Suntour Durolux RC2 29'er
TWO-MINUTE REVIEWS

Wolf Tooth Precision Headset

Words Andrew Major
Photos Andrew Major
Date Dec 5, 2018

Aluminum Race

Wolf Tooth's stainless steel narrow-wide rings are one of my favourite products in cycling. I enjoy their pack pliers, their Collab with King Cage, their charge out of the gate with Boostinator, their ReMote dropper lever, and I could go on. I mean, it's totally fair to say I'm a fan of the cycling nuts from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Their headsets absolutely look the business and my one major concern was the aluminum crown race. 

I understood the basic concept. An aluminum race on an aluminum steerer will prevent steerer tubes from corroding, which is a real issue for some steel race and anodized steerer combos in some climates. Actually, as I noted in my first look, the split ring is also aluminum so everything contacting the steerer tube is aluminum.

Wolf Tooth Headset

Aluminum Crown Race. Big ass lower quad seal. Currently putting a very tight squeeze on its fourth steerer tube. 

3 Fresh Products For Spring 2018

The bearing cap is sealed against the steerer tube with an o-ring and against the upper cup with a custom-molded lip seal. 

And man does that sucker go on tight. The first time, the second time, the third time, and the fourth time. This single crown race has been on and off four steerer tubes on three forks from three brands. It's a PItA to remove and it goes on strikingly tight every time. This is not my experience with crown races from other boutique headsets. 

I will definitely recommend using their 15 USD crown race installation tool

Sealing Success

And with my one point of skepticism out of the way, Wolf Tooth's Precision Headsets-In-Halves program is a solid winner in my book. It really isn't surprising as I noted when looking at how well thought out the sealing is in my first look

That big quad seal really works with the lower bearing remaining as new and essentially zero water penetration of the grease I put in between the seal and the bearing. 

Wolf Tooth Headset

These cups have been pressed thrice and knocked out twice with zero complaints. 

Wolf Tooth Headset

ZS headsets are available with 6mm, 15mm, and 25mm stack bearing caps. This is the 25mm. 

Wolf Tooth Headset

These cups have been removed twice and installed thrice in two different frames with zero headaches.

In switching frames, I like that I can easily order the headsets in halves as needed and I can even mix and match them with other brand's headsets if I just need a single cup. For example, I have a purple Chris King 44mm upper in great shape that needs a 56mm lower cup for future use and I know where the match will be coming from. 

I ride a lot in the rain but looking at the condition of bearings now I'm positive it will be years on end before I'm worried about replacing them - if ever. Wolf Tooth sells all the small parts separately and if I ever needed a replacement stainless steel bearing they're 25 USD for the 41mm and 30 USD for the 52mm. Lower headset assemblies are 55 USD and upper headset assemblies are 65 USD. They're available through your preferred local bike shop, or you can mix-and-match cups and colours on Wolf Tooth's website

Whether for the quality manufacturing, element erasing design features, size mix-matching, bling-factor, or overall value I think Wolf Tooth Components has a press-and-forget winner. 

Comments

Kelownakona
+1 Darryl Chereshkoff
Kelownakona  - Dec. 5, 2018, 11:15 a.m.

Why has no one done a headset using a bearing system like a threaded BB? Would make fitting SO much easier. Thread in bearings top and bottom of headtube and pass steerer through as you do with crank axle.

Everyone hates on press fit BBs but no one moans about headsets.

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 JVP
Andrew Major  - Dec. 5, 2018, 1:49 p.m.

Other than a few years where ovalizing 1-1/8” headtubes with long travel single crowns was an issue (evolution baby) pressfit headsets haven’t ever been an issue. Why add the cost and tolerancing if it isn’t necessary?

The counter argument is usually related to removal and install of cups (hammer out / expensive tool for instal) but really how often do headsets come in/out, and every headset manufacturer would have their own install tool (see BB) so the tooling costs would be up there anyways.

Poor tolerancing in a high-load area most exposed to the elements earned pressfit its bad rep. Not helped by 30mm axles and the tiny bearings necessitated. 

Shitty factory builds and custom builds by shitty mechanics also didn’t help. There needs to be a product (retainer, grease, anti-seize, etc) between the BB cups and frame. 

I’ve installed (and removed) plenty of PF92 BBs and ridden lots of quality bikes with properly installed BBs and I simply don’t see them as an issue.

The counter point is that PF92 gives designers a lot more room to work without increasing the Q-Factor. Look at Rocky Mountain’s SuziQ as an excellent of example of a fat bike that isn’t obscenely wide to ride. There are lots of examples of suspension frames where designers have done a great job taking advantage of the extra realestate.

