Forward or Backward?

Greetings folks. As you know we’ve been having a lot of discussion about designs and materials. Well, we are still having these discussions and we’ve got more questions. Today, I want to ask you for your feedback on cut to length seat tubes and press in bottom brackets.

One of our goals here at Salsa is to always be intentional in our designs. Use the right material for the right job. Design products for specific functions. This goal of intentional design isn’t unique. I think several companies right now are doing it well including us. So, onto our question.

Recently, we are seeing a trend in the bike industry to move to cut to length seat tubes and new bottom brackets where bearings either press in or rest in the frame on races built into the bb shell. For those that may not be watching the industry too closely, I’ll do my best to explain. Frames with cut to length seat tubes come with a very long seat tube and you actually cut the frame to get your proper seat height. Good ones come with some sort of minimal seat tube length adjustment. Frames with the new bottom brackets either have races for bearings or in some cases, the cups press directly into the BB shell much like a standard threadless headset.

So…in both cases I could clearly argue that these two designs are both forward and backward thinking in terms of intentional design. I don’t want to lead this discussion so with that said, we want to know what you think? Are these concepts forward or backward advancements in bicycle design?

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Jason Boucher

Jason Boucher

Growing up as a Minnesota farm boy, I developed an appreciation and love for land and open space. This appreciation has fostered two passions, cycling and photography. Both of these passions provide freedom, encourage me to explore and foster creativity. More importantly though, my journey with a bike and a camera reminds me that the world is big and I am small.


 jason |

OK Salsa, first things first, lets not go the way of cut to length seat tubes. i think that g-ted summed up that argument pretty well.  <BR><BR>On a fashion standpoint if we have integrated “seat masts” we will loose the ability to make that new frame ours and ours alone.  It will become another mass produced/homogenized bike that looks like the next person riding the same frame.  So for the sake of fashion let us choose black ano, polished silver, carbon fiber or titanium!<BR><BR>Am I incorrect in thinking that press in BBs, of the current fashion are strictly for 2 piece cranks?  What about those of us who prefer 3 piece cranks, and the ability to have a wider range of choice for our drivetrains.  <BR><BR>Lets not have salsa go down the road of pushing the current euro pro fashions down our throats!!!!!<BR><BR>Just my personal views!

 Linden |

are some of these people commenting confusing “cut to length seat tubes” with fixed length “integrated seat posts”?<BR><BR>I don’t see too big an issue here, if you need 4-5cm of seat post adjustment (which I think is plenty), then you cut to your minimum… it makes a lot more sense to me than seeing upwards of 10 inches of exposed post on some people’s bikes. I’d put my trust in tube over post any day.

 Karl |

I have little opinion on integrated seatposts, but I’ll give a cautious ‘yes’ on press in BB’s.  <BR><BR>If the industry as a whole goes to a press fit standard, it could be a very good thing.  I can see a world where many different manufacturers come up with new and exciting ways to use a standard press fit BB.  On the other hand, if ony a few companies do it on their flagship bikes, it won’t do anything but frustrate owners who now have an unsupported product they are forced to use.  So if it seems the rest of the industry will eventually go to press fit (and I am far from an insider so I don’t know these things), then by all means I’m on board.

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 rockhound |

I say no go for the integrated seat mast and no go for the press-in bearing bottom brackets.<BR><BR>My bikes end up getting ridden by my wife, my brother, or friends.  That adjustment is a necessity.<BR><BR>As for the bottom bracket, I like versatility.  The pressed-in bearing style won’t accept a square taper bottom bracket.  Not long ago I thought two-piece cranks with 104-bcd would be the future.  Nope, I now have a Sugino XD600 on my townie bike and some 94-bcd cranks on my singlespeed. <BR><BR>That being said, some 29er riders are looking for older cranks just so they can run 42-29-20 chainrings.  I realize the pressed-in bearings are for road only right now, but I doubt anyone will make one of these new cranks that accept these chainrings.

