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Old 12-15-11, 09:37 AM   #1
MadMechanic
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Headset Anatomy

Greetings, I have a question for all of you. After learning about integrated headsets and how the bearings are seated I see all of the disadvantages and flaws in design. Being that so many frame manufacturers are using integrated headtube's these days, I am trying to steer clear of them while looking for a new MTB.

The question is: Is there any argument or advantage of having an integrated headset? Experiences with them? Anyone have an integrated setup and had wear/rattle in the headtube?

In my opinion integrated headsets are mechanically inferior to the conventional and internal setups because those two designs have removable bearing seats. Anyone have an alternate angle on this?
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Old 12-15-11, 11:04 AM   #2
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FWIW, this topic would be more applicable in the mechanics forum. But would probably get more responses in the road forum where obsessing over the irrelevant is common.
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Old 12-15-11, 11:21 AM   #3
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Anyone have an integrated setup and had wear/rattle in the headtube?
Not so far, good quality machine work and a decent tolerance fit
and it should not be an issue.

Of course downhill Adrenaline fueled racing and dropping off cliffs
is not a transportation user.

Buy a brand with a life time frame warrantee.
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Old 12-15-11, 11:37 AM   #4
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Certainly seems to me like an inferior design that will eventually wear out the frame. Shame the manufacturers are so good at marketing cost-cutting measures as an improvement. Another reason not to buy a brand-new bike.
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Old 12-15-11, 11:51 AM   #5
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Just get one with inserted external race cups, Chris King Upgrade , if you worry..
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Old 12-15-11, 12:09 PM   #6
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Certainly seems to me like an inferior design that will eventually wear out the frame. Shame the manufacturers are so good at marketing cost-cutting measures as an improvement. Another reason not to buy a brand-new bike.
Golly. Integrated headsets have been around for about a decade now. Despite all the fears that are contunually aired, I haven't heard of a rash of frame failures. Keep in mind that integrated headsets rely on cartridge bearings so the bearing and race are both combined in the cartridge.
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Old 12-15-11, 12:12 PM   #7
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It hasn't been an issue. Even with CX bikes which take far more stresses than road bikes generally. As pointed out above, as long as everything is machined properly and fits like it should, you won't have any excessive play.
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Old 12-15-11, 01:31 PM   #8
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..., as long as everything is machined properly and fits like it should, you won't have any excessive play.
Not according to the Chris King company. See the Appendix on page 6.

I read the whole article and yeah I can see their point. I do not think integrated vs standard is as big of a deal as they are trying to make. I also remember that they make and manufacturer standard headsets for a living, they do not make integrated headsets. So it is in their interest to point out problems with integrated headsets. I do not own a bike with a Chris King headset, and I do not work for their company.
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Old 12-15-11, 08:04 PM   #9
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Not according to the Chris King company. See the Appendix on page 6.
So how long ago was that written?

I'll stand by the observation that we've had integrated headsets for a decade or so and they haven't proven to be an issue.
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Old 12-15-11, 08:19 PM   #10
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So how long ago was that written?

I'll stand by the observation that we've had integrated headsets for a decade or so and they haven't proven to be an issue.
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Old 12-15-11, 08:27 PM   #11
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Not according to the Chris King company. See the Appendix on page 6.

I read the whole article and yeah I can see their point. I do not think integrated vs standard is as big of a deal as they are trying to make. I also remember that they make and manufacturer standard headsets for a living, they do not make integrated headsets. So it is in their interest to point out problems with integrated headsets. I do not own a bike with a Chris King headset, and I do not work for their company.
Funny, I had a Chris King headset installed on my tandem. It worked loose after a couple of months (yes, professionally installed at the LBS). Hasn't happened with my integrated set up.
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Old 12-16-11, 04:40 AM   #12
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The biggest issue with integrated style headsets seems to be the sheer variety of non-compatible styles, all taking different bearings. This will only be a problem after about 20 years of use when you try to find a replacement for a long obsolete bearing style.

Headsets have gone internal but bottom brackets have gone external. Headsets frame fittings have been changed to non-standard designs to take advantage of modern technologies. Bottom bracket dimensions remain wedded to an obsolete version suitable for steel, cup and cone style bearings.

Sooner or later, the BB fitting will have to be updated to something like BB30 and all your headset worries will disappear since your old frame will no longer fit the latest Shimano groupsets.
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Old 12-16-11, 03:32 PM   #13
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Good info, and thanks everyone. From a mechanical engineering standpoint I see the point in the Chris King article however... when looking at integrated bearings I questioned his philosophy myself being that the outer race of of the integrated bearing is machined with a flange integrating the cup and keeping the inner race from contacting the frame. And yes I agree with tight tolerances in machining.. I dont see how the outer race would wear that much.

It is always good to get the feedback from the people who have tested integrated setups because that to me is some of the most conclusive data and I appreciate it. And again the real inconvenience with integration seems to be proprietary specific singularity and not standardization across the board. I normally argue both sides of everything when learning about something to decide on. In this case if I google "Integrated headset failure" I dont get much of anything. Along with good feedback from various forums and articles I am less worried about about the design. If my welder was capable of welding 7075 aluminum then I wouldint be worried at all!
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Old 12-16-11, 03:37 PM   #14
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The biggest issue with integrated style headsets seems to be the sheer variety of non-compatible styles, all taking different bearings. This will only be a problem after about 20 years of use when you try to find a replacement for a long obsolete bearing style.
I wouldn't worry too much about that. The industry is too small for most of the players to be using anything other than off-the shelf bearings. So while it's true that they have not standardized to each other, it should be no problem sourcing replacement bearings from an industrial bearing vendor.
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Old 12-16-11, 04:14 PM   #15
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what i don't understand is why engineers haven't gravitated completely to the same design for all the axle/bearing(s) interfaces on a bike. hub, bb, and steering. all do or could have sealed bearings, pressed into an aluminum or steel housing. we just happen to call the axle a steerer on a fork and a spindle on a BB instead of an axle as it is called on a hub. the forces involved are similar and determined mostly by the weight of the rider and bike.
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Old 12-16-11, 05:55 PM   #16
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what i don't understand is why engineers haven't gravitated completely to the same design for all the axle/bearing(s) interfaces on a bike. hub, bb, and steering. all do or could have sealed bearings, pressed into an aluminum or steel housing. we just happen to call the axle a steerer on a fork and a spindle on a BB instead of an axle as it is called on a hub. the forces involved are similar and determined mostly by the weight of the rider and bike.
A good question, but it's because a different company makes the BB, and hub, and headset each. Each wants a certain style or standard to support its own marketing/engineering (hard to tell apart these days). Standardization allows a company with no R&D to come in and dominate (MKS to Campy in the 80s; Shimano(okay, this is a stretch) to Suntour/Campy in the 90s; carbon OEMs today) on cost.

Frankly, people today have no idea how much more standard and easy things are today compared to any point in the past. Thread gauges were a necessary evil only 10 years ago as you never knew which OEM would adopt which standard (English, French, Swiss, Italian). Shimano successfully standardized much of the drivetrain tech, as did the Taiwanese for frames and forks. Not too long ago parts had as many as 6 check-boxes on a package each for a different threading and/or width.
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