Headset service

Headsets are one of the things that people seem to have problems with, so during this maintenance of my headset, I’ll work through the steps needed to break down, clean and rebuild a headset.

The headset on this bike uses two sealed bearings in an integrated, other bikes use caged bearings.

So, the first thing todo is remove the front wheel. Once that’s out the way, remove the brake, and secure it to the frame of the bike. Doing this will let you completely remove the full fork, and make it easier to clean the steerer tube, and fork crown.

Now comes the interesting bits.

Start by removing the top cap, there’s a lot of parts to a headset, so make sure you have somewhere to put them all down. Try to lay out the parts in the order you remove them.

There maybe a small spacer under the top cap.

Slacken off the stem pinch bolts, and gently remove the stem and handlebar assembly, and secure it on the bike frame.

Remove all the spacers from under the stem.

But while your doing that, ensure your supporting the fork, as there is a possibility it might drop out the frame.

Now, if the forks won’t move down, support the fork underneath, and slap the top of the exposed steerer tube, and it should move down. Now push it back up, and the weather cover, and the spacer should be able to be removed. the whole fork should now slide out.

Check the fork to see if the bearings came out with the fork, or if the stayed in the frame.

Now, remove the bearings, from both the top, and bottom, taking note of which way they came out, and which one was top and bottom.

Now, get a rag, and clean up.

  • Clean the top bearing seat
  • Clean the bottom bearing seat.
  • If sealed bearings, wipe off the old grease and dirt, but don’t use degreaser. Spin each bearing in your fingers feeling for any play or grittiness. Replace if any problems
  • Clean off the fork steerer tube, and crown race.
  • Leave all parts to dry out.

When your ready, it’s time to reassemble.

Start off with a liberal amount of grease to each bearing race, top and bottom, and the crown race. Use a good quality grease, the grease both lubricates the races, and protects the bearings from dirt and water. The headset gets absolutely soaked by the front wheel, so a good waterproof grease is the best option.

Now, slide the first bearing onto the steerer tube in the right orientation, and seat it into the grease. I like to take the grease that presses out and smear it over the bearing. Now, taking the fork, slide it back into the frame, making sure the bearing seats correctly.

And, this is where having everything to hand really helps. As your holding the fork in place, slide in the top bearing, and the bearing spacer. I like to smear a little grease on the top of the bearing, just to give it a little more protection. Add the weather cap, spacers and put the stem back on the steerer tube. Rethread the top cap, along with any spacers needed, don’t tighten it, just enough to hold the whole system to get her.

Now take a moment, and clean up any grease that’s squeezed out. Reattach the brake, Put the front wheel back in and finally center up the brakes.

It’s time to tension the whole assembly. Take the bike out of the work stand, nip down the top cap just a touch. Apply the front brake and rock the bike forward and back. What your feeling for, is play in the headset. So any knocking you feel, tighten the top cap by a very small amount. Keep on repeating until you can’t feel any play, or feel any knocking. Check that the whole system can be rotated, with no binding.

If a video, is easier to follow for this, I’ll let the excellent GCN explain it in this video.

Once your happy with the tension, center your stem, and tighten your stem bolts, double check your bars are still straight, and go ride your newly greased bike!

I will update this with pictures the next time I do a full headset service.

What a time

So, we are in the middle of a global pandemic. I’m not going to lie, I’m finding it hard. Work at the moment, is to be perfectly honest, a massive drain on my mental resources, and watching people and their behaviours is troublesome.

The other day, on a ride I had a guy launch a tirade of abuse, because I didn’t say thank you for him stopping and letting me through a gate. He was on the phone, and headed off to my right into a car park, out of my vision. I just thought he was just stopping to do his phone call. It wasn’t until I was about 15 yards away he started ranting about manners. I just rode off, as I wasn’t in the frame of mind to deal with him.

Work is a nightmare, having to get ready for limited reopening, after dealing with a nightmare series of events for online ordering. I’m really not looking forward to the store reopening, let alone dealing with the great British public, and with 70% of the workforce furloughed the work is tiresome and mentally draining.

But my bike has been my saviour. But with a horrible clicking noise I couldn’t pin down. Not surprising since it’s been in the garage, unused and forgotten since the back end of October. So, a little maintenance was obviously in order.

