Camapgnolo Record Strada (road ) headsets used 3/16" bearings while the Pista (track) version used 5/32" bearings. 1/4" is correct for the BB. I tend to use caged bearings in headsets and bottom brackets for convience, though loose bearings are perfectly acceptable. Some of the newer synthetic greases tend to be a little less tacky and loose bearings sometimes do not stay in place, falling out and becoming contaminated.
Also, one nice thing about using loose balls in those headsets is that you can insert more bearings than the retainers hold (22 + 22 in the road headset case, vs. 20 + 20 in the factory retainers), which distributes the load better. It also can help mitigate some of the 'indexed steering' issues (a.k.a. brinelling).
i wonder why the track and road versions of campy headsets use different sized bearings. i noticed loose screws sells a tange headset retainer only in the track size, 5/32". i'll probably go the 'loose' route on the headset for this reason, the relative ease of installation, and the load issue you described above. but i'd like to use a retainer to replace the sugino 9-ball retainer. loose screws sells tange 9-ball and 11-ball bb retainers. sheldon says never to use the 9-ball variety in your bb, but i wonder if these retainers are the same diameter and can fit the same bb cups. whaddya think?
follow up... re: replacing the sugino bb 9-ball 1/4" retainer with the tange 11-ball retainer... even though these retainers appear the same diameter, the tange retainer does not fit as perfectly as did the original sugino. so i scrapped the 11-ball idea and reused the original retainer, after a thorough cleaning and installation of new balls. i understand loose balls might be an improvement, but if was good enough to begin with ...
i wonder why the track and road versions of campy headsets use different sized bearings.
Larger balls can take more abuse and thus were considered more appropriate for the road, where surface conditions may be rough at times. The track is more likely to have a smooth surface and less need for the larger balls.
FWIW, the Campy "Sport" headset also used the smaller balls, and in fact appears to be identical to the Pista headset except for the threaded cup, which has only two wrench flats vs the octagonal flats on the Pista. Sport headsets are often confused for Pista headsets, but it really only matters to hipsters anyway.
loose screws sells tange 9-ball and 11-ball bb retainers. sheldon says never to use the 9-ball variety in your bb, but i wonder if these retainers are the same diameter and can fit the same bb cups. whaddya think?
Yes, they're interchangeable. 9-ball retainers are a cost-saving measure for manufacturers.