1. The most important thing about buying a new bike is to make sure it fits. The only way you'll know if the bike is right for you is to size up the bike and make sure that the bike's geometry matches your body's geometry. Ask questions and do some research.
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2. If possible, try to find a shop that will let you demo the bike on real dirt. Five minutes in a parking lot won't cut it. You wouldn't buy a car without a real world test drive, and a bike should be no different.
3. Don't belive the hype. Just because your favorite rider or best friend rides a certain bike, that doesn't mean that's the best one for you. Have an open mind and be realistic about your needs and ability.
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  1. #1
    1.21 Jigowatts!
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    New question here. Explain Headsets

    Just poking around at certain upgrades and I need someone to explain the headset to me. What does a higher quality / expensive do for me over a standard / cheaper headset? Just wondering.
    '07 Giant Anthem 2
    '07 Giant Yukon
    '95 Diamondback WCF Vertex

  2. #2
    I railed it like Kong
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    Longer lifespan, less maintenance, a bit lighter. Some are specificly for strength like dirt jumping or downhill racing. I've always thought of the headset as something you upgrade after you've upgraded everything else. Unless the bike is a DJ or DH bike, then get a good one right away.
    I'm UNIQUE... just like everybody else.

  3. #3
    There's no app for this.
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    Like Arkon says

    get the best and worry less, and replace almost never.

    from Chris King, reputedly one of the best HS makes:

    "When Chris designed his first headset back in 1976, his idea was simply to create a headset that would last more than a season or two. No one could have known that his efforts would revolutionize the bicycle industry. The Chris King headset has been considered a benchmark of quality for thirty years. No other bicycle component can boast the longevity, performance and absolute reliability of the Chris King headset.

    We manufacture each Chris King headset from materials and components evaluated precisely for use in our headsets. Each headset is developed with every attention to detail and each part of every headset is made by us. We even go so far as to make our own sealed, cartridge style bearings - a practice unheard of in the bike industry.

    Our bearings are made from surgical grade stainless steel and are fully serviceable. The constant contact seals are easily removed to allow for user servicing, yet provide an impervious barrier to the worst grit and grime of riding. Our seals protect the bearings so well that we often see headsets 10, and even 15, years old that have never been serviced and still run like new.

    [B]Though our offer still stands, few people ever have to take us up on our 10 year warranty[B]

  4. #4
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    Also, like Akron says...

    Unless you're dirt jumping or DH riding, upgrade your headset after you've upgraded everything else.

    Although it didn't come with a 10 year warranty the cheap Dia-Comp headset on my 94 Cannondale is still working just fine. Just keep them adjusted properly and regrease them once a season depending on how often they see wet and muddy conditions.

    Not to knock King users but IMO those headsets are an expensive fix to a problem that doesn't exist.

  5. #5
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    There are a lot of us that run forever on the stock headsets that come with our bikes without any problems. My bikes range in age from 8 years old to 14 years old and they all still have the original headsets. At the most, I service a headset after about 5 years of riding. I recently serviced an Aheadset brand basic headset on my 14 year old mtn bike for the 1st time and even though there wasn't a hell of a lot of grease left in it, everything was still in good shape. All I did was clean it up, regrease, and reassemble. That type of headset probably cost around 20 bucks new.

    I'm not denying that the higher end headsets are of better quality, but I don't think too many of us would actually notice any difference. I do have one bike with a higher end FSA headset on it and it was a little easier to service than my other ones and looks a little more impressive, but beyond that I don't really notice any difference while riding or in durability (my other ones already last forever so how can I say one is more durable than another).

    If you're not having any problems with your current headset, I can't see any reason for upgrading it other than the Bling factor.

  6. #6
    pronounced may-duh
    Reputation: Maida7's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dir-T
    Not to knock King users but IMO those headsets are an expensive fix to a problem that doesn't exist.

    WORD! Headsets don't break under normal trail riding conditions and require very little maintenance. A headset is not what I would consider a performance upgrade. If yours still works then I suggest you save your money for something else.

  7. #7
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    where on the quality scale would an Ahead headset rate?
    '07 Giant Anthem 2
    '07 Giant Yukon
    '95 Diamondback WCF Vertex

  8. #8
    pronounced may-duh
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    Quote Originally Posted by brubakes
    where on the quality scale would an Ahead headset rate?

    Dia Compe? Thats the original design for what is now the standard type of headset. But I can't really answer your question cause Dia compe made several levels of quality Aheadsets. They made everything from a steel cup with loose ball type to a fancy aluminum cups and sealed cartridge type. All of dia compe stuff was trail worthy. Like I said before if it still works then you should just save your money.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Maida7
    Like I said before if it still works then you should just save your money.
    i agree, just trying to better understand things
    '07 Giant Anthem 2
    '07 Giant Yukon
    '95 Diamondback WCF Vertex

  10. #10
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    Yea.. lower maintainence..

