Best Bike Headsets

Best Bicycle Headset Types:

1) Chris King

2) Focal Frame Sizes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 (Cane Creek)

3) Integrated Frame Size:

8 (FSA)

4) Standard Frame Size:

9 (Mavic Ksyrium), 10 (Bontrager Raceface), 11(Shimano Ultegra Di2/Dura Ace), 12(SRAM X9)

5) Internal Frame Size:

13 (Trek Madone), 14 (Giant Zee), 15 (Specialized Turbo), 16(Campagnolo EPS M50)

6) External Frame Size:

Best Bike Headsets - Picture

17 (Salsa Mukluks), 18(Ritchey WCS Rival 700c)

Chris King’s are the most popular headset brands. They have been around since the late 80’s. Their headsets are known for their durability and comfort. These headsets are made from high quality materials such as carbon fiber and titanium. The headset is usually available in several different sizes ranging from 1 to 7.

The biggest advantage of using a Chris King headset is its durability. They have been around for so long, they have not changed much with the technology. This makes them very durable and reliable. There is a reason why most professional riders are using them.

The downsize of using a Chris King headset is their price. It is very expensive when compared to other top-rated headsets on the market. If you want to save some money, you can buy used Chris King headset from ebay or Craigslist for half of the price. ebay is full of people selling used Chris King headsets.

Focal Frame Sizes: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 & 7 (Cane Creek)

Cane Creek makes Bicycle Headset that comes with some of the best features you can find on any headset. The brand has been around since 1985 and have been known for their excellent craftsmanship and unparalleled performance. The brand is still family-owned and they produce headsets in the United States.

The brand is known for their unique technology. One such example is the Over the Top upper and lower bearing design. The brand’s patented OTS (Over the Top) upper and lower bearing design eliminates play and prevents seizing caused by dirt and moisture. You can find O1 Stainless, Ultralight, and Titanium Alloy Cane Creek Headset. The brand also manufactures an extensive line of Road, Mountain Bike, and BMX headset.

FSA Headset Frame Sizes: 8 (FSA)

FSA is one of the largest manufacturers of bicycle components and they have been around since 1985. They make a wide range of bicycle components for bikes such as frames, wheels, seats, and handlebars. FSA makes several types of bike headset. Their headsets have a reputation for its durability and affordability.

The brand makes several types of bike headset such as Integrated, Internal, Semi-Integrated, and Traditional. Their Integrated headset is made by FSA and it was developed in-house. They also manufacture external headset (traditional). A good example of a high-end FSA head set is their K-Force WE. The materials that they use are carbon-wrapped aluminum alloy.

Best Bike Headsets - Picture

Most of the brand’s bike components are made in Taiwan or China.

Integrated Headset vs. External Headset

There are two types of frame with bearings: Integrated headsets and external headsets. An integrated headset has bearings that are built into the frame and fork. The main benefit is that there is less to maintain because there are no external cup and bearings that can come loose. You also don’t have to worry about the correct size since it will always be the same as the frame or fork. The downsize is the lack of choice since you can only get an integrated headset with the frames and forks that the manufacturer makes.

An external headset uses a cup and cone system to hold the fork steerer tube in place. The main benefit is that is allows you to choose the type of frame or fork that you want. You can also easily replace just the headset if it gets damaged without having to replace the whole frame or fork. The down side is that you have to do routine adjustments and maintenance to the headset.

Headset Bearing Performance

Headsets use ball bearings that allow the fork to turn smoothly within the frame. The performance of these bearings can vary when it comes to quality, materials, and design. Good quality ball bearings will spin fast and smooth without much resistance. There are many factors that affect the bearing performance such as quality, design, and type of material. The more ball bearings that are in the headset, the smoother it will perform.

Cheaper headsets will have two or three bearings while high-end headsets will have six or seven.

The materials also affect the smoothness and performance of the headset. The most common materials used for headsets are steel, aluminum, and ceramic (specially for the bearing shells). Steel is a very strong and durable metal. The only downside is that it is a little heavier than the other materials. Aluminum is one of the most common materials because it is strong, durable, and light weight.

The only downside is that it can’t handle as much abuse as steel or ceramic.

Best Bike Headsets - Best Purch Marketplace

Ceramic is the lightest and strongest material used for the bearing shells. The main downside is the price since it the most expensive material to use. High quality headsets will often use a combination of materials to take advantage of the best qualities that each material offers.

Headset Bearing Adjustment

You will need to adjust the headset when you first assemble the bike. They need to be properly aligned so the fork turns smoothly for steering and bumps don’t cause the front wheel to come out of alignment. You will need a hex key to adjust the top cap on external headset and the upper and lower bearing race on an integrated headset.

Sources & references used in this article:

Modular wireless headset system by S Stan, G Yegiazaryan, SK Baek… – US Patent …, 2001 – Google Patents

Modular wireless headset system for hands free talking by SS Hahn, G Yegiazaryan, SK Baek… – US Patent …, 2000 – Google Patents

Development of a visual reality headset and its applications in 3D interactive bike race games by Z Wu, G Feng, H Luo, X Wu – 2015 International Conference on …, 2015 –

A method to alert user during headset playback by detection of horn in real time by A Ghosh, DK Balaji… – 2015 IEEE Recent …, 2015 –

Thread: Headset Pitting? where the handlebars” settle in” straight explaination in thread by MF Read, VS Leaders – Diesel Engine, 2006 –