Author Topic: Is this the very best? (headset upgrade)  (Read 835 times)

Pavel

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Is this the very best? (headset upgrade)
« on: December 25, 2019, 08:36:52 PM »
Finally, after wanting either a Thorn Audax or a Thorn Club Tour for myself, for years, the unlikely has come to pass.  My wife, Vicki, has decided that walking is taking too long to keep fit with and will be taking up cycling.  Her Audax arrived three days ago and I'm in the slow (very slow :D ) process of building it up for her.

The frame came with the usual Thorn supplied Orbit XL2.  What got this upgrade ball rolling is that I went to the FSA website and tried to find documentation on the proper install for the product, only to find that since it seems no longer to be a current product, that there is no trace of it on FSA's site.  That is pretty lame in my opinion.  Secondly, I'd never paid any attention to the retaining clip, despite the fact that it's installed properly on my other Thorns, because, well basically, because it does not work.  My understanding is that the retaining clip is supposed to stop the fork from just falling out when the stem is removed, but in my experience it is so loose that it does nothing.  After watching a video online, it seemed that it does in fact work when all the parts fit right. I'm not sure what to blame, but it started the itch to upgrade.

After looking at several headset brands, including Cane Creek and Hope, I looked at the Cris king comment on SJS's site, which suggested that the Cris Kind product is different and superior to all others.  Hmmm.  Strong words.  Does anyone have any experience with Cris King headsets and opinions as to whether it's worth the upgrade or not?  I am pretty impressed to see the lengths towards quality control the company goes to, and especially by the fact that they even go to the trouble to manufacture their own ball bearings!

In case it's of any interest to some of you, here is a link to a video about how they manufacture, which I find fascinating.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=213&v=8aGj4NXBEZ0&feature=emb_logo

Any advice and thoughts will be greatly appreciated.  I am fired up about making this new Audax the nicest bike that I can, since my wife will be riding it, and since I like tinkering with bikes as much as exploring new places on them.  Merry Christmas!

Danneaux

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Re: Is this the very best? (headset upgrade)
« Reply #1 on: December 25, 2019, 09:03:00 PM »
Hi Pavel, and all cheers to you for helping steer Vicki toward a whole new dimension in fitness. It will be a pleasure to welcome her to the Forum when the time comes.

For proper assembly of the FSA headset, Thorn produced a little photographic guide available here: https://www.thorncycles.co.uk/sandbox/thorncycles/fsa.pdf

I have two bikes with the FSA Orbit XLII Thorn offers on its bikes. I have found both easy to install and setup and they have been troublefree over some high mileage since my first one in 2011. I've taken them apart periodically for inspection and found they have remained well lubricated and resistant to water. Of course, I to put a thin skim of Phil waterproof grease in the outside and race gaps of the cartridge bearings and inside the cup to aid sealing and use them with mudguards. Replacement bearings are available but sometimes it is possible to get a whole new headset as cheaply as the bearings alone; this is what I did for my second bike.

As for Chris King their reputation is stellar, they have been in business since 1976 and they are produced in Portland Oregon, about 180km/112mi north of me. Despite all these positives, I've not used one and so cannot comment personally. I've always used high quality rollerbearing headsets on my bikes with 1in steerers/quill stems, usually made by Stronglight but also Galli, Tange and Saavedra. Those have all proven trouble-free since 1981 and over more than 100,000 collective miles. I have a stash of replacement Stronglight races and tapered roller bearings "just in case" I need to renew the guts inside the fitted cups and races. These have proven so good and long lasting, I really haven't had to consider replacements.

If you go with Cane Creek, carefully read the reviews. Their headsets are available in a variety of models/quality levels and some carry longer warranties than others and may be more or less longer-lived than their brethren. Their high-end 110 series carries a 100% lifetime warranty including bearings for examples purchased since August 2019.

Best,

Dan.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2019, 09:48:37 PM by Danneaux »

mickeg

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Re: Is this the very best? (headset upgrade)
« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2019, 09:37:08 PM »
I have no idea why I have two diagrams saved on my hard drive, but I had two.  I put a copy of that on my phone along with a photo before I travel with my S&S bike, just in case I need to refer to it.

I have had no complaint with my headset, have no desire to change it.  I bought a spare a couple years ago, I bought it to install on a frame and then after I received it found that it would not fit on that frame, thus it is now a spare in the event I need one of the cartridge bearings out of it.
« Last Edit: December 25, 2019, 09:41:59 PM by mickeg »

Pavel

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Re: Is this the very best? (headset upgrade)
« Reply #3 on: December 25, 2019, 09:57:50 PM »
Thanks Dan and Mick.  Do you find that the gold color retaining clip snugs up tight enough to hold the fork in place?

mickeg

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Re: Is this the very best? (headset upgrade)
« Reply #4 on: December 25, 2019, 10:25:39 PM »
Thanks Dan and Mick.  Do you find that the gold color retaining clip snugs up tight enough to hold the fork in place?

If you mean, does the gold color thingy jam into place so that the fork stays in the frame when you loosen the stem?  No it does not, slides off just like everything else.

I have to pull the fork out of my frame to pack it into the S&S case, thus the fork gets removed from the frame when I travel.

