With proper care and maintenance, your bike’s headset should be one of the most durable parts.
The headset fits perfectly into the head tube of the bike’s frame, connecting to the steering tube so that it’ll freely rotate. That allows for easy steer of the bike. But if you ignore it, you will experience premature wear, poor handling, noise, and frame damage that is costly to repair.
To ensure proper maintenance and quality care of your bike, here are some proven tips on maintaining your bike’s headset.
Keep it tight
Avoid riding with a loose headset all the time. The wrong bearing preload will damage the headsets and frame head tubes. Riding with the headset, too loose hammers bearings against the races and can ovalize the head tube and pitting it. Too tight and pits form on the races, giving a notchy and indexed feel when you are turning. With a threadless headset, you have to loosen the stem bolts, then at the top of the headset, locate the preload bolt and turn it clockwise. Tighten it enough to allow the bar to spin freely.
There’s no recommended torque spec for headsets; it’s a ‘trial and error thing or a ‘feel thing’- you tighten and try to confirm that it’s flexible for a ride. If your headset is threaded, try loosening the locknut on the top using a wrench. This allows you to access the adjustable cup fitting into the top of the head tube.
Clean and grease
Even the best sealed and highest quality headsets can be killed by water contamination. Bike washes and creek crossings push water through the seals, and that leads to corrosion. Cleaning and re-greasing the bearings keep off the corrosion and make your headsets flexible. If you’re living in a wet region, you can try doing that fortnightly due to the high humidity.
Use quality components
For perfect adjustment and increased bearing life, you should face and ream you’re your frame. The head tubes must be well constructed and free of defects so the headset can fit properly. Unless you know some bit of bike frames and components, you may not notice any defects until there’s a problem. But what you can control are the spare parts that you buy. Look for quality headset spacers and get a quality stem. Avoid those seemingly inexpensive options that are improperly faced. Such would lead to uneven loading of bearings, difficulty in adjustment and as well, excess wear.
Check out for headset problems.
A clicking and the creaking headset is a sign of trouble. If you’ve cleaned, eliminated the problems in the bar, greased the bearings, checked the cables, stem, and bar, and still theirs is the noise, then you may have to inspect the cup and the frame.
It reaches a point after you’ve used the bike for long or you’ve had an accident that the bike becomes irreparable. The excessive rust and play in the bearings are the primary signs that you need a headset replacement. Thus you have to read more and take your bike to your local bike shop, where there’s a variety of headsets and professionals to help you out.
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