Bottom Bracket Removal Explained: How-To Guide in 5 Steps [With Video Guide]

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When you’re riding along, and every pedal stroke sounds like a rusty gate hinge, it can really take the enjoyment out of a ride.

A bike’s pedaling should be silent, secure, and silky smooth. Pedaling that’s noisy, stiff, or wobbly is an indicator that bottom bracket removal might need to move to the top of your bike maintenance to-do list.

Although bottom brackets are made of strong stuff, after 5000 to 10,000 miles they often need replacing. When it comes to bottom bracket removal, it’s much easier than you might think.

In this article, we’ll be covering:

  • What Is A Bottom Bracket?
  • How Do You Know When You Need To Remove Bottom Bracket?
  • Tools And Parts Required For Bottom Bracket Removal
  • Bottom Bracket Removal Explained In 5 Steps
  • What If My Bottom Bracket Is Stuck?
  • Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: Bottom Bracket Removal

Let’s dive in!

Bottom Bracket Removal: Title Image

What Is A Bottom Bracket?

The bottom bracket is the interface between the cranks and the frame.

It’s what allows the crank to spin so you can pedal freely, using a system of bearings. The bottom bracket sits in the bottom bracket shell, a space in the frame at the bottom of the seat tube and the downtube.

Bottom brackets come in all different shapes and sizes. Sometimes it can be challenging to identify which bottom bracket you have. Over the years, they have changed dramatically as cycling components have become more efficient and work differently.

  • Want to know more about bottom bracket types? Check out our Complete Guide here!

There are a lot of different bottom brackets available on the market, but in this article, we will tell you how to remove the most common standard: the BSA (English Threaded) bottom bracket. 

Close-up of a black bottom bracket on a bike.

How Do You Know When You Need To Remove Bottom Bracket?

It can be very challenging to know when your bottom bracket needs replacing as there are few clear signs until it’s too late, and you start to hear it make some interesting noises.

Here’s what we look out for:

#1. Noise

The first thing to look out for is noise.

If you can hear crunching and snapping sounds coming from the crank, there’s a strong possibility that you will need a new bottom bracket – it’s the bearings making that noise. It could be because they are dry, dirty, or just worn out.

#2. Play

When we talk about play, we are speaking about an excessive movement where it doesn’t need to be.

If you wiggle each crank arm and they have the ability to move side to side slightly, it’s time for a bottom bracket removal.

#3. Stiffness

If your pedal rotation feels stiffer than normal, it could be because your bottom bracket needs changing.

When bearings get old and worn, they tend not to move very smoothly and are inefficient.

#4. Vibration

If it feels like the pedals are vibrating while you’re riding, then your bottom bracket will need changing sooner rather than later.

Cyclists who have experienced this say it has a strange lumpy feel to it.

The tools you'll need to remove a bottom bracket lie on a black rubber work surface.

Tools And Parts Required For Bottom Bracket Removal

Surprisingly, for bottom bracket removal, you don’t need too many specialist tools. Here’s what we recommend you have at the ready to ensure your bottom bracket removal goes as smoothly as possible.

  • Bottom Bracket Removal Tool (specific to your bottom bracket type/brand)
  • Crank Removal Tool (universal or specific to your crank type/brand)
  • Allen Key Set
  • Small Flat Screwdriver
  • Rag
  • Grease
  • Bike Stand (optional)

Want to kit out your cycling toolbox? Check out our guide to 10 Essential Bike Tools Every Cyclist Should Own here!

Bottom Bracket Removal Explained In 5 Steps

Time to get down to business: hot to remove the bottom bracket from your bike. We recommend allowing about 30 minutes to do this if it is the first time.

Step #1. Preparation

The first step on how to remove the bottom bracket is to get prepared.

Find a nice clear space where you will be out of the way of anyone or anything. Get your tools all lined up and in a place where you can access them easily, and they won’t get lost.

If you have a bike stand, we recommend using it as it will be a lot easier, and your back will thank you for not having to lean over so much. Get the bike into the stand (non-drive side facing you) and ensure the frame is protected with a rag to stop it from being scratched.

Step #2. Remove the crankset

Using a crank removal tool on a black crank arm.

To get the bottom bracket out, we need access to it. To do this, we are going to need to remove the crankset. We start on the non-drive side pedal arm, where your left foot is when pedaling.

Take the Allen key set and undo the bolts on either side of the crank arm. We recommend a few turns on each side until the bolts feel fairly loose, they don’t need to come completely out. 

