Your Headset Guide
When it comes to bicycle headsets, they tend to be overlooked on many bikes, the bike headset actually provides an essential function. They will be used every day, it is the part that lets you steer your bike and will also hold the fork in place.
What Is a Bike Headset?
A bike headset is quite often overlooked but it is an essential part of your bike. The headset on your bike is the bearing assembly that keeps the fork attached to the bike. This allows you to turn the fork and handlebars to steer. It is an essential part of your bicycle, so it’s more than worthwhile to look after it.
All bicycle headsets work in a similar way to one another, there are two bearings, one each for the top and bottom of the head tube, and the fork’s steerer tube passes through the headtube with the lower and upper bearings.
The interface is hard wearing and stiff, this is to withstand lots of riding both on and off-road including braking, potholes and cornering. This, inevitably means that it needs to be rotationally free for steering and for any sudden movements or turns.
What Does a Headset Do?
The headset is the interface between the fork and the bike frame, by holding it securely in place, it will help you to rotate and steer. This will need lateral stiffness so that it can withstand riding loads, especially when it comes to cornering, braking and potholes. It’s important that it is also rotationally free when it comes to steering.
What’s Included in a Headset?
There are a number of different types of headsets available, but they work and function in a similar way. The two bearings at either end of the head tube are what makes the process work, more traditionally they will have been held up in pressed cups, however, modern bikes will also have the bearings fitted onto the frame. The cups or integrated assembly will make sure that the interface can locate the bearings in the frame.
The fork steerer will slide into the bearings but will need fittings to be held securely, a crown race at the base of the steerer will work with the bottom bearing. The conical shape of the race will be centred on the fork steerer, this means that it is self-centring on the bearing and when the load is applied. The shape will make sure that it supports both the axial and lateral loads, the top race will support the upper bearings.
All of the axial loads from the fork will be carried by the lower bearing, this will be effectively sitting at the top of the fork. This top bearing will provide the axial load exertion by the preload that will be applied to help hold the fork in place securely.
The interface between the bearing and the fork will be called the race, this is because it acts as the raceway with the bearing balls in the headset. When it comes to this component on modern bikes, it will be different. The cartridge bearings are sealed units that include all of the rolling elements. As the cartridge is a pre-assembled unit, the crown race won’t have to support the ball bearings, they will be contained inside the bearing assembly.
The preload should be applied to the bearings and will make sure that everything is secured and stays in place, the general rule is that the preload should be enough to stop any rocking or movements of the steerer tube, while the fork can still rotate freely.
What Type of Headset is on My Bike?
When it comes to threaded headsets, the older or more traditional bike will have them, there is a range of options available, including NTN bearings. These days you tend to not see threaded headsets outside of budget bikes as well as track and touring bikes or on retro builds.
On a threaded headset, the bearings will sit in cups that will be pressed to the top or bottom of the head tube. The race will sit on the fork crown and complete the bearing assembly at the bottom of the head tube.
The steerer tube of the fork will be threaded and a threaded race will be screwed to the top of the fork against the top bearing. The top race will include a bearing cap with deals that will protect the bearings from debris and the elements. By tightening this, you can set up the preload, the assembly will then be secured with a locknut and hold the fork in place.
The stem which is also known as a quill stem, will attach separately and slide inside the steerer tube, it will be secured by tightening the top bolt and this will engage when the wedge is expanding at the base, it will then clamp in place.
Depending on the length of the quill you will be able to adjust the height of the stem easily and then slide it further up or down inside the steerer, then you can fix it in the right position.
This threaded design is known for having a number of complications, the fork will need to be matched precisely to the head tube length of the frame, it’s then important that the fork steerer is long enough to offer engagement for the threads of the locknut.
The adjustment of the threaded headset will also need specific spanners that are sized to it, the threaded race and locknut isn’t something that you would want to take on rides.
Threaded headsets sometimes come with an annoying tendency that will undo themselves due to precision, regular care and maintenance will combat this.
Can I Service My Headset?
One of the best ways to service and maintain your headset is by regularly cleaning the bearings and all of the surfaces. You should remove any debris, old grease and dirt and then reapply a fresh layer of grease.
The first thing you will need to do is to clear a section to rest your bike fork onto once you’ve removed it from the headtube. You may wish to use a shop stool or set up a stand for the repair next to the servicing area. A lot of the time, you should have enough brake housing or brake hose length to reach the stool or bench from your positioning. This will save you a step later on as you will not have to reinstall your front brake caliper. Should you want to dismount the front brake caliper to make it easier to manoeuvre around, then please feel free. This will allow you to begin the work of servicing your bike headset without too many things getting in the way.
When it comes to servicing your bike headset, you should follow the following steps:
- Losen the steer tube clamp bolts on the bike
- Take hold of the fork with one hand while loosening the top bolt above the top cap
- Pull the fork from the headtube, and move the handlebar spaces, bearing cover assembly and stem handlebar to one side. You will need to wipe clean the steerer tube surface and crown race surface and apply a thin layer of grease to the bearing contact surface of the crown race
- Pull both the lower and upper bearings out of the headtube. These bearings will also need to be wiped clean as much as possible. If you rotate the bearing between your fingers and it feels too gritty or harsh, or if it looks corroded or is falling apart, then you should replace it. At Aire Velo Bearings we stock a range of replacement bearings to cover all your needs.
- The final step is to give your headset cups or integrated races of the headtube a good clean. You should wipe these thoroughly and then apply a thin layer of grease to both of these surfaces. If you believe that the bearings are working correctly and safely, then you can go ahead and apply a thin layer of grease to them and then drop them back into the headtube.
Reassembling Your Bike
Now that your bearings have been cleaned and serviced, you will be able to reassemble your bike. You can start by sliding your fork back through the headtube, whilst holding onto it with one hand slide the bearing cover assembly back onto the forks steerer tube and down on top of the upper bearing. You will then be able to slide your headset spacers and handlebar stem back onto the steerer tube. Here, you will be able to put the top cap and bolt it back onto the top of the stem. Next, you will be able to preload the headset by tightening the preload bolt. Simply align your handlebar stem and apply the appropriate torque rating to the steerer tube clamp bolts. Now, your bearing should be good to go and you will of completed the service. Be sure to service your bearings regularly to not only maintain their quality but will help to see if any corrosion or problems have occurred.
Order Bike Headsets Online
If you’re shopping online for bicycle headset bearings, choose none other than Aire Velo Bearings. We stock a wide variety of bearings and headsets. From steel bearings to EZO bearings, we have everything you need and more. Not only that, but we also stock headset spares and replacement parts should that be something you’re looking for.
Please take some time to browse through our website today to find out more about the range of bearings we have to offer. You can of course get in touch with us should you have any questions relating to any of our products or if you require advice on choosing the right bearing for your particular needs.
Contact Aire Velo Bearings for Bike Headsets
For more information on bike headsets, get in touch with Aire Velo Bearings today. Our team will be more than happy to help, be it with additional advice and information or discussing our range of bike headsets with you. Please waste no time and be sure to get in touch with us to discover more about our range of headset bearings. Order yours online with Aire Velo Bearings today for a vast selection of bearings, all of which are competitively priced.