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Fork doesn't rotate freely, it's as if it's in a notch

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Fork doesn't rotate freely, it's as if it's in a notch

Old 11-12-20, 10:31 AM
  #1  
uncleMonty
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Fork doesn't rotate freely, it's as if it's in a notch

What could be causing this: if I hold the bike up in the air by the top tube (it's a 1980s touring frame and fork) and gently nudge the handlebars to turn the fork, there is resistance at first and the fork will "push" back into a centered position. This happens either direction I try moving the handlebars. The same happens if I try to lean the frame to the side, expecting the fork/wheel to turn in response: it doesn't, at first. Once I push hard enough or lean far enough (which isn't very hard, the bike is perfectly rideable) the fork/wheel swivels freely once it gets out of the centre position, there is no noticeable friction. As it comes back to a centered position afterwards it's like it fits back into a notch that it "likes" to be in. There's no scraping or anything,
I notice it most when I have to walk the bike along the sidewalk resting one hand lightly on the saddle and leaning it this way or that to steer. Used to be I had perfect control of it, getting it to turn slightly with just the tiniest of leans. Now, though, I have to lean it much further to get the front wheel to swivel, and it's much harder to control. I've started to notice the same thing when riding no hands.
What should I check out? Thanks!
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Old 11-12-20, 10:37 AM
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curbtender
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You service the bearings?
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Old 11-12-20, 10:38 AM
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The Headset is probably pitted on the lower race. Or bad bearings.. Or... Well, the headset probably needs to be replaced.
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Old 11-12-20, 10:39 AM
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Headset is either too tight or worn out/pitted as posted previously. Try to adjust it properly and if that doesn't work you'll need to replace the bearings.
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Old 11-12-20, 10:45 AM
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Originally Posted by canopus View Post
The Headset is probably pitted on the lower race. Or bad bearings.. Or... Well, the headset probably needs to be replaced.
This. The lower headset race is most likely pitted. If the headset is as old as the bike, just replace the entire headset.

A poor man's option is to replace just the ball bearings and re-clock the crown race. This takes any dents that are aligned with the top race and orients them in a different direction. It will help, but only delays the inevitable. The best option is to replace the entire headset.

There are many specialized tools needed for this: headset cup removal tools, crown race remover, crown race setter, and headset press. You can make some of these tools (or do without the removal tools because the parts will not be reused) but you risk damage to the frame and/or fork if you are not skilled at using those tools. Other things can go wrong - the quill can be seized in the stem, the headset threads can be buggered, or the form may be too long or too short given the stack height of the new headset. Although this may be a costly problem, it is a good case for one of the few services that it pays a shop to perform rather than doing it on your own.

Last edited by aggiegrads; 11-12-20 at 10:51 AM.
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Old 11-12-20, 11:17 AM
  #6  
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Originally Posted by aggiegrads View Post
This. The lower headset race is most likely pitted. If the headset is as old as the bike, just replace the entire headset.

A poor man's option is to replace just the ball bearings and re-clock the crown race. This takes any dents that are aligned with the top race and orients them in a different direction. It will help, but only delays the inevitable. The best option is to replace the entire headset.

There are many specialized tools needed for this: headset cup removal tools, crown race remover, crown race setter, and headset press. You can make some of these tools (or do without the removal tools because the parts will not be reused) but you risk damage to the frame and/or fork if you are not skilled at using those tools. Other things can go wrong - the quill can be seized in the stem, the headset threads can be buggered, or the form may be too long or too short given the stack height of the new headset. Although this may be a costly problem, it is a good case for one of the few services that it pays a shop to perform rather than doing it on your own.
Another option is to replace caged bearings (if present) with a (different) larger number of loose bearings; in this way the bearings no longer line up with the pits.
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Old 11-12-20, 11:52 AM
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https://www.sheldonbrown.com/brandt/...-steering.html
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Old 11-12-20, 11:52 AM
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calls for a Tange Passage $17 fix
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Old 11-12-20, 05:13 PM
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I believe this happens from repeated, and repeated, and repeated bumps while riding. Your wheel is almost always in the center position while riding, so that's where it will pit.
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Old 11-12-20, 07:20 PM
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Looking at the bright side, you’ve now got index steering.
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Old 11-12-20, 09:18 PM
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It is called brinelling
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Old 11-12-20, 11:03 PM
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Gresp15C
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It's also called false brinelling.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_brinelling
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Old 11-15-20, 09:57 PM
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Thank you to everyone who replied. I will be having the headset replaced, as it is indeed original to the 1986 bicycle. A funny thing about this "indexing" is that it has accelerated very rapidly since I first noticed it. I imagine that once the bearings and race get unevenly worn in this way there is a feedback loop which accelerates the damage.
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