Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the toolbox
No, not 1-1/8th” headsets are not making a comeback. This is 1.8″ tapered headsets. New headtube and fork steerer/crown standard seen at Eurobike.
Seen here on a new 2020 e-bike from German brand Bulls.
Before you go and throw your phone/tablet/laptop/desktop into the nearest canal in disgust, we should first state that this new standard appears to be purely for e-bikes, which are already hotbeds of proprietary parts and new gen obsolescence.
Why 1.8″ tapered? As is often the case, the name of the game is stiffness. Gotta have more stiffness.
The general theory with 1.8″ tapered is that e-bikes are significantly heavier than regular bikes and fore-aft flex under braking is more pronounced on e-bikes. A previous solution to flexy forks have been upping the size of the stanchions, the current biggest diameter stanchion for trial and enduro bikes being 36mm.
Another solution to front flex has been downhill-style triple clamp forks, such as those seen on the new Cannondale Moterra SE with its RockShox Boxxer fork.
To some people’s minds, it’s the latter solution *triple clamps forks) that seems the most sensible option. They exist already and having two fork crowns is always going to A Good Thing for fork stiffness (dual crowns are a reason why the single-leg Cannondale Lefty fork is actually very stiff).
Perhaps the slight fly in the ointment with triple clamps on e-bikes is the potential of a reduced turning angle. E-bike down tubes – and head tubes – are already commonly much fatter than those on regular mountain bikes. This is due to the frame having to accommodate a battery as well as being overbuilt for strength. Running a triple clamp on some e-bikes would mean the fork leg would hit steering lock too soon in its arc and thus make it impossible to get around tight switchbacks and so on. Not to mention, preventing e-freeriders from laying their tabletops sufficiently flat.
Anyhoo, the 1.8″ tapered standard is a thing. RockShox and SR Suntour, at least, are making forks in this flavour. Will it spread on to non electric bikes? We currently don’t think so. Don’t go saving up for a new headset press just yet.