Headsets hierarchy

Iorek

Member
Location
God's Own County
Hello,

could anyone please explain to me the hierarchy of headsets? I am trying to figure out whether for a new build bike (the steel frame takes a standard 1 1/8 inch threadless headset) I should spend more on a good headset or go with an "average" for a cheaper price. This is going to be a commuting and touring bike, one machine for all types of rides I do. I do only about 2500km/year, in all weather, in hilly West Yorkshire.

From my reading around I gather that Chris King is king :-) that I definitely can't afford and more importantly don't need, but I was wondering if I would see/feel a difference between, say, Hope and FSA headsets (FSA is roughly half the price of Hope)? What are the reliable brands of headsets out there, with good quality to price ratio? Anything to avoid?

Any recommendations would be appreciated.
IO
 

iluvmybike

Über Member
Any of Hope, FSA, Cane Creek, Ritchey are all good and bearings easily avaiable for future maintenance. IMO any that has cartridge bearings as opposed to caged ball bearings are best - they last a lot longer. I have a Campagnolo headset on my tourer which is 15 yrs old and still on same bearings. The Hope ones are lovely but pricey. With good maintenance any of those should last ages
 

fossyant

Ride It Like You Stole It!
Location
South Manchester
Get one which you can easily buy replacement cartridge bearings. That's it. When you fit it, note the markings on the side to get the right one. I've just taken the numbers off my 4 year old MTB, just in case - they are nearly worn off now.
 
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OP
Iorek

Iorek

Member
Location
God's Own County
Great. This is very useful as it seems it's hard to make a bad choice :-) I will see how the rest of the components I need are price-wise, as I am leaning towards Hope... (simply because it's made next door). If not Hope, then I think I'd go for FSA as it's been on my current bike for the last 5 years with no issues at all.

Thanks a lot.
 
IME FSA and Cane Creek are good. Hope is also good but mainly if you have an urge to support the good bergers of Barnoldswick. The only one I haven’t liked is Tange.
 
Location
London
IMO any that has cartridge bearings as opposed to caged ball bearings are best - they last a lot longer.
Why do you say that?
And if a headset has caged balls, nothing to stop you replacing the caged bearings with loose high quality ball bearings.
My dahon speed pro sports bike has cartridge bearings. They once disintegrated. Can't see how anything similar would happen with a loose ball bearing arrangement.
 

fossyant

Ride It Like You Stole It!
Location
South Manchester
Caged bearings means your whole headset is toast if they get worn. Cartridge, it's a £10 part and you replace them, without changing crown races etc.
 
OP
Iorek

Iorek

Member
Location
God's Own County
Ah, all of the pick-n-mixes or replacing loose ball bearings is something I am trying to avoid as I have a modern frame and just need to put a decent headset so that I don't have to worry about it for the foreseeable future.

And the very fact that they are the good bergers of Barnoldswick makes them worth supporting methinks :-)
 
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rogerzilla

Legendary Member
Cane Creek are good and inexpensive. I even moved an S2 from one frame to another after 10 years - I bought new cartridges for it but still haven't used them as the old ones were still perfectly smooth.

Chris King are absolutely not worth the money (I have a 2Nut on my Brompton). They work fine but they aren't any better than a Cane Creek and they cost 3-4 times more.
 

Drago

Flouncing Nobber
Location
Poshshire
Chris King is overrated IMHO. I see no evidence that they are better performing or longer lived than any other quality headset. Indeed, one of my bikes in regular use still has the original run of the mill headset and bearings from 1983 and performs beautifully, so one must wonder what the inflated price is bringing to the party beyond bragging rights for kit onanists.
 

Smokin Joe

Legendary Member
I can't see what all the fuss about Chris King is either. A headset either works or it doesn't and Cane Creek sets have done me proud. I have never had to adjust them or replace the bearings in as much as eight years regular use.
 

chriscross1966

Über Member
Location
Swindon
Sealed cartridge bearings are well worth the effort. Chris King... yes my daily rider Brompton has one and I bought it as much for bling as any other reason... it has been utterly reliable... equally Campagnolo are nice if set up properly, but I'm no gan ov their caged bearing designs..

So a sensibly priced cartridge headset should be good for you. Easy to set up and easy to maintain.
 
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