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Threaded Headset Tool Options for 33mm/34mm Locknuts

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Threaded Headset Tool Options for 33mm/34mm Locknuts

Old 11-21-23, 11:25 AM
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Threaded Headset Tool Options for 33mm/34mm Locknuts

I've got two bikes with mid 80's Tange Sekine headsets:

1986 Miyata 210 (33mm Locknut). This was a $150 CAD bike but I've sunk several hundred more into it since purchase (wife's vintage ride).
1985 Norco Avanti (34mm Locknut + small diameter three notch threaded spacer). TH-235. This is a $60 bike.

My Park tools won't cover me for this work unfortunately. And my stack heights are small-ish.

So I seek recommendations. Ideas that I've come up with based on my research to date:

1) Swap the existing headsets -- or at least the tops of them -- for the new Tange base model which uses 32 mm locknuts.

2) Buy a Hozan small diameter hook spanner tool and wrenches for 33 mm / 34 mm. Finding reputable wrenches at a reasonable prices is proving very difficult. I also don't love having to retain tools that are only useful on two of my family's twelve bikes.

3) Buy a Hozan small diameter hook spanner and an adjustable Hex wrench. Like everyone, always, I've not enjoyed using crescent wrenches on my hex nuts. Is there any reason to expect the adjustable hex wrench thing to be better?

Recommendations?





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Old 11-21-23, 11:40 AM
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I work on these kinds of old bikes all the time (mostly curb finds) and I have the right tools. I never use "poor mans" adjustables.

I'm not going to give crappy curb finds new headsets.

At least good tools I have to buy, I get to keep after I sell off the bikes.
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Old 11-21-23, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by soyabean
...and I have the right tools.
Thanks for your response. Can you point me to where I might find these "right tools". I'm not opposed to buying the right tools. I simply cannot seem to find them at 33 mm / 34 mm.

If new headsets would wind up cheaper than than the tools, I'll probably go with the new headsets. I'm all vintaged up at the moment and I don't anticipate any additions unless it's something super special. Now that I've encountered this, I would also measure the headset locknuts on any future acquisitions before committing and factor that in.

Last edited by Harold74; 11-21-23 at 11:57 AM.
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Old 11-21-23, 11:55 AM
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I don't get you objection to an adjustable wrench. That is the defacto locknut wrench shop mechanics use.
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Old 11-21-23, 12:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Kontact
I don't get you objection to an adjustable wrench. That is the defacto locknut wrench shop mechanics use.
I'm not sure if you were referring to me but it's less of an objection and more of an inquiry. Purpose made headset wrenches have worked great for me in the past. Crescent wrenches... obviously not, especially on black locknuts. Not having tried an adjustable hex wrench, I wasn't sure where that would fall on the continuum. If the use of such wrenches is common practice, that will be an attractive option for me.

Is there a particular wrench that you've had good experiences with? Amazon has three versions, in order of price (CAD):

Max Power @ $29
Rigid Tools @ $58
Milwaukee Tool @ $58

All seem to be rated about the same. That said, I imagine that bicycle work is not the most common usage for these things.
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Old 11-21-23, 12:29 PM
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For about $25 ea you can put a new Tange Levin in. They are my go to on older, short stack bikes. Cheap, reliable, comes in JIS & iso

Don't always think you need bike specific tools either. I've bought numerous hook spanners at yard sales that were from other applications.

https://www.amazon.com/Mdvora-Coilov...dc19cdf73&th=1
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Old 11-21-23, 01:00 PM
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I would get replacement 32mm top nuts and a few spacer/washers and get rid of the notched lock ring. Even with a HKC "Rock Ring" wrench, working these headset notched rings is a pain. Andy (who has a 15" adjustable wrench and is not afraid to use it)
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Old 11-21-23, 02:13 PM
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put tape on those black locknuts to protect the finish...

a quick search and the 5th option opened presents...
https://toolsandmore.us/shop-fox-x17...0ff08c6f87f2a5

i'd imagine a similar 34mm version is out there, somewhere... a 1 5/16" wrench will be slightly under 34mm, and a 1 3/8" will be slightly over 34mm........ i'd get the 1 5/16 and grind to size....
or just swap out those pesky odd jam nuts, since, being a co-op person, i have a 6"x 14" bin of those sorts of things.... (hint)

as to the hook spanner... you can never have enough, or find the one you know you had at one time, many decades ago....
try taping and old channel lock pliers...?

Last edited by maddog34; 11-21-23 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 11-21-23, 04:14 PM
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Originally Posted by Harold74
Purpose made headset wrenches have worked great for me in the past. Crescent wrenches... obviously not, especially on black locknuts.
My headset locknut is mirror-polished aluminum alloy, the surface of which is no doubt considerably more fragile than your black locknut. I used an adjustable (“Crescent”) wrench, using electrical tape on the jaws, to tighten it.
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Old 11-21-23, 07:21 PM
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Thanks all. This should give me enough information to be able to make an informed decision.

