Noob questions about headset theory- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    Noob questions about headset theory

    Headsets seem to perform a fairly basic function, but there is a wide range of them between $20 and $200+.

    1. What makes one headset better than another?
    2. Which features are most important for fatbikes, particularly for fatbiking in the snow and cold?

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by BowHopper View Post
    Headsets seem to perform a fairly basic function, but there is a wide range of them between $20 and $200+.

    1. What makes one headset better than another?
    2. Which features are most important for fatbikes, particularly for fatbiking in the snow and cold?
    I too wonder the same. I have been debating upgrading from a cane creek 40 to a Chris king headset but wanted to know what the differences were (other than pretty colors).

  3. #3
    Kick Start My Heart
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    Now here's a question i have been to afraid to ask. Please advise us.

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  4. #4
    Fat & Single
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    I'll go out out on a limb here and give my take on it.

    Is it worth upgrading from a $40 10 series Cane Creek or a $60 40 series to a 110 at $140 ? I personally would go for a med to high end headset from the kick off but i definately would not upgrade a headset just for the sake of it. If i had an average headset my bike and it failed i would probably buy a better one.

    Heres what you could expect for the extra money.....

    Lighter,
    Better seals,
    Better bearings,
    Better finish,
    Better design to reduce weigh and increase strength.
    Tighter tolerances,
    All parts replaceable.
    And in the case of the CC110, a 110 year no questions asked warranty.

    Personally i always buy Hope and ive never had a problem. In most cases you do get what you pay for.
    Santa Cruz Hightower LT Evil Following Trek 9.9 Superfly SL IndyFab Deluxe 29 Pivot Vault CX Cervelo R3 Disc

  5. #5
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    I go with Hope too. Hits my quality : price sweet spot.

    It comes down to quality. If you ride your bike alot. Your headset, BB, and hubs, are going to take abuse. The better the fit and sealing. The longer they will last. In the case of headsets the fact that they are a pain to fit, and are very very visible. Convince people to spend a little extra perhaps.
    A big boy did it, and ran away.
    62*28'

  6. #6
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    One more thing.. Cheap headsets have a habit of indexing.. Where the balls form dents in the cups and you get this aweful notching as the balls roll from one dent to the next as you turn the bars.. I think the better headsets don't ever do this.. And the really expensive ones are more about the 'bling' ... and how much you love your bike..

    DJ

  7. #7
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    In theory no cartridge bearing headset should index. But the slightest misalignment greatly effects longevityof the whole thing.

    Once you get beyond a certain price point and quality. The law of ever decreasing returns makes it simply a case of bling as you say.
    A big boy did it, and ran away.
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  8. #8
    Fat & Single
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    Bling is good if you can afford it.

    The increasing amount of internal/integrated headset frames might do away with the bling factor as its basically gone and hidden the KING or 110 logos
    Santa Cruz Hightower LT Evil Following Trek 9.9 Superfly SL IndyFab Deluxe 29 Pivot Vault CX Cervelo R3 Disc

  9. #9
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    I have had all manner of headsets from threaded to threadless, from used cheapie to brand new chris king.

    I've never had a problem with any headset. Ever. The cheapies perform as well as the chris king. They all require the same occasional maintenance. Which is to say, once a year, add some grease.

    over thousands of miles in all weather, I have never had a headset go bad.

    Headsets are like helmets- they all do the exact same job and they all do it pretty well. The more expensive you get, you get features like color and lighter weight, but not much else. It's pretty easy to put a lifetime warranty on a headset- it's not a part that fails often.

    Kings are great. they're beautiful, they're made in America and the company that makes them actually gives a damn about the environment- that's worth a lot. As a mechanical device, I can't say they're better in any way you'd actually feel on a bike when riding.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by BowHopper View Post
    Headsets seem to perform a fairly basic function, but there is a wide range of them between $20 and $200+.

    1. What makes one headset better than another?
    2. Which features are most important for fatbikes, particularly for fatbiking in the snow and cold?
    I buy mid-range $40 headsets from FSA and Cane Creek for my bikes. I've never had a failure. The one in my Pugs was still fine after 4yrs of snow/sand/dirt abuse.
    Safe riding,

    Vik
    www.vikapproved.com

  11. #11
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    I built my Pugs with a Crank Bros Sage headset and the cups started surface rusting bad after 2 weeks of riding. I was not happy. It got progressively worse and up until a week ago when I replaced it I felt like the quality of it was the weak link of the whole bike. I swapped it out for a Chris King and now I'm pretty jacked! Its sort of a personal thing I think. I used an FSA Orbit on my CX bike and I think that is a really nice headset as well. On my Karate Monkey I use a Syncros FR headset and that is the burliest headset I have seen in a long time. If you are not concerned about weight and need a stout headset I would recommend the Syncros FR.
    My motorcycle runs on infant blood

  12. #12
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    I typically buy the cheapest headset I can find that is from a company with a name I recognize. Typically its a ritchey headset with unsealed bearings. They last forever.

    My chris king headsets shear off the bike after a few years. I respect the company and they warrantied it the first time ( I didn't try after that), but never had any other headset succumb like this.

    After twenty years of riding chris king and cheapos, I'm very content with cheap headsets. a 40 sealed hs is probably not a bad idea either, as occasionally the cage gets messed up on a cheap unsealed hs, especially when its off a bike and in the toolbox for a few months.

  13. #13
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    Hey;

    If you don't have a Thompson post/stem and King HS, you don't rate, and further, in some circles, you might be a loser.

    OK... For the rest of us, there are plenty of choices that work just fine. Its nice to have "the best" but it is not mandatory. If you ride well you will get props from your riding buds for that more than bling. If you can't ride, you better have the cash or you're nowhere.

    I have the Thompson stuff on some bikes for very specific performance reasons; strength and stiffness. I've got cheap stuff on others and they work just fine. I've had a headset go bad. It would not stay tight anymore, and I replaced it with a higher end FSA Orbit and have never touched it since.

    Do what makes you happy, but if all that is is function, go cheap. If that works, then there you go. If it does not, invest a little more for more performance until you get the level you need.
    Most people ply the Well Trodden Path. A few seek a different way, and leave a Trail behind.
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  14. #14
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    Thanks for the responses. Youíre echoing what my bike mechanic said as well, although he doesnít know very much about fatbikes, yet. Itís interesting that there are so many of them, and yet from the mid range on up they all pretty much do the job and are durable. I can see the bling factor as well, however. Itís one of the most highly visible components, and right in front of you. Vik, and anyone else, which FSAs have you used? FSA in particular has a lot of options, and they seem to be on sale at good prices now too. Here are a few Iíve looked at onine:
    FSA Orbit MX
    FSA Orbit UF
    FSA Orbit XLII
    FSA Pig
    FSA Pig DH Pro

    The only one of these that seemed to give any indication of being for a specific use was the DH one. The Pigs are quite a bit heavier, so I get that theyíre probably beefier and intend for DH use. Other than that they use different technologies (ball, cartage, 36 degree cartridge, I think I remember seeing some with needle bearings) but I have no way of telling if one is better for snowy fatbiking than another.

    (My idea with this bike is to a solid mid-range bike as economically as possible. My thinking now is that Iíll ride it for a year or so and when I know what I really want in a fatbike Iíll sell this and buy a higher end bike that Iíll personalize a bit more, but for this bike I'm looking for maximum value in solid mid-range parts.)

  15. #15
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    I've had the same CK headset in more bikes than I can remember. I bought it in '96 and it's been going strong ever since. Pop off the seals and re-grease it every so often with high quality bearing grease (bullshot super bearing grease has been great, but I'm down to my last squeeze and can't find it anymore). I like that CK pays their employees a living wage, they're a green company, and are involved in the community.

    I realize this is all subjective, but that's my justification for purchasing CK stuff. I've had others and they last a good long time too, but I buy CK because I like them as a company.

  16. #16
    @adelorenzo
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    I've never been a fan of caged bearing headsets. In fact I killed one recently on an 8-day bikepacking trip where it was seriously abused by water, boulders and fully-loaded, high-speed rocky descents. Granted it still worked but it was only fit for the bin when I got it home.

    FSA makes reliable, inexpensive cartridge bearing headsets, I've used various Orbits and Pigs over the years with no problems at all and those are on almost all of my bikes currently. I just avoid the cheapest ones that are not cartridge bearings.

    When you have a nice bike I think a good headset is worth it, especially when that bike is being ridden hard. I'm rocking a Cane Creek 110 on my Chromag Surface hardtail and it's pretty sweet.

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