Cartridge bottom brackets are self-contained units that usually include the bearings, spindle and frame cups within a single unit. The two most common styles of cartridge BB spindles are Square Taper, and ISIS. The crank arms attach to each side of the spindle and are held on with separate crank bolts. Cartridge-style bottom brackets usuallly have one fixed cup and one loose cup for installation. Phil Wood bottom brackets are set up with both cups separate from the cartridge, allowing for side-to-side adjustment of the cartridge within the BB shell.
Square Taper bottom brackets are an older standard that was the industry standard for many years, and has proven to be durable and serviceable. The biggest disadvantage of Square Taper style cranksets is that they are sensitive to over-tightening, resulting in hollowed-out crank arms that will not stay tight. If installed correctly and torqued to the proper setting, square taper crankets are durable and long-lasting, and can be used to build a very light but ultra-dependable drivetrain. If you use square taper cranksets, we recommend that you always use a torque wrench when installing your crank arms!
While ISIS is the more recent cartridge BB style, many ISIS BB’s have proven to have short lifespans due to the smaller bearing size necessitated by the larger round spindle. While ISIS bottom brackets are still available, selection of ISIS cranksets and bottom brackets is very limited.
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