Next, use your crank removal tool and undo the plastic bolt inside. With the bolt out, take the small screwdriver and push the safety clip in the gap around the crank arm’s clamp upwards. The arm should now slide off. 

Turn the bike around so you now have access to the drive side. Take the chain off the crank and let it hang on the derailleur.

Now, take a hand on each side of the crank and pull it towards you. It should side out easily – if it doesn’t, wiggle it gently or push from the other side.

Step #3. Identify The Thread Direction To Remove The Shells

Removing the bottom bracket from the bottom bracket shell.

Bottom bracket thread directions differ depending on the type of bottom bracket standard and the side of the bike they’re located on.

Typically on an English Standard Thread (the most common type), you turn anti-clockwise on the non-drive side and clockwise on the drive side to loosen the bottom bracket.

“Lefty loosey, righty tighty” doesn’t work here!

Other bottom-bracket standards are different. For example, Italian threads are loosened anti-clockwise on both sides.

There’s usually an easy way to find out which way to go. First, use the rag to clean the bottom bracket. Most will then have an arrow marked to show the direction of tightening. To remove the bottom bracket, turn it the opposite direction.

If you don’t have the arrow, we recommend getting two post-it notes and sticking one on each side with the correct direction while you’re working, so you don’t get it wrong. The last thing you need to do is try to tighten it further and get it stuck!

Step #4. Loosen The Bottom Bracket

Applying torque to the bottom bracket removal tool.

Now take the bottom bracket removal tool and put it onto the bottom bracket itself.

You might need to put a shim or adapter on if it’s too big. You will want to ensure it’s on properly, as you don’t want to round off the bottom bracket. 

We like to start on the non-drive side. Hold the tool on the bottom bracket securely with one hand, and then push the handle in the correct direction. It will take some force, but should loosen and become free. When loose, remove the bottom bracket from that side.

Then turn the bike around to the drive side and repeat the process. Remember, you may have to turn in a different direction. When loose, remove the bottom bracket.

Step #5. Clean The Bottom Bracket Shell Threads

Cleaning the threads on the bottom bracket shell.

Once both halves of the bottom bracket are out, take the rag and give the inside of the bottom bracket a really good clean to remove any dirt.

Then, put some grease in ready for the next bottom bracket.

What if my bottom bracket is stuck?

Greasing the threads of the bottom bracket shell.

It’s not rare to get to a bottom bracket and find it is incredibly tight, and won’t want to come away from the bike easily. If you find yours is very stuck, then here’s what we recommend:

#1. Check You’re turning In The Correct Direction

Double-check you are turning in the correct direction. It’s so easy to get wrong – we’ve seen many people make the error!

#2. Use Penetrating Oil

If you get some penetrating oil on (such as WD40) and leave it for a few hours or even overnight, it will help loosen it up and could be just enough to get it free.

Beware, penetrating oil can remove lubrication within the bearings, so be careful with this step if you’re planning on using the bottom bracket again.

#3. Add Leverage

When cyclists find the bottom bracket is really stuck, they add a length of metal tubing (known as a cheater bar) to the tool to add leverage. This might require a second person or a press to ensure the tool stays on.

Approach this method with caution to avoid injury.

#4. Go To A Local Bike Shop

Finally, if you feel you can’t do it, head to a bike shop and ask for their help. There’s nothing wrong with trying it yourself before heading to a mechanic, provided you’re careful not to cause any damage or make it any more stuck than it already is.

We all have to learn how to remove bottom brackets at some point!

Robbie’s Video Maintenance Guide: Bottom Bracket Removal

Check out the BikeTips YouTube Channel here for walk-through bike maintenance guides and more!

Now you know how to Remove The Bottom Bracket…

With any luck, you should now know how to remove the bottom bracket from your bike!

Although it’s a job you won’t find yourself often doing, it’s a great skill to learn. Working on your bike can be a lot of fun and save you a huge amount of money and time not having to use a bike shop. 

If you enjoyed this article on how to remove the bottom bracket on a bike you might want to take on the ultimate challenge of building your own bike. You can find out everything you need to know in BikeTip’s Ultimate Guide to Building A Bike.

Found this bike maintenance guide helpful? Check out more from the BikeTips experts below!

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Robbie has traveled the globe as an endurance athlete and bikepacker, breaking world records and competing in international ultra-cycling events such as the BikingMan series and the Transcontinental Race. He's also worked as an ambassador for some of the industry's leading names, including Shimano and Ritchey. If Robbie's not on a bike, he's either fixing them or out walking with his dog!

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