Intend's New Headset Actually Improves Cockpit Stiffness - Review

Mar 15, 2018
by Paul Aston  


Intend is a tiny brand from Freiburg in Germany. Most component brands start small and work up, but Intend made a one-man charge from the outset, producing their own upside-down fork, in addition to the funky stem, and stiffness-increasing headset we review here. Now, they are working on cranks and disc rotors - all designed and engineered in Germany.

In this review, we take a look at two products: the Grace EN 35mm reach and the Stiffmaster headset. The stem in question is a work of art, and the headset is industrial, chunky, and promises to increase the stiffness in your cockpit. Neither of these products are cheap at €149 and €79 respectively, but for a brand who produces high quality and small batches, the MSRPs are not astronomical.


Grace EN Stem Details
• 35mm length
• 31.8mm handlebar diameter
• EFBE "E-Gravity" tested
• 35.5mm stack height
• Max. handlebar rise, 25mm
• Weight: 83g incl. titanium bolts (actual)
• Price: €149 EUR

Stiffmaster Headset Details
• 13mm stack height
• Suitable for ZS44 head tubes
• Spacers: 20, 13, 7, 1.5mm
• Weight: 75g (w/o spacers, actual)
• Made in Germany
• Price: €79 EUR
intend-bc.com

Check Out September 2018 Intend Grace Stem
The Grace comes with a wooden spoon to lever open the stem to insert the handlebar. The wooden spoon can then be used as, er, a wooden spoon.
Check Out September 2018 Intend Stiffmaster Headset
The Stiffmaster comes with 20, 13, 7, or 1.5mm spacers that can be added to the 13mm stack height of the headset.


Grace EN Stem Design

The Grace EN stem was designed with a light-weight to strength ration in mind. Weighing a measly 83 grams including titanium bolts, the 35mm long stem (for 31.8mm handlebars) is probably the lightest on the market, the second lightest I can find that is designed for aggressive riding is the Renthal Duo at 105g, but I can't be bothered to check all the weights of the stems (I checked eleven in total) out there so let me know in the comments which is the lightest.


Grace EN 35mm stem 83g
The Grace EN 35mm weighs an 83 grams.
Renthal Apex Stem 31mm - 105g
The 31mm Renthal Apex stem is the next lightest I could find at 105 grams.


All four bolts are 4mm (M5 thread), with two to clamp to the steerer tube and two for the handlebar. The wraparound style of the handlebar clamp is said to improve stiffness and cut down on weight. This does make handlebar installation more difficult and limits bar rise to 25mm. The height limitation became an issue with the bike used for testing, as my bar height was too low with the precut fork steerer. So, if you so plan on purchasing one, make sure you are already happy with your bar height.


Stiffmaster Headset Design

Stiffmaster headset cup 75g
The Stiffmaster top headset assembly weighs in at 75 grams.
Stiffmaster headset spacers - 13g
I used the 13mm height spacer which weighs 13 grams.


How did the Stiffmaster come to fruition? It was after a conversation with Intend last year. We were discussing his single and dual-crown forks and I stated that I thought the main difference between riding two types of forks was the steerer stiffness. When swapping between downhill and enduro bikes, regardless of how similar they became in terms of geometry, suspension, tire choice etc, the DH bike with a dual crown fork and direct mount stem was always more accurate and confidence inspiring.

The Stiffmaster headset uses a standard radial bearing commonly found on most headsets, on top of that is an axial needle roller bearing. A sleeve is pressed through the headset cup, both bearings,
Stiffmaster dramatisation
Dramatization from the Intend website.
and the top cap, which is then clamped to the steerer tube (after preloading the top cap) with a 3mm bolt (M4 thread) – this essentially locks and connects all of the upper headset to the steerer tube. There are then four options of conical spacers in 20, 13, 7, or 1.5mm heights which distribute some force from the stem into the headset.


Performance

Intend say that the Stiffmaster can increase stiffness at the grip area of the handlebar by 38% – this is measured 30cm away from the stem centre, using a 27mm stack height with the Stiffmaster versus a 26mm stack height of a standard headset and spacers. The test involved adding 5kg of weight to the bar and measuring the amount of movement/flex on each setup. You can read Intend's own lab results here.

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Test One: 31mm Renthal Apex and Stiffmaster headset.


So I set out with grandiose plans to capture the stiffness of the headset on video while riding, but it turns out that it ain't that simple. So, this is not a scientific test, but here you go: I did three tests. The first with a 31mm long Renthal stem and the Stiffmaster headset. The second, was with the Grace EN 35mm stem and Stiffmaster. The third trial was with the Grace stem and a standard top headset cup from Hope. I leaned against a wall and flexed the handlebar with my hands, I also did a car park test of railing imaginary corners and thirdly, I did two laps of my local test track on each setup. The test track is around eight minutes of singletrack, including gnarly rock sections, short sprint climbs and fast corners, it was also SS4 of last year's EWS in Finale.
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Test Two: Grace EN 35mm stem and Stiffmaster headset.


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Test Three: Grace EN 35mm stem, Hope top headset, with Trickstuff stem spacers.

The first nicety I noticed when swapping components is the bolt on the top of the Stiffmaster clamps to the steerer tube, which means if you are a serial bar/stem/height fiddler (yes, that's me), then you can remove the stem without the fork falling out or losing the headset preload.

Secondly, is the headset actually made a noticeable difference to stiffness in the cockpit. You can feel it when standing and pedaling hard on climbs, and rolling between fast berms. I went for back to back test rides with each setup and there was a noticeable difference in the feel and accuracy of the bike, mostly noticeable in the smaller movements when standing climbing or gentle direction changes. It also gives more confidence when hitting really gnarly sections, where it was somewhat easier to hold a line.

Downsides? At €79 for half a headset, after buying a lower cup you will probably be spending over €100 in total. Preloading the headset is more fiddly because preloading the axial needle roller bearing is a fine line between too loose, and over-tightening and binding and the headset. At correct preload, the axial bearing does add some drag to the headset, like a slightly over-tightened headset, but this is not noticeable when riding. The Stiffmaster will also need more servicing, due to the unsealed axial bearing, (there is an o-ring, which keeps most dirt and water out).


Paul Aston European Bike


So, is the Stiffmaster something you need to rush out and buy? Probably not. Is it a good idea next time you need a new headset? Yes, if you are looking for subtle improvements in your bike's handling and don't mind some fettling. If you just go out and ride and don't want any extra hassles, then no. The gains are also variable, Intend says the Stiffmaster gives a 38% increase in stiffness at the handlebar with a certain setup, but there are many factors to consider in the real world: head tube length, steerer length, stem height, bar width, rider weight, rider speed and trail type are among them.

Is there an easier way to solve this problem? If you are a heavyweight rider with a long-travel bike and wide bars who thinks steerer stiffness is holding you back, just go for a dual-crown fork and send it. That said, single-crown forks have gone through a number of evolutions. After we had straight 1-1/8" steerers, the next step was a 1.5" straight steerer tube, which must have made a huge difference in stiffness. (I never had the chance to ride a 1.5" steerer). Tapered steerers took over, arguably offering the best of both worlds, with 1.5" at the bottom for strength and 1-1/8" up top for weight saving. Giant had a crack at a new standard back in 2011 with their OverDrive-2 steerer, which literally got shouted off the stage by journo's crying, "no more new standards!" So, there are other ways to fix this issue, which could resurface in the future. At this moment, the Stiffmaster system is available and works with standard components.



Pinkbike's Take:
bigquotesYou probably don't need a Stiffmaster, but riders looking for marginal gains will notice an improvement in steerer stiffness and accuracy. Paul Aston



240 Comments

  • + 182
 Is this a good time to ask component manufacturers to come up with a way to make sure the stem is exactly in line with the front tire? Maybe Park can create some kind of clamp on tool with a lazer level? Any other tricks out there? I swear I feel that damn 1mm offset!
  • + 25
 Tune Spurtreu.
  • + 107
 There's quite a few variations available actually.

Here's one with a laser beam, and then you can put it on your frickin' shark when you're done.

www.rosebikes.co.uk/article/tune-spurtreu-stem-alignment-tool/aid:2695938
  • + 3
 hang a plumb bob from the centre line of the stem, just check the bike is level first...
  • + 113
 Before getting picky at that, measure your arms length... Surprise!!
  • + 14
 Drop a length of plastic pipe between the fork arch and the stanchions, line up your bars against that. Cheap and reliable, as long as you make sure the pipe is straight before you use it.
  • + 8
 Have the Tune Spurtreu. Biggest tool splurge of my life but it saves me the stress induced by trying to line bars to wheels when working on multiple bikes per day. Probably overkill for the home gamer.
  • + 2
 Plumb bob and a ruler... its not hard.
  • + 1
 Already exists. google "tune spurtreu"
  • + 9
 Lining up the faceplate of the stem with the dropouts has always worked the best for me. No worries about guessing the centerline of your tire and stem. It makes more sense to me to align frame components relative to frame components, rather than aligning frame components to a wheel/tire combo.
  • + 1
 The tune spurtreu already exists
  • + 4
 i felt the same way then saw this: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7HR4w-TAL-w
  • + 10
 How about some kind of ball/detent at the stem/steerer interface? I want an integrated component so that when I wreck myself on a tree I can get up and straighten it back on the trail, and when I do this I also don't want to wreck the steerer with a key/keyway or similar system.
  • + 21
 True the wheel relative to the stem.
  • + 13
 If you notice the 1mm then move it lol. Ive been eyeballing stems since the nineties it really isn't that hard look at your fork legs and line the bar up accordingly.
  • + 5
 @daweil:

Using a laser and 95 euros to do what a fishing weight and some string does already for a nickel...
  • - 1
 ...
  • + 17
 Why is everybody looking at the stem in the first place? Line up your bars with the crown of your fork. If your struggling and want a longer strait edge to look at, pull your front wheel and line up the bars with the axle. Or splurge and buy the Tune. Trying to line up a stem and wheel is nearly impossible....
  • + 2
 I bet Semenuk can even feel that 0.2899mm offset (those who have watched Joyride will understand)
  • - 1
 @daweil: Yeah....but it's all the way over in Europe......boo!
  • + 4
 A stem that requires a wooden spoon to open it - great idea! I bet all those scratches on the handlebar are just from trying to fit the bar.
  • + 9
 Millennials want an app for it.
  • + 3
 a Park Tool with a laser in it would cost more than the whole bike
  • + 10
 Protip: Stop trying to line the stem up with the tire and instead try to line the handlebars up with the fork stanchions. I get it perfect first try almost every time using this method.
  • + 3
 @dlxah: Amateur tip: If it becomes hard to get it better than it already is, it is probably already good enough. I think I use the fork crown as reference too. If I wanted to do better, I'd strap a straight stick to both stachions (horizontally) and line up the ends of the handlebar with the stick. The stem is too tiny to get it right.
  • + 3
 @donpinpon29: I swear I always have to ride with my bars wonky to the left... if they're dead straight it feels wrong! Maybe this is why?
  • + 0
 @Dmrbikes85211: my bars being straight feels out to all my friends. Same as I run one brake lever in further than the other, I must be built wonky...
  • + 0
 @donpinpon29: I ride with the handlebars crooked just for that good reason!
  • + 1
 @donpinpon29: THIS! A thousand times. The "off balance" I always wanted to attribute to my bike setup got very quickly dispelled by a good chiropractor's X-rays and analysis.
  • + 1
 An oval or square or whatever non-round shape of the steerer tube would fix that. Or a notch in a round steerer tube.
  • + 2
 Line up the front edge of the handlebar with the fork crown. Done.
  • + 1
 Just use yer damn eyes and line it up you bunch of picky “bike techs” dosnt help your riding any better even if it’s 2mm to the right or centred better then the earths core...just ride yer fecken bikes people.
  • + 1
 @TOflat: Some of us have to piss with the cock we're given. I only HAVE one bike to work on.
  • + 1
 @cunning-linguist: I run my brakes different left and right too. I operate the front brake with the middle finger with the biggest reach I can set it to (so that it doesn't pinch the index finger when applied) but I operate the rear brake with the index finger with much less reach. They're different models of brakes too.
  • + 1
 I still don't understand why they can't machine a key way into the steer tube and the stem like a crankshaft/harmonic balancer on an engine. Believe me, I don't want to have to buy a new fork and stem to get perfect alignment so a tool would be nice to adjust current set ups, but they should have done that long ago. How about a tool that can be fitted to the fork crown and rests on the front face of the handlebars for alignment purposes? I should patent this...
  • + 3
 Use your eyeballs.
  • + 4
 A notch in the steerer that line upwith with a notch in the stem
  • + 1
 @mountainyj: this works and is free.
  • + 5
 @JDub713: they can, but:
1)the steerer would cost more to manufacture than a round tube
2)the stem would would cost more to manufacture than a round hole
3)both would weigh more for same strength
4)both would be more prone to damage in a crash

There's any number of ways to align your stem perfectly well without any specialised tools.
-Plumb bob
-straight stick against the stanchions
-align the wheel with the frame and use a builders square to align the bars perpendicular
-take front wheel off, push fork dropouts against a flat wall, align bar to wall
etc etc

I'm happy with simple visual alignment.
  • + 6
 @High-Life: first, align left eyeball with tongue, then triangulate
  • + 1
 @deeeight: and if the ground not level?
Just eyeball it.
  • + 1
 @cunning-linguist: When everybody disagrees if the bars are misaligned, maybe the bars, stem, or fork are bent a little. Or the wheel out of dish.
  • + 1
 @poozank: Check this out from 2-Hip bikes. BMX stuff, but applicable to any threadless setup:
2hip.com/part_groovetechss.php
  • + 1
 Eyeball it - easy, and works great
  • + 2
 Don't worry, Semenuk will get your bars perfectly straight for you. It might take a couple hundred kicks and pulls though
  • + 3
 Gotta straighten your eye man.
  • + 1
 @this
  • + 1
 I rather have my stem and bars aligned to the axle first. Than go to the wheel.
  • + 2
 @mhoshal: I have a lefty
  • + 4
 @BrianRichards:
Just wait for the righty, than all the problems will be fixed
  • + 1
 more like 0.1mm...kik kik kik.
  • + 1
 @mhoshal: And you will very quickly get used to any perceived misalignment anyway. Spend less time fussing and more time riding. That is what will make you better and faster. Just saying...........
  • + 1
 @excavator666: , we have it in BS and in 80% does not work, only good for narrow long stems, now we have 60€ paper weight. And if you have ligths, bike computer, gps or anything installed near stem, you would have to dismount it first.
  • + 1
 @excavator666: So I have the option of doing it in all the cheap ways described below or buying an expensive tool, but which has a laser........give me the laser!
  • + 1
 I've made a tool that sits on the fork stanchions (it does no damage to them) and stem faceplate. Works perfect. You can hear the slightest offset by tapping it against the faceplate. Once there's no tapping noise, you're dead straight. Reckon I could ship them for $15 all in, but A) I have no time to make them myself, other than a few dozen each month and B) I've had tooling quotes from manufacturers that suggest it wouldn't stack up going commercial with it.
  • + 1
 @Travel66: go ahead, waste of money, i made new body for it but is wider and laser is not pointing at 90 degrees but rather 100, TUNE give me a call Smile
  • + 7
 1- blink one eye
2- use the other one
3- put dat eye above your bar, in line with the crown or stanchions and centered
4- bump your bar left & right til your bar is parallel to the crown/stanchions
5- squeeze your stem
6- you're done and just saved your wallet
7- open both eyes, it's safer for riding.
  • + 1
 @qreative-bicycle: i agree with you, eye is still the cheapest Smile but buddy of mine bougth that laser thingie cause he tougth it will be nice for BS due to so many bikes and also it was on sale, now we know why Smile
  • + 1
 I cannot believe so many people have issues lining up their stem... If you actually struggle with such a simple task perhaps its time you gave up on bikes.
  • + 2
 @T1mb0: Indeed, but where do these issues stem from? I think we set the bar too high when it comes to accuracy....
  • + 3
 they have become like pharmaceutic concern -they cure diseases , that don't exist , but they've invented a cure for that disease in first place, to be ready for high demand , when "world" will realize new danger Smile

Because you're never stiff enough Smile
  • + 0
 @Flowcheckers: or maybe I put them like that, cos that's where I wanted them?
  • + 1
 Drop the wheel, set bottom of fork on floor braced against the base of the wall, measure wall distance to bar ends, voila, set in 30 seconds.
  • + 1
 @cunning-linguist: just check it isn't your bars that are bent, easy to bend them in a crash, especially if your the sort to tighten stem bolts all the way to SFT.
  • + 1
 @Braindrain: do carbon bars bend and remain bent? I think you’ve missed the point. I put them at an angle on purpose.
  • + 1
 @c00m: just boot f*ck the thing straight like Rogatkin does.
  • + 0
 @T1mb0: yes that’s what we want to do. Abuse people out of our sport cuz they can’t get their bars straight.
There’s some people our sport could do without.
The marketing people mostly.
And journalists next.
But the people who can’t get their bars straight, are actually the most important people to keep happily in our sport.
Dick.
  • + 1
 @Braindrain: True....assuming unbent bars
  • + 1
 @jflb: hahaha.
Look if you're really struggling to get your bars straight just bring them into one of us guys in a shop and we'll be more than happy to help out. Don't worry that it'll hurt your precious ego a bit, you'll get over it... unless you're too proud to admit that you can't do it, which I assume is the case since you resorted to a petty insult to bolster your point.
  • + 1
 @T1mb0: hey, let's not f around with people's egos here, it's all we've got.
Anyway, there are more people for whom rear mechs are an enigma.
  • + 1
 Use your eyeballs
  • + 1
 @T1mb0:
So let me get this straight.
You’ve lumped me into a group of people that you think should quit the sport because they aren’t as good as you at getting their bar straight.
But now you’re suggesting that I come into your bike shop so you can do that for me?
After abusing the demographic that you’ve assumed I’m part of.
Maybe you’re attitude is exactly why people would rather buy their shit on the internet than at your shop.
  • + 3
 @jflb: Wow you're really taking this all to heart.
Yes getting your bars/stem straight is very easy. Rolleyes
I merely suggested you give up I didn't tell you to quit.... you don't have to do what I say tup

You don't have to take it to 'my' shop either... hell the guy at walmart/halfords will also be able to do it for you too (although he/she will probably charge). Your forks will end up backwards but at least your stem will be straight
  • + 1
 *fork
  • + 2
 @mountainyj: can’t believe no one else has said this. By far the easiest, most effective way.
  • + 1
 @BenPea: I agree and I don't think I can Handle it anymore.
  • + 1
 funny you mention but weve been working on a steerer tube and stem combo for road bikes using an acros style headset which reduces weight, adds stiffness and will always be in line 100% of the time. there isnt any reason this could be used on mtb but is a fair distance from manufacture.
  • + 2
 @paulo76: *couldn't

Also: "and will always be in line 100% of the time." The thing is, "dead straight" looks off to some people. How do you cater for them?
  • + 1
 @mhoshal: you win the internets today!
  • + 110
 I've found that if I have a deep emotional connection to my headset, I achieve all the stiffness I need.
  • + 54
 I cry after every ride
  • + 4
 Literal LOL!
  • + 0
 @SpillWay: Dude, best comment ever
  • + 1
 A stiff cock. Pit is always a winner!
  • + 89
 German brand innovates arguably useful tech... +1

Fails to call it Stiffmeister?!?!?! -3
  • + 24
 They actually had a Stiffmeister prototype, but it pissed on you after every ride.
  • + 1
 @Boardlife69: sh*t coffee out the nose on that one
  • + 54
 More stiffness in my cockpit you say? Where do I sign up??
  • + 21
 But how long before I should call a doctor?
  • + 17
 @macross87: If it's still stiff after 40 miles.
  • + 11
 She only likes to ride my bike because of my ultra stiff cockpit. Though it does lose its stiffness after a really rough ride, but if you wait a few minutes and jiggle the steerer tube a bit it stiffens right up, but never as stiff as that first ride in the morning.
  • + 4
 If (stiffness) last more than four hours, call more ladies.
  • + 2
 @nuttypoolog: I'm surprised this headset isn't blue and don't have Pfizer logo on it...
  • + 31
 We need more companies like intend. Very niche, but no stupid marketing lies and actually innovative products. Thumbs up!
  • + 5
 True but their denglish website is kinda hilarious though. Big Grin
  • + 20
 That test... Jesus, just add a weight to the end of the bar and measure the deflection of the bar with a dial indicator (ideally) or a ruler.

Other than that, has anyone ever felt this was a problem? I can't imagine they would, but I'm pretty light, so what do I know.
  • + 16
 Considering how many people complain about 35mm bars, I'd say no.
  • + 5
 Agree, you could easily tug harder on one setup than the other without being aware you are doing it, not saying this setup isnt stiffer but as I said below, who wants to ride a bike off-road as stiff as that?

We are not in the velodrome - For example, superbike guys remove bolts from their fork crowns or have crowns designed specifically to introduce flex into the bike when under cornering load. I dont want to ride a bike that pings out of every rut and off every rock as its so stiff the only movement is in the tyre and suspension (and much of that on a vertical plane)
  • + 3
 So your trying to increase stiffness on the steel steerer tube in a space of about 1-2", when attached to that is an aluminum or carbon bar 1/3 the diameter and 15" long from stem to grip. Seems to me the easiest, cheapest, and maybe the lightest way to increase grip stiffness is to use a steel, or significantly thicker aluminum or carbon bar? How much flex is in the bar vs steerer?
  • + 1
 @Rasterman: Steerer tubes are aluminium and 'usually' stiff enough for use, there are plenty of stems and bars out there though with varying stiffness and as above the interesting thing is that many consider 35mm bars too stiff, even WC dh racers let alone 'normal' trail riders who do more than 3min runs.
  • + 5
 I still don't understand who the fuck was clamouring for tapered steerer tubes.
  • + 4
 @BenPea: Manufacturers.
  • + 2
 I have an issue with it. On one bike i have a square profile cnc hope stem and renthal bar. Stiff and positive set up. On my hardtail I run a raceface tube style stem and raceface bar. Both stems are 50mm. In a carpark test its horrifying how much twist and flex comes out of that rf stem. I can feel it when i ride. I am a big guy and when I get in a rock garden etc, its really noticeable
  • + 5
 @ilovedust: but you are comparing a good stem and bar to a bad one, not the flex in a steerer tube.
  • + 1
 @Racer951: If you're dirt jumping or on a BMX track, you're off road but on a smooth surface. Horses for courses. If you're in a gate, you'll get more snap with stiffer bars.
  • + 1
 @BenPea: tapered is a great invention lighter crown with a stiffer steer tube. I don't really see where you can knock it unless you still ride bikes from 2008
  • + 1
 I'm fairly average weight and I'm aware of flex here. I've only ever thought it an issue in the sense that I want to know my headset bearings are always perfectly aligned, so it bugs me that they aren't. I can't say I've ever thought it detracts from bike performance though.
  • + 17
 would this be an issue if we would have stuck with straight 1.5 steerers?
  • + 31
 is it even an issue?
  • + 12
 The tapered steerer is actually slightly stiffer than the old 1.5 ones, cone vs tube and all that. Both of them were a world better than 1 1/8 straight steerers. It's amaxing how much less you see forks snapping at the steerer nowadays even with 160mm+ 29er forks existing.
  • + 3
 @Fix-the-Spade: Don't jinx it!
  • + 4
 If your frame just has a taller headtube, you achieve the same result
  • + 1
 @Fix-the-Spade: but isn't a cone only as strong as its thinest point which is 1&1/8th, an a tapered steerer is hardly a perfect cone. It'll just flex at the point where it goes to 1&1/8th??
  • + 2
 @hamncheez: true that, one size for all sucks for headtubes, I've seen up to 3inches of stem stackers!!!
  • + 3
 Yep totally with you there, once again weight weenies fault ! Same as the stupid 15mm front axle that's not stiff enough , then go boost when we could have just go 20mm from the beginning. Or 142x12 same story, saving few grams for wan*ers to say their bike is overall 100g lighter that it could have been with actual stiffness. And then few years later to create new standards to fix the "issue" but still not taking an existing solution so they don't have to admit the stupidity of initial move. And sell more parts as everything else is made obsolete by new standards. Thanks you weight weenies and bike industrie.
  • + 1
 @Balgaroth: I've seriously wondered if 1.5 is actually that much heavier than tapered ? sure the top cup an stem are a few grams lighter but, i think the 1.5 steerer itself is lighter...?
So for all that extra stiffnes for the sake of a few grams.....
  • + 3
 @nojzilla: 1.5 steerers are an issue for frame manufacturing though and angle headset use.

E.g. For a fully internal headtube you would need it to be Is52/is52 or zs56/zs56 - that's ok for a DH bike but not sure about a 130mm trail bike?

The truth is - the extra stiffness isn't something 99% of people care about.
  • + 1
 @Racer951: could just buy a bike with the right head angle in the first place Smile
  • + 3
 @Racer951: Sure trail bikes probably don't need more than a straight 1.1/8 any way. But for long travel single crown bikes with which you go hard added stiffness is nice, even necessary to take the load, first 1.5 was the Sherman if I recall correctly in order to have a LT single crown fork. Then tapered to save a few grams for some moany wan*ers. Exemples in the bike industry are countless and that's depressing. Remember RockShox going the Maxle 20 light way ? Then some said wasn't light enough and 15mm should be better, and now we put torque caps to gain stiffness, wtf like.
  • + 1
 Saying that, RS going with light 20mm axle back in the days show how they changed since as now they would be the first to introduce a new standard instead of bettering what exists.
  • + 4
 So, 30mm, 35mm long stem are common now. How short can you have them with a straight 1.5" steerer tube? I don't care too much about flex. At least I don't think the tiny amount of flex in this small area ever bothered me any. And yes I do realize that a tiny rotation there could imply significant deflection at the end of my handlebar. If it isn't strong enough, use a stronger material (steel would do nicely) or just use more. But geometry is important. It determines how a bike rides. If a straight 1.5" steerer implies stems can't be shorter than 40mm (with a 31.8mm handlebar), it may not be ideal for everyone on every bike either. Of course the added sleeve of this stem does the same (yet less effective) as a larger diameter (1.5" straight) steerer. So ideally they'll just crank the 1 1/8" diameter ever so slightly up to 28.99mm (an increase of a whopping 0.424mm). That should give us almost 6% increase in stiffness, just right.
  • + 1
 @hamncheez: yes but I can't change my bike's headtube length, nor is it really even something I can choose when selecting a frame.
  • + 10
 I don't really see why you would want a cockpit stiffer if people are already saying things are to stiff. Wouldn't arm chatter be worse with it because your bars can't dampen it as much as they could with it not being as stiff? Serious question by the way. I think its a great invention for stiffening up the front end Im just not sold on it quite yet.
  • + 4
 Use with a flexy bar, so you get the best of both worlds.
  • + 5
 I think the idea is you want the flex in the bars but you want it rigid throughout the head tube area. 31.8 carbon bars with the 'meister.
  • + 4
 I hear what you're saying...but I think I'd vote zero movement through the crown/headsets/steerer/stem combo every time. Those components are too sturdy to be absorbing much vibration...so any damping must be coming from movement, which affects accuracy(completely tolerable these days, but annoying nonetheless). I think of this flex as induced...vs reactive flex, like in the fork and wheel/tire....and of course, the bar is very important in it's role but shouldn't rely on movement within the crown/headsets/steerer/stem combo to perform it's duties. I'd love to try a 100% locked down rock solid area there and concentrate on the bar/fork/wheel/tire movement Smile
  • + 2
 Couldn't all the extra flex that would usually go thru the stem, that is now transferred to the bars just weaken/fatigue handle bars faster ? Especially where the bar meets the stem.
  • + 3
 @loopie: This kind of thinking is idealist and not realistic in a 'real' engineering sense, nor would it be desirable - Parts work as a system, you say you want a crown with zero flex but as I have said elsewhere superbike guys will not ride ultra stiff crowns, they remove bolts or have lower stiffness crowns designed - Not everything happens on the vertical plane on an MTB.

I am not sure anybody, unless they are huge is genuinely saying a Fox 36 with a sturdy stem and bar and decent wheels is too 'flexy', are they?
  • + 0
 Preference. Hence...my "vote".
  • + 10
 Isnt it a little much having a product reviewed by the person that feels like he had some part in its development?

Paul, you have very 'personal' views about bike setup and what you want one to ride like but its at odds to much of the general riding public, I wont bash the product as if it works for you then great - it does nobody any harm and doesnt introduce any new standards but I personally dont feel like stiffness of the cockpit is something lacking on modern bikes.

As you briefly mention above - what do you / Intend think about when people run multiple stem spacers - not many will want to run the stem at the exact height this headset dictates and surely most of the gain is lost as soon as you do this.

I dont like flexy stems / cranks but still, who wants to ride a bike that translates every vibration into your hands or pops out of every rut or rock garden because it so stiff it cannot track the terrain?
  • + 11
 Looks similar to the old Hutch BMX Headset/Stem Spacer from the early 80s
  • + 2
 I had one of those headset locks.
  • + 2
 That will a combo of the GT Epoch thread locking ring
  • + 4
 You missed an important part of your video test, which would be the "control" part of the experiment. Hope headset with Renthal stem, or some other normal stuff that everyday riders might use...this way we can compare to the products you are showcasing...
  • + 4
 So I'll chuck in my $0.02...

This IS a real issue. I have a very similar bike to Paul, a Geometron G13 29er and I'm also a fairly big guy, 6'2 and 14st. Even with a Boost 36 at 150mm travel, there is noticeable disconnect between the inputs at the bar and the bike responding. It sometimes feels like the steering is 'sprung' so the first part of the input at the bars 'winds up' this spring, then it snaps into movement. This is flex, primarily through my awful Mavic wheels, but also through the bars/stems/headset/steerer connections.
  • + 5
 I would put a bet on it being mostly the wheels if you are aware they are flexy? Stems and bar are also the next place to look, steerer tube last on the list by a long shot.
  • + 1
 but like he says in the article, maybe better to try a dual crown fork?
  • + 5
 Having to take everything off my bars to swap out, just for 20grams and a perceived 'stiffness' gain where not anyone I know was complaining about flex? No thanks
  • + 4
 @paulaston when mentioning bolt size please just mention tread size, 5 = M5. If you want to talk about core size of the bolt then do your self a favor and look up ISO standard of metric treads (M5 = 4,2mm core diameter etc.)
  • + 2
 He was referring to the size of the Allen key needed for that bolt.
  • + 1
 Bolts are defined by their thread diameter, not the Allen key size!
  • + 3
 Solution.... Headsets preloaded to manufacturer spec have developed some play, even with the stem tightened to spec. This occurs after very hard riding and after yanking the bars on difficult, steep climbs. The nature of ever so slight flex at steer and compression ring and bearing interface makes the possible. That slight flex often results in a clicking noise at that junction. It has not occured with every fork and frame but has consistently occurred with some of my setups. Preloading the headset beyond spec has solved the problem for me and has not seemed to adversely affect performance or bearing lifespan.
  • + 3
 I’m pretty sure Woodman used to make a headset like this back in the day, and it was a turd. It did increase stiffness though. The stiffness you felt trying to turn the bars ????
  • + 2
 Woodman headset had a roller bearing at the bottom and a regular (non angular contact) bearing above it. It wasn't for stiffness, and yes it did suck as the crownrace was actually the lower cup so would fill with water and turn the bearings to rusty garbage.
  • + 4
 Seek immediate medical help if you experience cockpit stiffness lasting more than 4 hours
  • + 4
 I always wanted to spend more on a headset that is more likely to get dirt and water in it...
  • + 5
 Is this a problem I didn't know about?
  • + 2
 No. You are fine. If it was fore/aft stiffness I'd be interested.
  • + 1
 Super stiff is all the rage these days but when I'm out all day on rough downhill terrain I like a little bit of compliance in the system. It takes the harsh feel out of the ride and helps keep my wrists and fore arms from getting chattered out. I never found a few millimeters of flex in the bar stem combo to reduce steering accuracy when bouncing through high speed stutter. I think it is more important for the fork stations and arch brace to be tight.
  • + 1
 Do you want play between hubs and frame? No. Do you want play between crank axle and frame? No. Do you want play between steerer tube and frame? No. It's better to have flex IN the frame, IN the handlebars and IN the wheels for grip and comfort.
So stop complaining if someone tries to make things better.
What was even wrong with it in the first place?
  • + 1
 The lightest stem on the market is just the one most likely to break first.
Breaking a stem is super bad.
Paying tons of money for the stem voted most likely to break first is a bad move.
When will you numbskulls realize that.
Oh ya and the early 90’s called they want their non removable face plate back.
Aaaaaand is it possible that letting people pry their stem open to fit their bars in is just asking for trouble?
And what is steering stiffness anyway?
Can’t I get that just by overtightening my headset?
I tried it and it doesn’t feel very good.
I’ve since gone back to non stiff steering and I think it’s the way to go.
  • + 1
 Seems reasonable, and I'm in need of a new headset! I looked over their website, do they include different headset cups with the order, and if so what are the options there? My frame has a straight 1.5" steerer, so a bit different fit than the usual tapered.

I like the look of the stem too, price is a bit steep though and I don't really want to get new 31.8 bars.
  • + 1
 Newsflash: Steerer tube diameters have a tolerance. That is (one of) the reason for the tapered compression washer on headsets. This headset however locks onto what appears to be a solid tube, which we hope happens to fit your steerer nicely....but probably wont. Or is there some sort of locking system I'm missing??

was this product "engineered" or "graphic designed"?
Frown
  • + 4
 Tailwhip at Rampage, please!
  • + 4
 Wtf that stem costs more than my frame...
  • + 1
 It costs exactly 10 times as much as my stem haha
  • + 4
 More importantly, look at those welds on that head tube!
  • + 4
 If you lack stiffnes it is a headset problem but not that one
  • + 5
 ED is mostly a cardiovascular issue
  • + 1
 @paulaston you mention the second lightest stem as the Renthal Duo but weighed the apex (and correctly labeled it as such in the caption): "...aggressive riding is the Renthal Duo at 105g"
  • + 2
 Mountain biking is funny. Everyone wants to go stiff as possible only to figure out between metal properties and design that stiffness is not really an issue.
  • + 2
 cool product. Regarding light stems: OnOff Stoic 30mm, Answer AME, 77 Designs 36mm, Newmen Evolution SL 318.4 - all lighter than that Renthal Stem.
  • + 3
 StiffMaster - I finally found my porn name. Thank you Pink Bike.
  • + 2
 So he solved his own personal problem! May also be lacking stiffness in Enduro!
  • + 6
 I don't think you have ever seen Aston ride.
  • + 2
 @amrskipro: yep, I've seen Aston riding at BikeParkWales. The guy can move it.
  • + 1
 Get a Slam set for $50, drop stem all the way down. Youll end up with short stiff steerer. Cant manage the descents?, get a riser bar.
  • + 3
 THE STIFFMASTER, YOU HAVE TO PRETEND TO BE JEREMY CLARKSON WHEN YOU SAY IT
  • + 3
 Stiffness... best and worst marketing tool for MTBs...
  • + 2
 I've run into many trees with my 1 and 1/8 steer tube fork. It is plenty stiff
  • + 2
 a jewelry box and spoon....the bike component gift for wives that do not ride.
  • + 2
 86g Kalloy Uno stem (31.8mm 60mm 7-deg) from eBay is just $35. That's a fact. I ride it and love it.
  • + 1
 @paulaston How does the different spacers affect the stiffness? I would be interested in this headset but can't have more than 18mm of top headset sticking out.
  • + 2
 Cool cause that's exactly what I was wanting, some more harsh vibrations fed directly into my hands.
  • + 0
 If the forks steerer moving around is reducing cockpit vibrations somethings probably wrong with your setup
  • + 2
 @daweil: all flex from the tyre to the grips is going to have an effect on Vibrations being fed to your hands.
  • + 1
 @panaphonic: of course it will. But compared to the handlebar width, forks stanchions and lowers, wheel system, the few cm of relatively stiff steerer tube flex should be extremely small. And as illustrated in the graphic in the article, it's not great for bearings.. I imagine it like a wobbly hub. Definitely it's not 100% stiff, but it would be better if it were..
  • + 3
 Oh sweet, a bonus poop stick!
  • + 2
 Stem is 20grams less but a nightmare If you want to swap stems quickly (with your bars set up).
  • + 1
 Installation would be impossible without removing brakes, grips, etc, from one side of your bars but I dont see why this is such a big issue.. I wouldnt really call an extra couple minute of work a nightmare.. I mean. how often are you swapping stems?
  • + 1
 But does the stem get the same center-line stress crack that the apex is known for? (Currently using my second as a fancy paperweight)
  • + 2
 It is beautiful and well made!
  • + 1
 Reviewed product called "Stiffmaster Headset", but didn't refer to the axial bearing as a thrust bearing.. For shame.
  • + 1
 But maybe that's why handlebars don't break, because of slightly flexible headset and stem?
  • + 2
 Just send me the spoon!!!!!
  • + 1
 Spatula
  • + 2
 Why didn't they name it the Stiffmiester? They were so close!!
  • + 0
 Is the stem machined from a chunk of near net forged 7075 Aluminum?
If not I would trust the stem for easy XC trails and that's it!
Stem looks dangerous for full on Enduro.
  • + 2
 Mines stiff enough thanks
  • + 2
 An average rider like me wouldn't even notice the difference.
  • + 1
 All we really need is a 3rd race or bushing to support the steerer between the existing head set races.
  • + 1
 This all seems kind of pointless when modern carbon handlebars are designed to flex for comfort...
  • + 2
 My questions: What kind of bike is that?
  • + 4
 Nicolai Geometron
  • + 2
 Just attach the handlebars directly to the fork crown. Problem solved!
  • + 2
 I have been lacking in stiffness in that area recently...
  • + 1
 Will added stiffness also make Carbon bars prone to breaking easier since there is no give I guess from anywhere else?
  • + 1
 Any chance these will be made in Works Components angleset style in the future?
  • + 1
 Say stiffness again! I dare you, I double dare you!

