MikeDee wrote:Aren't cartridge bearing headsets the ones that solved the fretting (false brinelling, pitting, index steering) problem? I ride in almost exclusively dry conditions and haven't had a headset problem with these types of headsets as compared to the old caged bearing types.
Possibly it helped, but really the main thing was, I think, that this coincided with the move to 1-1/8" steerers. These are 'quite a lot' stiffer so the crown race doesn't try to articulate in service anyway. When a stiff steerer is used, the main benefit of some articulation (rather than none) is that the average (i.e. poor) frame prep on most bikes is better tolerated.
Jobst Brandt wrote reams on the topic of headset wear but IMHO he was quite wrong in what he said; he ignored the fact that the steerer deflects a fair bit in any bike with a 1" setup, (and his steerer was so long it was almost certainly twice or more as flexible as the average....
) and this loaded the balls very unevenly indeed. He probably was
getting true brinelling; a small dent is easily visible; the raised material to the sides is maybe 1/10th the height and is much less easy to spot. I think he had (because of his longer steerer) a genuinely insoluble problem for a conventional 1" headset, but most of the folk who thought they had the same problem almost certainly did not; they would most likely have been suffering the usual consequences of poor adjustment, which are slightly different (*).
Note also that as soon as you have cartridge bearings, and an A-head system, true fretting is less likely because it is much less likely that you will run with slack or too little preload on the headset bearings. The reason for this is twofold;
1) most folk put too much preload on their headsets ("..a good thing I found that screw was 'loose' in the top cap...." etc etc etc) and
2) if there is the slightest slack the whole affair rattles like crazy; much worse than a traditional headset.
1) also means that a lot of bearings clap out by being overloaded anyway. Indexed steering is alive and well, and average quality cartridge bearings are part of the problem; ~25 x 1/8" balls is not a very strong bearing at all, and easily indents with some combination of service load, excess preload and lack of decent grease.
If you are careful with your setup and maintenance, you probably won't get any problems. The same was true of 1" threaded headsets too, for the most part; once I'd figured out how to adjust/maintain them correctly, and that caged balls were no real advantage, and could in most cases be replaced by a stronger arrangement of loose balls, I don't think I have wrecked a headset.
(*) For example here there was one poor blighter who had experienced bad indexing on no less than (IIRC) four Dura Ace 1" theaded headsets in succession. I think he'd read what JB had written and assumed he had the same problem ( and said "they don't seem to be very strong...."). He had, of course, nothing of the sort; he'd been screwing the adjusting race down finger tight and then bringing the locknut down on top of it, thus (probably) generating a good fraction of one tonne preload on the bearings. Because they were high quality bearings, they initially didn't bind badly despite the monstrous preload, but the service loads soon added to the preload and indented the bearings (all the way round....).