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Existentialism-- Just a bloody good excuse to go riding...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Review: Cane Creek XXc Flush II Headset

What it's for: 1.5" headtube frames running fork with the more conventional 1 1/8" steerers coupled with minimized stack height.

Getting this headset was partly to keep it as close to the head angle of my new frame as the angle published was partly based on using a flush headset. In any case the main concern I had was keeping the front end as low as possible with the foray into longer travel fork to ensure climbing is not compromised.

So while waiting for the frame's arrival, I called up my network to help me hunt one down. Not realizing at that point that the new 09 models have not actually hit our shores (probably available in May 2009). To make a long story short, got my hands on a display piece straight from Cane Creek's booth at the recent Taiwan bike show.

"Exploded" view of the 2009 CC XXc.Flush.II

The new 09 headset has been reworked in many areas compared to last year's model.
Most noticeable is the base plate. Totally different and much lighter, it sits flush inside the bottom cup holding the bearing in place. In fact when I first got the headset, I was looking for it.

In the 08 model the base plate sits outside the headtube, effectively adding to the bottom stack height beneath the lips of the lower cup.

The blue anodized compression ring is a nice touch. Won't show up after the top cap has been put on but probably more as a mark of authenticity. Imitations are not likely to go that far to anodize the piece. Similarly other marking and identification which once installed will not be not visible.

Total stack height of 10.1 mm after installation is just about there. Slight differences is attributed to my probably less than accurate vernier calipers.

Mine was actually 2 grams shy of the published weight of 109gm on Cane Creek's website

Installation was relatively easy. Tolerance was a little tight with the cups but not a big deal when installed with a proper headset tool. After which bearings are greased and simply dropped into the reducer cups, pop in the compression ring followed by a thin lid surrounded with a rubberized coating.

Took me a while to figure out what this additional piece is for. Turns out that this probably is to further hold the compression ring snug in place and the whole contraption is then further held down by the top cap with a slight pre-load. The rubbers would have helped kept any lateral play to a minimum and maybe just seal off the area from water.

Top and bottom are both using ACB bearings

Graphics overall are really nice even if we are all familiar with the little CC gecko by now.

One small little thing that caught my attention was the spacer groove on the top plate. It is supposed to flush fit with a Cane Creek Interlok Reverse-Top, 5mm (still not available locally). However using normal 1 1/8" spacers doesn't seem to have any adverse effect.

Overall, after proper installation, it does everything a headset is supposed to do. Test ride was in conjunction with the new bike. Up and down the trail, couple of 2 foot drops here and there and pressing it down hard.....nothing came loose and no rattling.

It has been just one actual ride, will probably have to take it out after a few more spins and see if everything is ok. My nightmare is 'what if the headtube becomes ovalized with usage of such headsets using reducer cups?" Guess will have to take a hard look at everything after awhile.

The only other reservation I have for now is actually the above described base plate. It is ultra thin and light. Not too sure how well it will hold up in terms of durability. I guess being able to fit inside the reducer cup would also have meant that less strength is needed on it as part of the forces associated would be taken by the cups itself as opposed to having a clunky piece on the outside. Plus it also has this piece of rubber covering on the outer periphery which likely is to reduce wear as it comes into contact with the inner surface of the cups.

A more in depth look needed after further usage in 2-3 months time.

Though not a fault with the headset but aesthetically running a 1 1/8" steerer on any of the 1.5" headtubes with spacer stack beneath the stem tends to look weird. So far it seems none of the manufacturers had anything but a flat top plate. I would look forward if Cane Creek will come out with (aftermarket?) options of a coned top plate sporting a couple of height variations, as long as it doesnt affect the functionality or becomes an issue of keeping the headset properly in place.

If you need a zerostack headset, go down to wherever its available later. Not sure what the price will be but the attention given to the finer details are really quite telling on this headset and makes it stands out. Have to say, its pretty good stuff so far!

Part II of this review can be found here


  1. Nice review. Any idea if this Flush headset can fit into a Cannondale head tube designed for the Headshok system? It looks like from other pics I have seen of this headset that the insertion depth is not very deep (10 mm?), although I have not found the actual spec.

  2. Yea the cups are only ~10mm. With lots of hard riding on the trail so far no issue with it though. But have to say I haven't really did any drops more than 3-4 feet. Not sure if it will go with the Headshok. Better email CaneCreek to check.

  3. How has the headset held up?

  4. So far so good. All the pounding and on inspection the other day, nothing out of the ordinary in terms of being overly worn out.

    No creaking so far either.

  5. headset was used on a Cannondale Super V900..
    It fits great and was easy install...not cheap headset...but easier to deal with that buying spacer to reduce the head