However, I got a little carried away, and broke the bike down to frame level, cleaned and checked each and every component. Jockey wheels removed, cleaned and oiled, derailleur front and rear cleaned and re indexed, both wheels dismantled cleaned, regreased and retensioned. Front chainrings removed, cleaned and bottom bracket replaced with the superb Hope bottom bracket.

So, all in all, a bit of maintenance nirvana. Taking it out for a short ten mile test, no annoying clicks clunks or other noise. Bikes are amazing machines. They are so simple, but they give you so much in return.

So, if your feeling a bit down, like many people in these troublesome times, try a cycle ride. It’s good for the mind, body and soul, and try not to let your work, or lack of it get too you, it’s not the most important thing in your life, don’t let it be.

Grease, anti seize and locktite

Three things you should have, two things you use in certain circumstances, and one you need in exceptional circumstances.

So when to use, and when not to use. Well, it’s not really that complicated. Just slather the grease about and you’ll be golden. However, if like me, you like to play about, anti seize has a valid use. If your the kind of person who assembles things, and don’t plan on taking the apart for awhile, anti seize is your friend. Let’s take pedals as an example, you install pedals, they may never be removed from the cranks for years, if ever over the course of the frames life. Anti seize will stay around for a longer period of time than grease, which may wash out over time, or dry out. Anti seize, thanks to its metallic particles will always help prevent galvanic corrosion and jamming up.

So when the time comes to remove those pedals after a few years, you’ve a better chance with anti seize applied. However, if you plan on bike maintenance, with a good schedule, grease is just fine to use. I’d use anti seize on:

  • Pedal spindles
  • Bottom bracket cups
  • Derailleur bolts

That’s it. Quite a narrow use clause for that one. You could quite easily manage without a can of it in the workshop.

My singlespeed, which sees alot less maintenance than my geared bikes tends to see more antiseize than grease. Purely based on the fact it gets taken apart much less.

Thread locker, aka locktite, is used on bolts that you bolts you just can’t afford to come lose. I’ve only ever used it on jockey wheel bolts, where they have almost zero torque, but you can’t risk them falling out. Use it on anybolt you want to lock in. People use it on handle bar bolts, chainring bolts, seat pin bolts and many many others. Just use the blue coloured one. The red is too strong for use on bikes.

So grease, grease is your friend with bike maintenance. Use it wherever you have metal on metal contact, be it screw, slide or rotate. Unless you have a need for anti seize, or locktite, grease will do.

Brakes and cleaning

After a few rides, especially after a series of wet rides, your wheel brake surface will be covered in a black gunge, it’s a good idea to do some maintenance on them after.

In order to keep your rims working well, and wear down, clean off the surface of the brake track with hot soapy water. Then, get a cloth and some isopropyl alcohol, and wipe them down. You’ll be amazed at how much more gunk comes off.

Now, with the wheels off the bike, give the brake pads a look. Look for any embedded metal fragments, and pick them out with a sharp pick. Wipe them down with the alcohol, and if they look glazed, or smooth just take a file or sandpaper and rub them down. Also, while your here it’s a good chance to check just how worn they are.

Pedal Maintenance and new wheels

Respect your pedals. They suffer a lot of abuse but just keep on going..

My pedal maintenance is simple. Every few rides, I lube the contact points with a dry lube, this avoids the annoying pedal squeak when the cleat rubs. Drop a drip into the spring mechanism while your here.

Every once in a while, I’ll crack open the axle, clean it off and fill the chamber with fresh grease. Reinsert the axle and snug it down driving the grease up through the bearings.

I’d used the muc off biogrease for this first time, and the pedals went slack really quick. Did them about 500 miles ago, this time using Park Tools grease. Spinning the pedals today, they are smooth, with a little resistance from the grease. Perfect.

Needless to say, that tube of biogrease has been binned never to be seen again.