Danneaux

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Re: Is this the very best? (headset upgrade)
« Reply #5 on: December 25, 2019, 10:53:53 PM »
Quote
Do you find that the gold color retaining clip snugs up tight enough to hold the fork in place?
No, I don't and it doesn't in practice. As I recall, Cane Creek held the patent on the split compression ring until recently. See: https://www.bicycleretailer.com/north-america/2008/05/19/fsa-cane-creek-resolve-aheadset-dispute#.XgPZ8kdKhhE Its primary purpose is to aid in bearing preload, not fork retention...at least not as implemented in FSA's use of it with the Orbit XLII insofar as I know.

Best,

Dan.

PH

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Re: Is this the very best? (headset upgrade)
« Reply #6 on: December 26, 2019, 03:23:29 PM »
I don't understand why it not being a current model would be considered lame.  It's a good headset, I have three, the bearings are not specific to it and are easily available at a reasonable price.  I doubt the compression ring was ever intended to hold the forks, the instruction have you put it in place then insert them, so it's hard to see how it would.  Upgrade if you have to have the best, but there#'s nothing wrong with the Orbit.

Pavel

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Re: Is this the very best? (headset upgrade)
« Reply #7 on: December 27, 2019, 01:13:08 AM »
The fact that it's not the current model is not what makes it lame in any way.  The fact that a company does not even bother to provide basic literature on a product, once it's not currently for sale - that is lame.  Product support is something I factor in when choosing brands.

I've had the Orbit headset on my Nomad and RST, and found that the bottom seal always fell out and became useless right away, but I didn't know if that was endemic to Orbit or common on all ahead headsets, so I'm looking at whether it's worth having more expensive parts put in, I it brings advantages or if it's not really worth it.  Buying a Thorn frame, as premium as the prices can be compared to bargain brands, makes me think that price should not be an important factor when selecting parts for building the bike up.

But of course, I have no idea how much difference upgrading to something like Cris King would make. Perhaps it's all in the mind?

Pavel

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Re: Is this the very best? (headset upgrade)
« Reply #8 on: December 27, 2019, 01:17:09 AM »
I watched this video, and in it the retainer clip definitely held the fork in place. Hmmm, perhaps we all have orbit headsets, which don't?  ;)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pARonM0tFpM

Andre Jute

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Re: Is this the very best? (headset upgrade)
« Reply #9 on: December 27, 2019, 08:30:51 AM »
I've always argued that if Thorn fits a component it is bound to be a good-value, long-lived, no bulldust item worth the money you pay for it. It's a very attractive facet of the Thorn management that they don't saddle their clientele with the costs of passing enthusiasms and ephemera that burden the customers of lesser bike-makers.

But if you want the best, it is your money.

Going by reputation among anglophone cyclists, especially the Americans, Chris King is the very best. I have no experience. In fact, in 30 years of cycling, I've never met, either in real life or on the net, anyone who spent his own money on a Chris King headset, though I know some who have Royce and Phil bottom brackets bought with their own money, which are in the same class of repute.

I use Cane Creek headsets, notably the S8 which many engineers think was when the threadless headset reached its pinnacle.

Why? The minute you step outside the anglophone/American bubble, and start talking to engineers rather than marketers, those old Dia-Compe/Tange threadless headsets get a lot of love. Dia-Compe USA was the firm which licensed John Rader's groundbreaking design and developed it into a world beater. In time, Dia-Compe USA would split off from the Japanese parent and become Cane Creek, after the street in which their office stood. (1)

I like buying the products of the inventors from the inventors. So do a lot of engineers and especially German engineers.

The last time I looked, years ago, a Cane Creek S8 cost 63. For large OEMs, who could probably buy it for 25 or less, that was still too much because it would add 100 to the price of the bike, not something to be lightly ventured in competitive markets. For a cottage industry bike makers such as I patronize, the headset price would be pretty near 50 and would add 2-300 to the delivery price: totally impossible.

However, Humpert, a German distributor with serious engineering chops among their staff, offers a copy of the Cane Creek S8, built by Cane Creek off the original blueprints, without the Cane Creek overheads. Cane Creek's name is also on my Humpert Aheadset, though in smaller type than Humpert's. But Humpert's price is significantly lower than Cane Creek's. So you find the S8 on a lot of rather pricey top-level bikes in Germany and The Netherlands.

Sorry about the focus on the photo. The big white text disappearing round the front is the Humpert model name, X-act, and the smaller text towards the rear of the headset topring is Cane Creek's more modest statement of responsibility.

My own pet German baukast hires an engineering firm to test every component considered for their bikes to destruction. They're convinced the Humpert S8 is the right stuff, and since they have skin in the game (a ten-year unlimited mileage guarantee), their opinion counts with me, and besides I already had Cane Creek headsets on several of my bikes.

SJS offers a Cane Creek 110, which as Dan has already pointed out comes with a lifetime guarantee for 109, which is probably equivalent to an S8 for 63 if you take inflation into account.

I were you, I'd look into Humpert's rebranded Cane Creeks and save the difference for another component that merits improving.

(1) Here's a quickly read but inspiring article about the invention and development of the Aheadset, written with the cooperation of the men who were there at a significant turning point in bicycle morphology:
https://cyclingtips.com/2017/08/origins-how-the-aheadset-threadless-headset-changed-bikes-forever/