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 helgi |

Another nay to the integrated seatpost. <BR><BR>I can see how it makes sense on team-issue road bikes and such, where the rider’s fit has been dialed in completely and bikes are semi-disposable anyway. But as a trend for consumer/prosumer bicycles it’s just silly and pointless (especially for mountain bikes)

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 Anonymous |

NO and YES - no to the seattubes and yes to the bottom brackets but only if the frame does not get more expensive.<BR><BR>But guys - I think the way you build bikes is great :-)<BR><BR>Greetings from Europe, Lukas

 Andrew |

This is a pretty though one for me. I love being able to tune / upgrade my bike its almost half the joy of owning it.  Currently I can change the seat post at my whim, the same thing with BB / crankset.  However, if you go integrated that will greatly reduce my ability to upgrade and tinker with my bike.  <BR><BR>Now that I?ve said this let me qualify a few things.  First off, integrated seat posts will never be good for the industry, or me, as far as I?m concerned.  It hurts resale and adjustability.  The press in bottom brackets can be a good idea, however, there needs to be the support of good bearing mfgs like enduro and wood.  In addition to this, it?s still going to make it more difficult to change the bearings out (i.e. I?m going to have to buy a bearing puller / press).  <BR><BR>Currently I think both of these options are a little too much for me right now.  I think it is part of the movement in the industry to make bike parts more proprietary and I don?t like that.  I think one of the great strengths of the bike industry right now is versatility in set up and ease to change out components.  <BR><BR>I?m going to say that both will be a step backward.

 engineguy |

I agree with both guitar ted and mg, integrated seat tubes are a bad idea on mountain bikes.  Too much chance for damage in a crash, no hope for resale (not that I would ever sell my Dos Niner).<BR><BR>As for press-in bearings for a bottom bracket, I’m all for it.<BR><BR>Think of it, if you choose the right typ of bearing, you can create a wider, stronger bottom bracket.  This would allow the chain stays to be wider apart (if the chain rings allow it) and thus allow the rear tire to move closer to the bottom bracket.<BR><BR> As far as bearings, full contact seals, better seal material, special greases (NSK MA7), the list is endless. <BR><BR>This is a great idea Salsa, do it.

 Guitar Ted |

Okay, I’ve got some strong feelings about both of these topics. <BR><BR>First: NO to the “integrated seat tube” thingy. It’s a bad idea, especially for mountain bikes. Think of the lowly seat post as a way to tune your ride. You’ve got set back or no set back, you have got titanium, aluminum, or carbon fiber to help tune your ride charateristics. <BR><BR>What do you get with a full length seat tube/cut to height seat mast design? just what “they” offer you in terms of material. You have lost your choice to save a few grams. bad idea! Then you have the resale issues and crash issues that I have not even touched on. Bad, bad idea!<BR><BR>On the other hand, I think the press in BB bearings are a GREAT idea! I had an old Klein Attitude that I sold to some one else around here and the original BB bearings are still going strong after 15 years of service. Plus those press in jobs can be replaced if necessary. I like that dirt and grime is sealed out of the frame by such designs. Of course there are bad ways to execute such things, so I’ll leave you with that caveat, but I’m for this sort of “advancement”.

 MG |

Cut-to-length seat tubes are a JOKE played upon us by posers and disposable bike freaks.  What happens when you crash hard enough to bend your beautiful seat mast?  New frame time.  <BR><BR>Plus, and here’s the kicker for me, my seat height varies more than 10mm, depending on time of season and the sock/shoe combination I happen to be running that day.  How many integrated seatmast designs 1) give you that much adjustability, and 2) make it easily accessable?<BR><BR>And how many of them ride better than a 27.2mm titanium Moots seatpost?  Or even the good ‘ol Thomson?  Probably not many, I’d argue.<BR><BR>The seatpost is an element of bicycle fit, and as such, must be adaptable to the rider, not the other way around.  Unfortunately, humans are not static.  <BR><BR>As for the drop-in BB bearings, I have a little different opinion here.  I think, given manufacturing tolerances can be done up properly (and I know they can), it seems to be a good design application, and I could see it leading to lighter, more simplified BB/crank assemblies, and if that can happen, I’m all for it.  <BR><BR>Bottom line, my opinion is that the BB bearings are progress, the seatmast is not progress—one thumb up, one thumb down.

 joel |

I am definitely opposed to the cut to length seat tube, unless you are a top pro and have multiple bikes at your disposal….because if you cut too much, you’re S.O.L.<BR><BR>The BB thing is interesting to me. I like the idea, but the quality of bearings that comes standard on most the BB are garbage. (I destroyed 3 ext BB this summer on my Juan Solo - and no, I had enough chain slack) I have not had any problems with my higher quality SKF ISIS BB. But don’t get me wrong, I do not want to see loose ball bearings ever again on a modern bike!<BR><BR>Ooooh, I would like to see an external BB with the quality of Chris King components….not to mention the servicability of them too!

