Cane Creek AER

AER is currently the World’s lightest headset available in the market, weighing at just 46 grams.

Cane Creek’s latest headset creation, meant for road bikes only, is known as the AER. It is currently the World’s lightest headset available in the market, weighing at just 46 grams.

To make a headset this light, Cane Creek got rid of the top bearings, and replaced it with Norglide® X2 “bearings”. The Norglide® X2 is Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics latest innovation in composite bearing technology. The Norglide X2 material sandwich an aluminium base between two layers of low-friction PTFE tape and elastomeric rubber backing material, yielding a composite bearing which weighs just 1.5 grams. Cane Creek also heavily machined the top and bottom cup, removing excessive metal that is not needed for a road bike application.


First Impression

I got interested in the AER when I first saw it on display at the Taipei Cycle Show. Made some research thereafter, and it dawned upon me that that it does makes sense using the Norglide “bearing” for the upper bearings as the stress level is lower there. There is also no high speed rotation at the headset area, which will make the application of the high wear rate bearings unsuitable. Since then, I was eager to get hold of a unit for my road bike.

When informed by Gilbert, of Hup Leong Company, that the headset has arrived, I headed down immediately. Gilbert “threw” the AER packaging box to me telling me it’s an empty box, I almost took it for real. It’s really very light, feeling as if it is weightless…

Installing it

Fixing was straight forward with the help of a normal headset press. After getting the cups in place, coat a thin layer of grease on the surface of the lower bearing and the top bushing to protect and to lubrication the headset. The trick to a no resistance headset is the preload bolt. For those doing this for the first time, it will take a few experimental attempts to get it right. Too tight and you get a lot of resistance; too light and it will cause play in the headset. The first impression after installing the headset was the top of the headset is as thin as an integrated headset. This means I have the option of lowering my front end for a even more aggressive geometry.

Riding it

First ride, the steering felt just a little stiffer just like bearing that has been packed with thick heavy grease. After an hour of ride, the stiffness in the steering just does not feel as noticeable as before.

Cane Creek claimed that the Norglide® X2 bearing is durable enough to provide over 450 hours of smooth steering in laborarotory conditions. But depending on the acutal riding conditions, you may experience higher wear rate. Only time will tell how long this headset will last in local conditions. To those who are concern about the cost of replacement, it might be comforting to know that it will cost around SGD $15, to do so. So assuming you clock 8 hours of riding each week, each change should last you about a year.

Conclusion

Traditional bearings headset has been around for ages, from loose bearing types to those using ultra smooth cartridge bearings. Cane Creek took a very brave move in adopting bushing in their AER. This resulted in a headset which boasts more than 50% weight savings over other comparable headsets. This is a headset upgrade for road cyclists with an eye on weight, but given the high cost to maintain the bushing, I would recommend it for your race bike only.

Cane Creek’s AER is available in Traditional 1-1/8″, Integrated (IS) and Zero Stack (ZS) even the mix and match option is available for those who have tapered head tubes and steerer tubes.