steering headset awkwardness
howdy bikeforum.net peoples.
last month i knew nearly nothing about bicycle mechanics and thanks to this forum, as well as the complete deconstruction and reassembly of my $150 pawn shop mountain bike, i'm glad to say that i know about everything i'll ever need to know for basic/intermediate maintenance and overhauling of parts.
i have one final problem in the reassembly that i can't quite figure out though. and it's directly related to the headset and steering. before i took everything apart, the steering worked fine. now that i've taken apart, cleaned, and regreased the bearings / bearing retainers in the headset, the steering feels extremely awkward.
most related threads i've read through reference the park tools headset instructions, which haven't helped me eliminate this problem. other threads have targeted an overtightened headset as the culprit. however, i don't think that this is my problem... since i can leave the headset fairly loose (with moderate play left) and i'm still feeling this awkwardness.
so, what does this awkwardness feel like?
well, first... things are stiff. second, as i ride down the street at 5-15 mph to test the steering i feel what i can only describe as a slight circular force that pulls from one side to another as the steering is directed straight ahead. basically the force seems to pull the steering a bit right, but then (as the bearings rotate or as a lean too much one direction?) i feel the force pulling to the left. the steering is definitively lacking a feeling of finese and ease of motion, but does not have any roughness that would be caused by dirt, etc. i would also describe the front/steering as feeling very "grounded"
so, do you think maybe i'm still failing to get the right tight/loose combination?
or maybe i have the bearing retainers facing the wrong direction (right now, the bearing retainer on the bottom part of the fork has the "open side" facing downard so that the the retainer is hitting the fork crown race and the "closed side" of the retainer is resting in the cup that attaches to the frame. the bearing retainer on the top part of the fork is resting with the close side down and into the frame cup at the top and the open side is facing up and rubbing against a metal cone which is then followed by a grey rubber cone, black ring, and 3 headset spacers).
or maybe i'm just completely missing the point with something else?
the headset is a mountain bike threadless headset. i am unsure of the diameter or brand.