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Does anyone have any experience of the Cannondale Headshok suspension system, where the shock is in the head tube / above the fork?

Are they reliable? I'm looking at a Cannondale Bad Boy 2 (2013) and am concerned that if something goes wrong it could be hard to rectify..

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Can you swap out a regular suspension fork or rigid fork in place of the headshock if you cannot repair it? –  Benzo Mar 9 '13 at 16:12
    
I don't know - that's the kind of information I'm hoping to find out! –  jimmy_terra Mar 9 '13 at 17:53

3 Answers 3

I only know this system from older times, perhaps current (2013) systems have different qualities.

It uses a wider head tube, because the shock is placed in the steering tube of the fork. Usually, you can install adapters to the frame, so that you can use a normal suspension fork.

The main difference is that, instead of using telescopic stanchions, it has a squared tube with needle bearings. When new, this system has virtually no static friction, so it will be VERY responsive to minor and/or high-frequency road irregularities, such as cobblestones, rough gravel, and rooty trail sections.

If something goes wrong it's usually the needle bearings themselves, which develop progressive "play", thus needing service/replacement, which in turn can become "complicated" since only Cannondale can service them or provide replacement parts, as far as I know. I have seen some problematic Fatty forks in the past, but I have also seen A LOT of people happily using Fatty and Lefty (which uses the same principle) without issue.

Hope this helps!

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Brilliant thanks. In your opinion is it a worthwhile addition, or should I just go for a rigid carbon fork instead? Does it add about as much weight as standard shocks on a sport hybrid (in other words, there are less complicated alternatives)? –  jimmy_terra Mar 10 '13 at 11:51
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I'd say these systems (Fatty or preferrably Lefty) are state-of-the art oddities in the bike suspension world, since they are very light, structurally stiff and work very well, but IF they happen to need service AND you don't have easy access to the rather sparse and probably expensive support, the benefits might end up being overwhelmed by some frustration... This should be very exceptional, though, since the system exist for many years by now and is very mature. Unless you plan to buy second hand. –  heltonbiker Mar 11 '13 at 2:25

I have experience of them, yes. They are great, when they work. Other than the Lefty, they are probably one of the better short travel cross country mountain bike forks if by best, you mean stiffest & lightest.

But you are considering a 'BadBoy' which is usually used on-road. In this case, a fork, headshok or not, is at best a bit of a waste of time, and at worst, a costly mistake.

The dirty secret of suspension forks, Headshok, or otherwise, is that they need regular and quite specialised maintenance, and if you don't treat them right, they suffer, and eventually die, and it's expensive to repair / replace them.

Are they any less reliable than 'normal' forks? No. Do they suffer from the same problems if left unmaintained? Yes.

If you ride on road mostly, and want comfort, go for bigger tyres and a rigid fork for simplicity & reliability.

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I think the headset on the headshock system is propriatary and can't be used with existing 1 1/2in forks, but uses the same oversized headtube, so you can swap the headset with a standard 1 1/2in or use a reducer for 1 1/2in to 1 1/8in.

So, If you can't service the fork, You should be able to swap out the fork if you get a reducer headset (1 1/2in to 1 1/8in), a new stem, and a new 1 1/8in fork. Headshock is pretty low travel, so you'll probably want a fork with low travel, an adjustable travel fork, or a suspension corrected rigid fork.

Sheldon has a page with some info on the system and links to manuals: http://sheldonbrown.com/cannondale-headshok.html

You could possibly rebuild it, parts are out there. Honestly, unless you were getting a smoking hot deal, I'd avoid proprietary crap like this.

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