the bottom bracket).
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen such polymer-filled bearings — SKF themselves have been selling the technology to the food manufacturing industry for years, and more recently, CeramicSpeed has brought its SLT version across from industrial applications and shown prototypes of the product for use in mountain bike suspension pivots. Cane Creek believe its use is the first time the technology has been implemented into a bottom bracket.
Self-lubricating and sealed it may be, but there are still a few questions that will remain unanswered until these get trashed by uncaring consumers. Mainly, will the self-lubricating polymer be enough to keep the bearings sufficiently lubricated in the onslaught some bottom brackets can cop? And what if dirt does get past the external seal and finds its way into the outer race? It’s not a bearing you can service, after all. The folks at Cane Creek say they’ve done their best to ruin these things, and are confident in bringing them to market.
I did have questions about bearing efficiency, and Cane Creek’s director of Engineering, Sarah Montplaisir, was nearby to speak with at Eurobike. Specific numbers weren’t discussed, but Montplaisir suggested that while the bearings will likely have higher friction at first, they’ll stay at a very consistent level for their service life. Regular bearings with high-quality seals and good grease may be faster at first, but grease contamination through dirt ingress will eventually degrade that performance. As with most things, time will tell whether this proves true.
The bottom brackets feature quality machined aluminium cups with two-step anodisation.
For now, the Hellbender bottom brackets are intended for use with Cane Creek’s own eeWing cranks, which feature a 30mm diameter spindle. That also means they could be used with other 30mm cranksets. The bottom brackets will be available to fit frames with BSA threaded, PF41, PF30 and BB30. All but the direct-fit PF41 model feature T6 aluminium shells, with a two-stage black and gold anodisation.
Those pressfit bottom bracket shells don’t offer any fancy anti-creak solutions; rather they just use tight tolerances to (hopefully) keep things noiseless. Cane Creek suggests installing the cups with grease.
The Cane Creek Hellbender bottom bracket will retail for between US$120 and US$150 and will be available next month.
And speaking of eeWings cranks: Wolf Tooth is now offering Shimano Hyperglide+ compatible chainrings for Shimano 12-speed (MTB) users.
Cane Creek acquired the eecycle, and with it, the eeBrake, a number of years ago and has continued to sell the heck out of the lightweight and impressively powerful road caliper brakes. It’s become a tradition for the company to release a limited colourway at Eurobike, and 2019 was no different with the announcement of the El Real, a wonderfully retro-looking purple ano colourway.
Purple ano. Bringing the good ol’ days back.
The eeBrake El Real edition is available for order up until September 18, and is available in regular mount and direct mount versions. Delivery of pre-ordered brakes is expected for November.
Taking those eeBrakes up a notch was a bike on display that was littered with purple ano. The real attention-grabber, however, were the ano-fade eeWing cranks. Cane Creek hinted that a few pairs may be available if you ask nicely enough when buying the limited edition brakes (and if you pay, of course).
Cane Creek was a little coy on whether these would be available for sale or not. Sounds like there may be a few spares…
This alloy lockring is an aftermarket upgrade for SRAM DUB cranks,
SRAM’s new DUB cranks are installed with a single bolt that pulls and locks the left crank onto the spindle. From there, a small plastic threaded collar is used to preload the bottom bracket bearings. Cane Creek believes that little plastic lockring can be better, and so will soon offer an aluminium upgrade. It’s a small part that few will ever notice, but one that should be nicer to use when it comes time to service your bottom bracket.