    It doesn't take that long to grease up a headset considering its not very hard to get to the bearings.

  11. #11
    go chase the sunset
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    There 4 main types, specific to the frame headtube: threaded, threadless (conventional, semi-integrated/internal, integrated).

    Higher quality headsets have stainless or up to ceramic bearings (token and specialized are the only brands I've seen of ceramic headset) for less friction, have better seals to prevent water or muck getting in there, and can be either lighter for weight-weenies or stronger for stuff like DH.

    Top end stuff are manufacturers like Chris King, high-number Cane Creek, FSA (made with cane creek's license). Aheadset (correct me if I'm wrong) is owned by Cane Creek now and cane creek now uses the brand to sell their lesser models.

    You should be checking the bearings on your headset for play or anything funny every year or so, assuming decent amounts of use. It's a quick thing to do.

    Don't change your headset for a performance upgrade unless you're a DHer. You'll not notice any difference in day-day riding. However, it's worth doing it as a weight weenie upgrade if you're at the stage just before you replace all the bolts on your bike with ti-alloy. Also, if I remember correctly, it's worth getting a cane creek solos above a chris king. The warrantly is the same length, the cane creek is based around a compression ring design which I've read lasts longer, and additionally it's a fair bit cheaper.

    Edit: read this: http://www.pvdwiki.com/index.php?tit...&printable=yes

  12. #12
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    Man...some of you must live in some dry climates!

    Up here in the PNW...most headsets have a one to two year lifespan if you ride regularly in the rain and mud. If you run something a little more upscale...say a Cane Creek or Aheadset S2/C2 than the bearings will last a couple of seasons and you can just replace those. Even with regular service (I'm a former bicycle mechanic with eight years experience) most headsets don't last much longer. The exception is the Chris King...NEVER in my 8 years of working service did I see one fail...NEVER

    Does that mean go out right now and drop $130 plus labor on one right now? No...in most cases the one that came with your bike is sufficient. But when it does wear out...consider a King

    We used to say at the Seattle shop I worked for:
    "Buy a Cane Creek and replace the bearings every few years, buy a Chris King and replace the frame every few years"

    Kind of sums it up

  13. #13
    Afric Pepperbird
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbiker72
    Man...some of you must live in some dry climates!

    Up here in the PNW...most headsets have a one to two year lifespan if you ride regularly in the rain and mud. If you run something a little more upscale...say a Cane Creek or Aheadset S2/C2 than the bearings will last a couple of seasons and you can just replace those. Even with regular service (I'm a former bicycle mechanic with eight years experience) most headsets don't last much longer. The exception is the Chris King...NEVER in my 8 years of working service did I see one fail...NEVER

    Does that mean go out right now and drop $130 plus labor on one right now? No...in most cases the one that came with your bike is sufficient. But when it does wear out...consider a King

    We used to say at the Seattle shop I worked for:
    "Buy a Cane Creek and replace the bearings every few years, buy a Chris King and replace the frame every few years"

    Kind of sums it up

    What are the noticeable symptoms of a "worn out" headset?

  14. #14
    Former Bike Wrench
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    Answers

    Quote Originally Posted by dirt farmer
    What are the noticeable symptoms of a "worn out" headset?
    -Unable to keep tight (loosens during ride despite proper adjustment)
    -Unable to adjust so handlebars move freely but no play
    -Notchiness or tight spots when play is removed (some cheap headsets have this brand new)
    -Visual pits in cups (open bearing systems)

    The key is to replace a worn headset before additional damage is done to the headtube. Running a loose headset can ovalize the headtube, thus potentially ruining the frame.

    I have a 1996 Ritchey SwissCross that I use mainly on the road...I have replaced practically every part on that bike over the years except one...the Chris King headset. Unfortunately my mountainbike uses a zero-stack headset...which King doesn't make so I'm using a WTB model...which seems to be working fine so far but its only been one winter...

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtnbiker72
    Man...some of you must live in some dry climates!
    I'll give you that. SW Montana is pretty dry during bike season. Hence I only adjust my trail bike headset and don't worry much about regreasing.

    But the old Cannondale saw about 4 years of hard off road use in PA (can be wet and is always rocky) and has since seen 8 years of year-round commuting through snow, slush, and some rain. I clean and regrease the OEM headset every other spring.

  16. #16
    pronounced may-duh
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    I live and ride in western north Carolina. It rains almost every day here in the summer. Pisgah resembles a tropical rain forest with steam rising from the humidity. I've been running a cane creek headset for a few years now without any maintenance and no problems. You can get a nice cane creek unit with sealed cartridge bearings in the 30.00price range. A King unit may be better but not 4 times better. Just like XTR is better than LX but it's still not so much better that it justifies the extra cost. At least not with my bank account. I sure there are people with more disposable income who have no problem splurging for a king headset and all XTR parts. I'm saving my pennies for my next chain, brake pads, tires, etc... I'm just trying to keep my bike on the trail and feed my kids.

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