Wolf Tooth Precision Head Set: Quick Review- by Guitar Ted
With all the components we have to rely on for our bicycles to work, perhaps the importance of the head set gets lost in all the hoopla other components get. I mean, think about it- who talks about their head set? Almost no one. Bottom brackets? Well, they make noise, or get grumbly, and people talk about that component a lot. Wheels get their run for sure, and derailleurs, obviously we talk about how those are doing quite a bit. But when was the last time you heard anyone say on a ride or in the pub afterward, “You know what? That head set of mine is awesome.”
While I jest, head sets are of paramount importance. They connect the fork to the frame, and thus, your two wheels are kept in line by means of the head set. Have you ever tried riding a bike with a head set that is sticky, binding, or badly indexed? It’s maddening, nigh unto impossible sometimes, not to mention dangerous. Well, you get the point. Head sets are very important. Good head sets are not only important, but they have that rare quality of being lightweight and strong. Occasionally you may even get a head set that has those two qualities and is good looking too. That’s where the new Wolf Tooth Precision head sets come in. Riding Gravel received a nice example to test. Here I will share my experiences with this head set and tell you about the range Wolf Tooth is offering.
What It Is: Wolf Tooth head sets will be available in external cup, “Zero Stack” (ZS), and Internal (IS) types in eight anodized colors. Wolf Tooth boasts that their head sets have best in class sealing, are manufactured in the U.S.A., and pack Enduro bearings all at a very competitive price point. Here’s a feature set provided by Wolf Tooth:
- Custom-molded upper lip seal provides additional protection for upper bearing.
- Custom-molded dual lip crown race seal to protect lower bearing in the toughest conditions.
- O-ring steerer tube seal to prevent water intrusion.
- Enduro sealed stainless steel bearings top and bottom.
- Headset top covers available in 5, 15, & 25 mm stack heights.
- Available colors: black, silver, red, blue, green, orange, purple, & gold.
- Top assemblies include signature Wolf Tooth 5mm stem cap, aluminum preload bolt, and star nut.
- Designed and manufactured in Minneapolis, MN USA
- MSRP from $99.00 and up. Upper units range from $60.00-$65.00 while lower units range from $40.00-$55.00.
Because Wolf Tooth uses this special dual lip crown race seal, a special installation tool is necessary. Called a “Crown Race Setting Nose”, the aluminum fitting mates with a standard Park Tool crown race setting tool and fits into the Wolf Tooth Precision Head Set crown race perfectly without damaging the special seal while installing it on a fork crown.
I’d not try doing a Wolf Tooth crown race install without the special tool. I tried a dry fit of the standard Park crown race setting nose and there is no way you won’t damage the special crown race seal. Plus, the crown race for the Wolf Tooth head set is made from aluminum, and any uneven loading while setting the race may break that crown race, which isn’t shaped like anything else I compared it to, by the way. So, switching to another race…….not a good idea either. Either get the special crown race setting nose or buy your local bike shop mechanic a nice sixer of beer and tell him/her he/she needs this in the tool box. Trust me, it doesn’t take much to convince us bicycle mechanics that we need sweet, cool looking tools and accessories.
The head set also features three different height top covers so you can eliminate spacers and attain a cleaner look to your bike. The top caps come in 5mm, 15mm, and 25mm heights. I got the 15mm top cap for my application. These are chosen when you order the head set and come with the upper unit when you order. The head sets come in various colors which can be mixed or matched, upper to lower.
Installation and Impressions: I always recommend that component installs be done by professionals unless you feel that you are well versed in mechanical things and own the proper tools. While stories of hacks and home brewed remedies abound, you will be sorry if you foul up the installation of a $100.00 head set, so why take the chance? That said, I found that the Wolf Tooth head set install was pretty straight forward and using the special crown race setting nose was absolutely critical to my successful installation.
The head set I used was a “standard”, 1 1/8th straight steer tube compatible head set with external cups. The head set weighed in at 112 grams on my digital scale which was including all parts but the star nut. (Note- a star nut is supplied by Wolf Tooth with the lower unit.)
The look is absolutely great, as you would expect. The anodization is even, and rich. No faded areas at all. All the parts matched in color saturation. The bearings felt very smooth and the parts fit together with a noticeable precision. Pre-loading the head set is also straight forward and everything felt glassy smooth when I was finished and turned the bars back and forth.
At The Finish: The Wolf Tooth head set is a fine, precision piece of kit for your bicycle that not only works well, but is light and looks fantastic. Fans of anodized colors should be taking a closer look at these offerings which are made right here in Minnesota, USA. The anodized blue head set I received was very rich looking and the color saturation was spot on. The precision of the parts fit was as good as anything out there in boutique head set land. You won’t find better.
If there is anything negative to report here I would be hard pressed to find it. The head set has worked flawlessly so far in my Raliegh Tamland. I will say that a barrier to overcome with regard to purchasing this head set is the special tool required to set the crown race with. You wouldn’t need that with many other head sets in this class. However; if you can convince your local shop mechanic to buy that tool, then this would be no issue for the rider looking for a nice, light, good looking head set to compliment their bike build with.
Then there are those who will say that you can spend far less and get a competent head set which is as light and works as well. Yes, that is true, but it would not be available in colors and be made in the USA. If those two things mean anything to you, then the Wolf Tooth head sets make a lot of sense, If not, don’t bother with it. Neither way is wrong. However; there is a lot of “right things” going on with this Wolf Tooth head set, and so far it has provided me with exactly what I expected out of it while looking fantastic.
For more information on the Wolf Tooth Precision Head Sets see their site by clicking HERE.
This review will be updated in the future. Stay tuned……
Note Wolf Tooth sent over their Precision Head Set for test and review at no charge to Riding Gravel. We were not paid nor bribed for this review and we always strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.