Cane Creek AngleSet Review

by Brian Mullin on September 7, 2011

The Cane Creek AngleSet is an interesting, innovative and strange beast, as it’s a threadless headset that gives you the ability to change the effective head angle of the frame, allowing one to slacken or steepen the geometry as desired, with up to six different offset angles. In a nutshell, the system uses upper and lower bearings that are housed in gimbals, which then self-adjust themselves within the headset cups (sort of like a ball joint), one of which has an offset for the actual angle setting.

Cane Creek AngleSet
The AngleSet headset system can transform the head angle of a bike in six offset angle adjustments, +/- 0.5°, +/- 1.0°, +/- 1.5° over its stock geometry, for steeper or slacker settings. It’s head-tube length independent and fits the most popular head-tube and forks, in both tapered and standard sizes. The self-aligning feature between the system’s main components, the bearings, gimbals and cups, and the steerer tube ensures a proper fit, and easy fork installation. When the system first came out, only forks with straight steerer’s could be used, because they were equipped with their ZeroStack cups (ZS) which had insufficient space for a tapered setup, but they recently released External Cup (EC) versions, which have a larger diameter, and more room for the offsets. A straight 1-1/8″ fork can be installed on the EC version, by using their optional conversion crown race. Depending on the particular model of the AngleSet, the eccentric or offset cup may be on the top or bottom. In addition, each model comes in two different kits, one includes only a 1.0° offset cup, while the other has all three sizes, 0.5°, 1.0°, and 1.5° (Note: for EC44 has no 1.5° ). The cup sizes are designated by the size of their top and bottom head tube inside diameter, such as 44mm, 49mm and 56mm, and either EC (External Cup) or ZS (ZeroStack). For example, my test unit was the EC44-EC49/40, which meant it was for a head tube with 44mm top and 49mm bottom (tapered 1 1/8″ – 1.5″), and a 40mm crown race for a tapered fork (1 1/8″ – 1.5″).

Available Models (Top ID -Bottom ID/Crown Race):

  • EC44-ZS44/30 – straight steerer
  • ZS49-ZS49/30 – straight steerer
  • ZS49-EC49/40 – straight or tapered steerer
  • ZS44-ZS49/30 – straight steerer
  • ZS44-ZS56/30 – straight steerer
  • EC44-EC49/40 – straight or tapered steerer
  • ZS44-EC56/40 – straight or tapered steerer

They just came out with a trick measuring tool called the Gary Gauge, which allows you to measure every conceivable headset and fork steerer parameter, so that you choose the properly sized components. Once you get the hang of using its very useful, and it makes all the confusing headset and headtube standards and sizes measurable. You can watch Gary use the simple, cheap and cool tool at http://www.canecreek.com/tech-headsets?view=gary-gauge.  

    I tested the EC44-EC49/40 AngleSet on my Ibis Mojo HD, which has a tapered headset, using a variety of forks, with both straight and tapered steerer’s. The kit comes with a captured compression ring, a bearing cover and two cups (0° and 1.0° offset), and two gimbals, are made with premium 7075 T-6 aluminum construction, two stainless steels angular contact bearings with split lip seals, crown race, top cap, bolt and star nut. The split compression ring which is captured inside of the bearing cover, helps 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 uses 5/32″ Balls, and incorporates a dual lip design, so the bearings get twice the protection, and are user replaceable. This design keeps grease in, and contaminants out, while still retaining low friction. The bearing cover has an o-ring, which prevents contaminant entry, and insures a tight and precise fit to the steerer tube.  
    Measured Specs (EC44-EC49/40):

    • Bearings – Top 19.7 gram, Bottom 25.4 grams
    • Gimbals – Top 7.6 grams, Bottom 7.9 grams
    • Bearing Cover – 6.4 grams
    • Crown race – 15.4 grams
    • Top 1.0° offset cup – 35.2 grams
    • Bottom 0° cup – 29.7 grams
    • Top Cap – 8.6 grams
    • Bolt – 7.9 grams
    • Compression Ring – 1.7 grams
    • Total Weight – 165.5 grams

    Installation
    The AngleSet installs very much like a normal traditional headset, outside of the special requirement for the proper alignment of the offset cup. Depending on the specific version being used, the offset cup will be installed on the bottom or top, and the offset itself will arc forward or backward, whether a slack or steep angle is desired. For my test EC44-EC49, the offset cup goes on top, and the 0° cup goes on the bottom. I was testing with a Fox TALAS 180 fork, so I wanted to steepen the head angle to match the bike’s default head tube of 67°, and this meant the 1° offset tilts to the front. The offset cup has a notch on either end, which must be aligned to the center of the frame. Cane Creek has two installation videos, and the latter should alleviate gimbal knock issues (not verified): AngleSet Installation and AngleSet Installation Part 2

    Install and Tuning Steps:

    • Install the 0° cup on the bottom, which doesn’t require any orientation with a headset press.
    • Carefully align the 1° offset cup with the frame center, with the fatter portion towards the rear (steeper head angle), and press it into place. If a slacker angle is required, just reverse the direction of the offset by 180 degrees.
    • Install the crown race and bottom bearing with the beveled edge upwards on the fork, then grease both sides of the lower gimbal, drop it onto the bearing, grease the inner curved portion of the lower cup, and push the fork up into the headtube.
    • Grease the inner curved portion of the upper cup and both sides of the gimbal, place the gimbal into the cup, drop in the bearing with the bevel edge down, slide on compression ring, bearing cap, any required spacers, the stem, and then bolt on the top cap.
    • Tighten with a more torque than usual, so that the gimbals and bearing will get pushed into the cups, and are seated properly.
    • Roll the front wheel straight into a wall or bounce it with sufficient force to help the front end settle down. You may hear a ‘gimbal knock’ sound, and re-tighten if required.
    • Take the bike out on the trail, and do some hard riding, which might include doing big hits, riding in rough rocky terrain, so that the bearing, gimbals and cups all get settled in with each other. You may hear a ‘gimbal knock’ sound on occasion, and re-tighten if required. This initial break-in cycle might take a couple of rides before things quiet down?

