Saturday, March 06, 2010

Headset solution: xx 44mm trad.

This post has had to wait for me to have a little time to type it all up. Recently, i decided that my riding had become a little too limited. Singlespeed or fixed: rigid. All the time. No matter the distance or terrain. At first it was both interesting and enjoyable. A challenge to ride fast or far over sometimes difficult terrain with the simplest of bikes. But after several conversations with the chops optional and dan "damn he's fast" darwood, i began to question whether i was too *used* to travelling at a certain speed. The point was made that your vision for riding can be changed - you can get used to going faster. Sounds simple, and i kind of thought that maybe it would pull me out of the rut i had found myself in. I have also become a little bored with the diet of endurance races. There was a time when i rode cross country races, too. Yes i was a younger chap then, and i didnt have so much mass to move, but i used to quite enjoy it. i was also getting jaded watching the clock and the odometer, rather than the terrain and the view. i wasnt riding for enjoyment.

So i made a decision to buy a road bike, so i could more easily 'train' over distance, using power, and heart rate to see how i was going. In addition, i would ride my mountain bikes for (gasp!) fun! try to head places where i could ride in the woods, on technical terrain over rocks and roots. I also decided to explore the options of getting a geared, suspension type bike. With that, i would learn to read terrain differently and mix up the riding more. Perhaps even enter some enduro/megavalanche type races.

A few months of thinking, reading and asking questions. My initial thoughts were based around a full suspension 29er bike. I am so used to the bigger wheels now, that 26" just looks and feels weird. The options were somewhat limited - fisher rumblefish, superfly 100 (which is a little racier), intense tracer 29, turner sultan, or the one i was tending towards, santa cruz tall boy.

Then i got to thinking. Those were all a LOT of bike. They were going to be a big change: they also had shortcomings - for me at least. Geometry, material, components etc. i began to think i was perhaps a year or so ahead of myself. What i really needed was a hardtail. Ease myself into the whole gears and suspension thing. I havent ridden a geared bike for 10 years!

The canfield bros nimble 9 and the banshee bikes paradox were looking like just the ticket. Stout, and built for 120mm travel forks.

About 5 minutes after convincing myself to wait for the nimble 9 to appear, i started seeing all the things i didnt like. Material (steel is less scotland proof than ti) again, geometry (it could be lower, and slacker) blah blah blah. The other thing that just didnt cut it for me was the fact i couldnt run a tapered steerer. These are de rigeur as far as i am concerned for longer travel 29er forks. Bam! i remembered a thread where a custom frame builder had mooted a new headset solution, that would allow an aesthetically attractive way to fit a tapered steerer fork to a headtube designed for the zero stack/inset standard.

I rememebered seeing some of his other builds and decided to drop a mail, you know, just to see if it would be an option. Some of my other thoughts had centered around the tech being used in snow and downhill bikes: wider hubs and bb, offset seat tubes to allow shorter stays and more.

So i got in contact with sean chaney of vertigo cycles. With the speed of thought the frame was blue printed, and the components to be used sorted out. The head set was still embryonic, but the idea was clearly excellent. Singlehandedly, sean has created what i consider to be the most versatile headset system in the industry. i felt it was only a matter of time before it was picked up by a large component maker. I think sean thought it might take an actual bike to show people. My bike-to-be and a similar bike sean is going to make for himself were going to be the working prototypes. The lower cup was going to be made as part of a small run by a machine shop and the upper was going to be a slightly modified zero stack or inset.

Then cane creek became involved and all of a sudden it is a reality. Dubbed xx44mm traditional.

Hold on! i hear you say, dont we already have a 1.5" headtube and headset that can do all this? Yes. But its heavy, and ugly. Fine if you want to run a lefty, but i dont. The differences may seem small but they are important. The tube is 44mm inside diameter, making the outer diameter more in keeping with modern standard tube sets than the barrel used for 1.5". The upper bearing is fitted inside the steerer tube, giving clean lines, and minimal weight. The lower is an external cup with a 1.5" standard bearing, but a cup skirt to fit the 44mm headtube. Anything from a ~75mm length headtube and longer can be used, with any of the currently available (more on this in a minute) forks. Ti tube is available, and steel will be very shortly. Aluminium wont be far behind. Simple, and sensible. As an aside, this headset also means that if you have, say, a Giant trance, you can run this headset and fit a tapered steerer fork - with all the benefits that entails. Genius.

Cane Creeks press release:

About the forks. Niner have Fox forks with limited availability, there are some OE Rebas kicking around and there are Marzocchis. Trek/fisher are using forks but dont sell them separately. Although finding forks is tricky, its not imposible, and very shortly, i suspect tapered steerer will become standard.

Thats it for now.


davechopoptions said...

Jungle do tapered 29'er Fox and RS for the TallBoy... should both be 46mm offset.

Speak to Mojo if you want a 51mm 29'er tapered CSU - I think they do them as spares?

Vertigo Cycles said...

Awesome writeup Jon and I'm flattered to be the guy building your bike. (you have email BTW)

I'm going to pick one nit because I've seen it mentioned a bunch around the internets already, I prefer that it not be called a new headset standard. It's really just a new product for an old standard. If my memory isn't too twisted, the first bike I recall seeing that used this standard were Giants back in '99 or '00. I had a Crescent Ilions stock trials bike in '01 that used it as well. So the head tubes at least have been around for a decade. It seems weird to me that King sort of popularized the new head tubes last year when they released the InSet (does anyone remember the Perdido?)

I'm going to do a big write up for my own website soon to tell most of the story. There are some details that I'm leaving out to preserve some relationships but, aside from my boring writing, I think it might be interesting to some folks.


dRjON said...

edited for clarity :-)~

davechopoptions said...

Forgot to say - still think there's room in your life (and mine for that matter) for a FS bike with ~ 120mm travel 29" front and 120mm back on a 650b or 26" rear. In an ideal world a 650b to maximise the BB drop, but without the huge (negative) geometry effects/compromises that a 29" rear wheel necessitates. If more tyres and rims were available, it'd be worth a shout.

brant@shedfire said...

We've just shown our new 44mm Nukeproof headsets at Eurobike, having embraced the "new" standard on our Nukeproof Snap (4x), Mega (All Mountain), and the long travel Ragley hardtails.

What we brought to the party was a new 20mm insert depth as we thought the 10mm Cane Creek standard was a bit skinny compared to the 25mm that 1.5in uses.