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  1. #1
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    Headset - Stem Installation Feels Tight

    Last night my friend and I installed the zero stack headset onto the frame (well, mostly my friend, lol). That was all we could do because the crown was being stubborn. Today the bike store installed the crown on the fork, and also installed the star nut.

    Tonight I did the rest - installed the forks, stem, and the rest of the headset. But it feels really tight in the sense that its hard to turn the handlebar left or right. What is the cause of that? It doesn't feel right...

  2. #2
    Fat-tired Roadie
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    You did it wrong.

    parktool.com has a brilliant article on headset installation and adjustment. I'm too lazy to re-find the link for you right now. Go to the site and search "headset installation." The part on adjusting the headset is most of the way down the page.
    "Don't buy upgrades; ride up grades." -Eddy Merckx

  3. #3
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    I checked out the website, but couldn't find anything that gave me the solution. Its honestly seems pretty simple...only five pieces not counting the star nut and crown. You have the two bearing cups that fit inside the top and bottom headtube. You have the compression ring that fits in the top bearing cup. You have the bearing cover that sits on top of the compression ring and top bearing cup. You have the top cap that fits over the bearing cup. What am I missing?

    Check out the photos from the eBay auction - there really isn't much to it:

    NEW Ritchey COMP Zero Stack 1 1/8" Inset Headset | eBay

  4. #4
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    Maybe you clamped it up too tight? Resulting in too much pre-load in the bearings.

    Loosen the stem bolts, undo the bolt at the top of the stem and then wiggle the stem on the fork steerer to release the preload. Turn the forks, they should now turn freely.

    Re-tighten the bolt at the top of the stem, only until all the play is out the headset, no more, clamp up the stem, ride and enjoy!

  5. #5
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    Thanks, but that doesn't appear to be the case. In fact, the bolts weren't that tight at all - just enough to make the stem stay put. When I losen the bolts, of course, there is plenty of movement. I did look at the bearings, which came installed inside the cups, and they don't seem to have a whole lot of lube on them...you have to angle them so the light bounces off, then you can see the grease. Could that be the issue?

  6. #6
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    if it is a cane creek headset make sure the bearings aren't upside down. I put one in upside down after I dropped it and didn't notice, got everything together and installed it only to have the headset seem really tight or way too loose. I flipped the bottom bearing over put it back together and it worked perfectly. Make sure the bearing with the angled contact race touches the crown race and the upper race. It is really subtle so you could be backwards and not notice it.
    Try this: HTFU

  7. #7
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    Clarification....

    Quote Originally Posted by getagrip View Post
    Thanks, but that doesn't appear to be the case. In fact, the bolts weren't that tight at all - just enough to make the stem stay put. When I losen the bolts, of course, there is plenty of movement. I did look at the bearings, which came installed inside the cups, and they don't seem to have a whole lot of lube on them...you have to angle them so the light bounces off, then you can see the grease. Could that be the issue?
    When you loosen the stem bolts, there's plenty of movement? As in the fork turns without restriction?

    As Andrew said, you did it wrong. Go to the Park site.

    Steps:

    1. Insert fork through the head tube.
    2. Install the stem, spacers, etc. Do not tighten the stem bolts.
    3. Install the top cap and tighten the top cap until there is no play in the assembly.
    4. Turn the fork. There should be no play and you should be able to turn side to side with no friction.
    5. Align the bars and tighten the stem bolts.
    JPark - 3.5- don't listen to dremer

  8. #8
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    As Ken says, tightening the stem bolts is the LAST step of the installation. However, even when doing this wrong, it may not be the cause the stem binding - I think it may prevent any pre-loading by the top cap screw.

    Besides making sure to do things in the order Ken's post suggests, I'd check the Ritchey manual http://www.ritcheylogic.com/media/Fi...0090923web.pdf to verify that you have all the pieces in the right order and correct orientation. Also, while I doubt it is the cause of your problem, your should apply grease to the components when you assemble them - but not, of course, on the stem above the head tube. Also, check that the bearings roll/turn freely and are not seized or defective.
    Last edited by Gasp4Air; 09-02-2011 at 09:48 AM.
    Use it, use it, use it while you still have it.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken in KC View Post
    When you loosen the stem bolts, there's plenty of movement? As in the fork turns without restriction?

    As Andrew said, you did it wrong. Go to the Park site.

    Steps:

    1. Insert fork through the head tube.
    2. Install the stem, spacers, etc. Do not tighten the stem bolts.
    3. Install the top cap and tighten the top cap until there is no play in the assembly.
    4. Turn the fork. There should be no play and you should be able to turn side to side with no friction.
    5. Align the bars and tighten the stem bolts.
    Yeah, that's what I'm doing, although the top cap isn't fully tightened before I start tightening the stem bolts so perhaps that is the problem, although I haven't had this same type of problem with the other headsets I've done. When I get home from work I will try it that way to see if it makes a difference. I do wonder if it has to do something with the compression ring, though...it has a wider top and doesn't go on as easily as other compression rings I've worked with.

