Product Courtesy of Hup Leong Company
Following their wild success with the Eggbeaters, Crank Brothers is trying to establish themselves as a complete bicycle components manufacturer. In recent years, we have all seen various new bicycle components been churned out from their manufacturing line. While they have their fair share of ups-and-downs during their quest, the overall feedback has been positive thus far. One thing I have noted about their products is their radical outlook (meant in a good way) and they are usually one of the lightest in its class. This shows that the company’s ambition to be more than another run of the mill manufacturer, but one that dares to be different. The fact that their new products never fail to capture the imagination of the public shows the extensive thought process that went into designing the products.
The new Cobalt SL headset from Crank Brothers aims to be the new contender in the featherweight headset segment. At only 60g for the cups (95g including starnut, races and top cap), it is one of the lighter headset which is sanely priced. It is true that there are lighter headsets available, but most are priced at such a high premium that their weight saved per dollar ratio simply does not justify the sum. Cobalt is built specifically for road bike and XC use. If you are an aggressive rider who does more than keeping your rubber on the ground, you should scout for its beefier brother, the Iodine. Similar to the Cobalt the Iodine has more bearings at the lower cup to spread out the abuse and weighs 5g more.
To achieve its lightweight, Crank Brothers has adopted the Directset approach in which the need for outer bearing race is eliminated. Instead, the headset cup doubles up as the outer race at the same time. By reducing redundant components, the Crank Brothers is able to reduce the headset weight substantially, but so is serviceability. Unlike conventional headset which allows you to replace the bearings when their life is up, a Directset headset will need complete replacement when the bearings died. However, if serviceability is a major concern, it will be a comfort for buyers to know that Crank Brothers is backing up the Cobalt with a full 5 years warranty. Other than the brushed stainless steel version, the Cobalt also comes in titanium and painted steel.
The Cobalt gave a very neat and minimalist feel right out of the box. The materials are trimmed down to pure essential. During installation, make sure the headset press does not press down on the inner bearing race only. Excessive vertical compression force to the inner race could kill the bearings. Instead, make use of the installation tool that is supplied so as to spread the clamping force over a larger area. Performance wise, it performed like all top quality headset with smooth bearings and quality seals that separate the bearings from the harshness of the environment. However, my short time on the headset means that this is not a conclusive test on the durability of the headset which usually takes years to determine.
At their MSRP price range, there is no shortage of alternatives. In fact buyers will be spoilt for choice as there are many brands, designs and even colours to choose from. Cobalt will entice minimalists who are looking for lightweight and lowly stacked headsets that do not burn a hole through their wallet. So if that sounds like you, it might be advisable to check out the Cobalt; or Iodine if you are more aggressive rider. With its 5 years warranty, buyers would have a piece of mind knowing that they will be taken care off should anything goes wrong.