Cane Creek 110 IS Review

Components Pro Reviews

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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.

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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.

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About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian has been part of the Mtbr team since 2007, where he has become an integral member of the review and test staff, specializing in technical articles. He likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, extreme skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth and hyperbolic articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on extremely technical singletrack.


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  • DJ says:

    I am not sure why this product is impressive. There is another company who make similar priced headsets that have been doing so longer that is better sealed and which almost every headset manufacturer now imulates including DiaCompe – Chris King. The integrated headset is not an effort to improve the bicycle or it’s parts, but rather the end result of the bicycle industry trying to simplify and reduce the number of precision components that make a bicycle and thus to offer a product less expensive to make for the same or increased price while implying an ‘unpgrade.’ As a former bicycle mechanic with more than a decade of experience I experienced the aheadset, suspension, aluminum, titainium, carbon and disk brake revolutions. None of those products came about purely from an altruistc want of the industry to make the cyclist happier, they all came from a want to make money selling. I speak on this subject both in terms of pro and con. I can see the reasons to simplify the bicycle in ways that help both the user and the maker and can hardly fault anyone for wanting to earn a living, but I wish the manufacturers were more honest about their reasons. I never tired of explaining to reps what they were actually selling and why. I have had the great advantage of working with and knowing welders, metalurgists and various engineers who share my passion for the sport and its equipment to bounce ideas off of concerning any number of bicycle concepts. Tubless tires for example are something that sells more $50(+) tires instead of $5 innertubes. There is a nominal improvement in ride quality, but the low pressures that no longer cause pinch flats now cause rim damage. I can adjust a lock nut headset so that it doesn’t come loose, would rather not have an integrated headset, lust after lugged steel road bikes and will probably never build a wheelset for personal use with tubeless rims. Then again I will never buy a pre-built wheel set for that matter. I can’t stand the way they feel and neither would you if you saw it my way. Just free advice (and rambling) – and worth every penny.

  • Cletis says:

    DJ, from reading your comments above, I get the impression you don’t share the profit motives of the bicycle component makers. Can I assume when you were a bicycle mechanic you worked for a bike shop? Did the owner of the shop pay you for your services? If so, where do you think your salary came from? One word, profit.
    Don’t worry though about the new Cane Creek 110 headset. I am sure as soon as the patent runs out in Sept 2010, you will see cheaper Chinese knock-offs showing up at a fraction of the price. For me, I think competition is good. This new headset will bring Cane Creek to the podium with Chris King and who knows what innovation will result from the competition. I was around before Aheadsets. I’ll take the aheadset over the lock nut headsets anyday. Cane Creek is an employee owned company. The 110 headset is manufactured in NC by good mountain folks. I ride with a Chris King on one of my bikes and it is great. I’ll ride with a Cane Creek 110 on the other bike and support both our “american made” companies. Keep the competition rolling!

  • Brian says:

    I only know one person who works for Cane Creek and he does it because he loves working for a small company that makes components for the sport he loves. If this company only cared about profits, it would be making all its components in another country where wages are far lower than the U.S. I have a Cane Creek headset that has outlasted two destroyed mountain bike frames and still works flawlessly on a third bike. Come to think of it, my friend at Cane Creek was the one who helped me install the headset on all 3 bikes.

  • Ken says:

    Cane Creek is no longer including aluminum Interlock spacers with the 110. They now only come with the black plastic spacers. The CC rep said that people and bike shops weren’t using them (something I find hard to believe).

  • Brian Mullin says:

    Hmmm, I am testing a new 110 tapered system and it comes with alloy spacers? I just checked with my inside line with Cane Creek and “The 110′s come with only a 2.5mm finishing spacer now. No plastic spacers… In fact, we’re eliminating the plastic spacers all together.”

  • Ed says:

    It’s a shame if CC is not sending the aluminum spacers anymore. I had them all (2, 5 and 10mm) set on my Mojo. Actually, I had to fill in with a couple more Hope spacers, since I don’t like to cut the steerer too short to invalidate the fork for other bikes. Anyway, I also find hard to believe they are not speccing the spacers because noboby was using them. They are indeed useful. Guess it’s more related to offer them aftermarket, though. Well, can’t blame them if CK and Hope also don’t offer any spacer with their headsets as well.

  • RubberBoy says:

    I have two 110. As far as I recall, they came with two aluminum spacers; 10mm and 2.5mm. The latter is necessary to turned the grooved top of the top cap into a flat surface.

    Cane also sold a separate kit with 20mm, 10mm, 5mm and 2.5mm spacers. They realized every setup required different spacers and now offers them individually. To me it makes most sense; presently, I need 2 x 10mm and 2 x 5mm, which in the past entailed 2 spacer kits; now I can purchase 4 spacers and be done with it.

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