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  1. #1
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    Conventional vs. Integrated HS

    I've been researching and looking to purchase my first serious MTB, and it seems like I've ran into a stump. The bike that I'm seriously considering is a Giant XTC which has an integrated headset. Now, I've read Chris King's article about the cons of it, but as the article mentions of the industry's propaganda, I can't help but think that this article might be another form of propaganda (as it seems like Cane Creek, a competitor, has the 'IS worldwide standard' in its grip). I've also searched the forums and nothing seems conclusive to me.

    I'm wondering if there's anybody here with real-world experience with both (or IS headsets) that can provide some unbiased feedback. I'm looking to shell out a couple of grand for a bike, so I'm just trying to make a good purchase.

    TIA

  2. #2
    Custom User never's Avatar
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    In the grand scheme of things, headsets are cheap, easy to replace, and generally reliable. Don't let the type of headset a bike has influence your choice.

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    Fortunately, there's a really easy answer to this ? (which is asked on various forums every few weeks!): Giant mtbs do NOT (!) use true 'integrated' headsets! They use what Cane Creek calls 'xero stack': all this means is that an xtc uses an oversized headtube, so that the headset cups fit inside the headtube; the bearings still run on (replaceable) races in the cups. The reason is to give a low stack height, stronger headtube, and clean 'look.' The confusion (entirely Giant's fault) is caused by Giant's insistence on calling this 'integrated.' A true integrated headset has races machined right into the headtube itself, on which the bearings run. This is idiocy on a mtb (and there are some that use it), and makes little enough sense on any bike (the practice originated, I think, on road bikes.). You get the point: any wear on the bearing surfaces in the headtube, the frame is toast. So, headset shouldn't be a concern in making your decision re. xtc.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by never
    In the grand scheme of things, headsets are cheap, easy to replace, and generally reliable. Don't let the type of headset a bike has influence your choice.
    Very true...

    Quote Originally Posted by badger1
    Fortunately, there's a really easy answer to this ? (which is asked on various forums every few weeks!): Giant mtbs do NOT (!) use true 'integrated' headsets! They use what Cane Creek calls 'xero stack': all this means is that an xtc uses an oversized headtube, so that the headset cups fit inside the headtube; the bearings still run on (replaceable) races in the cups. The reason is to give a low stack height, stronger headtube, and clean 'look.' The confusion (entirely Giant's fault) is caused by Giant's insistence on calling this 'integrated.' A true integrated headset has races machined right into the headtube itself, on which the bearings run. This is idiocy on a mtb (and there are some that use it), and makes little enough sense on any bike (the practice originated, I think, on road bikes.). You get the point: any wear on the bearing surfaces in the headtube, the frame is toast. So, headset shouldn't be a concern in making your decision re. xtc.
    That makes a lot of sense. Thanks for the explanation. I guess it was Giant's marketing label that confused me a bit. I guess I'll be an XTC owner pretty soon! w00t!

  5. #5
    Lost in the Black Hills mx_599's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by badger1
    A true integrated headset has races machined right into the headtube itself, on which the bearings run.
    i believe they still run on a race. its just that there is no cup. therefore, if it were ever to ovalize the head tube, you're screwed because there is no replaceable cup.

    i have never seen bearings ride on the frame material. but then again i am new to bikes

    can someone confirm this????

    or did i just read your post wrong badger1??

  6. #6
    ed
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    Well, now I'm confused. I am running a Jamis with "integrated headset" and the bearings and races are WTB (that came with the frame) and they press into the head tube. I also bought a Cane Creek IS-2 headset which are a cartridge bearing headset. I was going to install these into my frame b/c the WTB's are ball bearing.

    The WTB, Cane Creek, and the Jamis frame are all three labeled "integrated headset" and they are all 3 set up so the race can be replaced.

    Why is life so hard? And what the crap does w00t mean? I get the idea, but where did it come from and why do computer'doods use it?

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    Hmmm - agreed, my way phrasing this is a little misleading; nevertheless, it's roughly right -- as per Chris King's explanation (ditto Cane Creek), the key point is that in a true 'integrated' design (there are several 'standards') the bearings themselves run in contact with/float relative to the headtube itself, not a replaceable cup, whether external (conventional) or internal (xero stack, other names) as used by Giant.
    Consequently, virtually any play/misadjustment in the bearings will ruin not a replaceable cup but the headtube/frame, and this risk is magnified on a bike used off-road. It's too bad that Giant insists on using the term 'integrated' when they mean 'internal' -- apparently some other mfgs are doing this as well.
    Seems to me that this is one of those developments that might have application specifically in road racing at elite levels (if you are a pro and bugger your frame, another one drops out of the clouds!), though it seems questionable at best, but just doesn't transfer to real world, daily use or off-road bikes very well.

    Quote Originally Posted by mx_599
    i believe they still run on a race. its just that there is no cup. therefore, if it were ever to ovalize the head tube, you're screwed because there is no replaceable cup.

    i have never seen bearings ride on the frame material. but then again i am new to bikes

    can someone confirm this????

    or did i just read your post wrong badger1??

  8. #8
    ed
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    Okay, time to clear my head anyway. My Jamis uses Internal bearings, not Integrated. The internal headset still has cups that press in to the head tube, they just fit fairly flush. The Integrated headset bearing cups are an actual part of the headtube. The bearings ride on a permanant race that is part of the head tube.

    From what I read, that sucks b/c if you tweak a race or something...new frame. Wow, I'm glad I have the other kind.

  9. #9
    Chairman of the Bored catatonic's Avatar
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    The chris King doc that explains it all: http://www.chrisking.com/pdfs/Int%20Headsets%20Explained.pdf#search='integrated%20headset'

    At least from the sound of their doc, it seems like Integrated headsets do use the frame material as a bearing surface....that's seems to be the basis of their concern about aluminum frames and integrated headsets, while they claim Ti and steel frames can be reapaired.

    Oh well, only headsets I run are Traditional and Zero-Stack.
    -------- __@
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    Ring Ring, Ring Ring, the bell went Ring Ring Ring.

  10. #10
    Lost in the Black Hills mx_599's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by catatonic
    At least from the sound of their doc, it seems like Integrated headsets do use the frame material as a bearing surface....that's seems to be the basis of their concern about aluminum frames and integrated headsets, while they claim Ti and steel frames can be reapaired.
    no....i don't believe you're right. the balls are not actually rolling on the frame. i am familiar with their document and diagrams. that was not how i interpreted it.
    they are concern with Al because of ovalization...but that is because the bearing is in the frame, not the cup.

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