All about our headsets

Buyer's Guide | Headsets

All about our headsets

The world of headsets can be very confusing and complicated. In this buyer's guide, we are going to help you understand the different types of headsets and which headset you need for your bike. You will be able to determine the right headset for your bike by going through all the steps.


What is a headset?

The headset of your bike is the part where your handlebar rotates in the frame of your bike. Rotating your handlebars is possible with the help of three parts: The frame tube (or so-called head tube), the steerer tube (the tube that slides into the head tube), and the bearings and their associated parts. The head tube and steerer tube are part of your frame, but the bearings can wear out over time, need some maintenance, and can be replaced if needed. We sell a wide variety of headsets to make sure there is always one that fits your bike. Read further and find out how to determine the right headset for your bike, or check all sizes of our headsets in this overview.

Exploded view Headset

S.H.I.S code

In this buyer's guide, we lead you through the steps of finding the right headset for your bike. We identify our headsets with the commonly used S.H.I.S (Standardized Headset Identification System). Every step below will help you find the different parts of the S.H.I.S. In the illustration beside you can see how a S.H.I.S code is build up. In the next three steps, we will show you how to find Section A, B, and C of the S.H.I.S code.

As you can see, the S.H.I.S code consists of 2 parts separated by a dash. The first part (before the dash) shows the code of the upper part of the headset, and the second part (behind the dash) shows the code of the lower part of the headset.

S.H.I.S. code

STEP 1 | Different types of headsets (find the A)

Different bike brands use different headset types. Therefore it is important that you pick the right headset type for your bike. Generally, you can make three categories; Integrated, Zero Stack, and External Cup headsets. This will give you the first part of the S.H.I.S. code (part A1 and A2). Be aware of the fact that the upper side of your headset can be a different type than the lower side. For example; it is possible to have a Zero Stack upper and an External Cup lower. Determining the right type is the first step in finding the right headset for your bike. In the illustration beside the three types are explained. Below you will find a further explanation of the different types and their code.

Different types of headsets
Integrated (IS)

Integrated (IS)

As the name suggests, the headset is integrated in the frame of the bike. The bearings are directly placed into the frame. This means that there are no cups between the frame and the bearings. This type of headset gives you the code IS.

Zero Stack (ZS)

Zero Stack (ZS)

Zero Stack, or also known as 'Integral' or 'semi-integrated' means that the bearings are inside the frame tube as well, but the difference with Integrated is that Zero Stack type headsets have a separate cup between the bearing and the frame (as you see in the illustration, there are 4 parts in both upper and lower part of the headset instead of 3 as in the illustration of the Integrated headsets). This type of headset gives you the code ZS.

External Cup (EC)

External Cup (EC)

The External Cup type is most obvious as you can see the bearings above and below the frame tube. The bearings are not exposed but hidden in a cup that slides into the frame. This type of headset gives you the code EC.

Step 2 | Measure your frame tube (find the B)

Now that you have identified the type of your headset you have to measure the inside diameter of your frame tube. Remember? Your frame tube is the tube of your frame where the steerer tube slides in. To measure the inside diameter of your frame tube you have to remove the headset bearings (and cups if needed) so that you have a completely 'empty' head tube. Measure the inside diameter of both the top and bottom of the head tube (one measurement where the upper bearing was before, B1, and one measurement where the lower bearing was before, B2) in millimeters. Both measurements can differ as the head tube can be tapered. Write these measurements down.

Measure your frame tube

Step 3 | Measure your steerer tube (find the C)

Last but not least, the steerer tube has to be measured. Here we measure the outside diameter. This also has to be done on both upper (C1) and lower (C2) parts of the steerer tube. The upper side is often easy; the Outside diameter of the top part in millimeters. The lower side can be slightly tapered, so be aware of that and measure the widest part that goes into the frame tube in millimeters. Write your measurements down behind the parts of the code you previously gathered. Make sure you write down the upper measurement behind the upper code (B1 and C1) and the lower measurement behind the lower code B2 and C2).

Measure your steerer tube

Find the right headset with your code

Now that you have gathered all parts of the S.H.I.S code you can look on the category page of the headsets to find the right headset for your bike. Click on the link below. Remember how to build up the S.H.I.S code? Take a look again at the illustration on the right. Want to have a complete overview of the sizes of our headsets, check our size table.

Find the right headset with your code

Quick tips

Maintenance of your headset

Tip 1 | Maintenance of your headset

Now that your headset is replaced, it is important to maintain it the right way so that it will last longer. Bearings are quite vulnerable, therefore they are not exposed to the outside world. At first we want to give a a fairly general tip: Maintain your headset the right way. Follow instructions or ask your local bike shop to make sure your headset will work properly for longer.

Avoid water getting into your headset

Tip 2 | Avoid water getting into your headset

Avoid water getting into your headset. When washing your bike, don't point the pressure washer or hose straight on the seams between the frame tube and the head tube. The headset is made to avoid water leaking in, but they are not waterproof. Wash your frame around your headset with a sponge, water, and soap, but avoid 'pushing' water into the seams.

Avoid water getting into your headset

Tip 3 |Feel something weird?

Your headset is a vulnerable part of your bike. Even with the best care and maintenance, eventually it will wear out. Therefore, make sure you check your headset regularly. If you notice something weird while riding; you feel a bit of space, it is doesn't rotate as smooth as it used to be, or you even hear a different noise. To avoid any further damage on your frame or other parts of your bike, make sure you check your headset, or let it be checked by your local bike shop. A good check of your gear is never a waste of time!