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.

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.

Wheel Service

Having to replace my wheel bearings in my Fulcrum Quattro wheels, I thought I’d just take a quick post on the process.

Front wheel

The front wheel, is of course the easiest of the pair todo.

  1. Remove end caps. These just pull out, but can be an absolute arse to pull out.
  2. Remove the tension collar, and the small metal washer that sits under it
  3. Pull out the axle from the wheel.

Now, check the wheel spin, and look at the bearings. Check the space behind, and confirm you have room to drive it out.

Place the wheel hub on a block of wood, and drift out the bearing from its seat. Do the same for the other side.

Give the bearing seat a good clean out with a degreaser rag.

Now, to reseat the bearings, I use a Rapid Racer bearing set. The two bearings used in the hubs are 6903 sized. So mount up the bearings in your press, grease them up, and gently drive them home until they stop. Don’t force them, just drive until they stop.

Clean off the axle, apply grease to the races and a small amount smeared over the rest of the axle and reassemble. Don’t forget the small metal washer under the locking ring.

Adjust the locking ring just enough to insure the axle dos’nt move side to side. Don’t over tighten.

Push the end caps back on (you can give the o rings on these a light grease coat, just to make them easier to remove in future)

And your done.

Rear Wheel.

On the rear wheel, it’s normally the left bearing that goes bad, as the right is well protected by the freehub, but its always a good idea to replace them all at the same time.

You’ll need a few extra tools for this wheel.

  • 5mm Allen key
  • 17mm spanner
  • C-clip pliers.
  • 6803 bearing press.
  • Chain whip
  • Lock ring tool
  • Grease gun.

Start off by removing the cassette, and give the whole freehub a good wipe down. This is a dirty hub, so clean all the wheel as you have access to it.

Insert the 5mm Allen key into the non drive side, and the 17mm spanner onto the drive side.

The left hand end cap is standard thread, but damn tight. Once that caps off, remove the locking collar, and again mind the small metal washer.

Pull the full freehub and axel out of the wheel. The pawls should be quite secure on the freehub, but just be careful they don’t fall.

Now, using the worktop, insert the 5mm Allan key and use it against the worktop to stop the freehub moving as you apply torque from the 17mm spanner to remove the freehub nut. Remove the nut and the spacer behind it.

The axle should now pull out of the freehub.

Replace the hub shell bearings in the rear wheel the same as the front. These again, are size 6903 sized.

The fun start with the bearings in the freehub. 🙂

Make sure you have a rag nearby to clean up with, as this is messy.

First drift out the outer most bearing, you’ll need to push the metal sleeve to one side to get access for the drift. Once out, remove the metal sleeve and clean out the freehub shell of the horrible milky white grease. Look inside the freehub, and you’ll see the inner bearing, it is however secured by a c clip on the inner. So, remove that c clip with your pliers and you’ll be able to drive that bearing out of it’s initial race. Now ensure the bearing hasn’t flipped over in the hub and carefully drive it past the outer race too.

Give the whole shell and pawls a really good clean with degreaser, and leave to dry. While that’s drying off, clean your work station and other parts that are greasy.

Now that’s all clean and dry, get your bearing press ready. The freehub takes bearings that are 6803, so mount one up in the bearing and pregrease. Drive the first bearing down past the first bearing seat, and continue down until it is seated just under the groove the c clip sits in.

Add a little more grease to the bearing top, and insert the clip back into its seat and ensure its seated.

Now, grease it all up, add loads of grease into the freehub shell. Just add it in, don’t skimp.

Reinsert the metal spacer, and line up the outer bearing on your press. Two turns on the press, remove it and check the bearing, if it’s not quite flush, give it a quarter turn and check again.

Inject grease into the pawl seats. Some people don’t like grease in the pawls due to a belief it clogs up the pawls and causes them not to seat correctly. All I can say, is that I’ve never had and issue. But feel free to leave them with a light coat, or a heavy(ish) oil.

Reassemble the axle and end cap on the non drive side, place the freehub back onto the axle and secure it using the metal spacer and nut.

Test spin the wheel. It will feel a little draggy initially while the bearings wear in, and the grease distributes. If the hub is too loud, remove the freehub, and add some grease to the toothed ring. It’ll quieten down for a whole at least.

Make sure the end cap and freehub nut are tight, and clean up. Your done..

Another stupid maintenance story.

The bearings have gone in my fulcrum quattro, not unusual as Fulcrum ship with bearings that are sealed on one side only. So they do tend to go quite quick.

But I couldn’t be bothered to change them out yet. So I grabbed a spare set of wheels, a Mavic Aksium pair. Cassette and tyres mounted, on the bike and spinning. They are certainly not the best wheels in the world, but they work.

Off I went for a ride. Noise. Rubbing noise. Any noise on a bike annoys me. I checked the tyre clearances, break pads. All fine. Noise was still there. I adjusted the pads on the front wheel, I could swear the noise was coming from the front wheel. Checked spokes, all appeared to be tight enough with a simple squeeze test.

No idea what this noise was. Then, all of a sudden it disappeared, nothing, no noise apart from the road noise.

Shifted up into the large chain ring, and there it was again. I thought the cable may of come slightly loose as I hadn’t adjusted it since changing the cables, so turned the barrel adjuster a turn, span the cranks and the noise was worse. What the hell.

On look, the cable end was rubbing on the wheel…

More Grease

I’ve written before about grease, it’s somewhat of an obsession with me. I’ve got tubes all over the garage.

Anyway, last time I cleaned out my headset (according to maintenance logs, 17th November), I used Park Tool standard grease, and as I had to remove the forks today, I thought I’d do another headset relube. So, looking at the grease that’s left, I was impressed that the bearings where still well covered, and the filth was minimal on the rear of the bearing seat. I’d ridden alot in some proper dirty wet weather, and the park grease had stood up well. A certain amount had clearly washed out, but enough remained to make me feel it would of been OK for another couple of months.

I’ve replaced it now with Crystal grease, which is alot thicker, and I’m pretty sure will stand up even more to the weather. It’s kind of become my goto grease at the minute, But time will certainly tell how it lasts.

After reassembly, the steering felt alot smoother, but that maybe in my head more than anything. One things for sure, crystal grease is alot easier and cleaner to apply than the park grease.

I’ve somehow gained a tube of MucOff bio grease to try out, so that’s another grease to try later. So far I’ve put it in my speedplays (which to my horror the left pedal was dry) but not ridden yet with it in. Muc-off states that it’s very water resistant, so hopefully it should stick around longer than the Weldtite. My speed plays are starting to wear anyway, so the grease may outlast the pedal bodies..

MucOff grease is pretty much the same colour as the Weldtite Tf2 Teflon grease I had been using, but has these weird silver things visible in the grease. I’ve not seen anything like it.