If not Chris King, then what?- Mtbr.com
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  1. #1
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    If not Chris King, then what?

    Just got a new fork and want to upgrade my headset as well. I know Chris King is the standard go-to headset, but are there any others that are as reliable? Any opinions would be appreciated!!

  2. #2
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    Prefer Cane Creek nowadays. Kings are good but a little over hyped imo.
    Still have 10 yr old Kings headset on XC bikes that works fine but so are my other cheaper sealed bearing headsets.

  3. #3
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    I have read that the Cane Creek S3 is a decent headset. Anyone use an S3? I have a cheap Cane Creek that came on my Heckler and the bearings are going out after about 10 months. Do the higher models last longer from Cane Creek?

  4. #4
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    high models (Solos / 110) of Cane Creek definitely last longer than the cheaper CC ones. They are equal to CK any day. Fit and seal is excellent, run smooth, and don't wear or rust.

    "I must not be crazy because I'm seriously questioning my sanity"

  5. #5
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    Not sure why this is posted in the shocks forum, but any headset with compression ring is better than those without, i.e. Chris Kings. Probably the best one on the market is Cane Creek 110.

  6. #6
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    IMO king headsets are not the standard, they are just overpriced bling parts that dont live up to the hype. There nice quality headsets of course, but they are over priced. I find FSA or cane creek headsets to be much nicer, or a hope if you want a coloured one

  7. #7
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    whoops, double post

  8. #8
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    Love my CC ZS-6
    (I too think King is over-hyped)
    Honestly... ahh I give up

  9. #9
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    I think CK is hyped because they focus on quality and stick with what works. You know what to expect from CK.

    Other brands build many standards at many price points and they might change from year to year.

    That said, there's nothing keeping other brands from meeting or exceeding the quality of CK components. The Cane Creek 110 is a good example that meets or beats CK.

    "I must not be crazy because I'm seriously questioning my sanity"

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by noshortcuts
    I think CK is hyped because they focus on quality and stick with what works. You know what to expect from CK.

    Other brands build many standards at many price points and they might change from year to year.

    That said, there's nothing keeping other brands from meeting or exceeding the quality of CK components. The Cane Creek 110 is a good example that meets or beats CK.
    I ditched my king headset a couple of years back, swapped to a FSA Pig headset on two of my bikes.
    I couldn't be happier, the FSA's have no play, no noise and I expect them to stay like that forever.

    The king was 2 years old when I got it, 2 more years of riding by me and it was creaking badly. The topcap had fretted itself on the top bearing race, due of course to not using a wedge to hold the steerer.
    I'm not a fan of the CK design.
    Owner of www.shockcraft.co.nz, Mech Engineer, Tuner, Manitou, Motorex, Vorsprung EPTC, SKF, Enduro
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  11. #11
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    I use a Cane Creek S3 headset on a bike. The design is good, seems well sealed. Bearings are easy to get too and replace if need be. I can't see spending over $50 for a plain jane headset. I used a Cane Creek reducer headset on a Cannondale frame once to run a normal 1 1/8 steerer. It too was a nice, nice headset. Getting close to CK price with that one.
    "Bikes aren't fast--people are fast. Bikes are overpriced. It's an important distinction."---BikeSnob NYC

  12. #12
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    So when would you need a chris king and why do people buy them? Over priced/hyped or not, is there any benefit they have over every other alternative?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dougal
    The king was 2 years old when I got it, 2 more years of riding by me and it was creaking badly. The topcap had fretted itself on the top bearing race, due of course to not using a wedge to hold the steerer.
    The bearing cap is considered a sacrificial item, and is cheaply replaced for $18. In the King design both the bearing cap and base plate are consumable wear items.

