Everything was working fine with no hints of creaks or groans despite the repeated hosing down of the bike after muddy rides. I had not peeked into the headset or bearings since it was installed a year and a half ago. With the fork going out for a servicing, it was about time to take a look at how much havoc I have heaped on it.
First thing out were the bearings and they came out easy. No pinching in the cups. No rusting. Inspection of the outer periphery on the bearings and the inside of the cups shows no abnormal wear (indication of a headset that hasn't been misaligned during installation). The crown race sits into the bearing in the lower cup and is normal to expect some grit and contamination to find its way between the bearing and inner surface of cup as it is not fully covered by the smallish crown race. Was expecting at the very least enough contamination that is sufficient to leave some fine scratches on the metal surface. However little was detected.
The crown race itself that has gone out with the fork was new. Despite being small and thin, there were no signs of any denting (and I have taken more than a few hard hits on landing badly during jumps and all). This was one area I had concerns when first installing the headset but guess now over time it has proved itself not to be an issue.
Rubber cover of seal in lower bearing slightly pitted...probably a result of chemical reaction with salt and water over time. But nothing to worry about.
Just a cleaning and repacking with new bearing grease after this.
The entire top assembly was even cleaner then the lower cup. Surprising the 1.5 year old grease inside was rather fresh looking.
Picture shows how things look when the top was just taken apart,
The dark blue anodized compression ring was just as new looking. Looks to be well protected by the metal seal (middle of pic on the left) that sits above it. Again no signs of significant wear from scratches as otherwise that would have shown through easily in the anodizing.
Repacked and good to go together with a freshly serviced fork with new dust wiper seals.
Not cheap but certainly a very impressive reducer cup headset and definitely a good investment. With a recessed crown race, it makes this one of the lowest if not the lowest "zero-stack" in the market with only ~10mm total stacking, 5mm top and 5mm at the bottom....there really isnt that many especially if like me, you are looking to lower the front end as much as possible on your bike. Abuse over time has shown this headset stands up to the task of hard riding.
I started off with another rather popular brand of head set in mountain biking but now I'm completely sold on Cane Creek stuff.