What is this “internal headseat” business?

Hey Lee, I am trying to replace my busted headset and I bought a new 1 1/8″ HS, but it didn’t fit, so I look at the website and it says internal cup 1 1/8″. What in the world is a internal cup headset?

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Hey Chris,

Welcome to our brave new world.

In a traditional headset, you press big cups into the frame, and those cups contain the bearings. You can see them above and below your head tube. That’s what you bought.

In an internal cup headset, a little cup gets pressed into the frame, and the bearings rest up within the head tube. It’s lower profile and sleeker than the old method, but it sure can be a pain, eh?

There’s another type: the integrated headset. In these, there is no cup. The bearing rides on the inside of the frame itself. That’s bad news; instead of wearing a cheap headset part, you wear your frame.

Chris King makes the best headsets ever. They explain this very well:


2 replies
  1. Tim says:

    Hi Lee, Chris,

    The Chris King article is well written, however I don’t feel it’s entirely balanced:

    I’m a frame designer for a medium sized bike manufacturer, in my experience integrated (not internal) headsets are great. In four years of using these, I’ve not seen a single cracked head tube. I believe this is because the loads are concentrated deeper in the head tube, not right at the edge, also the head tube is not preloaded by the press fit required in a conventional headset.

    I’ve also seen great reliability with bearings and the wear problem on the agular contacts with the frame as discussed in the Chris King article, seems non existant.

    I love the attention to detail in Chris King components as much as the next guy; my favorite feature being the huge rear hub axle, it must help in tying together the rear end on suspension frames, especially if used with Fun Bolts.

    I have nothing bad to say about Chris King products, I just felt a counterpoint was needed here.


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