Adjusted my headset - is it too tight?

Discussion in 'UK and Europe' started by PJay, Apr 30, 2006.

  1. PJay

    PJay Guest

    I dropped my stem a bit and readjusted my headset, I think things are fine
    but I'm a tad new to this so thought I'd check things out.

    I tighten the top cap incrementally, tightening the stem pinch bolts and
    checking for play etc. until I could detect no play at the lower race. At
    this point I could detect a faint knocking/ticking from the upper race and
    tightened things up again until this was eliminate. I guess that this was
    probably the 'optimal' point.

    Being a bit overcautious a sat on the saddle, applied the front brake and
    rocked the bike. I heard some noise which, embarassingly, and with hindsight
    I think were the brake blocks rubbing as the rim slipped with the rocking,
    but consequently I tightened the headset up another 1/4 turn.

    Steering is silky smooth and the chap at the bike shop could detect no play
    and noted the smooth steering and said that everything was fine but the
    headset I have (Cane Creek S2 11/8th) has cartridge bearings which I would
    imagine are harder to bind so I was wondering whether there is any
    possibility that the headset is too tight and might damage something (the
    frame or the headset itself). Things aren't excessively overtight and
    everything seems to work properly but I just wondered whether there would be
    any point in re-adjusting it to be looser?

    Sorry, pretty basic stuff I know but pretty new to bike maintainence
    (enjoying it though) and lack confidence.
     
    Tags:


  2. Pete Biggs

    Pete Biggs Guest

    PJay wrote:
    > I dropped my stem a bit and readjusted my headset, I think things are
    > fine but I'm a tad new to this so thought I'd check things out.
    >
    > I tighten the top cap incrementally, tightening the stem pinch bolts
    > and checking for play etc. until I could detect no play at the lower
    > race. At this point I could detect a faint knocking/ticking from the
    > upper race and tightened things up again until this was eliminate. I
    > guess that this was probably the 'optimal' point.
    >
    > Being a bit overcautious a sat on the saddle, applied the front brake
    > and rocked the bike. I heard some noise which, embarassingly, and
    > with hindsight I think were the brake blocks rubbing as the rim
    > slipped with the rocking, but consequently I tightened the headset up
    > another 1/4 turn.
    >
    > Steering is silky smooth and the chap at the bike shop could detect
    > no play and noted the smooth steering and said that everything was
    > fine but the headset I have (Cane Creek S2 11/8th) has cartridge
    > bearings which I would imagine are harder to bind so I was wondering
    > whether there is any possibility that the headset is too tight and
    > might damage something (the frame or the headset itself). Things
    > aren't excessively overtight and everything seems to work properly
    > but I just wondered whether there would be any point in re-adjusting
    > it to be looser?


    In general with headsets, steering can sometimes be fine at first even
    when the bearings are overtightened*, and +1/4 turn is enough to increase
    wear, so it's worth re-adjusting to check when in doubt.

    * good sign that headset & frame is in good condition if that is possible
    without binding.

    ~PB
     
  3. Doki

    Doki Guest

    "PJay" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]
    >I dropped my stem a bit and readjusted my headset, I think things are fine
    >but I'm a tad new to this so thought I'd check things out.
    >
    > I tighten the top cap incrementally, tightening the stem pinch bolts and
    > checking for play etc. until I could detect no play at the lower race. At
    > this point I could detect a faint knocking/ticking from the upper race and
    > tightened things up again until this was eliminate. I guess that this was
    > probably the 'optimal' point.
    >
    > Being a bit overcautious a sat on the saddle, applied the front brake and
    > rocked the bike. I heard some noise which, embarassingly, and with
    > hindsight I think were the brake blocks rubbing as the rim slipped with
    > the rocking, but consequently I tightened the headset up another 1/4 turn.
    >
    > Steering is silky smooth and the chap at the bike shop could detect no
    > play and noted the smooth steering and said that everything was fine but
    > the headset I have (Cane Creek S2 11/8th) has cartridge bearings which I
    > would imagine are harder to bind so I was wondering whether there is any
    > possibility that the headset is too tight and might damage something (the
    > frame or the headset itself). Things aren't excessively overtight and
    > everything seems to work properly but I just wondered whether there would
    > be any point in re-adjusting it to be looser?
    >
    > Sorry, pretty basic stuff I know but pretty new to bike maintainence
    > (enjoying it though) and lack confidence.


