Customer Review: Chris King Inset 2 Tapered Headset

Chris King has been manufacturing precision, quality bicycle components since the inception of his company in Portland, OR, 1976. A designer of both functional and elegant-looking hubs, bottom brackets, wheelsets, and headsets, Chris King’s forward thinking philosophy incorporates “green manufacturing” within their factory. Lathes and milling machines run on soybean oil in place of water-soluble agents that require usage of toxic chemicals. Shavings are collected and pressed into pellets, which drives out residual soybean oil, while insuring the finished pellets are of the purest quality for recycling. Even the vivid color anodizing process that Chris King’s components are famous for, is given special consideration. Metal pieces are not acid cleaned, but instead, are hand polished and cleaned prior to anodizing. Together, these green processes help minimize their manufacturing footprint on the planet.

Chris King Headset

The Inset-2 Tapered Headset, low stack tapered (44mm) ZS44/(56mm) ZS56, steerer size 1-1/8” to 1-1/2” is available in mouth-watering, eye-dazzling colors that include: black, mango, matte-slate, matte-jet, navy, patriot, red, silver, and turquoise. They also have a limited edition emerald green version. They are made from 7075 aluminum with stainless steel bearings. Weight, including hardware is: 157.5 grams. An anodized titanium or aluminum bolt could be incorporated to replace the standard stainless steel bolt, which weighs 8 grams (included in above weight). In addition, a star nut is supplied for aiding in the headset adjustment in metal steerer tubes, not carbon fiber, which requires another type of compression/expander plug. They are supplied with a 10-year warranty and are completely manufactured and assembled in Portland, OR.

Chris King also manufactures matching headset spacers in the same beautifully anodized colors. The spacers are available in three diameters, 1”, 1-1/8”, 1-1/4”; and four thicknesses with weight based on 1-1/8” diameter: 3mm (2.5g), 6mm (5g), 12mm (9.3g), 25mm (20.9g). Together, these products will add functionality and flare to your dream bike.

Installation of the Inset-2 Headset is simple. Here are Chris King’s instructions:

If your headtube is metal, be sure that is has been reamed and faced properly, preferably by a skilled professional. This requires expensive tools that few home-mechanics own. If it’s carbon fiber, check the frame manufacturer’s schematics/instructions for compatibility.

Clean the inside of the headtube and check for burrs or any irregularities. Be sure the headtube is concentric.

Measure the inside diameter (ID) of the headtube and the outside diameter (OD) of the bearing cups. Interference tolerances very by manufacturer, but Chris King recommends interference tolerances of no more than 0.1mm with his products.

Shop Chris King Headsets

Install the upper and lower cups using a good quality headset press. The Park HHP-2 works well for this procedure. Use a quality waterproof grease that is compatible with the material from which your headtube is made, either metal or carbon fiber.  Grease the inside of your headtube, and the outer surfaces of the bearing cups. Install one cup at a time, while exercising care and working slowly to assure the bearing cups are aligned straight, not on an angle. As an added precaution, insert thick paper or cardboard washers that are cut so that they extend beyond the surface diameter of the plates on the headset press. Cut center holes in the paper or cardboard that will allow passage of the shaft of the press. This simple device will prevent marring or scratching of your Chris King headset by the metal plates on the headset press. Do not over-tighten the press. Snug everything nicely until you’ve eliminated any gaping between the headset cups and the headtube. Then, wipe off excess grease, and you’re good to go.

Fork Faceplate installation begins by measuring the crown seat ID and measuring the fork steerer tub’s OD. The difference should not be greater than 0.1mm for the interference tolerance.

Clean debris from the steerer tube if necessary and wipe all parts clean. Slide the base plate with its appropriate surface, bearing-supporting side facing upwards, and push it snugly down the steerer tube. It should reach almost to the bottom of the steerer tube, leaving a small gap at the bottom.

Chris King Headset

Next, take a Crown Race Setting Tool; Park makes several models with adapters and Chris King sells adapters specific for his headsets. In this case, the Inset-2 requires a 1-1/2” adapter for the base of the steerer tube. Park’s CRS-15, which sets base plates onto 1-1/2” diameter steerer tubes, regardless of whether they are straight or tapered tubes. Place the setting tool over the steerer tube and slide it downwards until contact is made with the base plate. Now, tap the striking surface of the setting tool with a hard rubber mallet, or a hammer. I prefer using a mallet as you do not need excessive force to seat the base plate. It usually requires 2-3 solid taps to firmly seat the base plate.

