The Vault's Guide to Compression Systems!

The Vault's Guide to Compression Systems!

February 22, 2017 • by Shelby Grimnes • photo credits: Ryan Upchurch

The Vault's Guide to Compression Systems! 

By: Josh Toy

In the past, scootering had nothing more than your typical threaded compression fork. The sport’s design and manufacturing has progressed at such a high rate that within ten years you now have a plethora of compression systems to choose from. I personally have ridden every compression system you could imagine in the sixteen years I've been riding - even down to experimental design concepts. Through the years, one problem still plagues riders old and new, the snafu of compatibility between compression systems. With brands consistently creating new ways of perfecting the way a compression system works for weight, strength, and user ease. The multitude of different diameters of bar steer tubes, clamps sizes, fork tubes, headtube heights, shim thicknesses, starnut sizes, topcap, and compression ring sizes is enough to leave a lot of customers overwhelmed. The worse part is, with all that listed, it's only the tip of the iceberg! The Vault feels it's crucial to break down the most popular compression systems and I will be your sherpa on this journey to the summit. Hopefully this article will give you a good understanding so you don't make the mistake of ordering the wrong parts while building your dream setup.


ICS Compression:

ICS was the first compression system to hit the scooter market, and is an acronym for Inverted Compression System. It's the cheapest and lightest option available but adversely the weakest.  ICS is comprised of a 1 1/4" starnut which is installed into your handlebars and uses an inverted bolt from underneath your fork to compress your front end. Some brands tend to use shorter bolts and have a top cap built into the top of the fork’s steer tube. Other brands use a longer bolt which has the top cap built into the bottom of the fork just above the fork arms. The lightest option is the shorter bolt, but in order to tighten this bolt you need an 11" inch long allen key. Some forks provide the allen key while others do not, which can make it incredibly difficult to find. You have to take the front wheel off in order to tighten/loosen your ICS Compression System and stripping or breaking either the compression bolt or starnut is a threat.

To run ICS your bars must have a slit cut into them. Unfortunately, slits create a weak point in the bar. The ICS Compression System is compatible with steel standard sized bars and any aluminum bar since aluminum bars are standard inner diameter and oversized outer diameter.
Pros: Affordable and light weight.
Cons: Difficult to work on, even more so with a shorter bolt due to needing a longer allen key. The starnut lacks strength. The slit can compromise bar strength.  Your front end tends to come loose quicker than most compression systems.


ICS10 Compression:

ICS10 Compression is a spin on the ICS predecessor. It involves the same concept as ICS Compression, while using a larger diameter bolt and larger corresponding threads on the starnut. This design is primarily used by Ethic DTC and Addict Scooters. This design is only compatible with the Addict and Ethic ICS10 Forks due to the increased diameter of the compression bolt. The ICS10 Compression System features the shorter bolt design, so the 11" inch long allen key is a must if you want to maintain your compression system. You still have to remove your front wheel to access the inverted compression bolt. ICS10 Compression tends to be much longer lasting than a normal ICS bolt and starnut thanks to the bigger diameter compression bolt. The steel Ethic DTC bars also feature a welded in ICS10 starnut which helps prevent the starnut from slipping out of the bars. The ICS10 Compression Systems are light and cost effective like normal ICS.

To run ICS10 you must have a slit cut into your bars which as you know, creates a weak point. Compatible with standard steel and any aluminum bars.
Pros: Affordable and light weight.
Cons: Difficult to work on due to the need for a longer allen key. The starnut, although bigger can still break. The slit can compromise bar strength. Your front end tends to come loose quicker than most compression systems but is better than ICS.


HIC Compression:

HIC stands for Hidden Integrated Compression. The original HIC design was invented by the guys at RAD Scooter Co. - the first brand to make both one piece t-bars and the first bar with backsweep. The HIC compression system lead the industry for quite a few years. A lot of riders toted it was the lightest, most affordable compression system you could buy. It generally retails for around $10-15 while increasing the reliability of ICS Compression. The HIC Compression System includes a shim, topcap, bolt, and starnut. Some brands manufacture their shims to have an integrated topcap, allowing for less components and an easier installation. HIC Compression is compatible with any HIC/SCS fork. You can also use an ICS fork with a little modifying by cutting off the forks ICS topcap and installing the starnut, but as you know, starnuts are not the strongest. HIC Compression is only compatible with steel oversized diameter bars. No aluminum bars will work. The shim slides over the fork and tightening the compression bolt pushes the shim down onto your headset. The oversized bars slide over the HIC shim, and with a slit cut into your bars, allows the clamp to lock the HIC Compression System in place. The advantages of the HIC Compression System is that it is affordable, and tends to stay tighter for longer than most compression systems. The weight is also average, but when you compare price to the strength and reliability, it's a very good buy. The one inconvenience is that you need to have a slit cut into the bars, which like ICS and ICS10, will weaken the bars over time.
Pros: Easier to install and maintain than ICS. Affordable. Stronger unless you still are using a starnut in your fork.
Cons: With the need for a slit, the bars integrity can be compromised.


