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Quick noob questions about my Domane headset, a noise, and loose headset parts

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Quick noob questions about my Domane headset, a noise, and loose headset parts

Old 10-09-15, 02:02 PM
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Quick noob questions about my Domane headset, a noise, and loose headset parts

Hi kids, dumb noob questions:

So the headset/steering of my 2015 Domane 4.5 disk starting making a noise the other day. Sort of a quiet high-pitched...whining? when you turn the handlebars. it's pretty soft in volume, and you can only really hear it indoors when, say, the bike's in the trainer, where it's really annoying. The noise almost goes away if you unload the headset by picking the front wheel while turning the bars, and gets much louder if you put weight on the bars while doing same. I also noticed there is a lot of grease (and the dirt it's picked up) at the place where the fork meets the head tube. There are no other steering issues or binding, etc. The bike has a little more than 1k miles on it.

I decided last night to pull the headset/steerer apart, (thinking that the races and whatnot would stay in place from friction,) and wipe the dirt and grease out of the top of the fork, and have a look and see what's going on in there. Imagine my surprise when basically the whole thing just came apart! The bottom cartridge and race followed the fork down, and the upper cartridge and compression ring were just as loose, and I was able to pry them up with my fingernails with no resistance.

My questions:

1) is this correct?? my impression, as a noob, was that the cartridges and races are a tight friction fit, or at least the races are, but these are just held there by the stem.

2) is there supposed to be some sort of dustcap between the bottom race and the fork? or is the bottom race supposed to function as a dust cap?

3) why was there all that grease and grit in the join between the fork and the headset? Is this normal? And if not, what could be the cause and what should I do about it?

4) last night, after being startled by the races and cartridges just basically falling into my hand, all I had time to do was wipe out the grit from the top of the fork and put it all back together, not really having the time examine and deal with what I had found. Should I take it apart again and clean out and re-grease the lower cartridge and race? it all seemed a little gritty and grimy, though there's no steering issue other than the whining.

5) if something about this seems abnormal, should I just take it back to my LBS and let them deal with it? (Like, there's a dustcap missing or something.)

Thanks for the help!
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Old 10-09-15, 02:20 PM
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Integrated headset.. yea let the dealer do the work .. I cannot help from here.
may need the Bearing cartridges replaced wheel slings spray out . road grunge can still contaminate things.

did the cartridge bearings them selves feel bad. I doubt you can re-grease the sealed bearings, just buy new ones.

Fitting mudguards may help keep the crud reduced.
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Old 10-09-15, 03:43 PM
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If this is a cartridge bearing integrated headset, it depends on the conical mating areas in the head tube, plus a cone on the fork and the conical compression for location and a rigid fit when properly tight. As such, no press fit is needed and some models will simply fall free when you drop the fork.

As for the noise that caused you to look in the first place, that could be dirt trapped between moving parts, or within the bearings themselves. Check that each bearing spins freely and smoothly in your hand, and if so, go ahead and put it back together. Proper preload is when there is absolutely zero fork movement detected when you apply the front brake and rock the bike back and forth against the locked front wheel. I like to approach this by degrees trial and error from loose to tight, and go a hair tighter (5-10° turn of the top nut) from the zero play point, then check that the fork turns smoothly through the arc of travel.
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Old 10-09-15, 05:15 PM
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I see many headsets with significant exposure issues.

The obvious is rust. Water kicked up by the ft tire right at the lower stack's gap will get between the seals (if any actually are contact ones) because that's what water does. (has for millions of years). Once in side the water has no real incentive to drain and dry out. I took apart the boss's wife's winter bike Thursday and found the lower bearing was rusted in place, on both the fork "crown" and the lower HT cup. The bearing came apart when the fork was removed. Of course the upper bearing was barely "worn".

Next is the washing out of grease. Between the water trying to drain out, gravity, the lack of much grease from the factory and wind pressure from 70mph car transporting finding headsets with virtually no remaining grease isn't too uncommon. The fix here is either a old inner tube boot (which no one with a fancy road bike would consider) or the usual "service it more frequently". When cleaned and serviced I will put extra grease up the head tube and steerer so as time goes it can feed some lube into the bearing below.

