Chris King woes

2manyoranges

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I’ve done a lot of spannering in my time. But few problems become ‘issues’. Not so this week. I thought it was time to change the stem on one of the stable, and while I was about it I would check out the CK headset which has been sitting in the frame doing its job quietly and competently, for years. Little did I know that when I removed the stem, the top bearing cover would not shift. At all. And it has this beautiful chamfered feather edge to the cap, with a gap a micron wide to get anything in. Or rather not get anything in with a side bigger than the wavelength of red light. It’s a later GripLock model. Staring at it hard did nothing. Which I did for half an hour. Scowling didn’t help either. This in a ti beauty of a frame. Hmmm. Thin electrical screwdriver finally got the cap moving, but only at the expense of damaging the feather edge of the cap. Grrrr. Then...inside...horror of horrors, more aluminium corrosion than an aluminium corrosion shop. Full of it. The previous own had managed to install the steerer and headset with no grease. Nothing. And whenever water had got inside, it had just sat there turning the grip collet into an integrated section of the upper bearing race and the steerer tube. Massive corrosion and electrolytic action. O ring which looked like a dried grape skin and about as useful. The next two hours was spent applying force in the most horrible way to get something, somewhere, to shift. The only point of purchase on the inset collar was the join. This being Chris King, it’s machined to ‘medical tolerances’ (sic) and so only a tiny stainless screwdriver was both small enough and hard enough to get in the gap. And then be walloped by the soft mallet. Finally I saw a micron of movement in it, added a lot of GT85, then went around the periphery of the collar, using the 1mm lip for leverage. Much damage. I’d tried to shift things by pushing the top race down a little, releasing the pressure on the collet, but all that did was buckle the edge of the top race. Grrrr. Part of doing that had slightly depressed one side of the bespoke circlip which covers the thin rubber seal over the bearing. And that meant that the clip was a nightmare to grab to get out. I finally got an angled pick under it and pinged it out. The recommendation to use a Stanley Knife blade to do this is just unwise. Stanley blades are very brittle, and using just the tip can result in a tiny shard of extremely sharp and hard metal flying at your face. I have never fancied a permanent eye patch. I need the depth perception which comes with stereo vision to do singletrack, thank you. After a couple of hours, I had it all apart. I didn’t realise that CK bearing replacement requires returning the cups to the ‘States. That frankly seems a bit silly.

I now had a damaged circlip. A damaged top race. A damaged bearing cap and a damaged collet. Not so much damaged as mangled. All for want of a small smear of grease on first assembly. And the idea that you can easily get CK spares in England is a myth. Bromley cycles was not answering the phone. Winstanleys said ‘available from supplier’ which means ‘you can give us your money and then cancel the order in six months when we fail to deliver the parts’. Well I pressed the button anyway, in hope. I’ll talk about Hope in a moment. A day later I had calmed down enough to do some VERY careful filing and sanding on all the components, to undo the worst of the mechanical damage, and to relieve the cosmetic damage. In the end I sanded the steerer with 400 wet and dry - good smooth finish to the corroded segment - and then assembled with the steerer smeared with red grease, the bearings flushed and filled with FinishLine white grease, and everything put together but missing the circlip. Despite the application of extreme force, the headset works again, flawlessly. Looks post-atomic now, or as if it has been attacked by metallic mice. Battered. And for it to work again after all that abuse is impressive. But I can’t help thinking that the good people of Barnoldswick make better headsets. I have never had any problem with any Hope headset, and I have had them all. Flawless in design and function. Ten minutes to change bearings, beautifully engineered and machined, and great colours. And good sealing against British weather. I will carry on using the CK, since it’s a thing of beauty, and all would have been well if the original instal had been good. I hate bashing things when I should be being gentle with them. And CK look gorgeous. But I think my money will go to Yorkshire (what? no LANCASHIRE) in the future.....
 

BlackCat

Retro Guru
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I’m sorry for your pain - but I have to say, your post made me laugh. Well written, sir. A much needed injection of humour in a sometimes too serious forum.

Keep smashing up those jewel-like CNC machined US components and writing about it!
 

ishaw

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Nice read, though the subject matter isn't funny.

I've never greased a headset assembly other than bearings (or o-rings when fitting a king) and so far not had an issue. That said, never fitted a grip lock king, but I do have a brand new one for when the time comes. I think i will use grease based on this report.

Never used grease on a hope headset either, and have a few on builds.

They don't get wet and dirty much, so maybe the reason I've not had issues.

The standard king headsets gradually slice the steerer tube of any fork they are fitted too, almost as good as a pipe cutter.

Maybe i should stick to a hope headset when I slot in a carbon steerer fork on my next project. I'd dread to think how quickly the king o-ring would eat through the carbon.
 

al-onestare

Kona Fan
So the headset was and is still fine. It was the installation from the previous owner that was an issue!

I take CK over every other headset manufacturer. Smooth as butter, bombproof as you experienced and built to last till the end of time.
 

2manyoranges

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Indeed - installation was the thing.

But I don’t like some aspects of the CK - the circlip could do with a couple of tiny holes so you can get a pick in.

The ‘send back to the ‘states’ for bearing replacement isn’t very sensible and a small design change would correct that - but it’s classic ‘lock in’ to the brand.
 

al-onestare

Kona Fan
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A proud American manufacturing firm expects returns back to America shocker.

Would you expect Hope to offer exchanges outside the UK?
 

2manyoranges

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Er let me think about this a moment....

now...the problem I had was caused by poor installation by the previous owner, that's for sure. So that's the context.

Chris King service process - and I mean the reality, not the clean as clean pictures on the website. My bearings are gritty. I dismantle the stem and headset. I pop the clip ring on the top bearing. Now this looks easy, but actually a pick does NOT easily remove the clip ring. It takes 15-20 mins to catch it and get it out without puncturing the very thin rubber seal beneath. I am not exaggerating regarding the time. I then clean and flush the bearing. This does not take 5 mins. It takes over a hour to do properly because you can't get to the rear of the race. Citrus degreaser, spray-in degreaser, citrus applied with a syringe to get all the rubbish out. One and a half hours per bearing. And then you find that there is play in the lower bearing. So that needs the whole assembly to be removed and sent to the States for bearing replacement. Now, I have a stable of bikes, but if I did not, that would be my bike out of service for a month. They last a very very long time, and the service bill is small. But the time issue is a real one.

Hope service process - Find bearings that you ordered as back up last year. Dismantle stem and headset. Pull out old bearing. Put in new bearing. 10 minutes.

hmmm.....
 

mk one

Old School GrandMaster
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Yep Chris King all the way, never had a single problem with any ive used, Hope in comparison, well, its lucky you can source parts easy for them :)
 
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