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Self-centered steering

Old 05-14-12, 10:19 AM
  #1  
GV27
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Self-centered steering

I have a threaded 1" headset and fork. The steering has developed a "notch" at dead-straight ahead - it takes a little bit of force to get it off-center, but then it is completely free side-to-side. At first I figured it was the typical "indexed" steering that occurs when the balls wear little low spots into the races. But I'm not so sure for these reasons:

1) This is an old headset with a certain amount of miles, but nowhere near it's typical limit - this is a Campy Nuovo Record unit with a reputation for everlasting goodness. I just installed it on a new bike about a year and a half ago. It was fine then and this problem came on quickly and has gotten worse quicker than it seems like it should.

2) There is no next-index over. There is only the one "stop" at dead center.

Could something other than wear in my headset be contributing? Could it be an issue with alignment of the cups and races?

Thanks,

Chris
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Old 05-14-12, 10:37 AM
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My Cannondale does the exact same thing and it’s so perfectly straight forward and there is no next spot over like you would expect with a bearing rolling one turn. I have been tempted to post the same question.
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Old 05-14-12, 10:51 AM
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Repack it with loose balls and report back.
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Old 05-14-12, 11:08 AM
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What did it look like when you took it apart and cleaned it? Where there any cracks or balls that seemed worn?
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Old 05-14-12, 11:22 AM
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You've ridden the bike with the headset loose. This causes the bearings to impact the bearing race and, over time, leave an indentation in the race. The only cure is to replace the headset, and ensure the headset is properly tightened. On a threaded headset, you can check the tightness by locking the front brake and rocking the bike back and forth slightly. You should see no movement in the headset. Note: This method may or may not work on a threadless headset -- especially those with integrated or semi-integrated headsets. They normally require a specified amount of torque to preload the bearing.
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Old 05-14-12, 11:32 AM
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You can take out the races, rotate a few degrees, then press them back in. That will "un-align" the indents.
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Old 05-14-12, 11:34 AM
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Last time I had it apart it looked fine. I haven't ridden it loose for any significant length of time. I do know how to properly install a headset. I've repacked it a few times over the decades. It is threaded. BikeWise1 - you mean repack it without the little "cages" that organize the balls?

Homebrew01- yeah, I've thought about doing that. If it is indents in the races and I installed it at 90 degrees to where it is now I guess I'd have a perfectly free headset - that's what bothers me though. It it normal to feel the indents at 90 degrees or farther apart? I haven't tried removing the cables to do a full 360deg rotation, but within the 200 degrees or whatever that I CAN rotate it through, there is only one detent positon: dead straight ahead.

Thanks,

Chris

Last edited by GV27; 05-14-12 at 11:41 AM.
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Old 05-14-12, 10:38 PM
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_brinelling

Take apart, pack with loose balls. It's NOT because you rode it too loose. It's a lubrication (and design) failure.
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Old 05-14-12, 10:55 PM
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Originally Posted by GV27 View Post
BikeWise1 - you mean repack it without the little "cages" that organize the balls?
Yes. Get some new bearings and put them in until the last bearing wont fit. Often, 18-20 will be needed per cup. The cages are there only to make assembly easier.
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Old 05-14-12, 11:08 PM
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take it apart, clean it off and look at the races. if they are good, look at the bearings. it should be clear what the problem is. if you don't find anything, put it back together and try it again. could just be some gunk in there.

i say, if in doubt, always try the easy, and potentially inexpensive, approach first...
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Old 05-15-12, 05:11 AM
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Originally Posted by hueyhoolihan View Post
take it apart, clean it off and look at the races. if they are good, look at the bearings. it should be clear what the problem is. if you don't find anything, put it back together and try it again. could just be some gunk in there.

i say, if in doubt, always try the easy, and potentially inexpensive, approach first...
+1 I had exactly the same issue. Disassembled the headset. Cleaned the races and cups. They looked great. Cleaned the bearings. They looked fine. Repacked bearings with fresh grease and reassembled. Problem solved. YMMV
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Old 05-15-12, 05:39 AM
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People reuse bearings? Waste of time & effort IMHO. Toss and replace with loose balls.
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Old 05-15-12, 06:11 AM
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I noticed the same issue on an old bike I borrowed for a while. I could barely discern a tiny dent in the upper stationary race. I removed the race and rotated it 180 degrees, figuring to relocate the dent from the most stress to the least stress area. That worked fine.

I had more time than money, so I thought I'd try the free way first. It would have made more sense to put in a new headset, and I would have done that if it had been my bike, or if the bike would have ever been ridden again after I used it.
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Old 05-15-12, 04:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Amesja View Post
People reuse bearings? Waste of time & effort IMHO. Toss and replace with loose balls.
I suppose this makes sense if one is using caged bearings and is switching to loose. But if one's already using loose bearings, what's the point of replacing them if they're in perfectly good condition? I prefer to recycle where possible.
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Old 05-15-12, 04:35 PM
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I recycle them too. They got into the metal recycling bin.