Finally - for headsets and BBs, combing threadfit with carbon fibre requires an aluminum tube to be bonded in place for the cups to thread into. I’ve come across plenty of examples where the bonded in BB shells are as much a PIA as any pressfit situation I’ve come across.

Anyways, I run 30mm axle cranks so I’ll keep my BSA BB, but I don’t think there’s any reason to add the expense of threaded headset cups and headtubes for not return in the days of the tapered steerer fork.

Reply

JVP
0
JVP  - Dec. 6, 2018, 10:37 a.m.

Counterpoint: As someone who likes to run frames for more than a couple years, I think pressfit BB's are better for carbon frames than thread-in.  We need more tools for pressfit, which sucks, tolerances need to be good, and the installer needs to know some wrenching best practices as Andrew says.

I've already had one frame go to warranty due to a threaded aluminum BB insert that came unbonded from the carbon frame.   This is a high-load failure point that can be eliminated with properly implemented pressfit BBs. 

But the industry screwed this up due to some crappy products when pressfit first came out, so now everyone thinks they always creak. I'm going to be pissed if my current carbon frame dies after 3 years due to a threaded BB insert.

Reply

JBV
+3 JVP Rob Gretchen Andrew Major
James Vasilyev  - Dec. 5, 2018, 11:40 a.m.

funny observation. i asked the owner at the LBS why people rant about pressfit bb's and he said the same thing as you. he said pressfit is not that big of a deal and rarely a problem, as in headsets. but i'm not a mechanic so...

Reply

T-mack
+1 Rob Gretchen
T-mack  - Dec. 5, 2018, 5:20 p.m.

Why do crown races need to be press fit anymore? I always put a slice in mine so it slides right on sans tools. When you tighten the headset it gets squeezed against the steer tube anyway. Notice how there's a race in the top cup that already has a slice? Same same.  The days of bearings actually running on that race are over so I don't see the point anymore.

Reply

GladePlayboy
0
Rob Gretchen  - Dec. 5, 2018, 7:18 p.m.

Great point.. Look at Hope and their split crown races... install in seconds without tools...

Reply

AndrewMajor
+1 Rob Gretchen
Andrew Major  - Dec. 5, 2018, 7:32 p.m.

It's an interesting point. Is this specific case the crown race is an integral part of their sealing system so I can maybe justify it, but yeah - I have a Works Components headset I'm riding and it was so clean and easy to just pop the split race on.

Reply

kos
0
Kos  - Dec. 6, 2018, 7:18 a.m.

Sounds like a killer headset.  Top of my list if either OEM goes south.

As far as the crazy-tight crown race, maybe just a few light passes to the i.d. with some 320 emery cloth?

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 6, 2018, 7:55 a.m.

Honestly, I rather tight with tools than any kind of slop. First, creaky crown races are a thing but also I’ve seen crown races just ravage steerer tubes when they get stretched (hence my initial concern).

Going back to slip races, that’s another reason to consider them actually. I have an old FSA split ring that still fits tight whereas I’ve replaced a number of King and CaneCreek crown races that have gotten loose (from multiple installs) and started to make noise.

Reply

agleck7
+1 Andrew Major
Agleck7  - Dec. 6, 2018, 8:09 a.m.

It'd be awesome if Wolftooth starting doing angle-adjust and/or reach adjust headsets.  Would be nice to have an alternative to paying in pounds and shipping from the UK.

Reply

AndrewMajor
0
Andrew Major  - Dec. 6, 2018, 8:28 a.m.

Reach adjust works well for DH bikes (1-1/8” steerer) with 49mm+ headtubes but there isn’t much room with tapered steerers/tapered headtubes? Otherwise I’m totally onboard - with new geo being so short-stem specific having another way to adjust reach/TT would be awesome.

Anglesets are either complicated/expensive (CaneCreek) or very size specific (Works) requiring a tonne of SKUs to cover headtube length in addition to dimensions. My guess is there aren’t more players because those issues vs. demand. 

That said, if there’s an out of the box solution to either issue I’m not considering I’m certain the Wolf Tooth folks would come up with it. Everything they do is smart but simple.

Reply

agleck7
+1 Andrew Major
Agleck7  - Dec. 6, 2018, 8:34 a.m.

All good points.  Even though it's tons of SKUs for the Works approach, thinking that Wolftooth's machining ability might make it possible.  If they came up with a new approach that was better than an Angleset, that would be awesome!  I'm in Minnesota, so I'll make sure to bug those guys if I see 'em ;)

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