WHAT: Cane Creek Double Xc (conversion) headset
HOW MUCH: $95
First off, this is a bit of a specialty item. Cane Creek's Double Xc headset enables riders with 1.5-inch headtubes to run suspension forks with the more conventional 1-1/8 inch steerer tubes. Folks, in turn, who have 1.5-inch headtubes are either people who have bought freeride bikes with the larger headtube size (it allows them to run the stouter, single-crown Manitou 1.5-steerer forks) or anybody who owns a Cannondale mountain bike with a HeadShok or Lefty fork.
Since I don't know any freerider who has decided to ditch their 1.5-inch steerer in favor of a skinnier flavor, I'm guessing that the primary market for this component is, in fact, Cannondale owners who want to run a Fox, Manitou, Marzocchi, or RockShox fork.
I was a member of that latter group. While I'm a big fan of Cannondale's Lefty fork (don't knock it till you've tried it), I was tired of hassling with roof racks that wouldn't accept the Lefty fork. There have always been minimizer kits available for Cannondale bikes, but the quality hasn't always been top notch. When Cane Creek came out with the Double Xc, I thought I'd give it a try. It's been two years and I've never looked back.
The Double Xc's headset cups fit directly into a Cannondale's headtube (the only exception here being the Cannondale HeadShock Ravens). The cups, themselves, are made of machined 7075-T6 aluminum and have a deep (20-millimeters) insertion depth for a burlier headtube/cup interface.
The headset utilizes integrated T-Seals to keep its custom-manufactured, cartridge bearings free of grit. I found installation of the Cane Creek no more difficult than that of your garden variety headset. The fork steerer slides through a couple internal spacers, and voila--you're running any fork of your choice.
I've had no problems with the headset to date. It stays properly adjusted, which is really the primary concern with conversion kits. I have found more grit in this headset than in my Chris King headsets, but there are few (if any) headsets that hold up to time and the elements as well as a King. I've simply compensated for this trait by being a little more on top of my headset overhauls. The headset also weighs 247 grams, putting it on the porky side of the scales, which I imagine will put pouts on the faces of gram-counters. But these are pretty minor considerations.
If spending $95 on this headset allows you to upgrade from your old HeadShok to something like a Minute or a Reba or an F100, you're looking at 95 bucks well spent. If anything, you'll probably only ask yourself why you didn't do it sooner.