I’d Choose Square Taper BBs Over HollowTech Any Day Of The Week (+ one little-known tip)

From Rookie’s keyboard..

Today, it’s another day for brutal honesty in the cycling world.

So, I will just say it:

IMO, square taper brackets are truly awesome, and I prefer them over all of the advanced models with external bearings. And that includes Hollowtech, of course.


Isn’t a cycling enthusiast like me supposed to love R&D (research and development)?

Aren’t modern and newer products just better?

Of course, not. New is not always better.

Here are all the reasons why square taper bottom brackets dominate HollowTech (as well as other outboard BBs).

  • Insane price-to-benefit ratio or ROI

Nothing beats a square taper when it comes to ROI. You can get a cheapo Shimano model and ride if for 10, 000 km or more until it develops the nastiest creak in the universe before replacing it.

It’s going to cost you 5-10 bucks. If you do the replacement yourself, you will need a BB tool that’s about 5-40 bucks depending on where you get yours. If you are snobbish, you can go for something from ParkTool. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not how I roll. I don’t slave to brand names.

My BB removal tool is a generic one that I bought from the LBS (local bike store). I welded a small piece of metal to the socket to make the handle longer and acquire more leverage, but that’s a story for another day.

The point is – if you want a cheap bottom bracket that works, a square taper of acceptable quality is impossible to beat.

  • Serviceable (if you’re willing to go old-school)

Modern square taper bottom brackets are sealed. When they break, you throw them out and slide in a new cartridge.

Sure, you can try to service them if you’re feeling adventurous, but the invested time and effort are not worth it when you consider the low chances for success.

On my retro road bike, I have an old-school square taper that is 100% serviceable.

It looks like the model above. You need a special tool to remove the lock nuts and then you can disassemble it fully to clean and regrease it.

If some of the ball bearings are badly deformed, you can replace the faulty ones. Realistically, the bottom bracket above can be serviced for decades…until the races go bad. Mine is from 1987 and still operates just fine.

  • Easy-to-find

Square taper bottom brackets are everywhere. You will be able to source one even in the most niche bike shop on the planet. Of course, almost the same can be said about HollowTech, but the availability is still smaller due to the lower demand.

  • Compatible with retro cranks

I am a big fan of classic retro road bikes. And like many others, I consider the cranks and the chainrings integral to bicycle aesthetics.

If you want to preserve the look of a classic bike, you have no choice but to go for a square taper (or maybe an octa-link in some cases) so that you can use the original cranks (or something similar).

The qualities described above make square taper BBs clear winners for my style of riding. I want classic cranks and simplicity. SQ taper BBs deliver exactly that.

Still, a fair comparison requires me to list the downsides of SQ taper bottom brackets.

Those would be:

  • Low-end (unless you go for an expensive niche model)
  • Heavier

Square taper bottom brackets are 3-4 times heavier than Hollowtech. For instance, the average HT BB is about 72 grams whereas the average SQ taper BB is 220 grams.

This is a lot in the professional/weight weenie world. I, on the other hand, give zero worries about the extra 150 grams. The laces on my shoes weigh more than that anyway.

Besides, the weight is in the middle of the bicycle, and you can’t really feel it.

I see no reason to file a complaint here.

There is a short table underneath comparing the weights of SQ taper BBs and HollowTech.

(edit: The table is dedicated to all the cycling nerds out there.)

Campagnolo Chorus220gShimano SM-BB71-41A72g
Campagnolo Chorus233gShimano XTR SM-BB9373g
Token Square Taper – ITA205gShimano Deore XT BB-MT80082g
Token Bottom Bracket BSA-68-JIS255gShimano SM-BBR6077g
A short weight comparison table | source: brainybiker
  • Lower end cranks

Now we are talking. This is indeed a serious downside that many people will be unable to ignore. The reality is that high-end crank manufacturers abandoned square taper bottom brackets a long time ago (think decades).

And it makes total sense. SQ taper BBs are reserved for entry and mid-level bikes. Therefore, there is no incentive to make high-end cranks for that standard.

That said, if you’re willing to ride entry or mid-level cranks (e.g., Shimano Sora), this won’t be an issue.

If you want more luxurious cranks, you will have to go “niche” or purchase retro models that were the top of the line when you were shorter than your current bike.

Lightness and Stiffness Can Go To Hell As Far As I’m Concerned

Hollowtech BBs are advertised as lighter and stiffer. The first part is true, the second is also true but difficult to measure and perceive. The lightness and stiffness come from the hollow structure.

Time for a short physics lesson.

Most of a pipe’s strength comes from the walls. A pipe with a large diameter and thinner walls can match the strength and stiffness of a pipe with a smaller diameter and thicker walls.

In simpler words, by increasing the diameter of a bottom bracket, we can make it thinner and also stiffer. This is exactly what happens with Hollowtech.

But the real question is – does this matter to the average consumer? If someone tells you that they can feel a perceivable difference in stiffness between Hollowtech and a SQ taper, I’d be highly suspicious of their ability to be honest.

That being said, I want this artcile to be maximally packed with info and will finish by listing the advantages of HollowTech bottom brackets too.

  • Lighter & stiffer
  • Compatible with high-end (up-to-date) cranks
  • Easier to remove (you don’t need special crank pullers)
  • The hollow axle can be used to store a multi-tool.

And that’s about it.

A Little Known Tip

Finally, I’d like to finish this post with a little tip that negates one of the common downsides of SQ taper bottom brackets, namely the difficult removal that requires a special tool (crank puller) and a set of wrenches.

There are self-extracting square taper bolts that push the crank arm away from the frame during untightening.

The mechanism is fairly simple. The bolt has a “periphery”/washer that bites against the crank arm. As the bolt is coming out, its collet pushes against the crank arm and separates it from the bottom bracket’s axle.

If your bike doesn’t currenly have them, you can install a set.

Personally, I don’t mind using crank pullers as I rarely remove my cranks, and if I do it, it’s usually at home where I have all my bike tools. But if you are a touring cyclist who wants to make the procedure simpler and faster in case of an emergency, the self-extracting bolts are a good option.

Until next time

– rookie

P.S. HollowTech fans, don’t be mad.

PPS. I hate press-fit bottom brackets too..so stay tuned for more posts of this nature.





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