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  1. #1
    Senior Member TacomaSailor's Avatar
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    Yet another "is this a headset problem?"

    Sorry to subject y'all to yet another headset question I am a very experienced rider and usually maintain all of my bikes. But I really can't determine if my favorite roadbike headset has a problem.

    2007 Specialized Roubaix Elite with about 6000 miles on the headset

    I can't hear any headset noise but I do feel a very slight (really slight!) clunk when I lock the front brake and try to roll the frame forward- backward.

    When I lock the front brake and hold my hand around the head tube I can feel a tiny movement (~1mm or less ??) movement between the head tube/frame and what Specialized calls the "headset cap."

    I can find no torque specs for tightening the cap bolt (8mm allen) but I've tried every thing from slightly tight to tight enough to creak to "I really don't wnat to put more torque into this thing." The amount of movement when rocking the bike with locked brake does not change.

    The bike handles well - descending at 35 mph in corners feels solid and there is no head shake, frame shake, speed wobble, or other evil sensations. The handlebars turn freely with no drag or catches. The steering feels very precise at all speeds.

    When braking with just the front brake (just testing!) at low speed - MAYBE I can feel a little shutter in the headset.

    I've read a bunch of other posts about the Roubaix headset (Specialized Mindset?). Many other owners have reported creaking problems with their Mindset headset.

    Do I have a problem or am I just making up a problem?

    I bought the bike "NEW" from an estate - the original owner had died and the estate agent thought the bike had never been ridden. It looked brand new to me - BUT the stem/handlebar arrangement was non-standard. There was a riser that I removed. The stem is one of the 'adjustable' Specialized stems that you can shim and turn over to get a variety of angles and heights.

    My headset says FSA so I assume it is the stock headset - it does look like the headset shown in the Roubaix Installation Guide.
    Last edited by TacomaSailor; 08-24-11 at 08:18 PM. Reason: correct spelling

  2. #2
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    Well, the most obvious thing to do to start with is to lose the stem 1st and then tight the center screw until u have no play no more. Since I did not read anything about losing the stem but just torque the screw I assume you are just torquing the screw w/o losing the stem. In that case nothing will happen. Did you lose the stem 1st??

    Second thing, u have to have at least 2 mm difference between the steering tube and the spacers (the spacers have to be 2mm over the steering tube), If you dont have that difference no matter how much you torque the thing it wont tight the headset.

  3. #3
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    ultraman pretty much covered it. You must loosen the stem clamp bolts first before any headset adjustment can be made and you must have a couple of mm gap above the top of the steerer tube and the top of the stem or the top spacer so there is room for the steerer to be drawn up by the top cap.

    So, loosen the stem clamp bolts and check to be sure there is a gap. Then, assuming you have a cartridge bearing headset (most current ones are) torque the top cap bolt to 4 to 8 inch-pounds~0.4 to 0.8 Nm) which should remove all play and preload the bearings slightly. Then tighten the stem clamp bolts to the recommended torque (typically 4 N-m for a carbon steerer tube and 6-8 Nm for a metal steerer).

  4. #4
    Senior Member Ira B's Avatar
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    If all other suggestions fail to resolve the issue I would take it apart for a detailed inspection.
    If nothing seems wrong also closely inspect.....

    The front hub bearings for play.
    The front brakes.
    The entire fork and all potential points of failure.
    The frame in the area around the head tube.
    Yep, THAT Ira

  5. #5
    Senior Member TacomaSailor's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies.

    I had previously adjusted the headset bolt with the stem attachment bolts completely loose.

    I took the stem off and removed everything except the pressed in races. Everything looks clean and new.

    I reassembled the headset as suggested and still had the same problem. I then noticed that the steerer was extending above the top of the stem by a mm or less. No matter how I tightened the top cap bolt the steer tube never got pulled snugly upward - thus a little play in the headset.

    When I purchased the bike it had a 2" riser below the stem and two 4 mm spacers/collars between the riser and the stem. I removed the riser as soon as I purchased the bike. The stem has a shim/flanged collar in it that can be rotated or inverted to change the angle and direction (up or down) of the stem. The shim has to be in place in order to tighten the stem clamp bolts.

    I removed the shim, cleaned it, returned it to what seemed like the same setting and now there is 2 mm gap, as suggested, between the top of the steerer and the top of the stem. I can tighten the top cap bolt as recommended and all the play in the headset is gone. It feels like a new bike.

    I don't understand why removal, cleaning, and re-installation of the shim fixed the problem but I'm happy. I guess that during one of my periodic adjustments of stem angle I got the shim out of alignment (how is that possible?) and never realized it was the cause of my wobbly headset.

    Thanks for the help.
    Last edited by TacomaSailor; 08-25-11 at 02:05 AM. Reason: clarity

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by TacomaSailor View Post
    I don't understand why removal, cleaning, and re-installation of the shim fixed the problem but I'm happy. I guess that during one of my periodic adjustments of stem angle I got the shim out of alignment (how is that possible?) and never realized it was the cause of my wobbly headset.

    Thanks for the help.
    It may be that you have interlocking spacers. If there are small "lips" on the spacers, installing one of them upside down would fill in the gap. It sounds like the problem originated when the original owner changed the stem configuration. They probably tossed a couple of spacers that are necessary after removing the riser.

  7. #7
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    You definitely have headset play. That's not in doubt. There are two scenarios/

    Play within the bearing, which would adjust out if the headset is tightened by way of the top cap (stem loosened, of course). If you've adjusted the headset to where it's noticeably stiff and there's still play, then you need to consider the other option, play between the headset and frame or fork.

    Drop the fork and check that the crown race is tight (immovable), next check that both upper and lower frame cups are immovably tight. These three are press fits, so if you can move them that's likely your problem. If you have a TiG welded frame I suspect that you may find the lower cup loose because of bellmouthing of the non-reinforces lower headtube.

    If the three cups are solidly tight, it gets complicated. I've seen headsets where the steel race is loose in the alloy cup, and other rare similar anomolies, so you have to run through them one step at a time.

    BTW- if you have an integrated headset some of these have been known to have wear on the conical interfaces which make zero paly adjustment impossible. This is fixed by re-machining the interface a hair deeper to re-establish the correct fit. If that turns out to be the issue, you can prevent re-occurance by bedding the races in a bit of adhesive to eliminate creep under load.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member TacomaSailor's Avatar
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    Just to summarize:

    There is absolutely no play in the headset now that the steerer is 2mm below the top of the stem and the top cap bolt can properly pull up on the steerer.

    The two 2mm collars/shims that fit above (part names are from the Specialized "Roubaix Frame Installation Guide" pdf) the "headset cap/spacer" and below the stem are smooth and flush on both surfaces so I don't think there is an up/down issue.

    I suspect that the adjustment shim/flange collar that fits inside the stem and around the steerer might have been slightly cocked or had a piece of grit under the flange and that made it just a part of a mm too high, thus preventing the top cap from engaging the stem.

    Everything is A-OK now. When I do future stem angle adjustments I'll be sure to check that the stem is still above the steerer.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by TacomaSailor View Post
    Everything is A-OK now. When I do future stem angle adjustments I'll be sure to check that the stem is still above the steerer.
    Great and glad all is well.. As you saw from the first couple of replies, there are two quick fixes to most "I can't adjust my threadless headset" questions;

    1. The stem bolts weren't loosened
    2. The steerer sticks up above the top of the stem or above the top spacer.

    Almost always it's one of these problems.

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