March 13, 2008

The quest for Dura-Ace continues

Another rare find destined for the Trek 450 was picked up this week -

It's fantastic that all of this older stuff occasionally goes on special, and I love it when I hear things like "No-body uses 1" threaded anymore..." from a bike shop. Deep discounts tend to follow statements like that.

This week, added to the pile is a Shimano Dura-Ace 1" threaded headset. Sadly, Shimano has been slowly getting out of the headset game. I have no idea WHY, other than to say that "no-body uses 1" threaded anymore". I've had an Ultegra headset twice before, one instance on my old Trek 720 tourer, the cartridge bearing version. Arguably, a BETTER headset than the Chris King headsets - but only in a direct comparison of value-to-performance. I think the Chris King is probably the end-all of headsets, but the Shimano 1" models with their "floating" cartridge bearings are actually smoother, and require FAR less tediousness in initial prep. The Ultegra that I had on the Trek 720 never wore out, and as far as I know it's still in use today -- last time I saw it, the current owner had it built up as a fixxie, and the same headset was on it. Butter-smooth, no notches. I had the same experience with the older Shimano 600 (old-school speak for pre-1997 Ultegra) headset that I had on my old Surly Steamroller. It used ball-bearings and cages, but the bearing races were ultra-hardened, to prevent notching and pitting -- and it worked. Never had a single issue with that headset, either. Smooth, free. Interestingly enough - Shimano's headset design was so good that even when they changed the verbiage from Shimano 600 to Shimano Ultegra, the logo on the headset stayed the same for a long time, up until the last two years they made them. It's actually harder to find a headset that says "Ultegra" on it, than it is to find the Dura-Ace model.

The Dura-Ace version of the cartridge version of the Ultegra headset is the same exact design - seriously. The ONLY thing that changes between the Ultegra and the Dura-Ace model is the script on the side of the cups. Ok, that, and the fact the crown race is aluminum on the Dura-Ace and steel on the Ultegra. The difference it probably ONLY to satisfy the notion that the Dura-Ace version of ANY-thing should probably be lighter than the lesser models - and in this case the Ultegra weighs 115 grams, and the dura-Ace weighs 107 grams. Big whoop. The steel crown race weighs exactly 8 grams more than the aluminum one, so it's safe to say the rest of the headset is identical, then. In fact, I swapped out the aluminum crown race for the slightly heavier steel one - mainly because it's steel: I'm a firm believer in saving weight, but only if it makes sense -- and a lot of load gets displaced onto the crown race of a headset. Not saying Shimano doesn't CARE, but this reinforces how good their headset design is -- the crown race was the only thing they could change to make the Dura-Ace model make any sense on paper to prospective buyers. In my eyes, the crown race should be steel - so I end up with something of a hybird headset, and only to the end of having a complete Dura-Ace complement of spec on this bike. The other thing, actually barely worth mentioning: the top-nut stem seal on the Ultegra is a black plastic ring that sets into the metal of the surrounding nut... the Dura-Ace is a nicely etched full-metal nut with an inset O-ring seal. Much nicer looking - probably a better stem seal, and extra threads - but no weight difference.

But, as differences go - it IS a difference.

Now, if the stock Tange-Sekai Levin headset *EVER* wears out..... ha-ha!

No comments: