Crank Brothers Opium DH Directset

Feb 25, 2009 at 13:26
by Colin Alexander  

As some of you know, I'm on a never-ending quest for the perfect headset. I've worn out, cracked, or had bike damage done by headsets in the past, and this is my latest effort in that search - The Crank Brothers Opium DH "Directset"

Read on to see how it's held up:

Initial Impressions:

After receiving the Opium, I toyed around with it for a while scratching my head. I truly didn't want to try another headset with an O-ring that holds the steerer centered like King does, but this one's different...the upper cap COMPRESSES the o-ring so it doesn't have as much of an issue with slight steerer size differences. The whole unit is rather brilliant, tiny and LIGHT. By using the actual cup as the outer race of the bearing, Crank Brothers were able to eliminate redundant parts, and thus make it a LOT lighter. It even has a 36 ball complement bearing for load handling.

The parts

The parts


It comes with a special installation tool for pressing in the upper bearing, both cups, a top cap, upper cap, crown race, and 2 o-rings. One o-ring is for steerer capture, and one for a seal on the lower bearing. I found this a little cheesy for sealing, but decided to give it a shot and see what happens. I knew that if it was ever going to let anything in, I'd be able to get it to do it in the wonderfully muddy spring trails here in Colorado.

Installation:

As with all headsets, it's a measure and press the cups in operation. Since these run the cup as the race for the bearing though, it is suggested to press the cups in one at a time, so the races don't become ovalized at all from cocking sideways in the headtube bore and flex the race area. I followed those suggestions and used the supplied tool to press in the upper cup with a Park headset press, and followed that with the bottom cup. Easy as pie, it pressed in more easily than any other headset I've done, straight the whole way, never wanting to go off sideways.

Pressing with special tool

Pressing with special tool

All in!

All in!


After the cups, I removed my old Cane Creek crown race and installed the Crank Brothers one. This was a VERY tight fit, I suggest using the right tool, as you'll crack a PVC pipe trying to bang this one on. Once that was on, you slide the lower seal on the steerer, and run the steerer up thru the cups, slide on the other o-ring, and top plate and stem. When you tighten the headset down, it squeezes the o-rings into their seats, and all of a sudden all play disappears!

Play free and ready to ride!

Play free and ready to ride!

Check that stack height too! I was running no spacers with my Cane Creek!


Ride testing:

I have so far about 5 trail rides on it. If you know me in the forums, you know that our trails are nothing to scoff at and as such test parts to their limits and past them sometimes. Trail bikes for us are no less than 6 inches of travel, and slack geo. We aren't your typical trail riders here. It's been wet here so I have been hosing down the bike after rides too, further testing the sealing of it.

The headset has been operating flawlessly. No creaks, groans, pops, whines, grinds, squeaks, or other ridiculous noises I've had happen in the past. It keeps dirt out well, but do note if you drive thru salted roads in wet weather a tiny bit of salt may get under the lower seal. It doesn't get in the bearing as that has its own seal, but it gets to the race. If this happens, just give it a good rinse and scotchbrite rubdown to get rid of the rust on the race.

Mud rides and hosing and not a trace inside the top bearing

Mud rides and hosing and not a trace inside the top bearing

Lower looks grit free too, just a little sign of moisture

Lower looks grit free too, just a little sign of moisture


No dirt has gotten in, and we have nasty gritty dirt here that wreaks havoc on bearings so that's a big thing to me. The system works, and works WELL. I might have just found the best headset for me!

http://www.crankbrothers.com

-http://hummeroid.pinkbike.com
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76 Comments

  • + 8
 looks sick id love to try one
  • + 6
 Crank Bros make headsets, wheels, skewers, pedals, and a variety of tools. They used to manufacture cranks (wich made sense with their name and all), but since Isis has gone out of style, who knows if they'll bring the design back.
  • + 2
 the symbol written on the side if it looks like airblaster
  • + 1
 you mean push industries
  • + 1
 i used to have one of these on my old bike. i really want another for my new one. there so small compared to regular headsets 21mm stack height apposed to about 32mm. id deffinatly recomend.
  • + 2
 no on the headset itself, the singlespeed sprocket-looking thing
  • + 1
 thats there logo
  • + 1
 it does look really close to the airblaster logo.
  • - 1
 i just got rid of my opium dh headset on my bike and replaced it with the old stand-by Chris King. My experience is that the opium is the biggest piece of junk out there. If it was spinning freely then it was too loose and the fork would would wobble, but if the headset was tight then the fork would not turn freely. I just could not get it adjusted so i tossed it.
  • + 2
 Doubtlessly these headsets look cool. Very minimalistic. I suppose that could work for some people. With a price tag higher than even that of a Chris King, I wouldn't call them even a competitor unless the rider is looking for a lower stack height or is a serious weight weenie.
  • + 3
 considering how crappy there pedals are (5050's) i'd be hard pressed to put one of there headsets on any of my bikes. I'll stick with a king thats been tried and true for almost 35 yrs.
  • + 0
 Oh yes! 5050s? Nobody likes those.
  • + 1
 I've had a problem with destroying headsets in my many years of riding. It hasn't been as issue with contamination but one of dimpling the races and flattening the balls. With a sealed cartridge headset you can just replace the bearing and all is good. With the Crank Bros. you can't do that, or am I missing something here?
Just for a reference, I've been running a Chris King for over 2yrs on my dj bike that sees a lot of freeride, and it has never done me wrong.
  • + 1
 Guess your DJ riding, with all that hard impacting on the fork and such, isn't 'extreme' enough to ruin a King. Learn to ride hard will yah?! Smile HA!
  • + 1
 They look alright but if you actually look at them in real life they are very minimal and seam a bit weak and thin. I've yet to see someone brave one of these babies on the DH. There also a bit overpriced and they all look and feel the same no matter which model you get, they pretty much just have different colours. But if it's coluor your looking for then Chris King is your man. 10 year bearing warranty... can't go wrong with that.
  • + 3
 Don't waste your money on them..........very fragile cups. Not sure how you think these are going to hold up- smaller bearings......Just my 2 cents.
  • + 0
 this week I bought an opium dh headset, and I was very disapointed of it. Because, the metal is so thin then when I tried to install it, one off the cup broke. And its not because then I dont know how to install this headset.
  • + 0
 haha my "cane creek" comment got deleted. All this talk about Chris King...I run Cane Creek on all my bikes (S-3 plus 5 on my Trek Remedy, 1.5 Double XC Flush on my Session 10...etc) I've never had any problems with those...that's all I was trying to say
  • + 1
 You spelled it wrong, I think you meant "Cane Creak."
  • + 1
 How ironic because it looks like Cane Creek owns rights to the Crank Brothers headsets since their site says this - under license by cane creek cycling componentsunder all the headset descriptions.
  • - 2
 Same goes for a few other headset manufacturers. The design isnt the same as these dont use the typical cane creek tapered capture ring. I dont remember all the licensing issues with headsets, but its pretty hard to avoid paying cane creek
  • + 0
 I run a Cane Creek set and I haven't had many issues with it, other then the sealed bearings needing to be replaced more often then any other set I've used in the past.
  • + 0
 Nope, seraph, I meant "Cane Creek." As for the rights issue, that doesn't mean they design Crank Brothers headsets. For example, Cannondale, Mongoose, and a couple other bike manufacturers are owned by the same parent company and they have very different bike designs.
  • + 1
 Bought it after reading this rewiev.
After 6 month, this opium DH directshit (and I have AM bike)dirt, water and dust just killed it. Worst headset I ever had.
Even worse that candy pedals and joplin seatpost.
  • + 1
 I'm on a never-ending quest for the perfect headset. I've worn out, cracked, or had bike damage done by headsets in the past, and this is my latest effort in that search Ever heard of Chris King?
  • - 2
 Chris Kings are far from junk. I would like to see this Crank Brothers set compared to the CK stainless steel set. http://chrisking.com/headsets/hds_steelset
  • + 2
 chris kings design is junk, they don't use a 'standard' headset design so it constantly loosens or creaks on 'extreme' bikes steelsets are junk because of how far it goes into the frame, frames these days don't need that, they also use the exact same design as the standard headsets so you would still have the constant loosening and creaking problems but hey, whatever man
  • + 0
 Sorry, but your contradicting yourself on that comment when you say it's not a standard design, but then you say it is (maybe you meant something else)? Crank Brothers (Cane Creek) does make a tall cup design only for the "Free Ride" set and it has the same amount of ball bearings. It's called the Sage sl - http://www.crankbrothers.com/directsets_sagesl.php
I would ditch that Opium set, just my opinion.
  • + 1
 i mean the standard chris king headset, not a standard headset
  • + 0
 I had a king custom made to fit my slight oversize headtube previously, and had nothing but trouble from it. So yes, I had done a tiny bit of trying before I wrote this
  • + 0
 Well, I guess I must not be 'extreme' enough then, as I've had nothing but the best luck with my Kings..... oh, but I also install them correctly too. If you don't face your head-tube correctly, you get creaking and loosening issues. Not many folks own those nice expensive Park Tool (or equivalent) facing tools, and end up wasting their money buying any decent headset.

PS Best way to have success with 'Operation Gram Counter' would be to not start with a Norco Six (read: anchor) as your frame.
  • - 2
 PPS: operation gram counter is a joke. I run 823s on saint and hadley hubs. Still, with the other wheelset and tire choice its down around 31-32, respectable for a bike of its kind.

I also have access to all shop tools/work at a shop. This headtube (as measured by a 3d measurement device at a local machine shop) is within .0005'' of perfectly parallel, far tighter than the spec for it.
  • + 1
 Wow, that's 'extreme' using a a 3d measurement device for that kind of accuracy. Whatever, Kings rock, knock 'em if you have too, I've said nothing about this headset, you could very well be right in that it's the best thing since sliced bread or toilet paper.