What the hell is going on?
  • + 1
 Has anyone else ridden a Totem with a straight 1 & 1/8 steerer tube? it's extremely stiff.
  • + 1
 Dude, clearly is your aluminium, aluminum bike is the issue, have you heard of carbon?
  • + 1
 I've seen like 15 years ago on a SOLO BICI magazine a headset very similar, it was tight with a 6 allen key...
  • + 1
 enve stem is probably the lightest
  • + 1
 Love the same sriffmaster. Wonder if Rocco Sifredi wouldnt be interisted.
  • + 1
 "no more new standards!" - I guess Trek didn't get it.
  • + 1
 The fork, we want to know about the fork!
  • - 2
 FINALLY, i can ride a bke again... i was always like "damn, this headset flexes too much... f only there were options" ...cause y know, headests bending is ALWAYS ruinng rides... lol...

This is a useless product.
  • + 4
 This is a useless comment...
  • + 1
 @mrti: you think or do you think that its rediculous to compare the stifness of metal on a headset ? have you ever heard anybody complain about their headset not being stiff enough ? wake up your being fed bullshit.
  • + 1
 cannondale 1.56" headtube, zero flex.
  • + 2
 I was thinking the same thing. Same as bearing design as Cannondale SI headset.
  • + 1
 @rpl3000: yes, they got it right all those years ago, no preloading the headset or messing about, super large diameter, stiff and strong
  • + 1
 How the heck does the stem only weigh 8 grams more than half a headset?
  • + 1
 Copy paste from the Drom Pitadora stem...
  • + 1
 Not one 1 1\8.99999 joke yet, pinkbikers you're slipping
  • + 0
 cool I just spent $200 and saved 15 grams!!!!!!!!
  • + 0
 Another solution to a problem that doesn't exist.
  • - 1
 Why the hell would they put the stem's pinch bolts on the non-driveside? WTF! I thought German's were smarter than this?
  • + 0
 seems a bit gimmicky to me...snake oil?
  • + 0
 The guy did do his own testing and found a marginal decrease in flex versus without.. that being said we're talking micrometers.
  • + 1
 Ha, he said cock...
  • + 0
 I'm sorry but what a load of horse sh#t this is... nice stem though...
  • + 0
 What do the fork manufacturers have to say about this? Warranty void?
  • + 1
 i love raw finish
  • + 0
 That name just won the internet
  • - 1
 I wish Rockshox would solve this floppy steering problem once and for all and create a 1-1/8.99" fork
  • + 1
 What bike is that
  • + 1
 Nicolai, don't know wich model
  • + 1
 Nicolai Ion G-16 GPI
  • + 0
 For second I honestly thought it said, "gentle erection changes".
  • - 2
 Maybe it s time for a new standard. And please make 100% non retro-compatible. As damn usual.
  • + 0
 giggidy
  • + 0
 Dentist again, Psh.
  • - 1
 Make sure is 28.99, could be an issue!
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