don't pedal backwards...
Join Date: Jul 2005
Bikes: Surly Long Haul Trucker set up for commuting and loaded touring, old Sekine road frame converted to fixed-gear, various beaters and weird bikes, waiting on the frame for my Surly Big Dummy build
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I took the original headset off of my 1970s Sekine frame and replaced it with an Ultegra sealed headset. We had to face the surface on the fork where the crown race seats because the fork was set up for an older standard that was a slightly larger size. Jim at the HC had the tools for the job, but I think we went a tad too far down, since the crown race would fit nicely but couldn't be driven firmly into place (it would remain loose). He explained the beer can shim trick to me and said that he's done it a few times in the past when something like this happens, but we decided to try just assembling the headset as-is to see how it felt, since the crown race seemed to sit snugly in place as long as there was some downwards pressure on it.
Over the past few days (it's been a few hundred miles now), I'm noticing a distinct pop when I go over the right sized bumps/cracks in the road at the right speeds. I'm almost certain that it is the crown race rattling around slightly. I will be taking it apart sometime soon to address the issue, and I think JB weld sounds like the best solution to me. Pack it in there like epoxy to fill in the voids and eliminate the room for the race to bounce around once it has cured.
In short, the beer can trick is widely used when there isn't a perfect fit with the crown race and it seems to work fine, but JB weld might be better. Jim recommends using triangular pieces of can so you can slide them in further to get more shimming action. Once you get it about right, drive the race on and cut ot tear the protruding bits of aluminum off. Two shims sounds better than one to me.