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Old 02-29-08, 08:04 PM   #1
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Headset envy. Should I care?

A friend and I are building up commuters on a Surly cross-check frame.

Forks and headsets are installed, his turns silky smooth just like the 3 bikes I've built up before, but mine doesn't - it takes a little more effort, you can feel that there is mechanical stuff going on in there. His is a Cane Creek S3. Mine is a Ritchey Scuzzy Logic Comp.

I'm just sort of wondering if it matters. Does this just happen, and I've been spoiled in the past?

At this point it will be a bit before I can go for a ride and test it out, as I'm still building the wheels. But here's what I think I know:
- cups were pressedwith a headset press and I think fully seated
- no, I did not ream and face the head tube. I razored off the paint. It was a new frame, in the box.
- I did not get crazy and torque the heck out of the top nut
- no glaring operator errors that I can think of
- I took it apart to make sure I had all the bits in right, pretty sure I do

So I guess my questions are:
1) did I buy a POS model of headset? I just got it because it was there, and I wanted a silver one.
2) worry at this point, or just ride it and see? Will I even notice once I get it all together? Will it get better?
3) think I'll do any damage, to anything besided the headset if I just carry on? I figure if it goes to hell, I can buy a new headset and reinstall. Don't see that the head tube or fork is going to suffer.
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Old 02-29-08, 08:18 PM   #2
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The Ritchey you bought is an inexpensive model, but if set up correctly should be just as smooth as your buddy's S-3...it just may not last as long.

I'd first check it over again to make sure none of the bearing cages are upside-down.
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Old 02-29-08, 08:28 PM   #3
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Frames need to be faced and prepped before you install anything on it.
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Old 02-29-08, 09:31 PM   #4
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Frames need to be faced and prepped before you install anything on it.
Sort of 1/2 done already. Here's some more thoughts on that.

Wordbiker, I've used S-3 in the past. Like them. Only bought the Ritchey because it was chrome and there and $29. Will look yet again.
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Old 02-29-08, 09:58 PM   #5
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I have a cheap tange passage on one bike, and a chris king(two nut) on the other.
the tange is only very slightly stiffer turning than the CK, but as was mentioned, the tange will crap out YEARS before the CK.

you didn't mention the FORK CROWN RACE, did you remove the one on the fork and replace it with the ritchey?

Last edited by j0e_bik3; 03-01-08 at 05:26 AM.
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Old 02-29-08, 11:32 PM   #6
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- I did not get crazy and torque the heck out of the top nut
I assume you realize that the spec'd torque on the preload bolt may be really tiny? You can't tighten down the thing at all like you would any normal bolt. On my Chris King, it's 4-10 in-lb which is basically finger tight.

- Mark
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Old 03-02-08, 09:41 AM   #7
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As with any bearing, you want it only as tight as it takes to not wobble.
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Old 03-02-08, 01:16 PM   #8
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Frames need to be faced and prepped before you install anything on it.
I've built three Surly frames up within the past couple years and aside from scraping a little paint overspray, no other prep was necessary.

YMMV
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Old 03-02-08, 01:22 PM   #9
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I've built three Surly frames up within the past couple years and aside from scraping a little paint overspray, no other prep was necessary.

YMMV
Maybe for personal frames, but I wouldn't slack like this for customers. On my own bikes I wouldn't bother with facing bb's if a cartridge is going in unless it's really bad.

Last edited by operator; 03-02-08 at 01:30 PM.
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Old 03-02-08, 09:18 PM   #10
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Well here's my status...

Ritchey directions are conspicuously absent a torque spec. They say to preload then adjust. Woo hoo. But I'm just loose enough to not wobble.

No one I talked to has had any problems w/ Surly frames, so +1 dobber. But this one has a little irregularity on the inside of the top, and on REAL close looking the bottom race isn't squarely seated against the bottom of the head tube despite a good solid press. So I'm off to spend $30 on frame prep that I didn't want to. Should have it back tomorrow.
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Old 03-05-08, 12:11 PM   #11
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+1 to Operator. -1 to Surly, must have been made the day after a bender. But I still love them, this is just stuff that needs to be done.

I figured there was a chance I had just mangled the cup press job, but the guru at the shop noticed the facing was off as he cut it, much more than just paint overspray. Ream & face, re-press, smooth as silk. It no longer feels like a cheap headset. Though no doubt it will sooner than the good ones.

I'm really amazed at what a difference it made.

Other lessons learned:

Tip from LBS guru - press one cup at a time. BTW he, too, was surprised at it being so off. Said it is unusual.

