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Thread: Headset problem

  1. #1
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    Headset problem

    Quite a few months ago the front of my bike started to make a "snapping" sound when going down steep bits and drops. I checked the headset by pushing the front with break on and wheel sideways and there was no loose. It was difficult to locate the origin of the sound but as it always happened when fork was nearly bottoming I thought that it came from my cheap fork. I bumped into the LBS guy who without seeing the bike confirmed that this was most likely the case. Then last week I finally realized that now the headset was loose and that it was the headset that was making the sound. I managed to repeat the sound by pushing the front with the break on. I tightened the headset and it disappeared only to appear again after few bigger drops. I tightened the headset again and it still occasionally happens but is not as nearly as bad as some time ago.

    How tight I can tighten the headset? I don't have a torque wrench available and I have now tightened it with a small allen key as much as I feel comfortable with. Or is it OK to tighten as long as the steering turns freely? Or should I look into changing the headset and/or bearings as they might have been damaged from all those months of riding with a loose headset and cannot be properly adjusted anymore?

    I could try with the local LBS but they are not very good and I'd rather do all the work myself.

    It's a Cane Creek headset with a cheap Suntour XCR fork, if that helps.

  2. #2
    R.I.P. DogFriend
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    This should tell you what you need to know:

    Park Tool Co. ParkTool Blog Threadless Headset Service

  3. #3
    EDR
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    You shouldn't ever have to tighten it once it's tight. In theory you could remove the stem bolt and ride without one once it's tight.

    When you "tighten" it what are you tightening? the stem bolt? If so, are you loosening the stem bolts on the side first?

  4. #4
    Trailhead Poseur
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    Yes, it sounds like the OP is just cranking down on the top cap bolt. The bearings are set by the stem pressing down on them, the top cap is just used to load the stem before you tighten the stem bolts. If you were an extreme weight weenie, you could ride around without the top cap and bolt once the stem was set.

    The top cap bolt needs only very small adjustments, like 1/8th a turn or less at a time, and is set by feel. Tight enough that there's no play, but not so tight that it binds up the steering. The basic procedure is to loosen the stem bolts, adjust the top cap bolt, then re-tighten the stem bolts to hold it all in place.
    Speed solves all problems, except for those things it makes worse.

  5. #5
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    Re: Headset problem

    Thanks for all the replies. I am not just tightening the top cap bolt. I have losened the bolts in the stem as well when tightening. I'm not mechanically challenged, just new with headsets. During the last ride it only snapped twice. Once when going over a steep gutter and once when 'panic breaking'.

    Is it possible that since the bike was new, parts have found their places and the headset has became a bit loose and then I have damaged it while riding with a loose headset?

  6. #6
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Could still be your fork.

    Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  7. #7
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    Right. The situation improved though after I tightened the headset, but it's worth a look. I think I'll also see if I can find another LBS that could take a look.

    Sent from my GT-I9300 using Tapatalk

  8. #8
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    As you suspected AndrwSwitch, it is the cheap fork that's making the noise. I took my bike to a guy who I met at the local track and who also has a bike shop. He pointed me where the noise is coming from. Quite a lot play in these cheap forks.. but hey, it lasted 8 months without any issues. The fork is still safe to ride but I think I'll be looking for an upgrade soon.

  9. #9
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    Skip any "upgrade" below the level of the Recon Gold, or comparable from one of the other brands. Just do rigid if that's too expensive. IMO. And, glad you diagnosed the problem. Those can be maddening if I can't figure them out!
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

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