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ktbikes
07-02-2006, 01:24 PM
After a week of scary steering, I started researching headsets.
Decided that I could do it myself (with my handy friend's help!) and bought a beautiful blue 1 1/8 threadless Chris King headset.
I also easily convinced my partner to give me the fork off his hardtail that is 3x's better than the stock fork that came with my Gary Fisher hardtail. I pulled everything apart (so fun!) - off came headset, stem, and fork... The bearings on my old headset - what bearings? : )
They were basically gone and so gross and gunked up.
My mountain bike has been my commuter bike as well, and this wet winter/spring must have just done the poor headset in.
Cleaned everything off, and the blue CK headset went on smoothly with the aid of a wooden board that we cut a stem-sized hole in and a rubber mallet. I am awestruck by this beautiful blue headset and my new fork...it's a different bike now and I'm so happy! Plus I'm rarely given opportunities to be a bike mechanic (no real problems until this), and it is a great confidence booster to just do it yourself. Now I want to buy the matching Chris King blue spacers of course.
Just wanted to share. It was a great bike mechanic day. :)
Oh, I guess the bike maintenance moral of the story is don't leave your bike out in the wet wet wet Pennsylvania weather all day, and if you do, perform regular maintenance on your headset. Otherwise you'll have to get a brand new beautiful blue one.

DebW
07-02-2006, 07:10 PM
Congratulations on that beautiful new headset. I've been having some headset woes myself, but I'm back to headset bliss again. I discovered this spring that my 1 inch threaded Campy Record headset had dimples in the fork crown race. It's over 20 years old and I've repacked it every year, but it's gotten to where it jiggles loose every few months. Riding with it loose probably lead to the crown race damage. When I discovered the race divots, I decided to replace the retainer bearings with loose bearings because I could put in 21 instead of the 20 in the retainer, and hopefully they wouldn't all sit in dimples at the same time. I had no end of troubles after installing the loose balls. Either the headset rattled on every bump (obviously too loose) or I felt the dimples and the fork didn't turn smoothly (obviously too tight). Last week the steering felt so bad that I went and bought a new headset. I was actually considering replacing a Campy Record headset with a $20 Tange (it was all the bike shop had) because the steering felt so unstable. I started the headset job on Friday night but discovered (1) that removing a fork crown race is a lengthy process, and (2) the replacement headset was not quite the right size (27.0 mm crown race rather than 26.4 mm). So I put the fork back on with the old headset but put back in the retainer balls. The first test ride I had unstable steering at low speed because it was too loose. So tightened it up and tried again. Finally got a headset with stable steering and no obvious divots. I'm very surprised at the difference between loose balls and a bearing race. Maybe the race keeps the balls from moving radially, or makes them less likely to rattle. In any case, my headset feels good again. I did order some tools for removing and setting the head races, and I'll have to order the correct replacement headset and do the job sooner or later. But I'm really happy to have stable neutral steering on my bike again for the moment.

ktbikes
07-03-2006, 07:21 AM
Happy to hear that you have your good steering back - what a difference to ride with a bad headset and then fix it. A new appreciation for that part of the bike has been gained here. DebW, is once a year the generally recommended service time for headsets? More often if you're in wet conditions? And, what does servicing entail - cleaning & repacking with grease only? Is it a good idea to get into the headset of my other (less ridden) bike to take a look at the bearings?

Thanks,
Katie

DebW
07-03-2006, 09:59 AM
I'd say once per year is enough for most riders, maybe twice for those who ride in lots of rain. Those with sealed (cartridge) bearing headsets don't have to bother, but note that sealed bearing cartridges can go bad and should be checked regularly and the cartridge replaced if necessary. General servicing involves removing the fork and cleaning the cup and race bearing surfaces in the bike's head tube, the fork crown, and the removable top race (that's 4 pieces). I just wipe clean with a rag, then spray with WD-40, then wipe clean again. Inspect for signs of pitting or divots. The bearings can either be cleaned or replaced. Most headsets will use 5/32 size bearings, but Campys use 3/16. Use a high quality thick grease, like Pedro's Syn grease, to repack. Put grease in each cup, on each race surfaces, and on the bearings, as you reassemble. It's really not a hard job and only takes 30 minutes, but be sure to readjust carefully and test ride. It should turn smoothly, without binding or stop points. If it jingles at all (bounce the front wheel on the ground) or the fork has play, it's too loose. If the steering seems wobbly or unstable it's probably too loose. A headset with divots may feel like it has a spring-loaded mechanism to always keep the handlebars pointed straight.

It's certainly worth checking the headsets of older bikes. I once pulled apart an almost-new headset and found 2 half bearings (this headset made noise whenever the bike hit a bump). You can feel the headset best by removing the front wheel and holding the fork near the crown while you turn the steering. Lack of grease is noticable. I was once helping a friend service her bike and noticed that the headset felt like it had no grease - I think it had never been serviced in 8 years. So I pulled it apart to regrease it. When I removed the fork from the frame, I looked at her face, and the expression on her face was as if I had just removed a leg from her best friend!

DebW
07-04-2006, 08:21 PM
My headset has been loosening regularly. I'm tightening it at least once a week now. And I finally figured out why. There is a washer between the top bearing cup and the lock nut which has a tab to fit into a groove in the threading on the fork. This washer is not supposed to turn (the tab in groove should prevent that), but it does. It turns when I tighten down the lock ring, and apparently it allows the lock ring to turn a bit when I'm riding so that the whole headset loosens. I couldn't figure out how that lock ring could turn without damaging the fork threads, but now I know. The washer tab has been cut by the threads. There are 4-5 threads lines cut into that 4 mm thick tab. I suppose they design the washer of softer metal than the fork so it doesn't happen the other way around (replacing the fork would be much more expensive). Now I believe I could simply replace that washer and my headset would quit loosening. But at this point I have a whole new headset (Campy Chorus) on order since my crown race has divots. This is probably one of the reasons that modern headsets are threadless.

DebW
09-02-2006, 07:00 PM
My bike has a new headset installed. Yipee! It's been needing it for awhile, and since we have a long weekend with rain expected, decided to get it done. Was concerned about the difference in shape (tapered vs flat bottom) of the old (1985 Campy Record) vs new (2006 Campy Chorus) fork crown race. I pulled out the fork and took it to my LBS to have them swap the crown races. The tools would have cost me $120+70, the LBS charged me $5, and installed a spacer behind my brake for clearance below the flat race, all in 10 minutes. Can't beat that service. I asked it they could run a tap over my fork threads to clean them up, but they didn't have the tap. Then I went home and got to try out my new Park tools for removing and installing the head cups - I did spend $28+55 for those tools and they were worth it. Still need to do the final adjustment after I get the bike off the stand, but I'm expecting nice smooth undivoted steering, and hopefully a headset that doesn't rattle loose any more.

roadfix
09-03-2006, 04:31 PM
Speaking of headset tools, this home made tool cost me about $5 many years ago.....and works almost as good as any professional shop tool out there...:)

DebW
09-03-2006, 05:20 PM
Speaking of headset tools, this home made tool cost me about $5 many years ago.....and works almost as good as any professional shop tool out there...:)

Cool. Where did you find the threaded piece and nuts?

roadfix
09-03-2006, 07:53 PM
Cool. Where did you find the threaded piece and nuts?

Most any hardware store should have them. Try to find the thickest bolt with fine threading, which may be a bit difficult to locate. Most bolts that thick come with coarse threading (like what I use) but that works fine. That's a 3/4" thick bolt I've got there.