  10. #10
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    Thanks. Gasp4air. Yeah, I checked out that manual the other night - not all that useful for zero stack headsets, but thanks for the suggestion

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockcrusher View Post
    if it is a cane creek headset make sure the bearings aren't upside down. I put one in upside down after I dropped it and didn't notice, got everything together and installed it only to have the headset seem really tight or way too loose. I flipped the bottom bearing over put it back together and it worked perfectly. Make sure the bearing with the angled contact race touches the crown race and the upper race. It is really subtle so you could be backwards and not notice it.
    Thanks, but its a zero stack, and the bearing cups come pre-assembled, so it is different than most other headsets.

  12. #12
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    Well...

    Quote Originally Posted by getagrip View Post
    Yeah, that's what I'm doing, although the top cap isn't fully tightened before I start tightening the stem bolts so perhaps that is the problem, although I haven't had this same type of problem with the other headsets I've done. When I get home from work I will try it that way to see if it makes a difference. I do wonder if it has to do something with the compression ring, though...it has a wider top and doesn't go on as easily as other compression rings I've worked with.
    The top cap should be tightened as tight as it's going to be before you start on the stem. Once you start tightening the stem, you shouldn't touch the top cap.

    Is it possible that your cables are too short and causing the problem? Headsets are fairly simple.

    The compression ring may go on tight but it wouldn't prohibit you from turning the handlebars.
    JPark - 3.5- don't listen to dremer

  13. #13
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    yo[U] might have to retighten after your first couple of rides.

  14. #14
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    Tried re-tightening the bolts in the order suggested above (top bolt first, then stem bolts), but it yielded the same results. I CAN turn the handlebars from left to right, but its a little hard. Tomorrow, I'm going to try and shoot some grease into the bearings and see if that helps at all. I've also thought about putting some grease on the inside of the compression ring, but I'm afraid that might eat away at the plastic a bit, but then again, its a bike.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by getagrip View Post
    Tried re-tightening the bolts in the order suggested above (top bolt first, then stem bolts), but it yielded the same results. I CAN turn the handlebars from left to right, but its a little hard. Tomorrow, I'm going to try and shoot some grease into the bearings and see if that helps at all. I've also thought about putting some grease on the inside of the compression ring, but I'm afraid that might eat away at the plastic a bit, but then again, its a bike.
    please make sure that you check the bearings and that they are in correctly. This drove me crazy when I assembled a bike with a Canecreek S-3 headset. Everything will look correct from the outside even if they are upside down.
    Try this: HTFU

  16. #16
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    Or at least get us some pics... Because we are going back and forth on this without any clue.

    David
    Quote Originally Posted by NicoleB28 View Post
    topless. that's what all mtb girls do. we go ride, get topless, have pillow fights in the woods, scissor, then ride home!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockcrusher View Post
    please make sure that you check the bearings and that they are in correctly. This drove me crazy when I assembled a bike with a Canecreek S-3 headset. Everything will look correct from the outside even if they are upside down.
    Ok, I will check them out tomorrow. Only problem is that they come partially sealed. I suppose it is a possibility that I could have the cups upsidedown. I hope not.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by David C View Post
    Or at least get us some pics... Because we are going back and forth on this without any clue.

    David
    Yeah, I may do that too. Its really frustrating me. Since my experience with my first headset installation on my Trek 820, it seems like headsets are my nemisis - something always seems to go wrong, or you have something backwards, or the order isn't right. On my Windsor Cliff 4500, what I thought was a fork or front hub problem now appears to be a headset problem. Go figure.

  19. #19
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    Ok, I figured out the problem. I'm a little embarassed about it, but for the benefit of anyone who comes across this post, who might one day have the same problem, who hopefully isn't as stupid as me, I'm going to explain what I did wrong.

    It had to do with a spacer issue, which in my case was too big. This caused there to be a gap between the top of the steerer tube of the fork, and the top of the stem, so when I tightened the top cap, it basically pressed down on the stem, and created a tight seal, making the handlebars hard to move. Make sense?

    Now that I've got that figured out, I have another problem. Even when I tighten eveything up, there is some movement in the fork. I "think" this is because I can't seem to get the compression ring that sits in the top cup to fit right (or tight enough in the cup ring), which causes the fork to move. Can anyone give me any insight on how to fix this?

