First Impressions: ACROS Zero Stack Headset

The ACROS brand may not be a household name here in the US, but the company has been cranking out components in Germany since 1999. In addition to headsets, ACROS offers bottom brackets, hubs, and even a shifting system that eschews conventional cables in favor of hydraulics. The company’s extensive range of headsets includes external cup, zero stack, and integrated models.

ACROS ZS top   ACROS ZS bottom

With all the different head tube and fork designs currently available, choosing the correct headset can be a daunting task. If you’re not sure which one you need, the folks at Cane Creek have an online tool that will help you determine which headset is compatible with your frame and fork. Our 29er test rig utilized a tapered headtube (and steerer), so ACROS recommended their ZS-44 and ZS-56 units. The German-made assemblies feature CNC construction and sealed, angular contact bearings. For the fashion conscious, ACROS offers the ZS-44 uppers in eleven colors, and the ZS-56 lowers in black, red, or silver anodized finishes.

Our test process for the ACROS headset was pretty simple–install it and then ignore it. To insure that everything went together correctly, installation was performed by the pros at Vecchio’s Bicicletteria. During our eight-month test period, we alternated between Carver and Whisky carbon forks, as well as Thomson stems of various lengths. The only maintenance that we performed was limited to a quick wipe-down and inspection when swapping out forks.

ACROS ZS-44 top

So how has ACROS’ headset fared against Colorado’s winter, spring, and early-summer riding conditions? To be completely honest, we basically forgot it was there. We never detected any creaking, knocking, or other issues. The bearings have remained smooth, and based on our very infrequent inspections, the seals have done an excellent job of keeping out dirt and moisture. This is no small feat, either, as much of our initial testing took place on snow-covered trails and roads. While it’s too early to offer a definitive verdict on the headset’s long-term durability, we’ll follow up with a one-year update (or sooner should a problem arise). If you’re looking for a set-and-forget headset, the ACROS should definitely be on your short list.

ACROS components are available from select US retailers. For additional information regarding availability, visit the ACROS website.

Disclosure: ACROS Sport GmbH provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

Under Test: Octto Professional Gel Bar Tape

octto

Octto‘s Professional Gel bar tape comes in no less than 15 colors, smooth or carbon textures, and features Gelicone™ Enhanced Comfort Foam. The tape’s extra-long length accommodates virtually any size handlebar, and the low-residue adhesive backing leaves less residue when it’s time to change tape.

Stay tuned…

First Impressions: RedMonkey Sports Grips

If you want to experience sensory overload, check out the grip section of your favorite bike shop, or better yet, one of the large online retailers. We’re talking hundreds of grips in a staggering array of shapes, sizes, colors, and materials. Despite all those options, RedMonkey Sports‘ founder Michael Nasco wasn’t satisfied with what the market had to offer, and the result is the company’s Sports Kärv family of MTB grips.

The US-made RedMonkey grips are constructed from a unique silicone formula that’s designed to deliver improved vibration damping and comfort, while still remaining durable. Knowing that one size rarely fits all, the company produces their grips in two versions: the 5mm Sports Kärv, and the 6.5mm Sports Kärv(xt). Both models measure 133mm in length, and are compatible with standard MTB-style handlebars (i.e. 22.2mm or 7/8″ OD).

For our testing, we chose the thicker Sports Kärv(xt) grips (MSRP $19.95). Installation was a snap thanks to a dab of clear hand sanitizer gel (a tip that we picked up from Jeff Jones). Once installed, our sample grips measured 34mm in diameter. The included end plugs (7g/pair) fit–and remained secure–in our test rigs’ steel and alloy handlebars. With an actual weight of 71g for the pair, the RedMonkey grips are on par with competitors’ products of similar shape and size.

Wrap your hands around the Sports Kärv(xt) grips for the first time, and you immediately notice their tacky feel. Whether riding with gloves or bare-handed, the RedMonkey grips’ smooth texture is surprisingly grippy. Unlike heavily textured or position-specific grips, repositioning your hands or adjusting your grip is quick and effortless. If the grips become dirty or greasy, cleanup is easy with a little liquid dish soap and water.

What impressed us most, however, was the Sports Kärv(xt)’s cushioning. Whether commuting over chip seal pavement, or navigating rocky singletrack, the RedMonkey grips provided a near-perfect blend of comfort and control. This is no accident, as the company utilizes a different silicone density and compression deflection ratio for the thicker (xt) grips. Despite this increased squish-factor, the grips didn’t require the death grip needed with thick, overly-soft grips.

Karv(xt)-Combo

RedMonkey Sports’ products are available at select retailers or directly from the company. A portion of each sale is donated to various cycling-related charities. In addition to grips, the company offers clothing and accessories that feature the RedMonkey Sports logo.

Disclosure: RedMonkey Sports provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.