On average, my bikes feature steerer tubes that are cut to accommodate 25-30mm in height for spacers beneath the handlebar stem clamp, and 20mm of spacers on top that allow for height adjustments to the stem, and/or to accommodate different heights for stems in the future. I prefer an upright position while riding, but everyone has their own style of riding. The excess height can be shortened later, once you’ve thoroughly ridden your bike and determined your stem height preference. Remember that correct positioning of your steering system is not just stem height, but includes many factors like stem angle and length, and handlebar width and angle, and frame geometry.

Cutting the steerer tube’s length requires forethought as you can cut a fork too long, but if you cut it too short, you’re screwed. A longer steerer tube will allow you to play with handlebar height adjustments, which can reveal themselves, sometimes after several days or weeks of riding. Do you prefer an upright posture on your bike or would you rather be down lower? Of course, terrain preferences dictate riding posture and variation between riders is immense. At any rate, cut it long enough to allow for future adjustments; even changing stem manufacturers or models can alter the height requirements for the steerer tube. On the other hand, you don’t want your steerer tube rising skyward to the point wherein should you tumble forward on your bike, the steerer tube won’t impale you. Every stem and fork manufacturer offers suggestive guidelines for maximal steerer tube height. Check for specifics with them, or better yet, give the staff at Worldwide Cyclery a jingle, they’re here to help.

Once you’ve determined spacer height in conjunction with your stem’s height, it’s time to cut your steerer tube. Insert your steerer tube, with crown race installed in its proper orientation, up and thru the headtube until the lower cup’s bearings have engaged the crown race. Next, slide the “GripLock” assembly over the steerer tube, add spacers, the stem, and more spacers if desired. Be sure these parts are snug, then scribe a line along the edge of the top most part. Remove all parts and then measure and scribe a line 2-3mm below your initial line. This is where you will cut your steerer tube. For cutting, I use Park’s SG6 saw cutting guide and a hacksaw fitted with a carbon-cutting blade. It affords a straight cut and is simple to use. Upon completion of the cut, take some well-worn 220 grit (or finer) sandpaper, and lightly sand around and within the steerer tube so that burrs and sharp edges are removed. The 2-3mm difference is necessary to exert a small amount of preload onto the bearings via the compression from the top cap. (SEE BELOW)

Chris King Headset

Now, you’re ready to install the star nut (metal headtubes only) or expander/compression plug (Carbon fiber headtubes). If working with a metal headtube, you can use a star nut installation tool, but I prefer threading a stainless-steel bolt thru the star nut, then using a light weight hammer or rubber mallet to tap the bolt’s head while driving the star nut downwards 15mm below the top of the steerer tube. With carbon fiber headtubes, insert the expander/compression plug with its accompanying bolt to the manufacturer’s recommended depth. Be sure the bolt is centered and perpendicular to the top of the star nut.

Next, turn the bolt so that the walls of the star nut or compression plug expand outward, just enough to secure the plug.

Apply a thin layer of grease to the cap O-ring on the GripLock assembly and slide the fork up thru the headtube, reassemble the GripLock assembly, lower spacers, stem, and upper spacers. Finish by treading the bolt thru the stem cap and star nut or expander/compression plug, and torque to about 1.7 Nm making sure that the stem is properly aligned on the frame. (To adjust preload, lock your front brakes and gently rock your bike fore and aft with both tires firmly grounded. You should feel some motion from the headset. Snug the top cap gently and slowly into the compression-expander plug/star nut until this motion ceases. Stop tightening.

Finish your installation by tightening all stem bolts to the manufacturer’s specified torque, which may range from 5-16 Nm for 4-bolt stem clamps and 13-29 Nm for 2-bolt stem clamps.

Chris King products are renowned for their superb quality, elegant appearance, bold colors, durability, and smoothness. I’ve run many Chris King headsets on my bikes for over 40 years; they are very reliable, and if properly installed, do not come loose, even when riding rocky terrain on a regular basis. If properly cleaned and greased, they will provide years of trouble-free service. Steering is smooth, precise, and responsive. With quality components, your attention is fixated on the trail, not on some weird noise your bike’s emitting.

Worldwide Cyclery carries a good selection of Chris King components. Whether you need a headset, a bottom bracket, hubs, a wheel-set, a frame, or a complete bike, WWC’s friendly and expert staff can assist you in making the right choice. They offer competitive prices, reward customer loyalty, ship promptly, and accept returns with a smile.

Shop Chris King Headsets

August 24, 2017

Chris King › Customer Review › Headset ›

Top Products For You...