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How does one safely tighten a headset with very small flats without messing it up wit

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How does one safely tighten a headset with very small flats without messing it up wit

Old 01-25-18, 12:45 AM
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How does one safely tighten a headset with very small flats without messing it up wit

I'm about to complete a first gen Campy Chorus headset install on my Bpttecchia. As some here might know from experience the first gen Chorus headset has very small flats on its conical shaped lock nut and I think most wrenches would mess it up with just a little bit of force applied on it.

I really had a hard time finding a used headset in close to mint condition as this one is. 90 percent of them for sale used out there have their top lock nuts beat up by wenches because I suspect of the very small flats. Thought of my usual trick of putting electrical tape over my headset wrench flats, but I don't think it would work this time on this wonky locknut design. Do you guys think I could tighten the locknut with a band clamp instead? I had suggested using such to people who could not find special wrenches for their unusual headsets, but I have not done it myself. I guess it's my turn.... The unusually shaped locknut might be quite hard to get a grip of with a band clamp anyway?
Checked around for any special wrenches from Campy that might work best, but I think they did not make any for this headset.
Any suggestions?
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Old 01-25-18, 12:56 AM
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Not a useful answer but it would be a real possibility. Replace it with a $30 Tange. Much heavier chromed steel. But they work and look right on traditional steel bikes, just minus a bunch of zing. And being chrome steel, you need never worry about messing up the looks with a decent wrench.

My custom ti bike has a 1" steerer and now a Tange. It came with a Chris King HS that drove me nuts. Finally after thousands of mile, never going further than 400 miles between HS loosenings and adjusts (by me, by pro mechanics and by the Chris King factory) I finally spent $30 and went Tange. Two minor adjustments in that 8000 miles. It's still going strong after it started to pit and I replaced the balls with a different size. Still, 8,000 miles for $30 and trouble free? I'll take it every time.

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Old 01-25-18, 01:14 AM
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I thought about it a bit and came up with this to possibly use as a wrench for the lock nut.

I can control the tightness against the flats very well and maybe if it does move a bit during torquing, the hard wood flat surfaces is less likely to damage the small crescent shaped flats. The screw down handles also makes for good handles to do the turning and twisting with.. I do remember using these types of clamps in the 80's for many special mechanical "situations". Maybe it's time to look around for a couple of these to buy and add again to my tools....
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Old 01-25-18, 01:19 AM
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Originally Posted by 79pmooney View Post
Not a useful answer but it would be a real possibility. Replace it with a $30 Tange. Much heavier chromed steel. But they work and look right on traditional steel bikes, just minus a bunch of zing. And being chrome steel, you need never worry about messing up the looks with a decent wrench.

My custom ti bike has a 1" steerer and now a Tange. It came with a Chris King HS that drove me nuts. Finally after thousands of mile, never going further than 400 miles between HS loosenings and adjusts (by me, by pro mechanics and by the Chris King factory) I finally spent $30 and went Tange. Two minor adjustments in that 8000 miles. It's still going strong after it started to pit and I replaced the balls with a different size. Still, 8,000 miles for $30 and trouble free? I'll take it every time.

Ben
Logical answer, thanks, would definite work but this is a "possibly illogical" to some, full 1st gen Chorus build (only the hubs and pedals will not be 1st gen Chorus, but I might fix those in the future).....
I'm in in too far already to retreat to another headset model/brand.
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Old 01-25-18, 01:32 AM
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Might be tricky to slam the stem. But I think you're on the right track. The tool needs to be softer than the headset flats. And instead of tightening the headset enough to risk marring it, how about a drop of blue LocTite to hold it in place with only gentle tightening? I have a bike whose headset is only as tight as my bare hands can do it (because the upper race doesn't have flats at all, only knurling) and there is no play at the fork. I have another headset that is only hand tight (again, only tiny wrench flats) and prevented from loosening by a set screw (Vitus 997, I think it is a Stronglight-made headset), and again no fork play.

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Old 01-25-18, 02:15 AM
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What you want to use is a 12" adjustable wrench, so you can get the jaws as tight (and thus kept as parallel to the flats) as possible. You don't want a soft, loose-fitting or narrow wrench for the top nut!