I’d bought a new set of wheels, that come with cup and cone bearings, and what excuse do I need for another tube of grease to try. My existing greases would of worked fine, but wanted something that was quite thin, and tacky. The crystal grease is a little too thick, the park tools grease has a tendency to stain light coloured areas. The exus blue would of been my choice, however I’ve sorta stopped using it in favour of the crystal. So I’d ordered a tube of Rock ‘n’ Roll Super Web. The stuff Is amazing in bearings. It’s quite a thin grease but hellishly sticky and coats everything. It’s ideal in the hubs and loose bearings. Being a nice bright white colour, it’s easy too see where it’s applied too.

I’ve also had to replace the rear brake caliper. I’d disconnected the cable to space the pads a little further out, and when I removed the cable, the right hand arm had a massive amount of play. So I’ve ordered a new R8000 ultegra to replace it. I’ll also redo the front caliper later in the month.

New Wheels!

So I decided to splash out on a new set of hoops, and purchased the Fulcrum Racing 3.

I like Fulcrum wheels, they are sturdy, well built and easy to service. I started with the racing 5, moved onto the Quattro and now on the Racing 5.

A test spin in the hand, and that feeling of buttery smoothness was evident. These wheels have cup and cone bearings, which I prefer as maintenance is slightly easier than the cartridge bearing. The quattros need a bearing change for sure again.

I’m looking forward to putting racing 3 on the bike and having a good 15 mile ride tomorrow..

Multi tools

I’ve amassed a small collection of multi tools over a few years. They are definitely something you want on every ride, just like a spare tube. Don’t skip MP when buying a multitool. It could very well be the difference of walking home, or riding home.

Park Tool IB-2

by far, my favourite, and comes on nearly every ride, is the Park Tool IB-2

It has almost every tool I’d need for simple roadside help. It’s simple, well thought out and the tools have a decent length. Very light and small. However, the tools can get discoloured quite quickly, but it has no effect apart from being unpleasing on the eye. It’s also very easy to break down, clean and lubricate. If you do break it down, be sure to apply a small amount of threadlock to the bolts, there is a tendency for it to loosen over time.

  • 1.5, 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 8mm hex wrenches
  • T25 Torx® compatible driver
  • Flat blade screwdriver
  • Dimensions: 75mm x 40mm x 18mm (2.87″ x 1.57″ x 0.71″)
  • Weight: 108g (3.8 ounces)

Lezyne RAP-21

Moving up in the tool stakes, this tool has a few more options, but larger, heavier and bulky.

It also has a bonus of a easy to use CO2 head. I find the flap for the chain tool flaps around, and the tools are a little short, as well as the small Allen keys are 90 degree angles on the head.

  • Hex 2, 2.5, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8mm
  • Torx T25, T30
  • Phillips and flat head screwdriver
  • Chain Breaker: (9/10/11 speed)
  • Spoke Wrenches: Mavic Mtv, 3.22, 3.45
  • Tire Lever with open end 10mm wrench
  • Bottle Opener with open End 8mm wrench and disk brake wedge
  • Presta/Schrader Co2 Inflator

Quite the impressive list of tools. The finish of the tools is corrosion proof, and a high quality finish.
But, it’s not really a tool I carry often. Mostly due to the bulk. If I’m on a long ride, with a larger saddle bag, I might consider it, but it often plays second fiddle to the IB-2. The CO2 inflators, is always in my saddle bag, as it’s small, and a lot easier to use than the other inflators I have to hand.

Topeak Alien-II

This thing is an absolute monster. Virtually every tool you could need. But it’s seriously heavy and bulky.

Well, maybe not every tool, but each tool is strong and well constructed out of steel. I don’t think I’ve ever really had this out on many rides, it’s sat in my toolbox for a quite some time.

And the second most used tool I have at my disposal

Topeak Mini 20 Pro Multi Tool

I like this one, and it’s often found in my jersey pocket. It’s light, flat, and a good selection of tools.

Allen Wrenches
  • 2/2-L/2.5/3 (2 each) 4/5/6/8/10mm
  • T10/T25
  • 14g/15g/ Mavic M7
  • Shimano Compatible Chain Tool
  • Cast CrMo Steel chain hook
  • Stainless Steel Wire Tire Levers
  • Super Hard Anodized* (*The metal tire lever is designed for durability and for emergency use only)
  • #2 Phillips/ Flat Head
  • Hardened Steel/ with Spoke Holder
  • Chain Pin Breaker

All the tools are made from aluminium, and the body is steel. The tools are a little on the short side, but easily useable.

