Cane Creek 110 IS Review

by Brian Mullin on May 12, 2010

I have had the Cane Creek 110 IS on my Ibis Mojo for a year now, and it has been abused through mud, snow and rain, and has been subjected to constant rocky and bone jarring conditions. It has worked so well that I have pretty much forgotten that it was even on the bike. It has remained smooth and bind free, with nary an issue. Outside of setting the proper bearing preload, I have never done any real maintenance on the headset. It feels pretty much the same as when I installed.

Cane Creek
20 years ago, Dia Compe introduced the world to threadless headset technology. The intertwined history thread of the Aheadset, Dia Compe and Cane Creek are quite interesting. In the mid 70’s Dia Compe opened a facility in Fletcher, NC to supply brake parts to some bike manufacturers. Around 1990 Paul Turner had Dia Compe build and distribute the Rock Shox RS-1 fork. John Rader, the designer of the Aheadset system, gave exclusive licensing to Dia Compe for the product, which Chris King and Hatta started to build. Dia Compe USA becomes a separate entity from Dia Compe Japan, making their headquarters in Fletcher. After a few years, Rock Shox ended its relationship with Dia Compe, soon Dia Compe starts building Aheadsets themselves. In 1996 the Cane Creek brand name was introduced in addition to Dia Compe. Later in the early 2000’s Cane Creek became the wholly used name. The threadless headset is U.S. Patent 5095770, which is owned by Cane Creek Cycling Components, and expires on September 29, 2010.

A funny side story was given by Cane Creek’s Jason Grantz: “The star-nut compression assembly, critical to a threadless headset, was discovered when a Cane Creek (Dia Compe USA) employee was thinking about how to adjust the compression leaned back in his office chair, and it broke. When he looked inside the bottom of his chair, he saw a very large star-nut.”

There are 3 categories of threadless headsets:
Traditional headsets (TR) – Two headset cups are pressed into the head tube, and the bearings reside in their outer cups.
Integrated headsets (IS) – Bearing cups (tapered bores) are an integral part of the headtube, and the bearings reside within the headtube. 2 sizes, Italian and Cane Creek.
Internal headset – Two headset cups are pressed into the headtube, but the bearings reside in the frame itself, meaning inner cups.

110 IS
Headsets are something we take for granted, once they are installed, we pretty much ignore them, and forgot what an important purpose they perform. They are a simple set of parts, and are basically just some bearings, cups (except for Integrated Headsets) and bearing covers. However, these parts require quite a lot of precision to work effectively.

The Cane Creek 110 system is the culmination of many years of Aheadeset technology and knowledge, and is their flagship. The 110 comes with a captured compression ring, premium 7075 T-6 aluminum construction (3 Interlok spacers and 2 bearing covers), 2 stainless steel angular contact bearings with split lip seals, crown race, top cap, bolt and star nut. It comes with a 110 year warranty! The 110, 100 and AER headsets are machined onsite at their Fletcher, NC site.

The split compression ring which is captured inside of the bearing cover, helps with variations in steerer tube diameters, sets preload, and locks the headset down solidly, ensuring no rocking nor creaking. The design acts as a tapered wedge for a secure hold and interface between the steerer and bearings, so nothing will come loose.

The split lip bearing incorporates a dual lip design, so the bearings get twice the protection. The design keeps grease in, and contaminants out, while still retaining low friction. The stainless steel angular contact bearings (5/32″ balls) are user replaceable, which is a very nice feature.

The 110 comes with 3 Interlok spacers, 2mm, 5mm and 10mm, although the 2mm is really a top cap that finishes off the stack. The Interlok spacers are interesting, since they snap into each other, with a sort of tongue (on the bottom) and groove (on the top) connection, and provide a solid and tight interface.

The bearing covers also have a set of o-rings, which prevent contaminant entry, and insure a tight and precise fit to the steer tube. The entire 110 weighs in at 95 grams with the tall top bearing cap, and 90 grams with the short, and this includes all 17mm of spacers with each stack.