Loose balls are like $.02-$.03 each. I won't even use one that I drop. I just toss it. It's not worth cleaning them again.
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Old 05-15-12, 04:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Amesja View Post
I won't even use one that I drop.
What can I say? My parents grew up during the Great Depression. Never threw anything away if it was in good enough condition to be used. Must have rubbed off on me.
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Old 05-15-12, 04:48 PM
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i've got a couple baby-food jars full of used bearings that I kept for ammo for the wrist-rocket for rodent control. After amassing about 500 of the silly things I decided that I'll just start tossing them into the recycle bin with the other metal like cans and scraps from the shop.

if I start running low on ammo for the slingshot I'll starts saving them again. When you are going through them like I do fixing up and flipping bikes they add up.

I won't re-use bearings on a bike for a customer or for someone I'm selling a refurbished bike to. I do the job right.
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Old 05-15-12, 05:00 PM
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If I were running a shop and/or flipping, I wouldn't re-use bearings, either. I don't believe that's the OP's situation, although I can't be sure. It's not mine.
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Old 05-15-12, 05:04 PM
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My LBS sells bearings for $.04 each. <$2 of bearings should cover it.

It couldn't hurt.

I also look at the races under a 30x jeweler's loupe. If I can see any pitting or brinelling I toss them and get a new headset. Headsets online are pretty cheap. For $20 you can get a pretty darn nice one. For $5-6 you can get a basic one. Why mess around with worn-out carp?
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Old 05-15-12, 05:59 PM
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Originally Posted by Amesja View Post
Why mess around with worn-out carp?
Who said anything about worn-out? If the bearings (or the headset) were worn out, I wouldn't re-use them. Look, I see your point. It's inexpensive and less work to replace bearings, and it ensures that they're in new condition. For you, cleaning and re-using is a waste of time. Not for me.
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Old 05-15-12, 06:29 PM
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"I've repacked it several times over the decades" says it all. Get a new headset and install it. Quit fretting about not getting 40 years use out of it. bk
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Old 05-15-12, 08:10 PM
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The problem the OP has is very common, especially with Campy headsets for some reason; probably because there just aren't that many headsets that get used 20-30 years. While you may think it's only one dent, it is probably 3, you just don't feel the shallower dents on either side. My bike guru who wrenches for many of the Santa Cruz bike clubs says the cause is years of fretting riding on the front and rear of the race. This causes the notching you are experiencing. The simple fix is as mentioned before, R&R the top cup, after turning it 90 deg (180 deg and you may end up with the same problem; I had this happen on a new to me track bike with a NR headset 15 years ago, did the headset trick and the problem has not returned.

Last edited by onespeedbiker; 12-01-12 at 09:26 PM.
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Old 05-16-12, 08:36 AM
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Originally Posted by Amesja View Post
i've got a couple baby-food jars full of used bearings that I kept for ammo for the wrist-rocket for rodent control. After amassing about 500 of the silly things I decided that I'll just start tossing them into the recycle bin with the other metal like cans and scraps from the shop.

if I start running low on ammo for the slingshot I'll starts saving them again. When you are going through them like I do fixing up and flipping bikes they add up.

I won't re-use bearings on a bike for a customer or for someone I'm selling a refurbished bike to. I do the job right.
As long as the balls still have their finish they as good as new. Why waste material?
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Old 05-16-12, 10:12 AM
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It's entirely more eco friendly to clean the bearings in solvent and then dump it down the drain then to toss a few grams worth of bearings in the trash, where they'll slowly rust away in a landfill replenishing the earth with the nutrients that had been stolen from it.
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Old 05-16-12, 10:43 AM
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Originally Posted by onespeedbiker View Post
The problem the OP has is very common, especially with Campy headsets for some reason; probably because there just aren't that many headsets that get used 20-30 years. While you may think it's only one dent, it is probably 3, you just don't feel the shallower dents on either side. My bike guru who wrenches for many of the Santa Cruz bike clubs says the cause is years of pot holes that slowly elongate the race into very very slight egg shape, the point being forward. This causes the notching you are experiencing. The simple fix is as mentioned before, R&R the top cup, after turning it 90 deg; I had this happen on a new to me track bike with a NR headset 15 years ago, did the headset trick and the problem has not returned.
Hadn't heard that one before, but it certainly would explain the issue I'm feeling. I'll go ahead and do the clean and repack and while it's apart I might as well rotate the cups. Thanks!
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