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Old 04-02-12, 08:13 PM   #1
Ciufalon
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Threaded Headset bearing direction???

I just took apart the headset on my old touring bike and got interrupted in the middle of the process for a while. Now I can't remember the direction the caged bearings were installed. It is an old Tange, threaded headset. Does anyone have the answer? Were they all the same? Stumped here and do not want to ruin the headset.
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Old 04-02-12, 08:21 PM   #2
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Usually those retainers lay with the cage centre inwards towards the cup. So that the tips of the fingers are aimed out of the cup. Test fit by putting the cone on by hand and spinning. Usually the cone will rub on the centre of the cage if you have it on backwards.

Even better is to pop the bearings out of the cages and install them loose in the cups (lay a strip of grease down 1st to hold in place). This lets you almost double the number of bearings in there, spreads out the load and extends headset life by quite a bit. Really only needed on the bottom cup. Fill cup full with bearings and remove 1 (some say 2).
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Old 04-02-12, 08:26 PM   #3
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I've tried installing them in both direction on both the bottom and the to and can't tell any difference. That's why I am asking if anyone knows for sure. In fact, I am not even sure which side the races are on. Both sides of the bottom and top seem curved and smooth to me, like races. I just took the fork off to get the old grease out and put new in.
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Old 04-02-12, 08:30 PM   #4
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I've seen them both ways, cheaper headset with smaller bearings typically have the fingers pointing into the cup. Nicer headsets like Tange and Shimano has the fingers pointing out of the cup.

Take the bearing retainer out the bottom cup and slide them down the fork to see how they lay on the crown-race. If the bearings touch the race evenly both ways, they either orientation will work.
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Old 04-02-12, 08:36 PM   #5
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Thanks DannoXYZ. Seems like they work either way. I put the fingers pointing up on the bottom and down on the top. I guess i will get some indication if it is wrong upon taking it for a spin. I also may do the loose bearing thing in the near future if it will prolong the life of the headset. I'm grateful for the advice.
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Old 04-02-12, 08:38 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ciufalon View Post
I just took apart the headset on my old touring bike and got interrupted in the middle of the process for a while. Now I can't remember the direction the caged bearings were installed. It is an old Tange, threaded headset. Does anyone have the answer? Were they all the same? Stumped here and do not want to ruin the headset.
Here's a simple way to check, so you'll always know which way retainers go.

Flex your index finger into an arc. The knuckle simulates the cone, and underneath simulates the cup. Now place the retainer and see which way the balls will meet the respective part without the retainer touching.

Do this twice and it'll be so obvious that you'll never have to think about again.
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Old 04-02-12, 09:21 PM   #7
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I don't quite get the easy way to tell. In fact, I am not sure I understand it at all. The two races on the top at the top and bottom of the head tube are pieces the bearing cages can fit up into. Are those the cups? Those pieces set down onto pieces at the top of the fork crown/bottom of the steerer tube and top of the head tube where the races angle up towards the center. Can you tell me which is which - cone and cup? It seems I must have one (top one) of the bearing cages in backwards.

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Old 04-02-12, 09:50 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ciufalon View Post
I don't quite get the easy way to tell. In fact, I can't understand it at all. The two races on the top and bottom are pieces the bearing cages can fit up into. Are those the cups? Those pieces set down onto pieces at the top of the fork crown/bottom of the steerer tube and top of the head tube where the races angle up towards the center. Can you tell me which is which - cone and cup? It seems I must have one (top one) of the bearing cages in backwards.

Typical loose ball (or retainered) headsets are angular contact type bearings. They consist of a conical (inside) race and a cup like (outer) race. (Notice I didn't say upper and lower, because, while the cone is usually the lower component and points up, some designs are inverted.

The above applies to each bearing, so it repeats on the upper and lower end of the head tube (see picture here)

Now lets look at how it would work if the cone points up. The ball contact area is the lower inside of the retainer, and the cup touches the upper outside area. So the metal ring of the retainer has to be to the lower outside or the upper inside otherwise it would get in the way. The fingers that hold the balls don't count because they're actually between the balls and wouldn't touch anyway.

You might drop a retainer over the cone, and and hold the cup section and spin it (without the fork) to see if you can feel the the retainer rubbing.

Or try this. Roll a sheet of stiff paper or cardboard to form a cone (like a party hat) but as shallow as possible. Drop the retainer over the cone, and see if the balls can touch the cone with the retainer touching. Flip it over and see how that works out.

You can also flip the cone over and try the same experiment on the inside, looking again for balls to touch but not the retainer.

Once you can visualize the areas where the rolling contact happens, and those out of the way, you'll know which way the retainer has to be.
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Old 04-03-12, 12:46 AM   #9
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Thanks for the link and great explanation. I think I got it together right, but I'll find out for sure tomorrow when I ride. It was very difficult to tell how the bearings contact the cones and cups. I have them both with fingers up into the cups now and base of retainer down towards the cones. Was able to get it adjusted well, but it still doesn't feel as smooth as I would like, even with new bearing grease in there. The races were all in good condition. At least I know more about headsets now. It is a Tange Falcon headset.
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Old 04-03-12, 12:56 AM   #10
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I know from experience that if you get it wrong, you won't be able to remove the play from the bearings and have them run smooth.

- Mark
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Old 04-03-12, 05:25 AM   #11
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I know from experience that if you get it wrong, you won't be able to remove the play from the bearings and have them run smooth.
+1. Wrong is pretty darned obvious. Please don't ask how I know that.
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Old 04-03-12, 09:04 AM   #12
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Or.. just buy balls, loose, same size, stick them in the grease.
might even find the lack of the retainer allows space for another bearing ball.
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Old 04-03-12, 01:31 PM   #13
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Well, I think I got it right after several tries since I finally got all the play out of the headset and was able to adjust it correctly. Took it for a ride today and it's fine. I could not get it adjusted correctly no matter how I tried when the bearing cages were in other configurations. I do have a bearing kit, so I think I might just try the loose bearing method next time (or soon), as that sounds like a good alternative. Thanks for all the help and advice! I learned a lot from all the input.
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Old 04-03-12, 04:38 PM   #14
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I always told students at the coop that you should be able to see a full "ring" of the bearing cage with it seated in the cup.

Like this-



If the bearing were flipped, the ring would be broken up, and there wouldn't be that full, continuous ring of the bearing cage.

** No idea why that picture has a scalpel to get a caged bearing out of a cup, it was the first useful image from a GIS of "caged headset bearing". **

EDIT: that's a damn good FBNY post.
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