Measured Specs
Bearings 35.9 grams
2 mm spacer 2.5 grams
5 mm spacer 4.2 grams
10 mm spacer 6.7 grams
Short Bearing Cover 10.0 grams
Tall Bearing Cover 15.3 grams
Crown race 10.6 grams
Top Cap 8.6 grams
Bolt 7.9 grams
Compression Ring 3.4 grams
————————————————————-
Total Tall stack 95.1 grams (w/ all spacers)
Total Short Stack 89.8 grams (w/ all spacers)

Installation
The steps to install the IS (Integrated) vary slightly from the TR (traditional press-in). The crown race and star nut (or self expanding wedge) are both installed on the fork, which is the same for either version. Next, one of the identical bearing pairs, with its angled side facing up is dropped onto the race, and the fork is inserted into the bikes headtube until the bearing self-centers in the lower tapered bore. The other bearing, with the angled side facing down, is slid onto the steerer tube until it self-centers in the upper bore. The chosen bearing cover (tall or short) with the installed compression ring is slid onto the steer tube until it touches the upper bearing, and then entire stack is sandwiched tightly together. It takes a little force to get the cover to slide down the tube, since the o-rings make it a tight fit. Due to the tightness, you no longer need to hold onto the fork. The appropriate number of Interloc spacers is added (snapping them together), and the stem is installed, followed by the top cap and its bolt. I tightened down the preload to approximately 5 N-M, and then eased off 1/4 turn. Tightening is done, so there is no play in the bearings, but still allowing the fork to turn smoothly, without any binding or excessive friction. Finally straighten the steering, and tighten down the stem pinch bolts to its specifications.

If the top bearing cover drags on the upper bearing cup (tapered bore), then the included spacer shims will need to be installed. The compression ring will need to be pulled off the bearing cover, and the shim is installed between the cover and ring. Cane Creek recommends occasionally rotating the bearings (top to bottom, bottom to top), in order to lengthen bearing life since the bottom bearing gets about 90% of the wear and tear in a headset. The major difference between the TR and IS is that the bearings are simply dropped into place in the headtube, and use the tapered bore in lieu of pressed in bearing cups.

Photo courtesy of Cane Creek

Impression
When first examining and holding the 110, you notice the quality that went into this product, the smooth bearings, nice anodizing, gorgeous shapes, and precise machining, especially of the Interloc spacers. On close examination, you really notice the precision of all the components, which are all explanatory. It’s one pretty baby!

Once the preload has been set properly, the 110 IS has been smooth as silk, and I have never felt any binding, notching nor looseness from the system. I have plummeted it through ugly rock gardens, slammed it into ledges, and pretty much tossed any abuse I can manage at the 110 IS. I have washed and hosed the bike often, and tend to get a lot of water up on the headset. It has been thrown into Mother Natures wrath regularly, with extreme temperature swings, with rain, hail and snow (sometimes at the same time). The local trail conditions have lots of dust and fine sand, which always manages to find entry into almost anything. What all of this means is that the 110 IS having been through Hell and back, and has never been treated kindly, nor with much care or maintenance. Out of all this torture, it has shown no signs of anything, no wear or tear, it’s just working as it did from day one.

Truth be told, there really isn’t much to have an impression about, the 110 IS having worked flawlessly since I installed it, and morphed into the quiet background of bike use, and has hardly been noticed. I have used a couple of Cane Creeks other IS headsets, and they have either had a short shelf life or have broken.

Bottomline
The Cane Creek 110 IS has performed flawlessly from day one, and has never given me any issues. The 110 is the crown jewel of the Cane Creek headset line, and is meticulously built, with precision and exacting tolerances. It has been thrown into the Lion’s den of abuse, and neglect, and is still performing like it was brand new. It looks pretty, and the fit, finish is outstanding. In reality, there isn’t much to say about the Cane Creek 110 IS (obviously I am verbose), since it has done its job perfectly.

Strengths
-Precision workmanship
-Tight tolerances
-110 year warranty
-Performs flawlessly

Weaknesses
-Expensive
-Needs to include extra bearing cover o-rings

Overall Rating: 5 Flamin’ Chili Peppers

110 IS Specs
Size: 1 1/8 in. (28.6mm)
Stack Height: +1.0 mm to Cover Height
Top Stack Height: 17.0 mm
Bottom stack height: 10.3 mm
Material: Premium Headset Alloy 7075 T-6
Weight 67.0 g – Tall/60.6 g – Short (excl. spacers and preload assembly)
Top bearing: Split-Lip Stainless Steel
Bottom bearing: Split-Lip Stainless Steel
Color: black, silver, blue, red, purple
Warranty 110 years
MSRP: $150

Cane Creek 110 IS url: http://www.canecreek.com/component-headsets?browse=type&type=integrated-system

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Kornel May 12, 2010 at 7:20 am

My Trek District single speed bike was shipped with this Cane Creek 110 head set. I agree with your review and I was pleased to read your take on it too.

Keep riding!

Reply

Brian Mullin - Gram and Pastajet May 12, 2010 at 5:19 pm

Thks, I certainly have not been kind to the headset, but that seemed to make no difference.

Reply

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