IHC Compression:

IHC Compression has gained a lot of momentum over the past two to three years. The IHC Compression design was originally developed by Envy/Blunt Scooters. IHC Stands for Integrated Hidden Compression. It is a lighter take on the HIC Compression design. Allowing you to run standard sized steel bars and aluminum bars. IHC is actually built into IHC specific forks and cannot be used on any industry standard sized fork tube. With the popularity of riders wanting lighter scooters while also being on a budget, the IHC Compression is very affordable while also being reliable. IHC uses a smaller fork tube diameter with a shim, topcap and bolt. The IHC Shim slides over the slimmer fork, rendering it the industry standard size fork tube. It's basically a miniaturized version of HIC. Most IHC Forks have integrated threads for the compression bolt instead of a starnut due to the fork being a smaller diameter and it being a lot stronger compared to using a starnut. Most IHC Forks are priced around $50-80. The perks to IHC is it's cheap, light, pretty reliable and easy to work with. The disadvantages to IHC are few. You have to use a headset compression ring specific to the fork, as an industry standard compression ring will not tighten or fit properly on your fork. Most forks come with the IHC specific compression ring, so you do not want to lose it. The other inconveniences are that you need a slit in the bars. Also, some brands manufacture their IHC Forks using different specifications from Envy/Blunts design, which will not allow cross compatibility amongst aftermarket shims.
Pros: Easy to work on. Cost effective since you not only get a compression system, but a fork as well. One of the lightest options on the market.
Cons: With a slit, the strength of your bars can be compromised. Smaller diameter forktube means the fork is more likely to bend or break if you are a heavy rider.


Mini HIC Compression:

Mini HIC Compression is primarily used on Grit, Crisp, and Phoenix entry level completes. Mini HIC is exactly the same as IHC with just slight differences in diameter. So you cannot interchange IHC and Mini HIC shims or forks. This also creates problems with compatibility among most headset dust covers and compression rings. The design and function is like HIC and IHC. The shim slides over the smaller diameter fork steer tube bringing it to the standard size. Using a topcap and bolt which allows you to tighten the shim onto the headset. This hasn't been as popular of a design because of the compatibility issues that may come along with it.
Pros: Light weight. Easy to assemble and maintain.
Cons: Because of the differences between IHC and Mini HIC, cross compatibility amongst parts can be varied. A slit in your bar creates a weak point. If you break parts than the smaller fork tube may be too weak for you.


SCS Compression:

One of the original compression systems, invented by Andrew Broussard at Proto Scooters. It has become the most popular compression system on the market and is easily the most reliable. SCS Compression stands for Standard Compression System. It's design is alike a BMX stem but made to eliminate the offset that a BMX Stem would create. It's inverted design uses four clamp bolts and is used with a compression top cap and a bolt that screws into your fork SCS/HIC ready fork. Since the inception of the SCS Clamp, a Baby SCS version has been made to trim off weight. Some brands manufacturing them to allow the usage of standard and oversized diameter bars. So when purchasing your SCS Compression Clamp, pay attention to the description to be sure your bars are compatible. To assemble your SCS Compression, you slide the clamp onto the fork, tighten the compression bolt into the fork and the topcap compresses your front end together. Once your front end is tightened, you install your bars into the top of the clamp and align your bars. Your bars are now sitting on top of the compression topcap inside the SCS Clamp. You then tighten all four bolts to lock both your compression and bars in place. Depending on your fork’s steertube length and decks headtube height, you may need to use headset spacers to create clearance between the top of your fork’s steertube and the compression topcap. Full sized SCS comes in at 4" tall, most SCS clamps come in at 3" tall while a select few brands come in at 3 1/4" and 3 1/2" tall. The reasoning for varying height is to create more clearance for less headset spacers, or for your bars to be supported by a 2" portion of the top of the SCS Clamp. Some brands opted out of four bolts and only use three to trim off some weight and the need for additional hardware. The advantages of SCS far outweigh the disadvantages. The advantages being that you do not need a slit in your bars increasing the strength of your bars. The only disadvantage is that if you're prone to liking a light scooter, the SCS clamp can add a lot of weight. But in my opinion, it's function over form. SCS Compression is the strongest, most reliable compression system you can buy and a little added weight is well worth the trade off for the longevity of the rest of your parts.
Pros: Very reliable and typically stays tighter for longer than practically all compression systems. No need for a slit in your bars, so you can ride assured that they won't snap while hitting that ten set you've had your eye on. Use of standard forks and no slit in bars means this is the strongest set up. Very easy to install and maintain.
Cons: If you're partial to having the lightest scooter, the weight may discourage you. Aligning the fork, clamp, and bars frustrates some.

In closing, I hope that this article has given you a better understanding of what will and will not work together. As well as how they're put together and perform. You can check out our YouTube channel to see videos breaking down some of what I mentioned in this article. And in the future I hope this article helps you purchase parts wisely at!

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