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Over The Bars

Gear Review: Cane Creek S-8 Headset
By MBT Staff

Shiny and Smooth

The S8 headset is quality for excellent cost.
The most often overlooked part of a bike is the headset, and it goes without saying that the quickest part to gain attention when it fails is the headset. Such a small, relatively invisible part can cause play hell with a bike and owner alike. When building a bike, the headset is often a part that is not given a lot of thought, and often "anything will do." When people think of high dollar headsets, they often think of Chris King, but there really is a cheaper, but same quality alternative. Cane Creek has been making headsets for years, and they manufacture everything from the AHeadset base models that adorn cheaper bikes up through the superb Solos headset. The S-8 is the second highest model that Cane Creek produces, and by and large, it compares with the best headsets on the market very handily.

Based upon the S-6 design, the S-8 drops a few grams and gains a shorter stack height and more compact profile. It really looks sharp mounted on a frame and complements the rest of the bike, but colors are somewhat limited. It is designed as a traditional 1 and 1/8" headset with external bearing cups. Inside the headset, we find a set of replaceable stainless steel cartridge bearings. Cane Creek chose these bearings for their durability and ability to work well even in terrible conditions. Unlike a loose bearing headset, the cartridge bearings are designed to keep out as many contaminants as possible while pulverizing any that get into the bearings/races. Assisting with keeping the bearings clean are the overhanging cup and cover design of the headset. Cane Creek describes the combo of creating a "treacherous path" that keeps dirt, grit and water from reaching the bearings and corroding them. The design carries over to the lower cup and crown race, producing a very well sealed headset that should remain trouble free for a long time to come. There is an integrated rubber seal inside the cups and on the crown race which further shields the precious bearings from the elements. Should the bearings actually be neglected to the point where they become seized, loose or otherwise compromised, the stainless bearings are easily replaced, and for a few dollars, it'll feel like you've got a brand new headset pressed into your headtube. Nifty if you ask us.

Installation of the headset is easy. Actually, all Cane Creek headsets have been easy to install, in our experience. The S-8 features "an undercut transition and stepped insertion" that makes pressing the headset into a headtube a simple affair. We don't care what it's called, but we love it, that's for sure. Another feature that Cane Creek has designed is their excellent interlocking spacers. These spacers are tapered to lock into each other and give an excellent compression lock on the headset. It also prevents the spacers from shifting around and spinning around under the stem.

After quite a few months of use, we've come to the conclusion that a good headset is worth every penny. We've noticed that steering is remarkably smoother and more predictable with the S-8 headset upgrade. We've also noticed that we haven't had to do any kind of maintainence on the headset except checking that the bearings are still spinning smoothly. There's been no grinding, creaking or grittyness to the headset at all, even through dust, rain, hail and mud that would make a spa cringe. What more can you ask for out of a headset?

Cane Creek
Website
MSRP: $70
Available Colors: Anodized Silver and Black

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