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Technical FAQ: Heart arrhythmias, tubeless problems, and BB creaks

Lennard Zinn takes a variety of questions this week, including one about undergoing cardiac tests.

Cardiac tests for cyclists

Dear Lennard,
I write because, at 53 years of age, I am becoming more of a serious cyclist than I’ve ever been. I know about your experience with arrhythmia, and it occurred to me that perhaps I should do what I can to avoid a similar (or worse) fate.

Therefore, I’ve decided to seek some medical advice/testing to see if I am healthy enough to continue riding hard. I currently have no arrhythmia and there is no history of cardiac issues in my family. However, I’d love to continue cycling and challenging myself on the bike for many more years, and this would seem a prudent step.

My question to you: can you recommend specific tests beyond a basic cardiac stress test?

I was sorry to hear about your experience with arrhythmia, but I believe that your experience will help many, many others over the years. Thanks for writing about your ordeal and being public about it.
— Steve

Dear Steve,
In addition to getting a cardiac stress test (performed on a treadmill or ergometer while hooked up to an EKG machine), I recommend getting an echocardiogram done. This test can tell you the size and shape of the heart and its internal chamber sizes, its pumping capacity, and the location and extent of any tissue damage. An echocardiogram can also calculate the volume of blood each of your ventricles pumps per unit time, how much of the blood inside each ventricle gets pushed out with each contraction (ejection fraction), and how well the heart relaxes between contractions.
— Lennard

Manufacturer warning label regarding tires

Dear Lennard,
While installing new Maxxis Padrone tires onto my 2008 Fulcrum 2-way Racing 1s last week, I noticed a warning label inside the rim that stated to use only Hutchinson tubeless tires. My first two sets of tires were Hutchinsons, but then I switched to Schwalbes and ran those for a few years without incident. I contacted the folks at Fulcrum and inquired about the warning, and they reiterated that I should only use Hutchinson tires on these wheels. My hunch is that the Hutchinsons were really the only tires on the market back when these wheels were designed and tested and that they haven’t gone back and re-tested any of the new tires on the market. Thoughts?

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Interestingly, I think I ran into the same situation with the Maxxis tires: the sidewall states that minimum pressure is 105psi. That seemed a bit high for a tubeless tire (and kind of defeats the purpose), so I emailed them and their response was that minimum is indeed 105, but they’ve heard of riders running them in the mid-80s without incident, but that they, of course, can’t recommend that. Seems to me that these companies have some pretty good lawyers on staff these days.
— Tom

Dear Tom,
Joshua Riddle, press manager for Fulcrum and Campagnolo, says, “Tom is right regarding the tire situation in 2008. There really wasn’t much else available, and we developed and tested with Hutchinson. Not knowing at the time how other tires that were to come to market after the launch would perform, we could only vouch for Hutchinson, as we had experience only with their tires. In 2009, we had tested plenty of other tires and the same in 2010, so the literature, warning labels, and recommendations were all amended to reflect a wider array of tubeless tires for use with Campagnolo and Fulcrum 2 way fit wheels. At the moment, you can use the tires you prefer for both Campagnolo and Fulcrum 2 Way Fit wheels.”
― Lennard

Bottom bracket knocking

Dear Lennard,
I ride a 2013 carbon Masi Evoluzione with Campy Chorus 11. For a few seasons now, the bottom bracket area has developed a knocking sound that further Internet research has helped me diagnose as a discrepancy between the bike’s bottom bracket shell’s width and the tight tolerance of the UT bottom bracket’s Hirth joint. The “Rogue Mechanic” (see below) seems to have found a cure for BBs with threaded cups (adding spacers of various width to the NDS cup until the noise disappears), but in my case, I have press-fit cups. I’ve already changed bottom brackets twice (I’m on a Praxis now) and the knocking is getting worse.

It is the Praxis “threaded press-fit” model, where one cup with the internal sleeve is press-fit into the BB shell and the other cup is threaded into the sleeve (requires two bottom bracket tools). They provide a “wavy washer” like Campy as well as a non-drive side cup, sort of a soft o-ring that’s supposed to allow for bb width discrepancies, but on the road pedaling, it’s like nothing’s changed. There’s a guy out there, “Rogue Mechanic,” who’s done some research and came up with spacers to place between the non-drive side threaded cup and the bottom bracket shell, but that requires removing the whole bottom bracket assembly a good number of times before finding the right amount of spacers and, again, I’m not on a threaded system, but on a press-fit one, so I’m not sure if removing and replacing the press-fit cup several times makes sense.

I’m so sick of this noise I don’t even want to ride. What would you suggest, short of chucking all my Campy stuff (I’ve been a loyal customer for 25 years) and moving to SRAM?
— Franck

Dear Franck,
The “Rogue Mechanic” tip is not a good option, in my opinion. I also think it has nothing to do with your creak or knock, which I believe is entirely caused by your bearings moving around within your unthreaded carbon bottom bracket shell. In fact, I don’t think that there is any need for performing the “Rogue Mechanic” tip, and you could instead damage your nice ceramic bearings by side-loading them if you do what he suggests. I also don’t think that movement in your Hirth joint where the two bottom bracket stubs meet in the center is likely to occur, as long as you have the bolt tight. That joint is very well-engineered so that the tapered teeth just keep tightening up against each other. In fact, Hirth joints have been used in automotive and aircraft crankshafts for a long time, as they can transfer high torques very well.

Yes, if you push laterally on the face of a Campy Ultra Torque crank, you can compress the wave washer and get it to move laterally. However, when actually pedaling, you will not be applying that kind of side load. I think that if you were to interview thousands of Campy UT riders, you would not find them complaining about the chainring moving back and forth and rubbing the chain from side to side on the front derailleur cage plates — at least not any more than riders on other major crank brands do (everyone gets a little side-to-side chainring movement, and that is generally due to frame flex, crank flex, spider flex, and chainring flex, not to lateral movement of the bottom bracket spindle).

I am surprised that the Praxis thread-together bottom bracket did not at least improve it somewhat. I suspect it is somehow still not tightened up against the faces of the bottom bracket shell. Perhaps those bottom bracket faces are not parallel; “facing” them might improve things.

To fix your creak, according to Campagnolo North America technical service manager Dan Large, “the only options are to Loctite or epoxy the cups into the frame. Ensure that the rider has the bearings serviced regularly and change the grease in the cups. Alternatively, the grease can be substituted with a light coat of anti-seize on the outer surface of the bearing.”
― Lennard