The trick to tightening headset locknuts with minimal trauma to the flats and with minimal chance of shearing the peg on the lockwasher is to tighten the nut several times at a slightly lower torque level, with all threads and washer surfaces greased, and while re-positioning the wrench to a different pair of flats each time.
By alternating the pairs of flats used, the locknut ovalizes elastically very slightly each time, allowing the nut to settle more fully on the threads without having to use quite as much torque.


These Campag headsets are made of good alloy and so are not much prone to damage from wrenching. There is no headset socket to grip all four flats at once but no one needs to do that!


I deal with tightening headsets which have reflector brackets that have to be held straight while fully securing the nut, and by maintaining some resisting torque with my knees on the front wheel and with my non-wrenching arm bracing the handlebar even while holding the reflector bracket, I still can get the nut really good and tight by tightening repeatedly from more than one pair of flats.


Keep in mind that arriving at the proper headset adjustment tends to be an iterative process that may require as many as a half-dozen or more tries in some cases. So you may be repeating all the above steps many times! And the adjustment is affected by the tightening and expanding of the quill in the steerer, which tightens the headset adjustment. An even slightly over-tight final adjustment can dent the races in short order. A loose adjustment is easily detected by raising the front wheel off the ground and striking the front tire hammer-style (vertically) with your fist, and listening for a heavy rattling sound. You'll want to make your first adjustment slightly on the loose side so you can familiarize yourself with that particular sound/frequency, then tighten the headset just enough to make it go away, in final increments of just 1/20th of a turn or so. This is Campy we're talking about and all the extra work is justified so allow needed time and be patient.

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Old 01-25-18, 05:20 AM
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What headset wrench are you using? I have the standard Campy wrench set and don’t recall any problems with that version locknut.
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Old 01-25-18, 05:58 AM
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Consider a Knipex adjustable wrench. Expensive but top quality - no slop in the mechanism and absolutely parallel jaws. Good leverage for a tight grip. Consider adding copper or aluminum liners, or even hardwood, liners to further reduce the chance of maring the nut.

I have an old "monkey wrench" that is pretty well made. Cast iron jaws but stiff and parallel. I made copper liners for each jaw and use it in cases like this.
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Old 01-25-18, 06:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Spaghetti Legs View Post
What headset wrench are you using? I have the standard Campy wrench set and don’t recall any problems with that version locknut.
One if those "Laser cut" big, flat Park headset combination wrenches for the top race and a big adjustable wrench (Always adjusted very carefully tight against the flats before torquing on it, as already suggested) for most top locknuts. The combination had worked for me well but just to the point where the wrenches would just begin to marr the flats (I even pad the wrench flats with electrical tape.), right before I get things tight enough, but I suspect the Chorus headset, with its small flats on top locknut will not fare as well. Look at all the used Chorus headsets for sale with beat up locknuts at eBay, to see it is probably a common problem with these particular headsets.
Maybe the best solution is to fabricate a wrench from thick sheet steel with a boxed shaped opening that will go over the locknut. Just always have to temporarily pull off the stem/bar assembly from the bike, to access the nut.
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Old 01-25-18, 06:36 AM
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Cloth handlebar tape on the edges?
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Old 01-25-18, 06:48 AM
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I have an open ended 32mm Snap-On big wrench that I got from eBay used for ~15$ that would work well on that top nut. The tool is very accurate, yet smooth to the touch with no sharpness to it. You could use a little zip-lock baggy on the jaws of a big, quality open end wrench like this.

One other idea that I think would work really well. This is a variation of your idea of using a maple parallel jaw clamp & that is to use a smaller tool steel machinist’s parallel jaw clamp. I have a variety of these from really small all the way up to like 8” that I obtained from estate sales over the years. The metal ones can literally be locked on to a metal part by putting a small Allen wrench through the hole in the back knurled screw and tightening it down.

One big issue with this pretty top nut with only 2 flats is that the pretty, rounded portion is vulnerable. Clumsy mechanics in a hurry might get their Park headset open wrench on the flats alright but then bottom out the hex portion on the exposed polished radius causing near immediate scratching.
Carry on in your quest of virgin silver vintage headset group set completion. The vintage gods are already thanking you!!

