Jim’s Tech Talk
By Jim Langley
Back in August in this space, the subject was speed wobble, which if you aren’t familiar with the term is the tendency of a bike usually traveling downhill to suddenly start shaking violently. The front end (front wheel and handlebars) start swinging side to side and may do so faster and faster. Worse, with some speed wobbles (also called high speed shimmy), nothing you can do will stop it.
To read more about the phenomenon, ways to deal with it if it happens and ways to stop it, go back and read the previous Tech Talk: https://www.roadbikerider.com/avoiding-bicycle-speed-wobble/. Be sure to read the comments, which contain many helpful tips. And, also, read part 2 of the story, which summarizes the best solutions for dealing with speed wobble: https://www.roadbikerider.com/comprehensive-list-speed-wobble-causes/.
Cane Creek’s Dewobbleizer Headset
If you’ve ever experienced speed wobble you know how scary it is even if you don’t crash because of it. And, if you have, you’ll probably be as interested as I am in Cane Creek’s new headset designed to stop speed wobble called the Hellbender 70 Visco.
Cane Creek already proved the technology for electric bikes with their ViscoSet. E-bikes can have step-through frames that are too flexible and prone to wobbling. Sometimes their batteries are located on rear racks, the worst place for the extra weight, which creates a tail wagging the dog effect and potentially awful speed wobble. So if the ViscoSet solved these issues, Cane Creek should have a winning new product.
I think it’s only fair to point out that bicycles designed correctly – and this includes e-bikes – should NOT wobble. You would expect every bike to be built and spec’d with proper performance in mind and even tested for things such as any tendency to speed wobble. But, unfortunately, some bikes make it to market that haven’t been tested enough or properly.
The Visco is a new headset designed for most regular bicycles. The ingenious features that stop the wobbles look like multiple tabbed washers. The tabs fit in keyways inside the headset. Cane Creek calls the washers damping plates and says that they have a viscous grease between them. This results in a damping action that is enough to stifle speed wobbles.
I haven’t seen one or used one yet but I’ve ridden plenty of other Cane Creek headsets and gotten excellent performance out of them. Price is $99.99 – $119.99 depending on which model is needed.
For Gravel Bikes
Of interest is that most of Cane Creek’s marketing does not specifically mention that the Hellbender 70 Visco is for road bikes that speed wobble. They say that it’s for “cargo bikes, commuter bikes, children’s bikes, gravel bikes, bikepacking bikes, and even an occasional mountain bike.” This is strange because as you’ll see if you go back and read the previous Tech Talks on speed wobble, roadies have been dealing with it the longest.
The fact that they do state that it’s for gravel bikes should mean that some of the models will fit modern road bikes. At this point I have a lot more to learn about it. I only have one bike that wobbles and it’s an oldie but goodie with a 1-inch threaded headset. I doubt this new headset will fit.
But, if I get a chance to test the Hellbender – perhaps on a booth bike at the Sea Otter in April (if Cane Creek attends), I’ll let you know. In the meantime, even if they don’t currently make a model that fits that wobbling road bike you might like to fix (like mine), I still think it’s great that they have invented something that might be available at some point in the future. Let’s hope it’s soon.
To learn more, here’s Cane Creek’s video introduction to the Hellbender 70 Visco headset:
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s cycling streak ended in February 2022 with a total of 10,269 consecutive daily rides (28 years, 1 month and 11 days of never missing a ride). Click to read Jim’s full bio.