    I have zero problems with creaking on multiple King headsets, but my rule of thumb is if the fork 5" or more travel I'll slap one of these on:
    http://www.pricepoint.com/detail/162...0-Headlock.htm

    With the King I know the headset will be installed for the life of the bike, and then for the life of the next bike, and so on. I know it will simply work and that I don't have to worry about the bearings. For the heck of it I decided to regrease the bearings on a King headset which had seen hard use for 5 years, and the grease in it was still clean.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmallory
    Just got a new fork and want to upgrade my headset as well. I know Chris King is the standard go-to headset, but are there any others that are as reliable? Any opinions would be appreciated!!
    What's wrong with the current headset?

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by peternguyen
    So when would you need a chris king and why do people buy them? Over priced/hyped or not, is there any benefit they have over every other alternative?
    more colors , and they can last forever (but so can other high quality headsets).

    "I must not be crazy because I'm seriously questioning my sanity"

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by noshortcuts
    ...and they can last forever (but so can other high quality headsets).
    I think part of the reason many people (myself included) use King headsets is because they have a long history of lasting for a long time. The new CC headsets might be their equal, but we don't have that 5 year, 10 year service history yet.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by peternguyen
    So when would you need a chris king ?
    1995.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  18. #18
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    Doesn't Cane Creek hold the patent on the design that King uses? I have had no issues with my two sets of CC S-3's. I don't think you can beat CC headsets for the price.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by 88 rex
    Doesn't Cane Creek hold the patent on the design that King uses? I have had no issues with my two sets of CC S-3's. I don't think you can beat CC headsets for the price.

    actually CC holding the aheadset patent is part of the reason why CK doesn't use the wedge AFAIK

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by 88 rex
    Doesn't Cane Creek hold the patent on the design that King uses?
    No, CC holds the patent on using a compression ring. King doesn't license the patent from them, which is why they use an o-ring.

  21. #21
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    Thanks for clearing that up.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by bad mechanic
    The bearing cap is considered a sacrificial item, and is cheaply replaced for $18. In the King design both the bearing cap and base plate are consumable wear items.
    So why spend the extra for a king with parts which wear out and need replaced, when I can buy cheaper headsets that hold the fork better and last longer?

    Overhyped, I think so.
    I paid roughly $US20 for the headset I replaced my king with.
    Owner of www.shockcraft.co.nz, Mech Engineer, Tuner, Manitou, Motorex, Vorsprung EPTC, SKF, Enduro
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  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dougal
    So why spend the extra for a king with parts which wear out and need replaced, when I can buy cheaper headsets that hold the fork better and last longer?

    Overhyped, I think so.
    I paid roughly $US20 for the headset I replaced my king with.
    Huh, mine has lasted 8 years on 4 bikes and 10 different forks. I put 25 cents worth of grease in it now and then though.

    So how much did you sell yours for 'cause I'll give you $US20 for it busted and all.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by thebronze
    Huh, mine has lasted 8 years on 4 bikes and 10 different forks. I put 25 cents worth of grease in it now and then though.

    So how much did you sell yours for 'cause I'll give you $US20 for it busted and all.
    I swapped it for an incomplete year 2000 Xvert Super. Equivalent value back then, probably $US40-50.

    I honestly don't know why people rave about them. The lack of a wedge means the top race continually frets on your stem/spacers and rocks around on the bearing underneath. Sure they'll sell you a scuff washer. You fit that and find the noise doesn't change because it's caused by king made parts chewing into king made parts.
    By the time it's making noise, the top race is essentially scrap.

    If you're greasing the cap/bearing interface then you obviously know that parts which shouldn't be moving, are.
    So I swapped it with someone who cares about labels more than function and bought something functional instead. Yeah it has a wedge.
    Owner of www.shockcraft.co.nz, Mech Engineer, Tuner, Manitou, Motorex, Vorsprung EPTC, SKF, Enduro
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dougal
    So I swapped it with someone who cares about labels more than function and bought something functional instead. Yeah it has a wedge.
    The funny thing is, my Kings are the only trouble free headsets I've ever owned. My two friends I ride with both use King headsets because they're the only trouble free headsets they've used either. We used them on bikes ranging from SS XC to DH. Between us, all seven King headsets have been completely trouble free. So, for us, it's all about it being functional.

