Crank Brothers headsets go downhill

Opium for the descending masses

Mike Johnston and Christina Orlandella from Crank Brothers dropped by the spacious, plushly carpeted BikeRadar offices recently to show us the latest in their range of headsets, the Opium.

Designed for downhill racing, the Opium has an all-steel body for toughness, but still weighs a feathery 66g in a 1 1/8in version.

Crank Brothers gets the weight down by incorporating the bearing surface in the body of the headset, rather than having an insert. That also helps reduce the stack height, which helps keep handlebar height under control on long-travel bikes of all stripes.

To make it downhill tough, Crank Brothers squeezes in 34 balls top and bottom – the equivalent Cobalt cross-country headset uses 28.

The Opium is available in two versions, the all-stainless Opium SL for £100 and the £65 Opium C, made from 52100 bearing steel.

All-mountain wheels emerge

Crank Brothers is also now shipping its Iodine all-mountain wheels in burnt orange, and much as we try not to be swayed by appearances, it’s hard not to notice that they look gorgeous.

For £800 a pair, they better work as well as they look.Mountain Biking UK’s thrashmeister general Doddy grabbed a set from Mike and Christina and will be putting through their paces for a review in an upcoming issue.

The Crank Brothers folks admit they’re no threat to Mavic in the wheel stakes – they say they’ll probably sell about 5,000 pairs worldwide in 2009. But being small means they can be different, and the design of their wheels, with no strength-robbing holes in the rim, is highly distinctive.

It’s proven effective, too, with the Cobalt cross-country wheels turning out to be tough, although not the lightest. Christina admitted that there were lighter race wheels out there, but stressed that Crank Brothers was going for general-purpose strength rather than chasing grams. That way often lies wheels that impress more on the scale than the trail.

The Iodine wheels come with adapters for standard 9mm quick release drop-puts, and 15mm and 20mm through-axle systems.

Coming soon

Crank Brothers originally announced its wheel range in 2007, and parts of the range are still trickling through the system from product development to manufacturing. The Opium and Sage wheels for downhilling and freeriding respectively will probably appear later in the spring.

There’s no sign yet though of a 27.2mm version of the Joplin height-adjustable seatpost. Mike told us that this is proving a hard component to get right because the narrow barrel just doesn’t give much space for the mechanism. Those of us with old school skinny seatposts are just going to have to be patient. Or buy new bikes…

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