    Always tighten the top cap *before* doing up the stem bolts. IMO star nuts
    aren't the most rigid things in the world and will probably limit the amount
    of tension on the headset.
     
  4. PJay

    PJay Guest

    I've readjusted things (and lowered the stem again a bit). What I am unsure
    of is that at the point where all play is removed from the lower race I get
    a slight ticking sound from the upper race.

    I don't think it's possible to get 'play' at the upper race as the cartridge
    is engaged with the cup and held in place with the compression ring even
    before preload is applied (effectively preloaded by default?) but tightening
    things up a bit more does reduce this.

    Should I tighten things to remove the 'ticking' sound or stop when I can
    detect no play at the lower race?

    "PJay" <[email protected]> wrote in message
    news:[email protected]
    >I dropped my stem a bit and readjusted my headset, I think things are fine
    >but I'm a tad new to this so thought I'd check things out.
    >
    > I tighten the top cap incrementally, tightening the stem pinch bolts and
    > checking for play etc. until I could detect no play at the lower race. At
    > this point I could detect a faint knocking/ticking from the upper race and
    > tightened things up again until this was eliminate. I guess that this was
    > probably the 'optimal' point.
    >
    > Being a bit overcautious a sat on the saddle, applied the front brake and
    > rocked the bike. I heard some noise which, embarassingly, and with
    > hindsight I think were the brake blocks rubbing as the rim slipped with
    > the rocking, but consequently I tightened the headset up another 1/4 turn.
    >
    > Steering is silky smooth and the chap at the bike shop could detect no
    > play and noted the smooth steering and said that everything was fine but
    > the headset I have (Cane Creek S2 11/8th) has cartridge bearings which I
    > would imagine are harder to bind so I was wondering whether there is any
    > possibility that the headset is too tight and might damage something (the
    > frame or the headset itself). Things aren't excessively overtight and
    > everything seems to work properly but I just wondered whether there would
    > be any point in re-adjusting it to be looser?
    >
    > Sorry, pretty basic stuff I know but pretty new to bike maintainence
    > (enjoying it though) and lack confidence.
    >
     
  5. Pete Biggs

    Pete Biggs Guest

    PJay wrote:
    > I've readjusted things (and lowered the stem again a bit). What I am
    > unsure of is that at the point where all play is removed from the
    > lower race I get a slight ticking sound from the upper race.
    >
    > I don't think it's possible to get 'play' at the upper race as the
    > cartridge is engaged with the cup and held in place with the
    > compression ring even before preload is applied (effectively
    > preloaded by default?) but tightening things up a bit more does
    > reduce this.


    I think you're right there in that the ring provides a certain amount of
    preload but still there's scope for more. (I've not used the same model
    as yours but have used a cartridge aheadset with o ring).

    > Should I tighten things to remove the 'ticking' sound or stop when I
    > can detect no play at the lower race?


    I would ignore ticking sounds and just stop when no movement could be
    /felt/ (in lower or upper) when rocking the bike with a fair-but-not-crazy
    amount of force with front brake on hard.

    Alternative test (not my preferred one but perhaps good enough): Drop
    front of bike on hard surface and listen for forks rattling. Tighten
    until they don't rattle.

    (Neither of the above two tests are good for suspension forks, by the
    way).

    If any doubt left, a trace of play is better than too tight, imo. I err
    on that side if any. The lower bearing gets a harder life and wears out
    faster, so don't worry so much about the upper.

    ~PB
     
  6. PJay

    PJay Guest

    Thanks Pete,

    I think things are setup ok. I can't detect any knocking or play when
    rocking the bike and I've done a fair bit of riding over rough ground and
    braked hard with the front brake with no sign of knocking or play either, I
    was just a little unsure about the ticking sound which kind of suggests
    movement. With that said the ticking sound doesn't get any worse when
    rocking the bike hard and it's inaudible when riding when the headset must
    be under most strain.

    To be honest I'm not sure really whether I've erred on the loose or tight
    side of preload, interestingly someone in a web forum suggested doing things
    up as tight as possible without effecting the steering! It seems to be
    though that both too loose or too tight can muck up the bearings (my initial
    fear of headtube ovalisation seems to be groundless).

    I've tried the bouncing the front wheel approach but find that just feeling
    for play is best, it's hard to listen for play with the chain and brake
    levers rattling and cable chattering away.

    Thanks for the input, I'm pretty sure it's all alright but I'm pretty new
    (and not very confident) with all this so it's good to check things out.

