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Headset Adjustment Question

Old 07-15-18, 08:37 PM
  #1  
Triplecrank92
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Headset Adjustment Question

I've be re-working my '88 Centurion. Tore it down to the frame, cleaned out the rust, touched up paint, etc. I wanted to replaced the headset bearings but was unsuccessful in procuring a 1 inch caged bearing set so I put new 5/32th bearings in the existing cage. I pried up every other tab, replaced the bearings and then gently pushed the tabs back down. I checked the bearings to make sure that they were all free to moved. Regreased the cups, cones and bearings with Phil Wood grease. Everything else that went back into the headset was original parts. I did take the fork apart a few times to check the orientation of the parts, bearing cages, etc. and all seems to be in the correct place and orientation.

In putting the fork back together, I tightened the adjustable top cup until there was no forward/back not side to side movement in the fork. At that point of the adjustment however, the fork is smooth to turn but does not rotating freely as forks on my other bikes. It takes a slight effort. If I backed off the adjustable cup to get the fork to turn as I would expect, I would get some play between the fork and the frame. Now for my question. Since the handlebars and front wheels are not attached, will the additional weight of those parts give the impression of the fork turning easier than just the fork alone? Any other suggestions?

Thanks,

John
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Old 07-15-18, 09:10 PM
  #2  
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Wait, you tested the fork's rotation before you tightened down the top lock nut? Why did you do this? It's not how you would ride the bike. So the only valid adjustment (of bearings and other aspects) that counts is one where all the issues are the same as the final rideable bike would have. This is a detail lost on many newbies.

The way I adjust headsets is after all is assembled and adjusted (but for the headset) This way I can lock the ft brake and rock the bike fore and aft on the ft tire contact with the ground to feel the slop of a slightly loose headset adjustment. By starting with a slightly loose adjustment (as determined after the top nut is tightened) you can feel the slop. If you start the adjustment process with a tight setting you won't feel any rock (good) but also because of the leverage that the bars have over the bearings also not likely (unless you have a rather sensitive feel) feel the tightness. (BTW this is why Campy NR headsets were known for the willingness to index, so many were set too tight). The better the headset the harder it is to feel an overly tightened bearing. So start with a tad of slop and trial and error work the adjustment tighter and tighter till the slop is JUST gone. This is headset 101 from decades ago.

Additionally the quill stems will exert a force on the steerer that will very slightly tighten the adjustment, kind of like a QR hub adjustment and the compression from the skewer changing the bearing setting. Lastly the common problem with caged balls is installing the retainer upside down. I still do this stupid error after 45 years. Andy
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Old 07-15-18, 09:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Triplecrank92 View Post
Any other suggestions?

Thanks,

John
...it's rarely necessary to pry up the tabs on a bearing cage retainer to replace the bearings in it.
They usually push right out with finger pressure, and push in again the same way. Just for future reference.
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Old 07-15-18, 09:44 PM
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Before you tighten stuff up again, check that you don't have one of the retainers in upside down or one of the seals out of place or reversed.

I see nothing wrong with checking your work without the lock nut.
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Old 07-16-18, 12:57 AM
  #5  
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You'll get lower drag by omitting the bearing cage. Those are there exclusively for ease of assembly and assembling a headset with loose bearings is still pretty dang easy. Only you can determine if the amount of drag acceptable. Drag at no play is determined by the accuracy of the preload adjustment and the condition and uniformity of the bearings and their races.

You can usually replace the bearings in bearing cage but you might have deformed the cage just enough to introduce additional friction.
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Old 07-16-18, 01:33 AM
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Originally Posted by cpach View Post
You'll get lower drag by omitting the bearing cage. Those are there exclusively for ease of assembly and assembling a headset with loose bearings is still pretty dang easy. Only you can determine if the amount of drag acceptable. Drag at no play is determined by the accuracy of the preload adjustment and the condition and uniformity of the bearings and their races.

You can usually replace the bearings in bearing cage but you might have deformed the cage just enough to introduce additional friction.
What sort of issues can a rider expect from all that extra cage drag?
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Old 07-16-18, 05:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart View Post
Wait, you tested the fork's rotation before you tightened down the top lock nut? Why did you do this? It's not how you would ride the bike. So the only valid adjustment (of bearings and other aspects) that counts is one where all the issues are the same as the final rideable bike would have. This is a detail lost on many newbies.


