50g Cane Creek Aer headset impression

Discuss light weight issues concerning road bikes & parts.
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mythical
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by mythical

I just got a delivery from the UPS man. My new Cane Creek Aer ZS headset has arrived. Maaan is it light and does it look the part! :D

More on that soon...

Some added pix.
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Frankie - B
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by Frankie - B

Please keep us updated on the performance. I might be tempted to buy one myself.
'Tape was made to wrap your GF's gifts, NOT hold a freakin tire on.'

pieterp
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by pieterp

Any body who knows a (european) online shop that sells these?

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mythical
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by mythical

This weekend, I went for a 2-hour ride to see how my new Aer headset performed and I was quite pleased. The Cane Creek Aer ZS or Zero Stack™ is somewhat different from other headsets, as its upper runs on a NorGlide® bushing. Initially, I'm always a bit skeptical, although that never held me back from experimenting with new stuff. On a sidenote: The Aer is designated as "ROAD ONLY" or warranty will be void.

Description/Specs
As seen in my earlier post, the Cane Creek Aer ZeroStack, without nut/expander or top cap, weighs 50g. This matches the weight specified by Cane Creek. Incomparison, an Extralite Scalhead weighs about 52g including top cap and expander.

Total stack height is less than 10.5mm, divided amongst a 7.2mm upper and 3.3mm lower. The headset is so light because it uses only one bearing (bottom), which happens to be the same as in the high quality Split-Lip Black Oxide bearing found in Cane Creek's 110-series headsets.

The top part spins on an angular bushing from a self-lubricating material called Norglide®, essentially a sandwich composite made from PTFE/teflon and metal. It's manufactured by Saint-Gobain Plastics. The bushing runs directly onto an angular surface in the top cup, also with the 33g integrated version, albeit that the integrated cup drops into where ordinarily the bearing would sit.

The cups have distinct cutouts on the outer surface to make them lighter. Cane Creek states that the Norglide bushings should last at least 450 hours or between 2000-3000 miles. It should be easy to obtain a replacement Norglide bushing through a dealer or directly via Cane Creek.

Installation
The frame it went into was my Scott Addict, which came with a Ritchey WCS Zero semi-integrated headset. When I removed it, I didn't have any problems with the cups. I did have a hard time getting the base plate off, as there was nowhere I could get any tools under, except a really sharp screwdriver. Luckily, the base plate of the Cane Creek Aer is slightly easier to remove, e.g. in case a change of fork is desired.

The cups were easily pressed in, and 5 angled notches on each cup were very helpful to align them as straight as possible.

Adjustment
Because this headset doesn't have run entirely on bearings, it's very important to run the correct "bushing pre-load". You can easily overtighten this headset, which in turn might reduce service life. Too tight and the bars are hard to spin. Too loose and there is noticeable movement in the headset. As a result, you may have to play a bit to elimininate headset play. The headset manual says that (partly because of the NorGlide® upper) the Aer needs about 100 miles/160km of break-in period before it runs smoothly.

Overall Impression
I have a very good feeling about this headset. Not only does it look better than the Ritchey WCS it replaced, the lower bearing is solid and feels similar to a Chris King headset. The top part is obviously constructed to reduce weight, and this is the primary goal of this headset, to shave unnecessary weight. The most important thing about this headset is that it works without unwanted surprises at a weight that's very attractive.

More information can be found on the Cane Creek website.
“I always find it amazing that a material can actually sell a product when it’s really the engineering that creates and dictates how well that material will behave or perform.” — Chuck Teixeira

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Starter
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by Starter

If the Cane Creek's price
Dropped I would consider it
High for what it is

Seventy-five more
For an Extralite with real
Bearings and top-cap

Greater weight savings
increased durability
Easier setup
Oof.

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ElDuderino
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by ElDuderino

2-3000 miles? that's terrible. 20-30000 out of a campy unit. Then you just re-grease and ride for 30000 more.

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mythical
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by mythical

With all due respect, I don't believe that longevity was Cane Creek's concern with its Norglide upper bushing in the Aer, given that it's easily replaced. The bottom bearing would easily last forever, as these are the same as in the 110 headsets, which have a reputation for being extremely durable. This one carries the big loads on the headset.

I'll order a replacement bushing to see how easily they are to get a hold of and how much they cost, just so I can pop it in once necessary. If the bushings are cheap enough and easily obtainable, there's no need in getting a heavier headset.

In respect to Extralite, the Aer IS, or integrated version of the Aer, is much more competitive in weight at 33g sans top cap/expander and the "Traditional" version with standard cups, even more so at 46g. The cups in the Aer ZS really seem to be the major contributor to its weight. Besides, any weight weenie would prefer run a Tune GumGum as an expander and some ultralight carbon cap with alu bolt.

