"These headsets last forever"?

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mikeymo
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"These headsets last forever"?

Postby mikeymo » 17 Jun 2020, 12:38pm

Reviews/forum comments (esp. MTB forums) about "top end" headsets often say things like:

"I've fitted a Chris Hope headset 5 years ago and it's still buttery smooth, it'll probably still be fine in 10 years, in which time you'll have replaced your cheap one 3 times".

Or something like that.

But surely with cartridge bearing headsets, it's not the cups that wear out. It's the cartridge bearings, isn't it? Aren't the cups just dumb pieces of circular metal, that the cartridge bearings sit in?

So these £150 headsets made out of unobtanium, is all the quality not in the (easily replaceable) bearings? Or is it also the seals and design.

Bonefishblues
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby Bonefishblues » 17 Jun 2020, 1:08pm

Dunno. I do know I was amused (perhaps not) to see that the fabled Chris King headsets had a major design flaw until a relatively few years ago.

hamster
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby hamster » 17 Jun 2020, 1:42pm

It's the seal design and execution.

mikeymo
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby mikeymo » 17 Jun 2020, 1:49pm

hamster wrote:It's the seal design and execution.


I see. So assuming:

1. "good" seal = bearings don't get wet -> last longer
and
2. "bad" seal = bearings get wet -> wear out quicker.

Is a £100 headset a better deal than £20 headset + 4 pairs of replacement bearings at £20 per pair?

And maybe on a road bike with a front mudguard the bearings wouldn't wear out as often, and even then the bottom one more often than the top one?

hamster
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby hamster » 17 Jun 2020, 1:57pm

I'd agree with much of that. Providing:
1 All cartridge bearings are the same - but my experience using general industrial bearings in hubs and freewheels is that the SKF, Minebea or NSK ones last longer and run smoother than no-name Chinese ones.
2 Also assumes that the generic headset's bearings are interchangeable in the first place and continue to be supported. There are all sorts of small differences that you discover when trying to find spares (e.g. Nukeproof early headsets used a cartridge 0.7mm smaller than the current normal OD). As far as I know Shimano's sealed bearings are unobtainable as they were a special (now unsupported) design.
3 That the generic headset's shells are well manufactured, parallel and won't distort with use.
4 Indeed, mudguards save headsets, especially threaded ones which effectively have a water-resistant top race anyway. I have a 1" Tioga Master on my tourer with a simple open ball design plus a single plastic sealing ring. It's done 30 years with 4 services (re-greasing) and nothing else. OK, the Master cost £30 or so in 1990, so not cheap even then. Saved by mudguards!
5 You assume that people want to service headsets. Fit and forget has its attractions, and savings vanish if you have to pay somebody else to repair it.

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simonineaston
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby simonineaston » 17 Jun 2020, 2:01pm

talking of which, my chum Jonners has recently bought two bikes, one - a Moto Guzzi - we shall ignore. The other, a Raleigh 20, he claims has a nylon sleeve as a head bearing. Can Raleigh really have been so mean back in the '70s, as to do such a thing?!
byyeee,
SiE

hamster
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby hamster » 17 Jun 2020, 2:04pm

In short, yes! :shock:

Brucey
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby Brucey » 17 Jun 2020, 2:30pm

simonineaston wrote:talking of which, my chum Jonners has recently bought two bikes, one - a Moto Guzzi - we shall ignore. The other, a Raleigh 20, he claims has a nylon sleeve as a head bearing. Can Raleigh really have been so mean back in the '70s, as to do such a thing?!


their engineering excuse was that the steering was 'too lively' without some damping in it and the nylon sleeve (upper bearing) served a dual purpose. Which would be almost believable were it not for the fact that no other cycle manufacturer has felt the need to do likewise.

It didn't stop them from selling millions of the things though.

cheers
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Brucey~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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The utility cyclist
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby The utility cyclist » 17 Jun 2020, 2:31pm

I must admit when I bought a NOS TEC components headset some years back from an Italian seller I was hugely impressed with the quality, and compared to others I was used to e.g. Cane Creek, it just felt a bit smoother. I was looking at a similar colour CK but the import VAT plus Royal Mail scam tax for importing from the US added a little bit more on than I was prepared to pay, in hindsight I could have doubled my money but in the end was glad I got the TEC as I managed to acquire a lovely NOS stem from the same seller.

I bought on looks, however in terms of function I've had no problems with the likes of Cane Creek and even the standard specialized headset in my now 13 year old commuter is still on its original bearings and runs 'buttery smooth'. :lol:

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simonineaston
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby simonineaston » 17 Jun 2020, 2:44pm

It didn't stop them from selling millions of the things though.
I remember Sheldon Brown was a fan...
byyeee,
SiE

MikeDee
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby MikeDee » 17 Jun 2020, 2:46pm

Headsets lasted a lot longer when they went to cartridge bearings and larger diameter steerer tubes which reduced fretting motions that pit headsets. Of course water intrusion is still a problem. Brucey may disagree, but I still have an original Shimano cartridge bearing headset on a 25 year old bike.

Bonefishblues
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby Bonefishblues » 17 Jun 2020, 2:50pm

I'd never heard of fretting in that context. How descriptive :)

irc
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby irc » 17 Jun 2020, 2:53pm

When I bought my Surly Trucker frame in 2008 I asked my LBS to supply and fit a headset. They asked which one? I had no idea and just asked for reliable and not too expensive. They fitted a Cane Creek S3.

11 years later and thousands of loaded touring miles it's still going strong. Greased a couple of times.

Not sure I would have benefitted from a CK headset. Though in fairness that was a bike with mudguards. Maybe MTBs in UK weather benefit from the CK?

boris
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby boris » 17 Jun 2020, 3:24pm

I kept the upper race and the ball bearings of a headset from my 1979 Peugeot PY11 . The frame broke properly 2 years ago so I put any usable bits in my box and opened the Headset to see how it could have survived 40years of rough riding. The bearings and bearing surfaces were immaculate . The original grease still all there.High quality steel properly made. It looked as though another 40years would not have troubled it. I think most manufacturers now would regard such longevity as a manufacturing fault. By the way , the headset looked like a Stronglight steel 1inch.

I also have a Raleigh Banana 1980s basic quality 'racer' which I and two sons have hammered on and off-road and again the headset is fine. Not light, but apparently unbreakable.

pwa
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Re: "These headsets last forever"?

Postby pwa » 17 Jun 2020, 3:44pm

mikeymo wrote:Reviews/forum comments (esp. MTB forums) about "top end" headsets often say things like:

"I've fitted a Chris Hope headset 5 years ago and it's still buttery smooth, it'll probably still be fine in 10 years, in which time you'll have replaced your cheap one 3 times".

Or something like that.

But surely with cartridge bearing headsets, it's not the cups that wear out. It's the cartridge bearings, isn't it? Aren't the cups just dumb pieces of circular metal, that the cartridge bearings sit in?

So these £150 headsets made out of unobtanium, is all the quality not in the (easily replaceable) bearings? Or is it also the seals and design.

My experience of modern headsets is confined to the nice and relatively expensive Hope ones, and the affordable FSA Orbit ones. The FSA units are quite nice and give lots of good service, and the bearings can be replaced if you need it. But the Hope headsets are a lot better sealed. And I believe the actual bearings are more expensive stainless steel. Does the extra quality justify paying nearly 3 times as much as I would pay for an FSA unit? I don't yet know because I've not needed new bearings on my Hope headset yet. I reckon it needs to last twice as long as an FSA one to make financial sense, rather than 3 times, because the hassle of changing bearings has a value. But if the Hope unit is too expensive, it isn't by very much. And it looks nice.