Angle adjustable headsets have been one of the most talked about products in recent times, but how about one that allows you to make adjustments nearly on the fly? Inside you can check out the VP Components version that does just that, letting you make up to 1.5° of non-indexed adjustment.
VP Components' angle adjustable headset allows riders to quickly and easily adjust the steering angle of their bike by up to 1.5 degrees - without needing to remove any headset cups. All that's required is a set of hex keys and a few minutes. The complete upper assembly (right) looks a bit unwieldy in this photo, but keep in mind that it is still in the testing stages and will likely be trimmed down before reaching production.
Adjusting your bike's head angle is all the rage right now, and for good reason. When a bike's angles are chosen, the engineer has to decide on geometry numbers that make the most sense for the majority of places that the bike is intended to be used. That method does make a lot of sense. After all, the designers know how the bike is intended to be ridden, and they are obviously much better versed in the physics behind the numbers than the majority of riders. Here's the thing though: sometimes a rider could actually be going faster or be in more control if the bike's steering angle is adjusted to be slacker or steeper. This is especially true when it comes to the emerging all-mountain and trail bikes who's suspension action is so well sorted that they can tackle some serious terrain with some serious speed - sometimes it is just the angles that hold the bike back. All of this talk begs the question: should we really be mucking about with how a bike handles? Might not the designers of the bike know better than us? The answer, of course, is that they probably do, but that hasn't stopped anyone in the past. Riders have been adjusting the geometry of their mountain bikes for nearly as long as there have been mountain bikes; from tuning the suspension's ride height to alter the geometry for the terrain, to offset shock bushings and taller crown races. Cane Creek's AngleSet adjustable headset opened the floodgates, but it's all been happening for a long time.
While the AngleSet is no doubt very effective and works quite well, what if you could adjust your bike's steering angle faster and easier? No cup removal and no hammer needed, just a set of hex keys. Would you be more likely to tinker with the handling until you found a number that you liked? Is being able to adjust a bike's head angle within just a few minutes a bit over the top? Have a look at VP Components new adjustable angle headset, shown here on Pinkbike for the first time, and decide for yourself.
The complete upper assembly. Angle adjustments are made by turning the tab on the bottom right hand corner, which turns the offset gimbal and alters the bike's steering angle. Once adjustments have been made, you lock them in place by tightening down the two clamps on either side of the sliding plate. These, combined with the pre-load from tightening your headset, keep the unit from shifting.
The new VP Components adjustable headset, which has the rather dry official name of 'VP-ADJ01', works in much the same way as you would expect, but it's how you change the head angle that is rather clever. Starting at the bottom, the lower bearing sits directly into the headset cup, sans gimbal, and is allowed to pivot freely in the lower cup while adjustments are being made. This is possible because of the bearing's outer race, which has a conical shape that lets it find the proper alignment when making adjustments - picture a cupped bearing or how your shoulder fits into its socket. VP Components actually manufacture the special conically shaped sealed bearings that are used in the lower cup (the top is fitted with a standard bearing
) and are very confident that their design does not require a gimbal to function. Inserting the bearing into the cup by hand and pivoting it around as it would when you are making adjustments revealed an exacting fit that moved freely, but has zero room for it to shift wrongly within the cup. I would be interested to see if the same could be said after a few months of hard use, although they are adamant that the models being tested in the field are performing well.
The clever bits, what allows the on-the-fly adjustments to be made, are all hidden within the upper assembly. The top headset cup features a conical depression into which fits the offset gimbal. The gimbal itself is allowed to rotate on a sort of sliding plate that is captured within the upper cup. You adjust the headset by rotating the gimbal within the headset's top cup, and because it is offset, it changes the head angle of the bike. The fork's center line stays in line with the rest of the bike because the sliding plate can only move side to side, thus it only changes the head angle as you make adjustments. This is only possible because the gimbal sits within a sliding plate that is allowed to move freely, sliding slightly side to side, as you make adjustments. There are two small pinching clamps on either side of the sliding plate that tighten down to keep adjustments in check. Still a bit fuzzy on how it works? Watch the video below to see what's going on.The VP Angle Adjustable Headset In Action:VP-ADJ01 details:
• Angle adjustable headset that can be adjusted quickly
• +/- 1.5° of adjustment (based on 100mm head tube length)
• Adjustment is non-indexed, allowing you to choose any angle between stock and 1.5° of difference
• Prototype shown fits full length 1.5" head tubes (other sizes are a possibility)
• Fits 1.125" (standard non-over sized and non-tapered) steerer tubes
• Sealed cartridge bearings
• Stack height: 15.7mm (upper), 6.8mm (lower)
• Weight: 186 grams
• Still in testing stage, price TBD
Take note of how the upper gimbal is offset. This is what allows you to adjust the head angle as you rotate the assembly.
There is no doubting that VP's new adjustable headset is a cool piece of kit, but there are certainly a few questions that come to mind at this point. The beta version that I got to photograph and tinker with worked smoothly in my hands, only requiring light finger pressure to turn the upper gimbal, but I'd like to see how easy it is to make adjustments after it has been in the field for a few months. The tolerances to have the system work must be very high, especially the upper gimbal and sliding assembly - how well will it take to the elements or accidentally riding with it loose? At this point in time there are only beta versions to fit full length 1.5" head tubes, but that could change when it hits production. I doubt that it would be that far fetched for the design to work in a tapered head tube, especially considering that the upper bearing and assembly are all external already. Although, the prospective frame would need to accept a standard press-in external upper cup for the system to work, not the semi-integrated design that many currently use.
The upper assembly will obviously have more stack height to it than a standard headset, but at 15.7mm, it isn't as much higher than many other non-adjustable models.
Does VP's adjustable headset make sense? I would say yes, given that it will allow riders to adjust their bike's handling quicker and without having to remove any headset cups. I see this being ideal not only for racers who adjust their bikes for each course, but more so for average riders and garage mechanics who want to find out what angles work best for them, but are intimidated by the idea of having to remove a headset cup to do it. In the same vein, I'm sure frame manufacturers would love to get their paws on this headset to make geometry choices during testing much easier. For it to be successful VP will have to release a model for tapered head tubes - I don't see many frame manufacturers going back to using full length 1.5" head tubes just so this clever unit can be used. Once that happens, and once the unit has been proven to stand up over time, I can certainly see a place for it.
Check out the VP website
to see their entire component lineup.I like the idea and I like the execution, now I just need some trail time to see if the design really works. Keeping in mind that the unit shown here is still in the prototype stage - it may get slimmer and less obtrusive once it hits production - what do you make of VP's angle adjustable headset?