    I'm not saying everyone should only use King headsets, but the passion people attack them with gets a little old.

  26. #26
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    I still think CK have the best bearings in the business, but that whole O-ring/top cap thing is just [email protected]

    Even on my XC bike the O-ring has worn a nice little ring into my steerer. When I change that fork, I'll swap the headset at the same time. Personally I like the Hopes (got 2 of 'em on my bigger bikes) - simple well sealed and I can get them for a good price, but they're not *quite* as smooth as a CK.

    If somebody came up with an aftermarket top cap for Kings that had a conical wedge in, then I'd be absolutely fine to stick with them.

  27. #27
    ronbo613
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    I have a Chris King headset on one of my well used bikes that has been in service without problems for more than eight years. Still works and looks great. I have a Cane Creek headset on another well used bike; it also works great but doesn't look as sharp as the King.
    Both good headsets. If I can afford a King I will buy one because they make a quality product and are a good company that supports biking, Chris King is a good guy. I wouldn't have any problem with a Cane Creek either. I've found the King headset usually outlasts the Cane Creek models, but I have not used the super high end Cane Creeks.
    Not a tough choice, really.

  28. #28
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    I have used three S3s so far and not a problem with any of them. They are so cheap and reliable I just don't see a need for anything more blingy. It's nice to run 3 of the same headsets also so I can swap around forks a little easier.


    Oh, and as far as Cane Creek or CK supporting biking... Cane Creek is every bit as comitted to cycling as CK. They are based in Asheville, a major cycling community, and sponsor tons of local and international riders. Their products are tested in some of the highest elevations east of the Mississippi.

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by ronbo613
    I've found the King headset usually outlasts the Cane Creek models, but I have not used the super high end Cane Creeks.
    Not a tough choice, really.
    Which CC failed on you?

  30. #30
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    I'm not sure of the model, but it would be one of the lower priced headsets. Also, I wouldn't say "failed", I would say "wore out" quicker than the King. The headsets were on different bikes, so it's not a scientific comparison. Why? Not sure; maybe the quality of the sealed bearings, which can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
    Both companies make good headsets, both support cycling; like I said; "How can you go wrong?" I still have the King on one bike and a Cane Creek on the other.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by bad mechanic
    No, CC holds the patent on using a compression ring. King doesn't license the patent from them, which is why they use an o-ring.
    actually Chris King does license the Cane Creek patent (#5095770). He chooses not to use a compression ring however.

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by spankye
    actually Chris King does license the Cane Creek patent (#5095770). He chooses not to use a compression ring however.
    Where did you hear that?

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by bad mechanic
    Where did you hear that?
    I work for Cane Creek, just wanted to clear up the patent/licensing issue.

  34. #34
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    A CC S8 is worth consideration or find an NOS of CC solos, they are the higher range of CC prior the 110 and 100, great quality. You still can get the solos from CC website for usd43 which is way lower than the king with similar quality

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by spankye
    I work for Cane Creek, just wanted to clear up the patent/licensing issue.
    Hmm, very interesting.

    Do you know why they licensed it without using it? Does the patent cover more than just that?

  36. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by bad mechanic
    Hmm, very interesting.

    Do you know why they licensed it without using it? Does the patent cover more than just that?
    Honeslty man i'm not sure why he doesn't. No doubt his is a classic design though.

  37. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by spankye
    Honeslty man i'm not sure why he doesn't. No doubt his is a classic design though.
    I always love finding out something new.

    I wonder if it's because a compression ring would require a large ID on the top bearing?

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by bad mechanic
    I always love finding out something new.

    I wonder if it's because a compression ring would require a large ID on the top bearing?
    Who knows man...

  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by bad mechanic
    The funny thing is, my Kings are the only trouble free headsets I've ever owned. My two friends I ride with both use King headsets because they're the only trouble free headsets they've used either. We used them on bikes ranging from SS XC to DH. Between us, all seven King headsets have been completely trouble free. So, for us, it's all about it being functional.