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Old 01-25-18, 06:56 AM
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Originally Posted by masi61 View Post
snip....One big issue with this pretty top nut with only 2 flats is that the pretty rounded portion is vulnerable. Clumsy mechanics in a hurry might get their Park headset open wrench on the flats alright but then bottom out the hex portion on the exposed polished radius causing near immediate scratching.
Carry on in your quest of virgin silver vintage headset group set completion. The vintage gods are already thanking you!!
I think this sums up the problem pretty well, that design with two flats, is why I am avoiding a 1st gen Chorus group right now. I must be one of those Clumsy Mechanics, no wait, I am one of those guys
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Old 01-25-18, 09:18 AM
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I use a good quality monkey wrench with gorilla tape on the jaws.
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Old 01-25-18, 11:04 AM
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I have discovered, by pure accident, over the years that the method of applying the wrench to alternating flats as described by @dddd is very effective. Until now I never knew why.
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Old 01-25-18, 01:10 PM
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Hard plastic wrench jaw liners?
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Old 01-25-18, 02:57 PM
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Originally Posted by qcpmsame View Post
I think this sums up the problem pretty well, that design with two flats, is why I am avoiding a 1st gen Chorus group right now. I must be one of those Clumsy Mechanics, no wait, I am one of those guys
Correction: I just looked at the picture again and noted that there are 4 flats, not 2. My bad. But the shiny silver is still very vulnerable to scratching.
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Old 01-25-18, 03:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Reynolds View Post
Hard plastic wrench jaw liners?
Maybe someone should make hard plastic wrenches. Lots of moderm plastics exists that can take a good amount of pressure and strain. They can still mold in an internal metal piece into the wrench to help stiffen it up, if needed.
They might even exist out there already. I'll report back here if I find any.
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Old 01-25-18, 05:53 PM
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Originally Posted by masi61 View Post
Correction: I just looked at the picture again and noted that there are 4 flats, not 2. My bad. But the shiny silver is still very vulnerable to scratching.
Understood, but that particular design just seems vulnerable, even with four flats. I just prefer the NR/SR, older type with the large hex nut for the locking and for the top bearing cap. The Chorus that is discussed looks great, but its execution and in practice leaves me cold towards it.

That and a dollar gets me a cheap, weak cup of coffee.

For the thoughts about plastic covers for the jaws, or the idea about a plastic wrench, couldn't you use some Plasti Dip to make some protective wrenches from an old or cheap steel one? There should be some wrenches that can accept the soft aluminum jaws, in place of the hard tool steel ones, like quality bench vise have. (If they don't already exist)

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Old 01-25-18, 06:51 PM
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I thought that it is perhaps illusory that the flats on a Chorus headset are smaller than those of other headset locknuts.

This because only four flats makes the space between flats appear relatively larger(?).

So I measured them at 12mm length, as compared to, ok, 13.5mm length on an Ultegra headset.

But I see no evidence of the previous owner's mechanics having had any trouble preserving the locknut wrench flats while doing what was apparently a very good job of tightening it on this now-pretty-old and well-used Guerciotti.

So I will credit the excellent hard alloy with these mere 12mm flats causing absolutely no problems that would befall any conscientious mechanic using good tools (NOT including many flat headset wrenches with over-generous clearances).
It's worth noting that long ago I made my own headset wrenches, starting with a pair of hardened, 1-1/4" open-end wrenches supplied with some lawn mower or similar power equipment. I slightly enlarged the openings just enough to fit over most 32mm headset hex fittings and smoothed the relatively wide (too wide for certain headset adjusting cones) jaw surfaces with emery. These have made life a little easier as far as allowing care-free application of torque to soft or flimsy headset hexes. I added a picture of one of them, along with another, thinner one (also 1-1/4") that happened to fit 32mm flats without modification and which fits the narrowest top cone flats without getting pinched. I guess it will be a dark day when mowers go metric!

