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.

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.

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.

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.

New Parts Day

The replacement parts for my single speed arrived. New chainring and cranks.

That’s obviously a job for the weekend, along with installing the new brake callipers that are sat waiting to be installed. First impressions of the new crank are good, it’s quite light, and stiff and looks good.

So, time will tell how it works out of course. I got round to fitting the new callipers, however, the front cut down on the available space for the mudguards. I had to cut the front off the guard, so it ends just behind the Caliper. Only time will tell what difference this makes, but it has the added benefit of stopping the rubbing that no amount of tweaking cured.

Shouldn’t be a issue, as the spray back should be caught by the rear part due to tyre rotation.



Pain free!

As you’ll know, if you read this, I’ve often suffered with pain on the bike. However, that may now be a thing of the past.

I’d made a couple of changes to my position, lowered the saddle until it was clearly too low and moved it back up in increments until it felt just right. I also moved the saddle forward in the rails to compensate for the lowered position. The stem replaced down to 90mm, with a 7 degree rise. I also changed the bars from a 44cm to a 42. The bar is more of a compact than my fizik cyrano bars. The difference was incredible. I felt a hell of a lot more comfortable, my shoulders weren’t bunched up, a bend in my elbows. My knees are a little close to the bar ends, but I can cope with that.

4 miles in, no pain and my wattage was up and cadence had increased. 4 miles back home, and just the regular sore thighs because I’m fat and unfit. But non of that crippling upper thigh pain.

A few more rides just to be sure, but I’m fairly confident that these changes might of worked.