Follow up question: are threaded headsets kept from coming loose by the torqueing of one of the threaded elements against another? So grease the steerer tube threads and, ideally, do the torqueing with a pair of wrenches worked in opposition?
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Old 11-21-23, 08:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Harold74
I'm not sure if you were referring to me but it's less of an objection and more of an inquiry. Purpose made headset wrenches have worked great for me in the past. Crescent wrenches... obviously not, especially on black locknuts. Not having tried an adjustable hex wrench, I wasn't sure where that would fall on the continuum. If the use of such wrenches is common practice, that will be an attractive option for me.

Is there a particular wrench that you've had good experiences with? Amazon has three versions, in order of price (CAD):

Max Power @ $29
Rigid Tools @ $58
Milwaukee Tool @ $58

All seem to be rated about the same. That said, I imagine that bicycle work is not the most common usage for these things.
An adjustable wrench is always going to do the least amount of damage when used properly. It has more surface area than a flat wrench and should be tightened to the nut before it is turned.

I would consider Rigid, but I don't think it matters. The other two aren't known for wrenches. Go to Lowe's and buy whatever is on sale. "Crescent" is a brand. So is "Channel Lock" or "Erwin". The one I have been using for 35 years is marked "Popular Mechanics", works perfectly and still looks new. Speaking of which:

https://www.popularmechanics.com/hom...cent-wrenches/

Personally, I looked for a wrench that would open wide enough to also work on the 36mm locknuts of 1 1/8" threaded headsets, but those might not be something you care about.
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Old 11-21-23, 08:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Harold74
.... If the use of such wrenches is common practice, that will be an attractive option for me.

Is there a particular wrench that you've had good experiences with? Amazon has three versions, in order of price (CAD):

Max Power @ $29
Rigid Tools @ $58
Milwaukee Tool @ $58

All seem to be rated about the same...

...far and away the best adjustable wrenches for headset lock nut is made and sold by Channellock.
They come in 6", 8", and 10" and 12" versions. I've had pretty good luck using either the 6" or the 8" (refers to overall wrench length.)

They are a little pricey, even on Amazon. But they work much better (less slop, thinner jaws, closer tolerances) than any of the others I've tried.


Last edited by 3alarmer; 11-21-23 at 08:57 PM.
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Old 11-21-23, 09:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Harold74
are threaded headsets kept from coming loose by the torqueing of one of the threaded elements against another? So grease the steerer tube threads and, ideally, do the torqueing with a pair of wrenches worked in opposition?
Yes. Use a headset wrench to keep the lower cone stationary and use the adjustable wrench to tighten down the locknut.
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Old 11-21-23, 09:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Harold74
are threaded headsets kept from coming loose by the torqueing of one of the threaded elements against another? ... do the torqueing with a pair of wrenches worked in opposition?
That's how the entire bicycle works. It doesn't matter the bearing component you're talking about: hubs, headset, pedals, bottom bracket... The ability to lock two nuts together on a threaded bolt provides perfect adjustment and function. It's a simple machine, just like the wheel, lever, wedge, incline and pulley.

Alas, modernity runs further and further away from this concept.
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Old 11-21-23, 11:23 PM
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Originally Posted by SurferRosa
Alas, modernity runs further and further away from this concept.
And towards better and better connections. Threadless headset solved a very big problem in terms of headsets…that of loosening headsets, particularly in mountain bikes. The jam nut concept works but not in situations where there is a lot of vibration. Loosening headsets was such a problem in the early 90s that there was a very large cottage industry making locking mechanisms to replace the top nut on threaded headsets. There were dozens of different approaches.

Threadless solved that issue with a better simple machine.
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Old 11-21-23, 11:35 PM
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Originally Posted by smd4
Yes. Use a headset wrench to keep the lower cone stationary and use the adjustable wrench to tighten down the locknut.
That won’t work. there is no flats on the lower cone for a wrench to be used on. Harold74’s pictures are kind of bad so that you can’t see the headset clearly. Here’s something that shows the ring better. It uses a hook spanner on the lockring. The Hozan ones Harold74 links to may not be the right size as well. In addition, the knurled top cup needs a https://headset race plier to adjust it. A large adjustable plier (aka a channel lock) can be used in a pinch but it does bugger up the finish.




