Tech letters for December 10, 2001

Edited by John Stevenson

Confounded by carbon fiber? Need to sound off about superlight stuff? Tech letters is the forum for your gear-related questions and opinions. We'll attempt to answer all questions that don't require a PhD in astrophysics or industrial espionage.

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Our short piece on integrated headsets last week has prompted a few responses already -- I suspect that this is one development in bike tech that's really going to polarise opinion down the track. Also in today's mailbag, more on Pegoretti, musing on frames, and more uses for old inner tubes.


Integrated headsets
Fit & frames
Pegoretti frames
Carbon cage
Park Tool MG-1 gloves
Inner tube tips

Integrated headsets #1

Some of the integrated headsets are also using slip on fork crown races instead of the ones you typically have to set into place. This makes assembling a bike a lot easier because the headset does not require any special tools to install. The Cane Creek Zero Stack is set up like this.

Tai Lee

Good point. As someone who's never quite been able to justify buying a slide hammer for the home workshop the disappearance of press-fit crown races certainly sounds good to me.

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Integrated headsets #2

Thanks for your article on integrated headsets. I find that there is a lot of consumer anxiety about these still, and your remarks about alignment and the lack of frame tools for IHS frames in shops are pertinent.

I would add, however, that my understanding is that the primary motivation for the development of the integrated headsets was out of need to beef up head tubes, to better withstand the stresses of manufacturing and riding. Tubing and frame makers found a disproportionate number of material failures in ultralightweight alloy head tubes, and reasoned that if material were added to the head tubes it could also form the seat of a headset bearing, thus justifying the additional weight. The aesthetic qualities of bikes by frame makers such as Klein and Look who had already developed integrated systems was some precedent as well.

Unfortunately, as my article on our Fort Frames website points out, international standards have not been developed for these headsets, which, having various stack heights of their own, require various depths of frame milling and headset-specific frames. Not surprisingly, many cyclists are nostalgic for the old 1in standard headsets, which at least allowed us to use any brand of headset with any brand of frame.

Rigidity was never the issue with headsets, although the move to larger steer columns is due to the larger carbon fiber steerers being demonstrably stronger than the 1in models.

Gregg Dion
Fort USA

It's worth keeping in mind, I think, that there are always a few competing standards whenever any new equipment variation appears. When oversize headsets emerged for mountain bikes, Gary Fisher was using a version with a 1 1/4in steerer, originally developed to allow an all-titanium fork (that shows you how obsessed the MTB industry was with titanium back in the late 80s and early 90s).

Initially, a few other builders also used 1 1/4in and it took a few years for the 1 1/4in headset to vanish entirely. I know importers that still have boxes of 1 1/4in stems kicking around in a dusty corner of the warehouse…

Let's not get too nostalgic though; 1in headsets were all very well, unless you had a bike that came with a low-stack Shimano headset and wanted to fit, well, anything else to it. (To their credit Shimano later increased the depth of their headsets.)

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Integrated headsets #3

One important difference between truly integrated headsets and either the traditional or the zero-stack approach is that in the fully integrated models the head tube itself serves as a bearing seat. With any headset, if you for some reason fail to note that your headset is loose and ride around on it for a while like that (long enough to damage the bearings) you risk screwing up the bearing race. In a traditional headset, this means you've trashed a $20 part that can be pressed out and replaced. With an integrated headset, it may mean you've trashed your frame.

Alex Parker
Natick, MA, USA

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Fit & frames

Interesting to read Darren's letter re: frames & fitting.

I build custom frames and spend most of my time pondering frame fit and how to achieve it so that the rider has performance with comfort.

It is a very subjective exercise and in my view it is highly likely that a first custom frame will not be as good as it is possible to build for a particular individual. A lot of input and feedback is necessary , so that a relationship builds and both parties understand just what the other party is saying.

I find that very few people can analyse what is going on and then convey it to the builder so that there is no misinterpretation. In short most people set out to buy a bike based on their perception of which bike will be best for them based on marketing hype. There are very good frames out there and Darren's experience with the Serotta is a good example of just how individual our needs are when it comes to fit.

The one we fall in love with is not always best for us.

I could go on and on -- suffice to say I would be interested to hear other readers' views on the subject and what it is that you look for in a frame.