Tip from me -- don't go to LBS on weekend. Lots of customers, and kids on the work benches. Young and spirited lad was most willing to help me. But when he approached my headset with the tool to thread and face the BB, I opted to thank him and return on a week day.
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Old 03-05-08, 12:20 PM   #12
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I am running into more and more issues with poor feature toleranceing on frames. I have experienced it across all brands, but they seem to all be AL frames FWIW.

Anymore I tend to suspect frame condition first when I run into a headset or BB binding issue.
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Old 03-05-08, 12:41 PM   #13
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Are these manufacturer's putting out a frame not ready to have a headset fitted? I can't see any excuse for this, surely they know that's what's going to happen, and the maker must be better placed than a shop or owner to do that work accurately (preferably before painting).

The only reason I can see for leaving stuff undone, is to maintain choice for the end user - like not cutting he steering tube to length.
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Old 03-05-08, 12:50 PM   #14
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Further to that comment, I see that the maker (Surly) warns that a bike shop might damage the frame in carrying out that preparation.
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Old 03-05-08, 02:35 PM   #15
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Are these manufacturer's putting out a frame not ready to have a headset fitted?
This is somewhat normal for a steel frame. Since steel frames are a minority, the need to face and chase threads seems a bit foreign. However that's how virtually all frames were shipped when virtually all frames were steel.

AL frames typically get machined after welding since tubes get warped etc. So they clamp the BB and machine everything square and perpendicular, whatever is required.

Carbon I don't know but I figure the tolerances in producing the frame require the frame be perfect when it comes out. I certainly wouldn't want to run a blade on a carbon anything.

Ti usually is cut pre-welding. I don't know how Litespeed is now but they used to have screwy threads (talking 10-15 years ago). Cup and cone BBs were virtually unusable. Merlin had very nice (expensive) threads, you didn't have to use a cartridge BB to keep things smooth. Since cutting ti ruins normal facing tools, ti frames are "what you see is what you get".

Steel you just sort of leave alone. The threaded BB, the head tube, even the seat tube. If a frame is well prepped by the builder then it'll be faced, threads chased, etc.

Many builders leave this detail work up to the shop. Keeps actual cost of frame down, lets shop make money facing things.

prepped many a steel frame,
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Old 03-05-08, 02:37 PM   #16
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Further to that comment, I see that the maker (Surly) warns that a bike shop might damage the frame in carrying out that preparation.
In this litigious day and age, I think this is prudent. A shop could easily nick something while prepping a steel frame. Surly won't want to be held responsible for such damage, the same way Honda won't be responsible if a local garage strips your Honda's oil pan threads when changing your oil.

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Old 03-05-08, 04:36 PM   #17
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I don't think this applies to your Ritchey headset, but many of the very best headsets (including Kings) are actually not "smooth". Since it is not a power-transfer bearing, silky smooth is not the ideal. Instead control and longevity are the goals. Kings feel sort of "indexy" in fact to a lot of people's hands. It is not a flaw, they are meant to feel that way.
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Old 03-10-08, 02:26 AM   #18
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Thanks for your comments. Its something I need to check with the frame builders I'm considering. They're all steel frames. Thorn I think is OK, since they supply complete with headset. The others I'll need to ask.

I still find it surprising that the might ship a frame unprepared in that way. Certainly all the makers I've looked at expect to sell direct to end users. OK you might say you shouldn't buy a frame if you're not able to do this preparation, but the same applies to other aspects. The same logic could be used to avoid threading the steerer or the bottom bracket. Or why fit braze-ons if a competent shop could do that after sale?

Cost saving must be the answer. The only other justification would be if they thought that some buyers wouldn't be fitting a headset at all, or were fitting ones that needed different sorts of facing. I don't think that's the case.

I would certainly think worse of Mercian or Bob Jackson if they shipped out frames with some of the critical finishing left undone. It could be poor commercial practice for them as well. If I need to find a shop that can do this machining, and that I trust, then they are likely to be offering me an alternative bike or frame in any case.
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Old 03-17-08, 12:07 PM   #19
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The only "justification" I can think of (excuse?) is that, once properly reamed and faced, you are dealing with bare metal. Left unprotected by the grease and the headset getting jammed in there, then you've got a corrosion problem. I think there's some validity to that. Of course there are work arounds by shipping in some grease, etc.

I'm OK with Surly's concept of we face it before we paint it, just razor off the overspray. It worked on one of the two bikes I've seen built. Not exactly a valid sample, nor am I speaking from any great depth of experience and knowledge.

I'll also admit that the skinniness of the steel head tube on the cross-check, compared to the two beefy MTB aluminum frames that I built up in the past, really had me on my heels. I was tempted to NOT have it reamed just because it didn't look like there was anything to it.

Oh well, that's why I'm building the bike instead of buying it -- to have a little fun, and learn some.
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