The stack height on any Cane Creek Aer headsets is also lower than any similar version from Extralite.

Although, I find that the Norglide already runs really smooth, I've been told that the Norglide will run a lot smoother after break-in period. Can't wait to know what that feels like! :D
“I always find it amazing that a material can actually sell a product when it’s really the engineering that creates and dictates how well that material will behave or perform.” — Chuck Teixeira

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jmartpr
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by jmartpr

For another option on Semi-Integrated headsets.....KCNC R3 Radiant with the optional Ceramic/Titanium bearings 39.5 grams without cap or expander. The Integrated is just 31 grams....not bad.

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ElDuderino
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by ElDuderino

mythical wrote:With all due respect, I don't believe that longevity was Cane Creek's concern with its Norglide upper bushing in the Aer, given that it's easily replaced. The bottom bearing would easily last forever, as these are the same as in the 110 headsets, which have a reputation for being extremely durable. This one carries the big loads on the headset.

I'll order a replacement bushing to see how easily they are to get a hold of and how much they cost, just so I can pop it in once necessary. If the bushings are cheap enough and easily obtainable, there's no need in getting a heavier headset.


true. looking forward to your longer-term review. ride like the wind!

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cryoplasm
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by cryoplasm

Thanks but no thanks. I'd prefer a standard upper and lower bearing based headset. Headsets can be had light enough as it is.

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mythical
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by mythical

I've been riding the Aer headset for a couple of weeks now and I must say they sure feel smoother than the Ritchey WCS they replaced. I did have to adjust the headset preload a few times but now the headset is setup completely to satisfaction.

I haven't spared the headset either. It has taken some serious hits from pot holes and one speed bump I wasn't paying attention to, and all is well with the Aer. Even though it's a bit different than what we're used to, it's definitely a dependable product for those wanting to shed some grams. :)
“I always find it amazing that a material can actually sell a product when it’s really the engineering that creates and dictates how well that material will behave or perform.” — Chuck Teixeira

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Hubert
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by Hubert

Hi mythical,

How's the AER holding up?

And, if you don't mind me asking, how much do you weigh?
Turn down the suck knob.

lighter=faster?
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by lighter=faster?

I used the AER in my steel Ritchey Break Away build. I have about 300 miles on the bike so far (perhaps crazy to use parts like this on steel Break Away, but I wanted a light bike for climbing in Spain (and Italy and France if I ever get there). So far I have noticed slightly more resistence in the bearing, making it harder to ride the bike with hands off the bars. The difference is not noticeable with hands on the bars. The notion that the top portion of the headset can be inexpensively replaced makes the possible shorter lifespan acceptable to me.

I may have too much pre-load on it; I should play with that a bit more.

BTW, the 58cm Ritchey Break Away weighs 15.2 lbs. with M2 Racer Pedals, BTP carbon bottle cages, and American Classic Mag 300 front wheel :-) I will probably ride it with a Powertap, Speedplays and AC Sprint 350s much of the time, and that brings the weight up to 16.2 pounds, still not bad for a steel travel bike.
2009 HM SuperSix 12.75 lbs
BB30 CAAD9 crit bike 14.375 lbs
Cannondale Slice <15 lbs
Cannondale Capo track/fixie
Motobecane 9357 Fly
Ritchey Break Away steel road 15.5 lbs

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mythical
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by mythical

@Hubert: Thanks for the reminder. I almost forgot I had this headset. Yea, so it's been performing so well I took this headset for granted. I haven't cleaned my bike since like ever and it's still smooth (after the typical break-in period). I only adjusted it once after 2 months or so, but that wasn't even necessary. So far it's a happy headset without any blemish or issues. It even survived a hit-and-run by a car...

Oh, and to answer your other question, I weigh about 71kg/156lbs.

Meanwhile, I also got the Aer IS. It weighs 33g, exactly as specified by Cane Creek. It'll be put in another build...
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“I always find it amazing that a material can actually sell a product when it’s really the engineering that creates and dictates how well that material will behave or perform.” — Chuck Teixeira

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vinster88
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by vinster88

Hello, all. super lurker here. I've run the aer headset on my Z4 for about 2000 miles. The headset is touchy to get right. I recently ended its life with a switch to tune cap & removal of the expander. Things loosened up, on a rain ride. upon cleaning break down, I found the nor-glide top bushing in a thin ribbon.
I called cane creek to order a replacement,..... Yeah back-ordered. If your gonna run this set up I'd suggest getting on the list for a back up top bushing.

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