This is why I will never write anything for pinkbike.com, not interested in the banter it produces; everyone has their own opinion, and that includes the writers of these reviews.

5 rides though, wow, that's a super long-term test, so your results are worthy of reporting on. Almost as good as a car reviewer taking a brand new car for a test drive and saying it drives great!
  • + 1
 It might be going to the extreme of measurement checking, but I've had enough with no knowing for sure if the frame had issues causing my headset woes. Hey, its at my dispos so why not use it?

As for testing, I sais nothing about the bearings, those usually being the long term failure part. You can analyze the way it holds the steerer without long term testing, its more of a works/ doesn't thing. For noises and such, I had issues with other headsets prior to 5 rides. Just so you know, now there are well over 15 days of rides on it, but ill be sure to tell you when I have 5 months on it tup
  • + 0
 well I used the Opium C on my DH bike all last year in the BC weather and the bearings are still going strong, as expected. It's tough to give a long term test on a headset, they usually last for years.
  • - 1
 CB has a cool design once again. Only, I'm not sure why they stick with the standard cup height on a DH headset. Why not make the cups twice as long for more strength like the King's? It's not like you would be adding that much weight for the compromise , unless it was a road bike :-p Either way, good write up.........what, you clip in? J/K
  • - 1
 Superfly is my nemesis. Stay clipped in!
  • - 1
 Ha, now it makes more sense. Agreed.
  • + 3
 Holy push stickers! Nice article.
  • - 1
 i got the basic opium DH black version, hardened steel cups my arse, was a bitch to press in my M3, and chipped one of the cups it was so tight... but it is a nice low stack headset, which is why i had to get it.
  • + 0
 before installling the cups you mesure the inside diameter of the headtube and the outside of the cup to beshure this doesnt happen
  • + 1
 i bought one of these the other week feels pretty strong and working without problems so far
  • - 2
 i destroyed a crank brothers sage c freeride headset on my first ride, the thing just exploded , too spindly, might be ok for xc if you`re lucky!!
  • + 3
 too bad this isn't a sage c headset, this is an opium DH directset
  • + 1
 oh man that looks so nice!
  • + 1
 nice article. that headset looks sweet.
  • + 1
 Good review - but I'd like to know how it performs in 5 months...
  • + 1
 Yeah, 5 months versus 5 rides might make a bit of difference.
  • + 0
 I live in a capital city!
  • + 0
 Which is a capital crime!
  • + 0
 does it come in 1.5 reducer? lol
  • + 0
 do they make a 1.5 to 1 1/8 reducer? anybody know?
  • + 1
 CAPITALS for EMPHASIS.
  • - 2
 I like how on the "All in!" picture, the upper cup appears to be not completely pressed in. Awesome mechanic work.

Also:
Chris King for life.
  • + 1
 You pointed it out yourself. " appears". Its in ALL the way, but these have a taper at the base of the cup, and on a reinforced headtube they look odd, ewven when pressed in.
  • + 0
 Looks like some excess white grease as well?
  • + 0
 damn, that frame must be awesome, why you didn't put some pictures?
  • + 1
 i bought one YAY
  • + 0
 Great review, even better headset!!
  • + 0
 Anybody got their hands on the 1.5 version yet?
  • - 3
 Why did you guys do a DH headset test on a bike with what looks like a domain or lyrik. I think this should have been done on a DH set-up...just wondering
  • + 0
 running xc components on a dh frame is ok?

running a dh headset on another type of bike is not ok!?

what!
  • + 0
 then go out and test it on your own bike. these guys ride trails harder then you would ride dh. id say it was a good test so far
  • + 1
 Who says that bike doesn't get serious dh time? Come out here and ride and you'll see why its a legit proving ground. Also, that bike is running a head angle as slack as most dh bikes at 65.5-66 degrees. Its far from just a trail bike.
  • + 0
 I was just wondering. And I know these guys probably rip harder than I do DH. But I was just saying that normally when you test stuff, you kind of want ti to fail, push it to it's limits, that was all I was saying. And if that was accomplished that that's perfect.

Another things is that Dual CRown fork i believe would put more stress on a headset because of the leverage/pressures. I don't know that for a fact, just thinking. Want to elaborate Hummeroid, I don't mind being proven wrong, like I just was.
  • + 0
 No problem. And to elaborate further, a dc fork is thrown on that bike at times. I have no doubts that if it can be killed ill be one of the people that can do it
  • + 1
 the symbol written on the side if it looks like airblaster
  • + 1
 if u guys dont believe hummeroid, ive seen him destroy every bike he has been on. he rips hard
  • + 0
 whats the pricing?
  • + 0
 i believe around 90
  • + 0
 90 pounds?
  • + 1
 90 american probably....
  • + 0
 The Opium DH C is £64.99 RRP and Opium DH SL is £95 RRP
  • + 0
 mmmmmmm

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