    I'm not saying everyone should only use King headsets, but the passion people attack them with gets a little old.
    So how many years and km's do your headsets have on them? Hold your fingers around the top race and stem or spacers and rock the bike with the front brake on. How much do movement do you feel?

    Mine didn't start making noise until it was 4 years old. How many people here are riding headsets that were ridden regularly for over 4 years?
    Owner of www.shockcraft.co.nz, Mech Engineer, Tuner, Manitou, Motorex, Vorsprung EPTC, SKF, Enduro
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  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dougal
    So how many years and km's do your headsets have on them? Hold your fingers around the top race and stem or spacers and rock the bike with the front brake on. How much do movement do you feel?

    Mine didn't start making noise until it was 4 years old. How many people here are riding headsets that were ridden regularly for over 4 years?
    A lot and a lot. Each of the headsets are several years old, the oldest one being close to 10 at this point. I don't keep track of miles, but each one gets regularly ridden.

    I feel virtually no movement.

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by spankye
    Honeslty man i'm not sure why he doesn't. No doubt his is a classic design though.
    Classically flawed.
    "It's only when you stand over it, you know, when you physically stand over the bike, that then you say 'hey, I don't have much stand over height', you know"-T. Ellsworth

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  42. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by bad mechanic
    I feel virtually no movement.
    So you steerer is a tight fit into the cap?
    I don't have mine to measure any more, but the clearance between the top race and the steerer was significant and very easy to feel when rocking the forks front and back or side to side. An o-ring does a pretty average imitation of a rigid spacer.

    I bought a king "scuff washer" which allows the top race to slide across your stem or spacers more easily as that o-ring compresses. But it didn't help.
    Owner of www.shockcraft.co.nz, Mech Engineer, Tuner, Manitou, Motorex, Vorsprung EPTC, SKF, Enduro
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  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dougal
    So you steerer is a tight fit into the cap?
    I don't have mine to measure any more, but the clearance between the top race and the steerer was significant and very easy to feel when rocking the forks front and back or side to side. An o-ring does a pretty average imitation of a rigid spacer.

    I bought a king "scuff washer" which allows the top race to slide across your stem or spacers more easily as that o-ring compresses. But it didn't help.
    It's tight enough. When I install them I put a light layer of grease on the o-ring, place it on top of the steerer, and then need to hit it strongly with my palm to get it onto the steerer. I've never used a scuff washer. I just make sure everything is nice and tight.

    For the bearing preload I put the front wheel in the fork, turn the bars to one side, let them go, and I want to swing to the other side, and then just barely swing back in the original direction.

    Also, like I said, anything 5 inches or above gets a headlock on it.

  44. #44
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    I have a CK... really nice piece of gear. Really trouble free.... but it clicked with a particular fork that a VP Zero Stack (cheapo CC Licensed brand) did not click with. It hasn't clicked with other forks.

    One more point I personally don't like is that CK's need the stem surface resting on the bearing cover to be perfectly flat. Otherwise it gets loaded unevenly. It will not cause failure of the bearings as the bearing cap is aluminum and the bearing races are steel... but it will indeed use the bearing cap as a wear item.

    Another factor for long lifespan on CK's is that costing 130 bucks a pop, they'll be installed with much better frame prep and even better tools. Mind you that if you took the care to install even cheap headsets like that, they'd last much longer too.

    Actually, I don't know why the Zero Stack headset is not more widely used... I think it's easier to seal, allows /needs for a wider head tube and they can be serviced just like a classic headset... sure, they're mostly hidden so nice it doesn't really help to sell headsets. "Hey, bro... look at my new hea... uh.... nevermind, I swapped a headset for another one"
    Check my Site

  45. #45
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    I know it's not quite the same thing, but I've used Campy hiddensets (integrated) on my BMX bikes for years. Though the frame has to be made for them, they install by hand (without the need for a press), don't require headtube facing, and have performed absolutely flawlessly ever since installation. They don't even require readjustment once installed. Best $50 or so I've ever spent on headsets. Seriously, they can't be beat.

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