Easy to have in a jersey pocket, or saddlepack for when you need it, and the most common sizes of Allen keys for when you need them.

But whatever multitool you choose, don’t just let it sit there. You need to make sure it’s clean, rust free and the tools lubricated. Everyonce in a while, clean out any grit or crud and give it a drip of dry chain lube in the joints.

Wheels.. They go round.

Well, mostly they do. I use a set of Fulcrum Quattro, they are now a few years old but plenty of life left in them. But they did need a bit of TLC the other day. I couldn’t be bothered to change the bearings so I swapped them over temporarily for a set of Mavic Aksiums that I have hanging around the garage.

Look 566 2012 Mavic Aksium Wheelset

The Aksiums, are in all honesty, a cheap set of wheels and it shows in their performance. They are heavy and slow. The other thing I’d noticed, was their breaking distance is longer than the Quattro.

On the second ride with the magics, my average speed was much lower, and I had a lot more effort going into maintaining speed. Then the noise started. The constant eek eek noise from the free hub. Drove me insane.

So they have been removed, and the free hub bearings replaced in the Quattro, cycling nirvana restored.

Disaster Strikes!

I was well and truly blessed by mechanicals on my latest ride. I barley got 4 miles, in the pouring rain, and felt a thumping from the rear wheel. OK, I think that may be a puncture. Yup. The tyre was getting softer by the second.

So a push to the nearest bench, and a repair put in place. But, it was’nt to be. My CO2 cannister leaked out, and it was the only one I was carting around. So, removed the chuck from the valve, and the curse of the Continental inner tube struck. The whole valve assembly had come off in the chuck.

Ah well, cue a phone call for a delivery of CO2 Cannisters, so I could try again. Managed to get the valve core out the chuck, and put it back in as tight as I could. Trying the second cannister, it too leaked. The valve also came out again, and this time, I couldn’t get it out the chuck. Loaded the bike into the back of the car, and sheepishly got a lift home.

Back at home, I applied Locktite to the valve core and tightened it stupid tight. No way that’s coming out again. Lesson learned, always tighten Continental tubes well before they are needed.

Inflated the tyre, and then I saw it. A gash, deep into the tyre. Thats a write off then. It was impossible to see until the tyre was inflated to pressure.

Time to start looking at tyres. The Rubino Pro tyres I had been using, are good general tyres, not fast, but pretty sure footed and grippy. I looked at Vittoria Corsa, and ruled them out by the reviews I read about them being delicate and fast wearing. I finally settled on the Michelin Pro4 Service Course. Never used Michelin tyres, and I was happy with the reviews I’d read. So looking forward to trying them.

Stupid Strava

So, I rode a route I hadn’t ridden in quite a while yesterday, and was interested to see my timings.

On one segment, I was beating my previous time by about 10 seconds, until the end of the segment, where the time ahead started to drift back down. And much to my surprise, I finished at exactly the same time as the previous PB. But when I looked on Strava, the times, where exact for each of my efforts over the years. What are the chances of that?

7 Minutes and 38 seconds, and its the slight uphill at the end of the segment that kills it for me. So, I need to try harder!

Using the compare tool on the segment page, I’m able too see I was faster all the way down to the base of the hill, then that gap really started to close in on me, before the lead just went.

I’ll keep trying the segment, and now I’m loosing more weight, I’m sure given time and effort I’ll be able to pull it back down to under my current PB.

The Single speed bike is badly unwell. A few spokes started to come loose, and pinging while riding, which also kicked the wheel out of true. Like a proper idiot, I tightened the spokes without thinking, and of course made the wheel a damn sight worse than it was. These are horrible wheels that came stock with the bike, and with a non removable freewheel. So instead of wasting time and effort on properly truing the wheels, I just decided to replace them and be done with it. A quick trip over to Santa Fixie, and a wheelset was ordered. Nothing special, but better and lighter than what I have. Maybe one day, I’ll buy a wheel truing stand, but I don’t have much, or any need for it apart from these cheap Chinese wheels. But I might save them for learning how to true and wheel build, which to me at least, is a dark art.