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Why the switch to threadless / integrated headsets?(23 posts)

Why the switch to threadless / integrated headsets?MrDan
Feb 12, 2003 8:34 AM
I'm use to older-era bikes (quill stems, downtube shifters), but will be buying a new bike soon. What is the rationel behind the threadless headset? I can't believe it is any better than the older standard, but perhaps cheaper??? Is it just the spacers and the stem creating the bearing adjustment/preload? Do integrated headsets use press-fit steel races in the head tube? The older style headsets were/are very easy to use/maintain/adjust.
Someone enlighten me (I'm in for it now!)
MTB crossover technology? Nobody knows? Marketing? nmSpunout
Feb 12, 2003 8:54 AM
MTB crossover technology? Nobody knows? Marketing? nmlaffeaux
Feb 13, 2003 12:58 PM
I remember when it was first becoming popular with MTBs in the early '90s all of the magazine were saying it was better due to the reduced weight. Beyond that I think it's marketing, and the ability for manufacturer to claim that they are movng forward and not stuck in the past.

It did spawn the removable race-plate and allowed for alternative materials to be used for the steerer tube. Nice by-products in themselves, and arguable more important than the headset.

The other interesting by-product is that Shimano was kicked out of the headset market. The owner of the patent (FSA or Cane Creek, I forget which) will not license the use of the patent to Shimano, so there's at least one component on every bike that is not made by the big S.
MTB crossover technology? Nobody knows? Marketing? nmRob Sal
Feb 17, 2003 1:08 AM
I think it was more do do with Shimano not wanting to pay the inventors (Dia Compe) the royalties for using the threadless design, though their are people that will convert their standard headsets to threadless for a few dollars.

You would think after raking it in from the SPD clone royalties they wouldn't mind paying out for a change!
The whole thing is nonsense. nmOldEdScott
Feb 12, 2003 9:23 AM
re: Why the switch to threadless / integrated headsets?Trent in WA
Feb 12, 2003 9:27 AM
If you're a racer (or trying to look like one), the advantage of a threadless system is that it allows you to use a carbon fork / steerer tube combination, saving some weight. Some would argue that it makes for a stiffer front end, though I find that rather hard to believe. From the user's end, the rest is fashion. From the manufacturer's, threadless systems are cheaper to produce (since you only have to make one size fork / steerer combination for any particular bike model), and integrated systems offer the possibility of requiring users to buy a new high-$$ frame if and when they toast the headset. All that comes at the cost of less adjustability for the user most of the time. And I think threadless systems are ugly, but I'm old-school in my aesthetics.

I blame everything on marketing....cory
Feb 12, 2003 9:47 AM
As everybody else has pointed out, there are some small theoretical advantages. None of them is as important to me as the loss of easy adjustability. For what it's worth, in more than 30 years of cycling and I have no idea how many thousands of miles on at least a dozen bikes, I've never had a failure with a conventional headset. The one on my Trek hasn't been touched in at least 10 years, through all its incarnations as touring bike, hybridized roadie, flat-bar commuter and now singlespeed.
and it seems integrated sets give trouble.colker
Feb 12, 2003 12:51 PM
lower bearings get contaminated with water.
the only solution is making up some sort of "boot" to cover the frame fork junction.
it's happening in lots of pinarellos here.
re: Why the switch to threadless / integrated headsets?Hardtail
Feb 12, 2003 9:49 AM
First off let me say that MY road bike and cross bike use old school threaded type. That said, the threadless system is stronger and easier to adjust the bearing preload, it also tends to stay adjusted better (threaded loves to loosen). And as somebody said it allows for a lighter steer tube assembly.As for height adjustment its always good to leave lots of extra tube and use spacers until you find the height you prefer. I think the old style will eventually be eliminated altogether so thats another thing.
You traditionalists have to be kidding...Quack
Feb 12, 2003 11:14 AM
Give me the nothread any day:

1. Adjustability--the only comparison even close to a tie in my book. The old quill stems could vary the height of the bars rivaling todays nothread design but run the quill low for a while and then raise it up. Ewwww, wear grooves, corrosion, etc. Plus, who ever really enjoyed busting out the two 32-36mm headset wrenches that had to be so thin that you either splayed the wrenches you slipped off and rounded off the nuts or both just to adjust the load on the bearings. Much easier for me to pull the 5mm hex key out of my pocket micro-tool set and adjust the headset than carrying the wrenches.

2. Installation--no contest, you can swap a set of fully taped handlebars with levers in about 60 seconds on the nothread. Even untaping just one side, you'd still be 5 minutes into the quiller before you even started to scratch the piss out of the bars trying to snake them through the clamp.

3. Quill stems are much more likely to slice your sack open in a front end crash than the nothread design. The nothread design is at least twice as wide in this area. Furthermore, ever smack your knee on a quiller versus nothread??

My .02.

Very eloquently written...Fez
Feb 12, 2003 2:22 PM
I chuckled when I read reason #2. Reason #3 had me laughing harder. I never thought that was a reason to change to threadless, but you bring up a good point.
Feb 13, 2003 7:38 AM
The argument about ease of installation is a non-issue if you use one of the many quill stems available with removable face caps -- eg. 3T Motus, Deda Murex, Salsa SUL, Profile H2O, etc. Also it is very easy to adjust the height of a quill stem, you just loosen the Allen bolt on the top, move it up or down, and retighten. What is complicated about that? With a threadless fork/stem, to adjust the height (once the steerer is cut), you either have to buy a new stem and/or a new fork. It is much easier, in my view, to wear out a headset with a threadless system because it's difficult to get the tension just right on the bearings when installing the stem. I just about ruined a Campy headset that way when swapping stems. This would be a non-issue with a quill stem, which you can swap without affecting the headset adjustments.