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by getagrip View Post
    It had to do with a spacer issue, which in my case was too big. This caused there to be a gap between the top of the steerer tube of the fork, and the top of the stem, so when I tightened the top cap, it basically pressed down on the stem, and created a tight seal, making the handlebars hard to move. Make sense?
    You need that gap. Eliminating that gap is the cause of your new problem in which you tighten everything up and still the fork wobbles in the headset.

    Is there a bike shop nearby that you can visit? Or do you have a nearby friend with experience working on bikes who can help you?

  21. #21
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    Ok it seems like you are tightening the top cap way too much. The top cap is only intended to preload the headset, it requires very little torque to do so.

    The best means of tightening the top cap is to first make sure the stem bolts are loose, then slowly tighten the bolt until it is just snug. Grab the front brake and apply it and put your hands on the top race/cup* of the headset and rock the bike back and forth a bit. If you feel any movement snug that top bolt a little more. Repeat. When you feel no rocking in the headset, align the stem and snug up the stem bolts. Then rock the handlebars back and forth to make sure that there is no binding. If not tighten up the stem bolts and you are good to go.

    You should have a gap of at least an 1/8" between the top of the steer and top of the stem when everything is snugged up. If it binds at all during the range of motion check then more than likely the headset or crown race is not set completely flush somewhere causing a high spot in the rotation and the binding. This will require the cups to be set with a headset tool again or the crown race to be reset and possibly the head tube of the frame to be faced (which is where they make the 2 faces of the headtube parallel by milling off the extra paint and any abnormalities of the metal of the frame. This can be done by any bike shop BTW).

    *When rocking the bike try to get a finger over a the gap between the top of the headset and the top cup of the headset. If it is loose you will feel the gap pinch a bit when rocking it.
    Try this: HTFU

  22. #22
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    Pics... Please.

    David
    Quote Originally Posted by NicoleB28 View Post
    topless. that's what all mtb girls do. we go ride, get topless, have pillow fights in the woods, scissor, then ride home!

  23. #23
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    ^^Yep^^

    Quote Originally Posted by JonathanGennick View Post
    You need that gap. Eliminating that gap is the cause of your new problem in which you tighten everything up and still the fork wobbles in the headset.

    Is there a bike shop nearby that you can visit? Or do you have a nearby friend with experience working on bikes who can help you?
    OP: If you would have taken Andrew's advice on the first response and gone to the Park Tool sight, you would have received a comprehensive installation guide that would have covered all the wrong steps you're now taking.

    There should be up to a 5mm gap between the steerer tube and the top of your stem assembly. As Jonathan says, you need the stem assembly to stand proud by that gap in order to pull the assembly together.
    JPark - 3.5- don't listen to dremer

  24. #24
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    ^^^^ what he said ^^^^^

    Understanding how the headset, steerer tube, head tube, stem and spacers (if used) all relate may help. The headset provides bearings that rest at either end of the head tube. Each end involves several pieces that stack on top of each other. Add the stem on top of that and possible spacers above/below the stem. This whole assembly surrounds steerer tube. All these outer pieces need to be pressed together vertically to seat the bearings into the races with just enough pressure to remove slop. This pressure is provided by the cap screw, which is anchored to the star nut in the steerer tube. When tightened, you are pulling the fork against the top cap to compress all those components surrounding the steerer tube. If the bottom of the top cap hits the top of the steerer tube, the result is looseness and premature wear. So, as has been pointed out, you need a 3 to 5 mm gap between the the top of your outer assembly and the top of the steerer tube to allow sufficient room for the outer components to be drawn together. The bottom of the top cap and the top of the steerer tube should not meet.

    My description is tedious. This is the best diagram I found to help. The stem is inexplicably missing, but it and any spacers would go just below the top cap. Imaging the steerer tube in the middle with the star nut inside the top end of it. All these pieces have to be drawn together vertically.

    Use it, use it, use it while you still have it.

  25. #25
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    Thanks for all of the responses. This morning, I took it to the bike store because I didn't want to deal with it anymore. Turns out, rockcrusher nailed it. The guy at the bike store simply loosened everything up and re-tightened it. Only he didn't tighten the top cap nearly as much as I did - only a few turns - he said something about it being pre-loaded and that it didn't need that much pressure, so that part of it is fixed, as I can now move the handlebars freely. There is still a little play, but not nearly as much as before, and my friend looked at it and should be able to help me fix it before the 3 day weekend is over (I didn't want to bug him about it too much since he just finished a 15 hour, 132 mile "rail to trail" ride last night on his mountain bike).

    Anyway, assuming I can get everything else put together in the next two days (derailleurs, cables, adjustments, etc.), hopefully I will have some pictures up of the finished product by Monday. Again, thanks for everyone's help in tryng to help me figure it out.

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