    "Pete Biggs" <[email protected]> wrote in
    message news:[email protected]
    > PJay wrote:
    >> I've readjusted things (and lowered the stem again a bit). What I am
    >> unsure of is that at the point where all play is removed from the
    >> lower race I get a slight ticking sound from the upper race.
    >>
    >> I don't think it's possible to get 'play' at the upper race as the
    >> cartridge is engaged with the cup and held in place with the
    >> compression ring even before preload is applied (effectively
    >> preloaded by default?) but tightening things up a bit more does
    >> reduce this.

    >
    > I think you're right there in that the ring provides a certain amount of
    > preload but still there's scope for more. (I've not used the same model
    > as yours but have used a cartridge aheadset with o ring).
    >
    >> Should I tighten things to remove the 'ticking' sound or stop when I
    >> can detect no play at the lower race?

    >
    > I would ignore ticking sounds and just stop when no movement could be
    > /felt/ (in lower or upper) when rocking the bike with a fair-but-not-crazy
    > amount of force with front brake on hard.
    >
    > Alternative test (not my preferred one but perhaps good enough): Drop
    > front of bike on hard surface and listen for forks rattling. Tighten
    > until they don't rattle.
    >
    > (Neither of the above two tests are good for suspension forks, by the
    > way).
    >
    > If any doubt left, a trace of play is better than too tight, imo. I err
    > on that side if any. The lower bearing gets a harder life and wears out
    > faster, so don't worry so much about the upper.
    >
    > ~PB
    >
    >
     
  7. PJay

    PJay Guest

    Being an inquisitive (and worrysome) sort of chap I've had a look at things
    and discovered that the ticking sound appears to be slight movement of the
    top cover against the top cup; I've removed the bearings and compression
    ring just to be sure and replaced the top cover, moving it slightly produces
    the ticking. It would appear to have nothing to do with movement/play at the
    bearings.

    Interestingly I could hear the ticking when I locked the front brake and
    rocked the bike but not when I pushed the front wheel against a wall and
    pushed against the saddle, suggesting that it might be slight movement
    through the stem and/or spacer stack or perhaps slight flexing in the steel
    steerer.

    I'm assuming therefore that there's nothing to worry about, would this be
    fair or might there be something not quite right with the pressing of the
    upper cup?
    "Pete Biggs" <[email protected]> wrote in
    message news:[email protected]
    > PJay wrote:
    >> I've readjusted things (and lowered the stem again a bit). What I am
    >> unsure of is that at the point where all play is removed from the
    >> lower race I get a slight ticking sound from the upper race.
    >>
    >> I don't think it's possible to get 'play' at the upper race as the
    >> cartridge is engaged with the cup and held in place with the
    >> compression ring even before preload is applied (effectively
    >> preloaded by default?) but tightening things up a bit more does
    >> reduce this.

    >
    > I think you're right there in that the ring provides a certain amount of
    > preload but still there's scope for more. (I've not used the same model
    > as yours but have used a cartridge aheadset with o ring).
    >
    >> Should I tighten things to remove the 'ticking' sound or stop when I
    >> can detect no play at the lower race?

    >
    > I would ignore ticking sounds and just stop when no movement could be
    > /felt/ (in lower or upper) when rocking the bike with a fair-but-not-crazy
    > amount of force with front brake on hard.
    >
    > Alternative test (not my preferred one but perhaps good enough): Drop
    > front of bike on hard surface and listen for forks rattling. Tighten
    > until they don't rattle.
    >
    > (Neither of the above two tests are good for suspension forks, by the
    > way).
    >
    > If any doubt left, a trace of play is better than too tight, imo. I err
    > on that side if any. The lower bearing gets a harder life and wears out
    > faster, so don't worry so much about the upper.
    >
    > ~PB
    >
    >
     
  8. Jon Senior

    Jon Senior Guest

    On Mon, 01 May 2006 19:30:18 +0100, PJay wrote:
    > Being an inquisitive (and worrysome) sort of chap I've had a look at things
    > and discovered that the ticking sound appears to be slight movement of the
    > top cover against the top cup; I've removed the bearings and compression
    > ring just to be sure and replaced the top cover, moving it slightly produces
    > the ticking. It would appear to have nothing to do with movement/play at the
    > bearings.
    >
    > Interestingly I could hear the ticking when I locked the front brake and
    > rocked the bike but not when I pushed the front wheel against a wall and
    > pushed against the saddle, suggesting that it might be slight movement
    > through the stem and/or spacer stack or perhaps slight flexing in the steel
    > steerer.
    >
    > I'm assuming therefore that there's nothing to worry about, would this be
    > fair or might there be something not quite right with the pressing of the
    > upper cup?