The way I adjust headsets is after all is assembled and adjusted (but for the headset) This way I can lock the ft brake and rock the bike fore and aft on the ft tire contact with the ground to feel the slop of a slightly loose headset adjustment. By starting with a slightly loose adjustment (as determined after the top nut is tightened) you can feel the slop. If you start the adjustment process with a tight setting you won't feel any rock (good) but also because of the leverage that the bars have over the bearings also not likely (unless you have a rather sensitive feel) feel the tightness. (BTW this is why Campy NR headsets were known for the willingness to index, so many were set too tight). The better the headset the harder it is to feel an overly tightened bearing. So start with a tad of slop and trial and error work the adjustment tighter and tighter till the slop is JUST gone. This is headset 101 from decades ago.


Additionally the quill stems will exert a force on the steerer that will very slightly tighten the adjustment, kind of like a QR hub adjustment and the compression from the skewer changing the bearing setting. Lastly the common problem with caged balls is installing the retainer upside down. I still do this stupid error after 45 years. Andy

Andy...Sorry for the confusion. (I shortened this post after I realized that my original attempt from a few hours prior never made it to the website. I was too frustrated to type it again & was ready to hit the sack.) But, I did tighten the lock nut in gauging my adjustments. Your second paragraph answered by question. At least, I realized that I wasn't comparing apples-to-apples with the Centurion's frame & fork alone compared to the other bikes. So, I will loosen the headset, finish re-building the bike and save the headset adjustment until the end. However, if the fork is still "tight" at this point, I will dis-assemble the fork again, remove the cage and just put the bearings back in the headset.


Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
...it's rarely necessary to pry up the tabs on a bearing cage retainer to replace the bearings in it.

They usually push right out with finger pressure, and push in again the same way. Just for future reference.

3alamer...Thanks, duly noted.


Originally Posted by Kontact View Post
Before you tighten stuff up again, check that you don't have one of the retainers in upside down or one of the seals out of place or reversed.


I see nothing wrong with checking your work without the lock nut.

Kontact...putting parts in upside down did cross my mind. In the rebuild, I actually took the fork apart a couple of times to check that and test the cage orientations. While the cages were in correctly, oddly enough one of the small plastic ring grease seals was in upside down. I failed to see the small bevel on interior side of the ring. Reversing that ring "seemed" to help slightly in the headset tightening / slop adjustment.


Originally Posted by cpach View Post
You'll get lower drag by omitting the bearing cage. Those are there exclusively for ease of assembly and assembling a headset with loose bearings is still pretty dang easy. Only you can determine if the amount of drag acceptable. Drag at no play is determined by the accuracy of the preload adjustment and the condition and uniformity of the bearings and their races.


You can usually replace the bearings in bearing cage but you might have deformed the cage just enough to introduce additional friction.

cpach....The possibility of having deformed the cage crossed my mind as I sat there pondering "the tight fork-in-the-frame" on the bike stand. Even though it took very little prying on the tabs to free the bearing, I pried every other tab to avoid having to "deform" all of them. Since the idea of re-using the cage came from a Youtube video, I went back to the "internet" to for solutions and saw that the cages were "optional". (In hindsight, I should have just come here first!). Since the cages are in the frame now, I'm going to go ahead and finish the re-build as noted above & to potentially avoid having to mess with re-greasing the headset. As mentioned, if I can't get the adjustment correct, I'll tear the fork back down and remove the cages.


Thanks All....John
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Old 07-16-18, 05:45 AM
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Just remember you have loose bearings, the next time you take the headset apart.

I dread that feeling of having both hands busy as I hear the pitter patter of loose ball bearings falling out, and later experience the joy of tracking down and cleaning each and every last one of those suckers. I always seem to lose one of them.
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Old 07-16-18, 07:29 AM
  #9  
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Originally Posted by Kontact View Post
What sort of issues can a rider expect from all that extra cage drag?
None at all, really. Unlike hubs, bottom brackets, pedals, etc., headsets are not in constant rotation when in use.
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