How to Choose the Right Wolf Tooth Headset

By Stan Portus –  13 October 2020

There is a myriad of factors to consider when choosing the right headset, from frame compatibility, size, bearing choice, to stack height. Read the guide to Wolf Tooth’s headsets to find out which best suits your bike and riding.

Choosing the right headset can be a minefield. There are loads of different types and loads of different measurements.

But it needn’t be confusing. This guide to Wolf Tooth’s headsets will help you establish which headset you need by running you through headset types and what measurements you need to know and how to establish them.

It also explains the different types of bearings Wolf Tooth uses in its Premium and Performance models, so you can be sure to get the right headset for your riding.  

Photograph showing Wolf Tooth Headsets on foam background in different colours

What Type of Headset Do I Need?

Wolf Tooth headsets are available in two main categories: Integrated and Press Fit. These are in turn compatible with different types of bike frame.

Integrated headsets consist of a pair of bearings, a star nut, and a top cap. With integrated headsets the bearings sit directly in the frame with nothing between them.

Press Fit headsets have the bearings sitting in cups. The cups sit between the frame and the bearings. If when you’re looking at your bike’s steerer tube and you can see a headset cup, or even just the flange of the cup, then your bike has a Press Fit headset.

There are different types of Press Fit headsets, and Wolf Tooth headsets are available in two types: External Cup and Zero Stack. External cup is where the bearing cup sits outside the frame. Zero Stack is where the bearings sit inside the frame.

Headsets can be one type for the upper and another for the bottom. For instance, you can have a Zero Stack at the top and an External Cup at the bottom. No need to fear though, Wolf Tooth sell uppers and bottoms separately so you can always get the right combination or bearings for your bike.

The three different types of headset are given the following acronyms, so you can easily understand what you’re looking at and what you’re looking for:

IS (Integrated): the bearings sit inside the frame with nothing between them
EC (External Cup): the bearing sit inside a cup which sits outside the frame
ZS (Zero Stack): the bearings sit inside a cup which sits inside the frame

What Size Headset Do I Need?

The bike industry loves standardising things, but only so far. When establishing which headset you need, you need to measure your fork and steerer tube in several places to make sure you get the right one.

Firstly, check to see if you can get the measurements for your frame from the frame manufacturer. This will speed up the process and remove the need to remove your existing headset before ordering your Wolf Tooth headset.

If you aren’t able to get the specific details, you may need to remove your current headset from the frame, preferably with specific tools to minimise the risk of damaging the frame.

You will need to measure the inside diameter of the top of the headtube and the bottom of the headtube in millimetres. Measurements are rounded to the nearest millimetre.

You will then need to measure your steerer tube in two places. Firstly, the outside diameter of the top of the tube, and then the outside diameter of the very bottom where the steerer goes into the fork crown, where the lower bearings sit.  

Ok, So What Next?

After taking these steps you will have all the information you need to establish which headsets you need. You should have established six things:

1) Upper headset type
2) Upper headset internal diameter
3) Upper steerer tube outside diameter
4) Lower headset type
5) Lower headset internal diameter
6) Lower steerer tube outside diameter

Here is an example:

1) Zero Stack upper headset
2) 44m upper headset internal diameter
3) 28.6mm upper steerer tube outside diameter
4) External cup headset
5) 49mm lower headset internal diameter
6) 40mm lower steerer tube outside diameter

This would mean that you would need a ZS44/28.6 upper headset and an EC49/40 lower headset.

If you follow these steps, you will know which headset to get every time.

Graphic shwoing the different parts of measurements of Wolf Tooth Premium and Performanc Headsets in external cup, zero stack, and integrated designs

Wolf Tooth Headset Bearings: Enduro Stainless or Black Oxide

Wolf Tooth has two tiers of headsets that use different types of bearings: Premium and Performance.

Wolf Tooth’s Premium headsets use Enduro stainless steel bearings for the ultimate performance. These bearings are built to the highest specifications for lasting quality, even through repeat exposure to the foulest conditions.

Wolf Tooth’s Performance headsets use Enduro Black Oxide bearings. These are chromium steel bearings with a black oxide treatment for superb durability and high load capacities. Ideal for riders looking to strike the perfect balance between affordability and quality.  

Headset Stack Heights

Wolf Tooth Premium upper headsets come with a variety of stack heights so you can be sure to get the perfect height for you without fiddling around with headset spacers (and giving your ride a slick and tidy look).

Available stack heights depend on the headset model:

Integrated (IS): 7mm, 15mm, 25mm
External Cup (EC): 6mm, 15mm, 25mm
Zero Stack (ZS): 6mm, 15mm, 25mm 

Mix it Up or Make it Match?

There’s a lot to get your head round when choosing the correct headset bearings, but it’s not all types and measurements. There’s some fun to be had too.

Like Wolf Tooth’s other components, its headsets are available in nine colours. So, you can customise your build and give it that extra bit of finesse with a matching headset, headset spacers and chain ring bolts, or mix it up with some clashing colours.

Either way, you’ll be sure to make your fellow riders look twice.

Wolf Tooth-Wolf Tooth Premium External Cup Headset--saddleback-elite-performance-cycling

Wolf Tooth Premium External Cup Headset

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Product image for skus WTZS44U15mmBLK, WTZS44U5MMBLK, WTZS56L40BLK, WTZS44U25mmBLK

Wolf Tooth Premium Zero Stack Headset

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Product image for skus WTIS41U5MMGLD

Wolf Tooth Premium Integrated Standard Headset

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Product image for skus WTIS41U5MMBLKB, WTIS52L40B

Wolf Tooth Performance Integrated Standard Headset

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Wolf Tooth Performance Zero Stack Headset

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Saddleback Elite Performance Cycling