The main advantages to threadless forks and stems are the wider range of stem sizes and models available and a potential decrease in weight. I say potential, because if you prefer to ride with higher bars, a threadless system is likely to weigh just as much as threaded due to the weight of the longer steer tube. The only way to save a substantial amount of weight with threadless is to also use an all-carbon fork, which practically necessitates using very few spacers and running your handlebar with a large drop from the saddle (unless you can afford a custom frame with extended head tube).

Some advice: If you are buying a new bike, consider a custom frame. Most custom shops can build a frame with either a quill or threadless stem. Even if you decide to go threadless, a custom shop can extend the head tube so you don't have to deal with as much hassle in fitting the stem, handlebar height, etc. Since virtually all manufacturers are building their bikes with threadless forks and stems now, I don't understand why they don't put extended head tubes on all frames. A few of them do -- notably Litespeed and Pegoretti. If you don't want to go custom, you can still find a few frames with threaded forks at places like
re: Why the switch to threadless / integrated headsets?jw25
Feb 12, 2003 11:36 AM
Well, personally, I find threadless headsets to be easier to adjust, especially on the road. Not having to use two big wrenches to set bearing preload is very nice.
I imagine it's also cheaper, since one size fork will fit any frame, and there's no need to thread the steerer tubes. It also opens the door for aluminum and carbon steerers. If you install a new fork with a few spacers, you should have enough adjustment range for a proper fit. It may look ugly, but you can ride with 20-25mm of spacers above the stem, to avoid cutting the steerer any shorter, but still allow a higher bar position for training.
Integrated headsets use sealed cartridge bearings, which contain the races and bearings in one unit. Thus, there's no need for separate steel races in the frame - they can ride on aluminum. They also allow for aluminum crown races, which are lighter but plenty strong. They also allow for a longer headtube, which can space the top and down tubes farther apart, and may influence front triangle rigidity. I don't have any numbers for this, though.
In short, I like threadless headsets over the old threaded style, and have yet to have any issues with them.
But all forks DID fit all frames, all stems, all bars. Not nownmSpunout
Feb 12, 2003 11:47 AM
But all forks DID fit all frames, all stems, all bars. Not nownmRob Sal
Feb 17, 2003 1:43 AM
"But all forks DID fit all frames, all stems, all bars. Not now"

Exactly, now we have inch and inch and an eighth steerers, plus some forks come with an integrated specific model.

Adjustability on the road is fine, but the Campag threaded stem on my winter bike has not needed any attention for 10 years, plus I have able to gradually raise the stem by a centimetre as my position needs have evolved without having to buy a new stem or fork!
Easier . . . and blame Mtn BikesRJF
Feb 12, 2003 1:25 PM
Not that there was anything terribly wrong with the old system, but once threadless caught on in mountain biking, I'm sure headset manufacturers didn't want two standards.

I also find threadless 100 times easier to set up and maintain. Hmmm, allen wrench or two big wrenches?
Feb 12, 2003 3:09 PM
Quilled stems require metal (usually steel) steer tubes due to their clamping mech. Quills also have to overlap far more material (stem into steer tube) vs. stem on steer tube connection of threadless. It's lighter and yes simpler. Not that I'm a weight weenie but I switched over my training bike to threadless and shaved a quarter pound easy
weight psatpjunkie
Feb 12, 2003 3:13 PM
because threaded steer tubes needs 'threads' I think they all must be steel. can you properly thread an aluminum tube?
This "bearing preload" businessTrent in WA
Feb 12, 2003 3:26 PM
Just curious: A few of you have claimed that an advantage of threadless steerer systems is that it's easier to adjust the bearing preload on them. A question: Do you ever actually need to do that on the road? In my years of riding and occasionally wrenching (on my own bikes), I've only once needed to adjust preload outside of overhauling a headset: when I'd screwed up the initial adjustment and needed to loosen it up. Came home after the ride, tweaked it, done. Now, I'm looking forward to having to adjust the bearing preload on my threadless-equipped tourer after boxing and unboxing it for a tour--but if it had a threaded steerer, I wouldn't need to do that.

This vision of road-bike headsets going constantly out of adjustment sounds like a load (sorry) of myth and lore, or an indication that there are some seriously incompetent mechanics out there. Or do you also carry cone wrenchs on rides to adjust the preload on your hubs--essentially the same bearing assembly as threaded headsets, after all?

Yup. Threaded was install and forget. Not threadless. nmSpunout
Feb 13, 2003 4:22 AM
This "bearing preload" businessRob Sal
Feb 17, 2003 1:50 AM
Campag hubs are now adjustable by only using a 2.5mm allen key. This is great as my hub cones always used to corrode and were unable to be loosened without a lot of cursing and blood loss!!
Threads cost more $$ to cutAlexx
Feb 14, 2003 4:42 AM
Also, a threadless headset seems to require less time for assembly and less skill, too. Any idiot with a hacksaw can custom-cut a steerer to length, so, considering the idiots working at the bike shops locally, that's a good thing...
I'd ask DougSloan about that! :) nmnoveread
Feb 14, 2003 7:27 AM