These kinds of headsets are particularly finicky since there are 3 parts that need locking…the lower race (which also locks against a toothed ring), the middle nut that is adjusted with the hook spanner, and the top nut. And, to make matters worse, the headset has a brake cable hanger that interferes with use of the lock ring spanner. It’s a bloody nightmare!
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Old 11-22-23, 02:04 AM
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For the headsets in question, the Hozan lockring wrench should work just fine for the lockring, and is probably the best quality tool for the purpose. For the top nut, adjustable wrench does the best job, the Channel Lock ones are great. I usually use a vise-grip for the lower part, though you have to be careful not to use it too tight or you will chew it up a bit. The purpose made pliers haven't really impressed me, it is difficult to grip them tight enough, which also chews up the lower part some.

For the headset with the cable hanger, it will likely be easiest to adjust it with the brake unhooked, top nut all the way undone, cable hanger slid up out of the way, get the adjustment set with the lower part and the lockring, then bring the cable hanger and locknut down and lock them in place.
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Old 11-22-23, 02:19 AM
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interesting... not one mention in this thread of the TABBED WASHER or TABBED brake cable hanger.... they can and do negate the need to use a hooked spanner on the top cup...or nut.. or whatever someone calls it.... the notched nut cup. Yah.. we'll call it that! It's the HoliDaze, anywayz.

hmmmmm... how odd... has the tab been wiped off the washer? happens way too often..... one headset features the tiny toothed terror, the multi position tabbed lockwasher... which also depends on a TAB into the slot on the Steerer tube........ shades of old ralieghs and french creations....and a day in the Vinegar bath.

Last edited by maddog34; 11-22-23 at 02:28 AM.
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Old 11-22-23, 07:03 AM
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If you can locate two lengths of mild steel, cut an appropriate sized notch in the end to fit your 33/34mm nuts. They don't require a whole lot of torque and you might be able to get the steel for free- 8" by 2" scraps would work fine.
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Old 11-22-23, 07:45 AM
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Or, make your own notched lockring tool that can be used on various sizes. DIY Lockring Pliers : 3 Steps (with Pictures) - Instructables
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Old 11-22-23, 07:59 AM
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This type of headset was designed to not need a pair of pliers to tighten. The knurled cup is adjusted by hand, then the lockring and top nut are tightened to each other to prevent the cup from loosening. Don't mar up your headset with a tool it wasn't built for, unless it is frozen from rust and looks like hell already.

And never rely on a tabbed spacer to hold torque. They are there as a tightening aid, that's all.
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Old 11-22-23, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Harold74
Thanks for your response. Can you point me to where I might find these "right tools". I'm not opposed to buying the right tools. I simply cannot seem to find them at 33 mm / 34 mm.

If new headsets would wind up cheaper than than the tools, I'll probably go with the new headsets. I'm all vintaged up at the moment and I don't anticipate any additions unless it's something super special. Now that I've encountered this, I would also measure the headset locknuts on any future acquisitions before committing and factor that in.
You need to look around some more on the Hozan lockring tool. You can find it cheaper at Universal Cycles or even on Amazon. $46 is about $15 more than it sells for elsewhere. You might consider this tool as well. It’s much cheaper and works well enough on the headset lock ring.
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Old 11-22-23, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by Crankycrank
Or, make your own notched lockring tool that can be used on various sizes. DIY Lockring Pliers : 3 Steps (with Pictures) - Instructables
Too thick. The lockring on the headset is 5 to 6mm thick and it is tucked up under a whole lot of other stuff. The hook spanner has to be really thin to fit under all that other stuff.
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Old 11-22-23, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by maddog34
interesting... not one mention in this thread of the TABBED WASHER or TABBED brake cable hanger.... they can and do negate the need to use a hooked spanner on the top cup...or nut.. or whatever someone calls it.... the notched nut cup. Yah.. we'll call it that! It's the HoliDaze, anywayz.

hmmmmm... how odd... has the tab been wiped off the washer? happens way too often..... one headset features the tiny toothed terror, the multi position tabbed lockwasher... which also depends on a TAB into the slot on the Steerer tube........ shades of old ralieghs and french creations....and a day in the Vinegar bath.
It’s a “keyed washer”. No one has mentioned it because it doesn’t need mentioning. A keyed wash does not negate the use of a hooked spanner on the lower nut. That nut has to be tightened against the top cup of the headset and against the headset nut. Every threaded headset has some kind of keyed washer between the top nut and the top race but both need to be tightened against each other. The nut is turned against the lower race or lower nut while that lower nut is held steady.
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Old 11-22-23, 01:25 PM
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Originally Posted by Harold74
Recommendations?
Originally Posted by dedhed
For about $25, you can put a new Tange Levin in.
And for $15 shipped, you can buy a brand new, proper headset in the Tange Passage. It looks great and has a low stack that will fit on almost anything.

​​​https://www.ebay.com/itm/223220754810

I installed one on this '80s Falcon a couple months ago.





​​​​​​You can build your own cup press tool with some big washers, nuts and a long threaded bolt. Some PVC pipe is all that's needed to set the crown race.
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