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Integrated headsets? Good or Bad?(14 posts)

Integrated headsets? Good or Bad?Sid the sloth
Jul 8, 2003 10:46 PM
I'm about to purchase my first road bike which has a Cane Creek Integrated headset. I've heard integrated headsets are helpful in the weight department, but can also be a maintenance headache. Is this true? I will be using this bike up in Northern California, so rain will be a part of my road riding routine, and I need this bike to last more than 5 or 6 years. Any personal experiences with integrated headsets?
Thanks.
BadMr Nick
Jul 8, 2003 11:07 PM
If it is integrated, that usually means the bearings run right on the head tube. Internal headsets are similar, but they ad a sleave inside the headtube so that bearings don't come in direct contact with the head tube. If you stop to think about bearings, metal wear, debri collection, it seems like a really bad idea to have your bearing run directly on your headtube. What happens when the races in the headtube wear out? Do you get a new headtube?
re: Integrated headsets? Good or Bad?SLR
Jul 9, 2003 1:38 AM
BAD! I've had one for 4 months and I hate it! I can't seem to get it adjusted properly to remove all the slop. Either too tight or too loose. It even tightens up after a few rides and feels like cr@p. My Chris King on my MTB is smooth as butter after 3 years of trail riding including serveral muddy races.
re: Integrated headsets? Good or Bad?Steve Bailey
Jul 9, 2003 4:43 AM
It's not the greatest invention on a bike, but it's also not as bad as others make out.

What was once a set of replacable cups is now the frame. With a headset that uses floating bearings in a cartridge, the actual ball bearings are in contact with the cups. In this scenario, it's very important to have the headset tension adjusted correctly and to make certain that the system is well lubed. Brinniling (sp ?) is caused - or so I've read, from a lack of lubrication that allows the ball bearings to cause pitting on the cup surface. With a bike spending most of it's time going straight, you get an indent that results in indexed stearing.

This is a bad thing on any headset, but ruins a frame if it happens on an integrated.

Cane Creek uses an angular contact bearing (as do others) that (should) eliminate pitting on the frame surface. The bearings are housed in a rotating housing with the bearings inside. The housing surfaces are in contact with the frame, but there's no chance for the individual ball bearings to cause pitting on the frame surface. Angular contact bearings are much more reliable then the older style.

That's not to say that all is well in an integrated design. You can still get poor design and alignment that causes the bearings to jam on a non-round cup (frame). You can get poor design of the the bearing surface that causes a poor fit, etc...

Bottom line is that way too many of the frame manufacturers are going to integrated and if you like the frame, there's no real reason not to get it. If they provide a lifetime warrenty then stick it too them if and when the headset fails.

SB
The jury is outterry b
Jul 9, 2003 5:40 AM
I've recently acquired two of different designs, one Cane Creek and one Campy. The main difference being that the Campy uses pressed in cups.

Design-wise I think it's an innovative but not necessarily good idea. Who really cares about the weight savings, and they potentially raise some problems. However, I don't think they are the smallpox of bicycle parts.

My experience so far has been "interesting." Both of them took more time to settle in than a standard headset. Meaning - I had to re-adjust them after a couple of rides before they stayed put. This is something to watch out for.

I think the Cane Creek is a superior design, mainly because of the cartridge bearings. I for one am not terribly worried about them destroying the headtube. While the pressed in cups on the Campy are a nice alternative, I'm getting sick and tired of expensive components using exposed ball bearings. Cheesy engineering if you ask me.

Will they last? Can't say, but I'm not lying awake at night worrying about it. I think they need more attention than the traditional design - I do the "rocking test" after every couple of rides just to make sure they've stayed put. After the early adjustments, they have.

My advice - pay attention to it and I think it will last the timeframe you're expecting.
Loose ball bearingsNessism
Jul 9, 2003 6:40 AM
Loose ball bearings have a major advantage in that they are easily serviced. Just take the bearing out and clean/grease. So called "cartridge bearings" usually have a pressed in seal which makes servicing much harder - and yes, they do need to be serviced. Which would you rather do, pry off the seal using a sharp xacto knife (or similar) in order to service a cartridge bearing, or just undo a nut on a loose ball bearing?

Regarding integrated headsets, my opinion is that internal types using a pressed in cup are OK but not those that use the head tube to center the bearing. I've seen way too many improperly machined head tubes from framebuilders to trust them to face the beveled surfaces consistantly in a production environment.

Just my $0.02. Your milage may vary.

Ed
what would I rather do?terry b
Jul 9, 2003 7:07 AM
I'd rather replace a cartridge bearing after 10,000 miles and not have to ever handle a loose ball bearing again. At $39 for a replacement headset, I don't want to bother pulling things apart and watching the little silver balls bounce away under my work bench. Purely a matter of engineering taste.

As far as frame MFGRs ability to correctly build the headtube, I more or less agree with you. However, since most of this design are now sold as "headset included" I think we have a fairly high probability of getting frames that were correctly machined, at least at the higher price breaks. In this case, if the thing was built incorrectly and not tested at the builder and still made it out to you, you have some recourse in getting a replacement. Lower end builders who use this design (and especially those that do not sell the frame with the headset installed and tested) would probably be better avoided.
Probably badDropped
Jul 9, 2003 6:41 AM
In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the old non-integrated headset. Having parts that wear out be replaceable is always a good thing too. But a lot of people will tell you that integrated are fine and they love them.

Personally, when I purchased a new frame in December, one of my criteria was that the bike could NOT have an integrated headset.
Good for racers that get a new bike every yearLC
Jul 9, 2003 9:55 AM
Then they sell it to suckers to worry about the long term.
re: Integrated headsets? Good or Bad?gtx
Jul 9, 2003 10:23 AM
http://www.chrisking.com/tech/int_headsets_explained/int_hds_explain_1.html
re: Integrated headsets? Good or Bad?overtrained
Jul 9, 2003 12:47 PM
Chris King is just trying to protect their business.
probablygtx
Jul 9, 2003 1:34 PM
but I agree with most of their points
Yeah, but it might just be aMel Erickson
Jul 9, 2003 2:33 PM
"how many angels can dance on the head of a pin" type argument. Common sense tells me integrated headsets could be a problem but there's just not enough long term experience to tell. Maybe we'll know in 5-10 years. If otherwise good frames start being junked because the head tube bearing race goes bad how many people will buy a frame with that "feature" again. This is one of those "innovations" that the market will sort out sooner or later. In the meantime I'll let others be the guinea pigs.
No difference in feel.High Gear
Jul 9, 2003 2:55 PM
To me they look nice too. I had problems at first with the headset loosening but after changing stems to a two bolt no problems. Many are faced with the same predicament but it shouldn't be looked at as a problem. They work just fine.