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Cause of Loose Headset?

Old 10-24-13, 02:04 PM
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slug56
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Cause of Loose Headset?

Hello all,

Just lately on my bike, I've noticed the headset (FSA Orbit C40 1 1/8 - 1.5) feels quite loose. When this first started I was able to pinch up the top-cap bolt, but the fix didn't last long before the problem returned.
It's now got to the point where even with the top-cap over-tightened, the headset is still loose.

By loose, I mean I can apply my front brake and feel movement of the stem in the head tube. To try and remedy the issue, I have removed the forks and cleaned, lightly regreased and replaced the components. Strangely both sets of bearings seemed okay to me, though I've not had the experience of comparing a worn set with new ones. In any case, the inner face of the bearing housing seems to rotate relatively smoothly, and there doesn't seem to be any play in either set of bearings.

My question: even though the bearings don't seem too bad, are these likely to be the culprit? I don't fancy spending 20 on replacements to find I then need to spent another 50 on a complete headset because the issue remains.

Thanks
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Old 10-24-13, 02:10 PM
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demoncyclist
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Forgive me if you are doing this correctly, but you are tightening the top cap with the stem pinch bolts loose, right? Have you checked carefully to see that the head tube hasn't ovalized or cracked, allowing one or both of the cups to move? Are these cartridge bearings, and if so, do they appear to rotate smoothly? do the cups appear to be in good shape? The races too? Just trying to get as much info from you as possible so that we can properly assist.
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Old 10-24-13, 02:22 PM
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Originally Posted by demoncyclist View Post
you are tightening the top cap with the stem pinch bolts loose, right?
Yes, I am loosening the stem pinch bolts first.

Cartridge bearings, yes, and they seem to rotate fine. As far as I can tell, everything seems in good condition, though the upper bearing was a little corroded when I uncovered it. Not badly - just looked discoloured probably from the ingress of water. I think the upper race was in a similar state as well. I wouldn't have thought this would have caused the problems I'm having but... I wouldn't be asking if I knew the answer!

Thanks for the prompt reply.

Last edited by slug56; 10-24-13 at 02:22 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 10-24-13, 02:24 PM
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New bike build? Did you have the headtube faced? It is important to have them free of excess paint and be parallel to each other. You do have a tapered steerer tube, correct?
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Old 10-24-13, 02:25 PM
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not enough spacers, bearing cups and fork race still settling to their home position, or stem not clamping firmly enough/oversized
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Old 10-24-13, 02:26 PM
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New bike build?
Not a new build, no. I bought the bike about 15 months ago and this is the first problem I've had with the headset. It is a tapered tube, yes.

not enough spacers
The number of spacers has never changed since I bought it.
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Old 10-24-13, 02:29 PM
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The spacers need to sit 2-4 mm or so above the top of the steerer tube so the cap can be tighten up, and then the pinch bolts on the stem tightened.
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Old 10-24-13, 05:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Leebo View Post
The spacers need to sit 2-4 mm or so above the top of the steerer tube so the cap can be tighten up, and then the pinch bolts on the stem tightened.
+1 If you don't have a gap between the top of the stem or top spacer and the top of the steerer, you can tighten the bolt all you want but the steerer can't move upward to remove the play.
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Old 10-24-13, 05:23 PM
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Originally Posted by HillRider View Post
+1 If you don't have a gap between the top of the stem or top spacer and the top of the steerer, you can tighten the bolt all you want but the steerer can't move upward to remove the play.
But if I've always had the same number of spacers and never had a problem before? IIRC there is a small gap between the stem and steerer, but I'll double check just in case.
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