Geoff Close
New Zealand

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Pegoretti frames #1

Pegoretti still happily builds custom, but you simply have to wait. It is still a two-brother shop, with painting done outside by a separate painter. I have a total of three Pegorettis in the family: two for me, one for my wife. They are a great bike, so buy without fear. The handling is what I love; quick but rock solid.

Charlie Shafer

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Pegoretti frames #2

I've just taken delivery of a Pegoretti steel frame (Marcelo). I don't know what the deal is for US customers, but as each frame is individually built, a custom size isn't a problem. Mine was made to measure and it wasn't a problem. They do take a looooong time to come though! If you want something in a hurry then beware. Expect several months wait. Try contacting them directly, or the US importer and explain your needs, I'm sure they'll sort you out. Expect startled looks if you get one, they're real lookers. I haven't done much mileage yet, but it feels spot on, not too frisky, just 'there'.

Laurence Arnold

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Carbon cage

I just read your update on the carbon cage and went to the B-T-P website. Interesting. The cage I have sure looks like Bernhard's but I use regular water bottles and they don't fall through. The cage I have actually has a "top" and "bottom" to it. The bottom "loop" is ever so slightly smaller in diameter than the top "loop" so that it grips the bottle well. I use standard Elite bottles mostly and they stay put. Thanks again for operating the best cycling site on the planet.

Don Marcopulos

Don, that sounds like Bernhard's explanation of his cage, and you just got lucky with the bottles happening to fit right and stay put.

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I'm sure this was just an oversight, but lightly coating a painted steel frame greatly retards the spread of rust radiating out from those pesky paint nicks.


I think today's final tip, at the bottom of the page, might have the same effect.

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Park Tool MG-1 gloves

Although I haven't used the Park brand gloves I have been using latex gloves for a while and more recently nitrile gloves (our mail handling procedures changed after 9-11 and our department received several boxes of nitrile gloves). Although I prefer the feel of the latex gloves the nitrile gloves that I have tried have worked excellently. I don't work in a shop anymore so I don't have the gloves on for long periods of time and I am also prone to changing my gloves a few time if the job takes awhile. I have even started carrying a glove or two in my seatbag for those small but sometimes messy problems that occur out on a ride. In any case a definite two (clean I might add) thumbs up on this product.

Rich Paul

I spent part of yesterday afternoon cleaning the bikes my wife and I use for commuting. Protected by Park gloves, I could use engine degreaser to remove diesel deposits without wrecking my skin. I'm a convert!

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Inner tube tips #1

My wife came home from work the other day with what she called "An amazing Garlic De-skinning Machine" that she'd bought for just one dollar. She promptly illustrated its effectiveness by de-skinning about ten cloves of garlic with "The Machine" in about ten seconds. On closer inspection it was revealed that the machine was in fact a 120mm length of mountain bike inner tube (roadie ones are too thin).

You simply insert about three garlic cloves into the tube and then roll the tube with the palm of your hand on a hard surface and hey presto peeled garlic. This sure beats messing around with foil or knives and the machine is low maintenance and easily replaceable. My wife was a little put out when I told her we had about fifty garlic de-skinning machines hanging up in the shed!

Davern White
Murrumbeena, Victoria

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Inner tube tips #2

More inner tube re-cycling tips:

(1) To protect one of the most vulnerable bearings on your bike - especially good for mountain bikes. When installing new lower head bearings - or simply when you have taken your fork out for any reason, cut a 50mm length of mountain bike inner tube and stretch it over the bottom bearing cup and head tube. When the fork is back in place pull the piece of inner tube down to cover the join. This keeps the world out and will stop your bottom bearings looking like old peas in watery gravy for ages! There is an alternative - buy a Chris King headset and never have to touch them again but this is about 120 dearer!

(2) Use more cut lengths of inner tube - road bike diameter is best - to hold your tyre levers, Allen keys and other emergency tools together before putting them in your jersey pocket or seat bag. This will keep them together, help stop them going rusty and stop them wearing a hole in your jersey.

Robin Cooney

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Inner tube tips #3

A wonderful bio-degradable, low-cost method for protecting your chain stays is to zip-tie an old striped bass or flounder to the stay: it won't last forever, but it will protect your paint and get those tire-suckers off your back wheel, especially if the weather's been warm!

Jay Perley

Thanks for that Jay. I'm tempted to say that the silliest such suggestion in next week's mailbag will win my collection of punctured tubes, but I fear someone would take me seriously…

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