Third isn't exposure in the normal sense. Well, maybe a lack of exposure of proper initial adjustment techniques. I adjust a headset from loose to just not loose. learned that 4 decades ago and still do it this way today. When a headset is new there's very little rolling friction and a lot of leverage acting on the bearings. Throw in the now common use of tiny balls in the bearing (remember that the load capacity of a ball is geometric with it's diameter and only linier with the ball count) often held in place with a thick plastic ring (which takes up space that grease otherwise might have) and you have a formula for over tightening initially and fretting sooner. Also remember the headset isn't a fully rotating bearing, it's loads are focused in a very small amount of race circumference.

Headsets are, possibly, the most disregarded bearings (excepting pedals) on your bike. Andy who tries to keep his head set straight.
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Old 10-09-15, 10:53 PM
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Thank you, FB and Andy! You guys answered all my questions, plus gave me a quick lesson on the weaknesses of modern headsets, and gave me a thing to add to my maintenance checklist going forward. YOU GUYS ROCK! What a blessing and a resource you are for all of us here!

I will take it all apart tomorrow in the daylight, see what's what, and report back.
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Old 10-09-15, 11:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Wheever View Post
Thank you, FB and Andy! You guys answered all my questions, plus gave me a quick lesson on the weaknesses of modern headsets, and gave me a thing to add to my maintenance checklist going forward. YOU GUYS ROCK! What a blessing and a resource you are for all of us here!

I will take it all apart tomorrow in the daylight, see what's what, and report back.
If it turns out to be water damage/rust, here's an old timer (cheapskate) trick to prevent a repeat. Cut a 1/2" wide rubber band from an old tube. It has to be fairly, but not too, tight around the headset cups. Place it above the lower head cup when you install the fork and adjust the headset. When everything is done wipe a smear of grease on the crown race, but not the head cup, and pull your "boot" down so it covers the gap. The grease will allow free movement, while the dry cup will keep it from wandering.

I started using the blue rubber bands from Andy Boy broccoli for this back in 1967 and still use them for my winter bikes.
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Old 10-21-15, 08:56 AM
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Sorry it took me so long to revisit this topic, but I took the whole headset apart and cleaned and greased everything and put it back together. Lots of dirt and grit in the lower headset. The whining is gone, as expected, but came back after a couple of rides. Cleaned it again, and the whining is again gone.

The gap at the lower headset is really huge, and I don't understand how it's *not* supposed to get grit and dirt in it.

And another thing, after I reassembled everything, it seemed to me the gap at the upper headset, between the dust cover and the frame, is larger than I recall. Less than an mm, but you can see the silver of the bearing through it. I don't remember it being like that before. Seems to work fine. Oh well.

So that's the resolution to the problem, for now. @FBinNY, I might try your rubber boot trick if the whining comes back. My bike is black, so it wouldn't be that noticeable on the bike, and having to clean that gap out is a PITA.

Thanks for all the help, guys!
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Old 10-21-15, 11:19 AM
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if the slot cut is square , traditionally a round drilled stop is done at the end.
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Old 10-21-15, 09:58 PM
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Originally Posted by stevoo View Post
Also keep an eye on the slot in the frame below the seat binder. Domane 4.5's tend to crack there even with clamping forces very carefully applied and keept to a minimum.
Just had the dealer go through two frames that did this (my original and a replacement Trek sent that cracked when they built it up). Fortunately for me Trek made it right by giving me quite an upgrade for free. They finally replaced the frame with a Domane 6.9. Glad I was patient and let them do their thing.

Interesting that the dealer also had 75% of his 2015 Domane 4.5's in stock with seat tube cracks. I hope Trek takes care of him. Seems to me like a quality or design issue for sure.

Maybe a bad batch but I would keep an eye on it for sure.
whoa! Thanks for that info, stevoo! As a matter of fact, I had noticed what appears to be some slight checking at the slot on my frame. (I NEVER use even as much torque as the collar indicates. Just enough to hold the seat firmly.) I could be it's the cracking you've experienced. I'll look into it tomorrow and get back to you.

Thanks for for the heads up. And I'd love to end up with a 6.9 frame. Lol.
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Old 10-21-15, 10:41 PM
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Originally Posted by stevoo View Post
Also keep an eye on the slot in the frame below the seat binder. Domane 4.5's tend to crack there even with clamping forces very carefully applied and keept to a minimum.
Just had the dealer go through two frames that did this (my original and a replacement Trek sent that cracked when they built it up). Fortunately for me Trek made it right by giving me quite an upgrade for free. They finally replaced the frame with a Domane 6.9. Glad I was patient and let them do their thing.