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 Anonymous |

I’d say no to both, but I’m probably not the market for such things- which, to my view, is the high-end road/race market.  <BR><BR>Keep things versatile with the moutain, cx, and more flexible road frames (i.e. casseroll), because I’m sure the people that buy them would like to set them up in a variety of different ways and would want the chance to upgrade them over time.

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 wc |

I’m also a no go on the integrated seat tubes.  Everyone’s already commented about the problems with crashes and adjustably but there are a couple of other problems with integrated seat posts that I don’t understand.<BR><BR>First how would you ship the bike when nearly all the travel bike boxes are designed to take off the seat post.  <BR><BR>Second, looking at Trek’s new Madone it seems like there is a trend beginning to develop where one has an integrated seat tube, yet the attachment for adjusting the seat height that nearly all the weight benefits disappear.  I’m not convinced that weight savings really matter when already off the shelf bikes weigh less that the UCF minimum weight limits.  If it’s aerodynamics that matter why can’t the seat tube be designed to be aero?


cut seat masts? Hell no. Bikes are simple machines. Why mess with them? Pressed in BB’s? Again, screw in a UN-72 (ha! I guess a UN-54) and forget it. This all reeks of “technology” for no real benefit. Ride your damn bike, and don’t worry about technology.

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 Anonymous |

I say no to pressed-in bearings, but if you have to do it, how about using the standard BMX shell, that way you can either use pressed-in bearings or make a small EBB for singlespeed use.<BR><BR>(I realize the BMX shell isn’t the same as Trek’s new gadgety bb.)

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 john |

I agree that integrated seat posts are a bad idea, especially for off road. On the BB issue, it could be good if done well and there was some standardization within the industry. Back in the day, I had a pre-trek Fisher that had bearings that sat directly into the BB shell and were retained by snap-rings. I never had a problem and it was super servicable but standardized it was not.

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 Anonymous |

Intregreated seat masts=less weight and more control for the bicycle designer.  Existing shove-any-old-tube into the bike seat designs handcuff designers into making that part of the bike a little extra robust and to accomadate a seatpost clamp.<BR><BR>The bottom bracket thing I just don’t get.  Does it save weight?  I supposed, no need for the thickness for threads - or maybe no need for an metal insert on a carbon bike.  <BR><BR>Hey, these things seem more related to carbon bikes than steel or aluminum.  Hmmmm.

 P.I.A. One Speed Freak |

Mmmm, press-in bearings. If frames come with a bearing press, maybe. That or the tool is under $100. Otherwise, you might as well do seat masts and press-in bearings unless you’re shooting purely for the high-end “racer” market.<BR><BR>I see a lot of the high-end bikes here in Europe with the masts. I see both points about them. I almost never move my seat so it doesn’t matter to me other than crash damage.

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 Anonymous |

This is unrelated, but does anyone else think Mr. Boucher looks like Dr. Bob Kelso off of SCRUBS?<BR><BR>

 Cornbread |

No thanks to the cut to length seat tubes.  One crash and it’s wall art.  <BR><BR>Now the press in bottom brackets sound like a great idea.  Especially if the bearings last as long as anticipated…oh, say…15 years.

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 Gunnar |

Gunnar @ / Consumer<BR><BR>There are some performance benefits to an integrated seat mast. But I think the limitations for the purchaser make it only viable for professional riders.<BR><BR>Press in BB’s on the other hand give more real world benefits for the average ride. Considering the BB30 standard is gaining a small foothold with some component manufacturers, there seems to be some options that don’t lock you into a design that can’t be changed as tech changes (I’m thinking of the old Merlin bottom bracket).

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