Any good adjustable wrench has jaws that actually only become fully parallel upon reaching significant tightening load, or from some very heavy use having cold-set the jaws to an initial state of parallelism. This is generally good, so that if the jaws are snugged on the flats the jaws will be parallel under the tightening load.
One can also hold tension on the wrench wheel while tapping the movable jaw inward with a small hammer near it's sliding base, to more fully pre-load the jaws parallel. I've used this method only when needing some actual grip on the part (to hold it from falling out of place) or to have a last-ditch go on a "rounded" hex fastener, but never on a headset locknut since it isn't needed.

Again though I would not use any soft material here as this will greatly increase the chance of the wrench slipping upward out of position and rounding the flat's corners. If the wrench is simply held down squarely on the nut there is plenty of tightening torque available without damaging the flats, but practicing on a beater bike is never a bad idea either.

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Old 01-25-18, 07:24 PM
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On headsets like that I like to overtighten the adjustable cup (which has larger flats) first, then snug the locknut with a standard headset wrench, and while holding the wrench stationary on the locknut flats, use a second headset wrench to tighten (loosen?) the cup "upward" against the locknut. That last move usually loosens the bearing just enough to get the correct bearing preload, while the tightening action is done on the larger flats.
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Old 01-25-18, 07:45 PM
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That's especially a good idea with these headsets where as you say the cup/cone flats are much wider.
Having both threaded parts moving during the final torqueing phase could only help with getting the assembly more fully settled so as to resist loosening.
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Old 01-25-18, 08:33 PM
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I just conducted a quick semi-scientific experiment with a Campy headset wrench and a Park HCW 12 on Chorus locknut from about ‘95, so not 1st Gen. I measured the “play” in the wrench, meaning the lateral distance the wrench would wiggle when slotted on the locknut, measured 5 cm back. In other words, a measure of how tight the wrench fits. The Park had 7 mm of play whereas the Campy was 3 mm. I did a quick look on a C Record as well without measuring and fit was the same. Kinda dorky I know but that’s how we roll here right? Reinforces the notion I’ve had that the Campy wrenches work better on their headsets.

Wrench is from 1973 BTW
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Old 01-26-18, 05:19 PM
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I just repacked one of these recently. I had to adjust it pretty tight to remove play. It spins smoothly but has some drag — does that sound about right? Also, can anyone confirm that the bearings are properly aligned with the cones (if you just slid them on) in this pic? Just checking...

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Old 01-26-18, 05:44 PM
  #24  
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That is the correct orientation of the retainers if that is what you meant(?).
Open side of the retainer always faces the cone.

Try it the other way and you'll immediately see what the problem is with the other orientation.

Interestingly (to me, lol) my very first known error in working on bicycles was discovered by myself while preparing a 1967 Schwinn Stingray for sale to a neighbor some ten years later. I was diagnosing a problem with the front axle so disassembled it to have a look-see, and immediately saw that I had earlier (when I was seven!) installed both bearing retainers backwards. The retainers were by now worn down to where it [I]almost[I/] worked normally, and by this time ten years later I had rebuilt quite a few bicycle assemblies to know which way was the right way. Bearing retainers were metal in those days, and I have since rebuilt many bearing assemblies where I found that someone had earlier installed a retainer backwards. Sometimes the backwards retainer comes out literally in pieces, after being worn into submission.
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Old 01-26-18, 08:22 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by Spaghetti Legs View Post
I just conducted a quick semi-scientific experiment with a Campy headset wrench and a Park HCW 12 on Chorus locknut from about ‘95, so not 1st Gen. I measured the “play” in the wrench, meaning the lateral distance the wrench would wiggle when slotted on the locknut, measured 5 cm back. In other words, a measure of how tight the wrench fits. The Park had 7 mm of play whereas the Campy was 3 mm. I did a quick look on a C Record as well without measuring and fit was the same. Kinda dorky I know but that’s how we roll here right? Reinforces the notion I’ve had that the Campy wrenches work better on their headsets.

Wrench is from 1973 BTW
Thanks for the interesting bit of information on comparative fit between wrenches.
Geeze, I don't really want to spend the bucks that usually comes with the Campy brand name when I have the Park wrench already.... but then I'm thinking that the electrical tape I've heen using to pad the wrench jaws on the Park might help a little bit.....
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