Interesting that the dealer also had 75% of his 2015 Domane 4.5's in stock with seat tube cracks. I hope Trek takes care of him. Seems to me like a quality or design issue for sure.

Maybe a bad batch but I would keep an eye on it for sure.
I find it hard to believe that one Trek Dealer would end up with so many defective frames when nobody else has been complaining of finding cracked frames on new bikes. I'd be more suspicious of the Dealer Mechanics using the wrong method to tighten the hardware during assembly (no torque wrench), or maybe improperly calibrated torque wrench. Regardless of how friendly the shop personnel appear, that does not necessarily mean that they are competent mechanics or are using properly tuned tools.
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Old 10-22-15, 06:26 PM
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The cracks might also be paint cracks. I agree with the likelihood of so many bad frames ending up in one dealer. The Trek shop I work at has sold hundreds of carbon Treks, including a lot of Domanes, and we've had NO seat binder cracks. But we're just one data point. Seems to me that if this problem was a significant or wide spread one there'd be a lot of buzz going around. Andy.
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Old 10-22-15, 06:58 PM
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Something else you might check. I've noticed on older Madones and current Domanes, the shift cable stop on the front of the bike, where the shift cables enter have a tendency to make screeching or creaking noises when you turn the bars. It seems like it generally happens when the shift cable housings get older and the sheath portion of the housing pulls back a little from the metal strands of the housing. The cable stop on the frame accepts the housings with no ferrule, so the metal strands can rotate slightly when you turn the bars and make noise.

You can test and see if thats an issue by wiggling the cables near the stop and see if that replicates the noise. If so, a little grease under the interface, or better yet, new cables takes care of it if it's a problem.
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Old 10-22-15, 09:15 PM
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Originally Posted by RoadGuy View Post
I find it hard to believe that one Trek Dealer would end up with so many defective frames when nobody else has been complaining of finding cracked frames on new bikes. I'd be more suspicious of the Dealer Mechanics using the wrong method to tighten the hardware during assembly (no torque wrench), or maybe improperly calibrated torque wrench. Regardless of how friendly the shop personnel appear, that does not necessarily mean that they are competent mechanics or are using properly tuned tools.
Unfortunately, steveoo is entirely correct. My domane 4.5 has the same cracks in the seat tube. I went in to the dealer and showed it to them. When they pulled the seat post, the cracks were actually quite bad, the one one the left side being close to an inch long.

Now, the first thing they tried to say was that it was over torqued. Except that I have NEVER put more than 6nm on it, and usually much less by hand with a shorty hex wrench. But here's the thing, looking at it, CLEARLY the problem is either the seat tube is oversized out of spec, or the seat post is too small. Look at the picture, there's an obvious FOLD at the corners of the slot. You can see that the issue is that the carbon is being asked to flex too much.

I feel pretty sure that If I had over torqued, the more likely result would have been a crushed seat post, not this folding. I'm going to get in touch with trek directly and discuss this with them.

Anyway, the frame is being replaced, although trek gave the "over torqued" runaround at first. I am astonished that I have to pay for the parts swap!

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Old 10-22-15, 09:22 PM
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That was supposed to be two different pictures. Stupid iPhone. Here's the other.
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Old 10-22-15, 09:25 PM
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And that was supposed to be right side up! Sigh. I hate Posting from my iPhone.
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Old 10-22-15, 11:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Wheever View Post
Unfortunately, steveoo is entirely correct. My domane 4.5 has the same cracks in the seat tube. I went in to the dealer and showed it to them. When they pulled the seat post, the cracks were actually quite bad, the one one the left side being close to an inch long.

Now, the first thing they tried to say was that it was over torqued. Except that I have NEVER put more than 6nm on it, and usually much less by hand with a shorty hex wrench. But here's the thing, looking at it, CLEARLY the problem is either the seat tube is oversized out of spec, or the seat post is too small. Look at the picture, there's an obvious FOLD at the corners of the slot. You can see that the issue is that the carbon is being asked to flex too much.

I feel pretty sure that If I had over torqued, the more likely result would have been a crushed seat post, not this folding. I'm going to get in touch with trek directly and discuss this with them.

Anyway, the frame is being replaced, although trek gave the "over torqued" runaround at first. I am astonished that I have to pay for the parts swap! ...<snip>..
That's pretty normal.
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Old 10-23-15, 08:59 AM
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You know what? I'm going to start a new thread about these cracks. I've seen a couple threads on other boards about the same thing. Seems like an issue that needs more eyeballs.
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