Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Kiln 'Em All

I've never been to Interbike before, but it seems to me that lots of companies use the big show as an opportunity to display things that either a) they have no intention of ever producing, b) are so far off that they may as well never produce them, or c) are just some sort of elaborate industry insider joke. You know, like that pretzel-shaped FBM flatland frame, or the giant Landing Gear fork, or the Metal tandem.

When I first read about the Kink ceramic-bearing headset, which debuted at Interbike '08, I hoped it was the same sort of thing. Because all I'd ever heard about Kink headsets were how you more or less couldn't tighten them because they forgot to have slots machined in the top dust cap. Which is the kind of attention to detail that makes you want to upgrade their $25 headset to a $100 one.

Tragically, it would appear that the hundred-dollar Kink headset is not only in production, but available for purchase. (Thanks whoever e-mailed me this.)

Ceramic bearings are nothing new to road and mountain cyclists. SRAM's Red road group comes with ceramic bearings, and they sure seem to think they're a good idea. From their own description of said bottom bracket:
They offer a performance advantage over traditional bottom bracket bearings that's almost too great to believe. Besides being 10% lighter than standard bearings, ceramic bearings require an astonishing 78% less energy than the next-most efficient BB on the market.
Wow. That's almost too great to believe! Although unless you spend your sessions trying quad barspins over and over, I don't see how ceramic headset bearings would make a bit of difference for a BMXer. Anyway, let's read on, shall we?
Ceramic bearings are more resistant to dirt and moisture and, when properly maintained, will outlast and outperform any other BB on the market.
The key phrase in there, for me, is "when properly maintained." I don't know about y'all, but I haven't done "maintenance" on a headset since I ran a Tioga Beartrap back in like '90. Maintenance? You get a new frame, you put an FSA Impact (or similar) in there and forget about it. Maybe you get a new headset when you switch frames, but only if you're super anal about that sort of thing. When I got my first Edwin I was bummed they didn't have Campys left in stock, and went with the FSA. I figured I'd swap it out for a Campy later. Hasn't happened yet, and that was four years and three or four frames ago. Are regular integrated headsets really that bad? Has there been an epidemic of barspins gone wrong?

What SRAM leaves out of their orgasmic description is that ceramic bearings are expensive as hell. One of their ceramic bottom brackets is $170. In comparison, a regular SRAM BB will run you around $35. (So the Kink headset is almost...underpriced?)

Now, the extra expense may be worthwhile if you're a road racer who spends all day spinning out a 53/11 and climbs 10,000 vertical feet before breakfast. That whole "78% less energy" thing could make a real difference—and be well worth $135. (Come to think of it, a ceramic BMX bottom bracket would have been perfect for Mike Griffin and Luc-E.)

But a ceramic headset? For BMX? Just say no. Please.

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30 comments:

Anonymous said...

the rest of the week should be dedicated to kris bennett and all of the reasons he is so awesome.

magic johnson said...

the real question is....

if you have aids should you just go a head and fuck everybody with out a condom and spread the disease? or do you do the right thing and jerk off into a sock for the rest of your life?

Beau said...

Watching that SE thing I just remembered that giant poster of the wildman doing a sprocket bash on some huge wall off of a tiny piece of wood against a curb stopper. Russ, locate that photo ASAP

Anonymous said...

You realize that every headset probably says the same thing about keeping it properly maintained right? Your whole argument is based off of something that is universal. I'm sure you can (mis)treat this headset just as well as others.

Anonymous said...

Best Wildman photo, BY FAR, is the Jnco ad where he bunnyhops over a porto-potty to flat and explodes for 48h Alex supra Es. hahaha, yes.

Anonymous said...

Glad that the Kink headset got picked up on, I saw it on Alan's the other day and nearly spat my tea over my computer! I have a Fit and recently got road bike, suddenly the weight thing in BMX seems pointless. Make it out of carbon or don't bother...?

Russ said...

Anon 6:04 — Regardless of that (you're probably right), it's still a $100 BMX headset. And it's entirely superfluous. Has ANYONE out there ever said "you know, this headset just doesn't spin fast enough."

(Although, as for care, SRAM sells ceramic-specific bearing grease. You can look it up.)

Colin said...

