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Mountain Biking FAQ
Section - 3G. Aheadsets vs. Conventional Headsets

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Aheadset:
-The steerer tube extends above the frame, the stem presses it into
 place along with bearing adjustment.
-Lighter.
-Can be easily adjusted and disassembled with allen keys.
-Easier to steal.  To remove the fork, the thief just need to loosen the 
 bolts. 
-Riders might bang their knees on stem bolt.
-More expensive (in some cases.)
-Lack of height adjustability.
 
Conventional Headset:
-The steerer tube is clamped down by the top adjustment cup.  The bearing 
 adjustment is also clamped down by it.  The stem is inserted inside the
 steerer tube.
-Cheaper.
-Easier to swap from stem to stem.
-Less trick.
-Must have headset wrenches to adjust or overhaul .

Some added:

Blaine Bauer [bbauer@cisco.com]
I had a normal headset and changed to an aheadset when I put on my fork (but
only because my original headset was trashed). There are two improvements; a
normal headset can come loose and has to be tightened regularly, and the
aheadset stem makes much better contact (I never could get my original stem
very tight and it tended to swing up to 90 degrees during hairy
situations...having the handlebars parallel to the front wheel is an
especially bad thing!).

]Blaine, you sure that you can't tighten the stem down?  I have never had 
]problems doing that.  you just get an allen key and tourque on the bolt, 
]no trick to it.  

Well, my problem was actually that the stem had the adjustment bolt about 2"
inside the vertical part. I twisted my allen key to the point of bending,
but this didn't help. Finally I got an allen key attachment for a socket
wrench so I could really bear down on it, and all was well. That was why I
wasn't planning on replacing it. 

I would recommend that you add that the normal headsets do tend to loosen
(this is a common complaint especially on rigid-forked bikes). Also: 

 - Maybe put a paragraph that the best time to convert from headset to 
aheadset is when replacing the fork, but it is by no means an important 
"upgrade".
At least one convert (me) feels that there was no weight or performance
difference. Since I got a suspension fork, I suspect that the loose headsets 
would go awaytoo.
 - Mention that it requires a different steering tube (which is why one
would do this with the fork replacement), a new headset and a new stem. 
Newbees wouldn't be aware of this.

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Last Update March 27 2014 @ 02:11 PM