10 February 2008

Chris King and Integrated Headsets

So, the North American Handbuilt Bicycle Show is currently on in Portland, Oregon. We're not there, but would encourage you to indulge in some very fine bike porn on sites such as Mountian Flyer, Velo News, mtbr and Cycling News. While we respect Chris King's bombproof products, environmental responsibility and employee support, we've been frustrated by his dogged refusal to embrace integrated headsets. His insistence that "all bicycle frames that use integrated headsets will ultimately have performance and reliability problems due to inherent flaws in this design" simply has not proven true. His claim that the only advantages are aesthetic should be embarrassing for any engineer- layman or otherwise. Our experience with Maverick frames, which are anodized and would immediately show wear suggest otherwise. Greater weld area, larger diameter (which are some combination of stronger/stiffer/lighter), and a longer useful head tube are all advantages. The standardization which has largely occurred puts to rest another of his arguments. And of course, press-in headsets are far from problem-free. In the six years since his diatribe was published, the end of the world has most certainly not come, despite integrated headsets' continued use.

Could the guy be softening in his old age? Maybe: he's showing a bike at NAHBS this weekend, brazed by the man himself. Cycling News' James Huang writes "Most of the frame is fairly standard stuff but the front end of the Reynolds 953-tubed frame bears a very unique construction: King lops the skirts off of his own Steelset headset and brazes the bare cups to the ends of a 1" head tube, thus allowing the use of a 1 1/8" steerer in a decidedly trim-looking housing." Sounds decidedly integrated, doesn't it? Of course, it doesn't have the advantages of a larger diameter head tube or greater weld area- it is "decidedly trim-looking" though. Shame on Chris for introducing another standard, something he'd no doubt decry- were it someone else's idea. Never say never, eh?


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