Again, it's a sad state of affairs where bike companies MUST differentiate to survive, and the only way they seem to know how is through manufacturing. This works if you are Apple working to trounce Blackberry by releasing the iPhone, but to a BMX rider, what your bearings are made from is a baseball stat, not a feature.

Anonymous said...

But what about Ceramic BB bearings on a BMX? If they made a Euro BB out of ceramic bearings, wouldn't it last longer making the then doable again?

Russ said...

I'm not convinced they'd last longer. Then again, I'm not a structural engineer. Still, ceramic bearings are made to spin faster. I'm not sure how they work when they're being subjected to constant impacts and herky-jerky strokes.

Also, someone tell me the connection between the label and the topic. There is one.

steve said...

ok guys. what is a ceramic? stone, cooked. what is steel?, ok, does it weigh less? no. how much time do you worry about the "wattage" your putting out? if you don't know what im saying, ceramic is too advanced. for the same 100$ you could buy 4 headsets that will last forever, but a ceramic bearing is susptable to smashing under impact. its a stone. roadies don'tcatch much air, and the second they crash theyre 15000$ bike is done. LEAVE THE ROAD STFF TO THE SPANDEX CLAM! DOIN"T BE FAGGOTS KIDS!

ceramic is a terrible idea.

steve said...

and im a terible speller

steve said...

steve wins!! to slow russ

Anonymous said...

hahah! ^^^ Well said M8!

steve said...

a hammer will show you how strong the brings are, and how steel bearings in bikes from the 40' are still in use. until someone does a study showng the longevity of the ceramic bearing, if there even is much, hey d claim its 'harder' and 'more round than steel' is it really good for us?

Beau said...

I didn't catch the KILN at the first read either, very clever

ben said...

I forget how good that Demolition video really was.

Turtle Dick said...

http://premium4130.blogspot.com/2008/12/16-spline-cranks.html

25t and smaller??? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA


for a descent read......
http://turtledick.blogspot.com
hollar

Anonymous said...

i'm sure someone's done 16 spline before.

Anonymous said...

Pinch bolts? Really? Have they EVER worked?

Anonymous said...

I tried to get one but they're sold out

t.f.a. said...

gotta confess: i thought these were pretty pointless as well but right after they released them we started getting requests. the funny part is that we'v e sold a bunch of them but only in Japan. don't know why but it's true, each one we have sold has gone there. and the kiln/ceramic thing seems to have made you so proud of yourself that you wanted to make sure we all picked up on it, huh? maybe Kink should have called this thing the "Pottery Barn"

Anonymous said...

you all really know nothing.

Anonymous said...

what do we not know? the advantage of ceramic bearings is lower friction and easier spin but i didn't see nyquist having trouble throwing bars in the late 90s or ever.

Anonymous said...

"Pinch bolts? Really? Have they EVER worked?"

Original Flight cranks were nice and XS cranks seemed pretty good. A lot of people swear by Primo's.

Ron Bonner said...

You'd have to be a retard to really think they'd make these so bar spins would be faster. Sounds like you're just trying to think of a reason not to like them. Obviously the ceramic bearings are gonna outlast a traditional bearing by like 10 times. I went through 4 impacts last year, so at $35 a pop it woulda been cheaper to just buy one of these. I spent over $100 on a Chris King headset for the same reason 8 years ago.

Russ said...

If you went through four Impacts in a year, I'd love to know how long the Kink lasts. I'll bet it doesn't last that much longer. In a road bike, sure. In a BMX bike? We'll see.

I paid $100 for a Chris King too, and it was a terrible headset for BMX. If I had to do it all over again, I would have bought a sealed Dia-Tech. Or a Solid.

TFA: I didn't mean to draw attention to the title, since that wasn't what I was talking about. I meant the topic (i.e. the Kink ceramic-bearing headset) and the label (the tag at the bottom). I was pretty proud of "Kiln 'Em All," though. Just wait until I get to use "Ride The Lightening."

Beau said...

hmm a lot going to Japan? Could it be that flatlanders like these things?

Russ said...

Anyway, the post was about Kink, and the label was a lyric from the W.A.S.P. song "Sex Drive," which, if I'm not mistaken, was what Kink called their first sprocket.

Being a BMX nerd is hard work.

Anonymous said...

the first kink sprocket was just a sprocket and i think they named it the "sex drive" later when they started making giant stickers for it. i think volume was the only other company to do sprocket stickers.