    Note: The ‘gimbal knock’ is a quick sharp snap sound, and although the noise sounds like something broke, it’s just play in the system, where everything isn’t quite lined up and in perfect synchronicity. Aligning the offset cup, liberal lubrication, proper tightening and letting the system settle in are the keys for quiet operation. It doesn’t cause any degradation to the system, and it’s perfectly safe, as it’s a robust entity.

    Update: Olen Bogert contacted me with an excellent technical explanation on what he thinks the issue is caused by, refer to his document at AngleSet Discussion, thanks Olen!

    Impressions
    Even after getting things settled in, and tightened down properly, on occasion it still got the dreaded ‘gimbal knock’. It especially happened when doing ledge drops or hitting square rocks head-on, when the force is torqued down hard on the head tube. I even went back and re-greased everything, and tightened it heavier than normal, and although it helped greatly, it didn’t totally alleviate the issue, and just made it rarer happenstance. I spoke with people who had the same issue as I did, and others who could rid themselves of the noise, so caveat emptor. It is a pain to change the head angle again, since it requires removing the offset cup, and pressing in a different one, and it takes more patience and attention to detail to get the unit installed and tuned properly. It is not something you can decide to change on a whim, and it certainly wouldn’t be field changeable unless you brought some prodigious tools with you. Unless your LBS performs the install, which I recommend, it does require the usual assortment of big expensive headset tools, a crown race puller and setter, head cup remover and headset press, the latter being the most expensive. I used a combination of tools, for the crown race, a homemade setter (PVC pipe) and a retrofit puller (bearing race puller) and IceToolz for the cup press and remover. Fortunately, the offset cup will most likely not be swapped out often?

    What I do like about the unit is that it helped tame the slackness of the 180mm fork I was testing, and it was nice to have the angle steepened and the steering to return to a better degree of usability and control. The bearings worked just fine, and I never felt any binding from the system, and it steered smoothly on everything, without any interference to handling. The rotation was kink and bind free, and it worked like a normal high-quality headset. It does allow one to play with the geometry of a bike, allowing minor tweaks to the bottom bracket height, wheelbase, head tube angle, and the forks rake and trail. You can test with different forks, that have varying axle to crown lengths, allowing one to alter the steering and control characteristics. All of which can be accomplished by swapping the different offset cups, making the AngleSet a pretty unique, functional and useful component, for testing, designing and play. For my activity, it wasn’t so much that I wanted to alter the bike’s design, but just it to return to its default setting. Altering the angle makes the bike feel and performs differently under certain trail conditions and terrain environments, and customizes the steering attributes.

    Although the AngleSet is not headtube specific, the height of the headtube can change the final outcome, as a short headtube makes a bigger offset change than a longer headtube. For example, adding the TALAS 180mm fork to my medium Ibis Mojo HD makes the stock angle 66°, and using the AngleSet 1° offset cup along with my 103mm headtube height give me an an actual 1.2 °, which works out to be an uncompensated 67.2 °, whereas a x-large frame with a 134mm comes out to 66.9 °.

    Bottom Line
    The Cane Creek AngleSet is an innovative product, that allows you to slacken or steep the effective head angle of the frame, with offsets of +/- 0.5°, +/- 1.0°, +/- 1.5° over its stock geometry. It’s well made, with beautiful workmanship, and has excellent bearings that provide smooth and bind free steering. The benefits of being able to alter the steering attributes and bike’s handling and characteristics, through a simple change of the head angle is an excellent feature, and it makes the AngleSet a very functional piece of equipment.

    It’s not the lightest unit, and it’s expensive, and the installation, tightening and tuning of the system can take some practice and time, but it’s a pretty good system with excellent workmanship, and does exactly what you want from it, changing the effective head tube angle.  

    Strengths

    • Can change stock head angle
    • Customize steering and feel of bike
    • Precision workmanship
    • Excellent bearings
    • Smooth and bind free steering

    Weaknesses

    • Changing head angle requires laborious offset cup swapout
    • Installation requires more patience and attention to detail
    • Gimbal knock – hard to get system settled in
    • EC version adds stack height (might or might not be an issue)
    • Expensive

    Overall Rating: 4 Flamin’ Chili Peppers    

    MSRP:

    • $149 – AngleSet with 1º offset
    • $199 – AngleSet with .5º,1º,1.5º offsets

    EC44-EC49 AnglesSet Specs:


    Visit the Cane Creek AngleSet website
     

    Technical Description EC44/28.6/H18/K|EC49/40/H14/K
    Top Type EC – External Cup
    Top Head Tube Inside Diameter 44.00mm
    Stem Clamp Diameter 28.6mm
    Top Stack Height 18mm
    Top Bearing Type Black Oxide, Sealed
    Bottom Type EC – External Cup
    Bottom Head Tube Inside Diameter 49.61mm
    Crown Race Seat Diameter 39.79mm
    Crown Race Type Steel, Sealed
    Bottom Stack Height 14mm
    Bottom Bearing Type Black Oxide, Sealed
    Material 7075
    Color Black
    Weight 156g
    Part Number BAA0478K
    US MSRP $149.00

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