    I get that on my Giant OCR. It's the aluminium on aluminum sound of
    spacers moving slightly. I was tempted by the spacers from one
    manufacturer (Don't remember who) which interlock to prevent this. A light
    coating of copper grease to the contacting surfaces of all the spacers and
    the stem may help aliviate it for a while at least.

    Jon
     
  9. Pete Biggs

    Pete Biggs Guest

    PJay wrote:
    > Being an inquisitive (and worrysome) sort of chap I've had a look at
    > things and discovered that the ticking sound appears to be slight
    > movement of the top cover against the top cup; I've removed the
    > bearings and compression ring just to be sure and replaced the top
    > cover, moving it slightly produces the ticking. It would appear to
    > have nothing to do with movement/play at the bearings.
    >
    > Interestingly I could hear the ticking when I locked the front brake
    > and rocked the bike but not when I pushed the front wheel against a
    > wall and pushed against the saddle, suggesting that it might be
    > slight movement through the stem and/or spacer stack or perhaps
    > slight flexing in the steel steerer.
    >
    > I'm assuming therefore that there's nothing to worry about, would
    > this be fair or might there be something not quite right with the
    > pressing of the upper cup?


    I'm not sure either way but I would expect worse symptoms if there was
    anything wrong worth worrying about, ie. that would cause danger,
    excessive wear or poor performance.

    Try rec.bicycles.tech for more opinions, and more expert than mine. Best
    of luck.

    ~PB
     
  10. PJay

    PJay Guest

    I'm guessing here but I'd imagine that cartridge bearings are harder to bind
    or damage by overtightening at the preload forces will presumably be taken
    by the cartridge races and not the bearings themselves.

    I could be talking nonsense though! :)
    "Pete Biggs" <[email protected]> wrote in
    message news:[email protected]
    > PJay wrote:
    >> I dropped my stem a bit and readjusted my headset, I think things are
    >> fine but I'm a tad new to this so thought I'd check things out.
    >>
    >> I tighten the top cap incrementally, tightening the stem pinch bolts
    >> and checking for play etc. until I could detect no play at the lower
    >> race. At this point I could detect a faint knocking/ticking from the
    >> upper race and tightened things up again until this was eliminate. I
    >> guess that this was probably the 'optimal' point.
    >>
    >> Being a bit overcautious a sat on the saddle, applied the front brake
    >> and rocked the bike. I heard some noise which, embarassingly, and
    >> with hindsight I think were the brake blocks rubbing as the rim
    >> slipped with the rocking, but consequently I tightened the headset up
    >> another 1/4 turn.
    >>
    >> Steering is silky smooth and the chap at the bike shop could detect
    >> no play and noted the smooth steering and said that everything was
    >> fine but the headset I have (Cane Creek S2 11/8th) has cartridge
    >> bearings which I would imagine are harder to bind so I was wondering
    >> whether there is any possibility that the headset is too tight and
    >> might damage something (the frame or the headset itself). Things
    >> aren't excessively overtight and everything seems to work properly
    >> but I just wondered whether there would be any point in re-adjusting
    >> it to be looser?

    >
    > In general with headsets, steering can sometimes be fine at first even
    > when the bearings are overtightened*, and +1/4 turn is enough to increase
    > wear, so it's worth re-adjusting to check when in doubt.
    >
    > * good sign that headset & frame is in good condition if that is possible
    > without binding.
    >
    > ~PB
    >
    >
    >
     
  11. Pete Biggs

    Pete Biggs Guest

    PJay wrote:
    > I'm guessing here but I'd imagine that cartridge bearings are harder
    > to bind or damage by overtightening at the preload forces will
    > presumably be taken by the cartridge races and not the bearings
    > themselves.


    Now's the time to admit that the only cartridge headset I've used was a
    Stronglight O'Light with needle bearings in sealed "cartridges" (not like
    A9 with races loose from the needles). I had the worst case of binding
    ever with these. But maybe other sorts of headset cartridges with other
    sorts of bearings are very different. You've given me an idea to look
    into them for my road bike. Thank you! :)

    I think you may be right about binding being harder if the bearings are
    like wheel hub cartridge bearings.

    ~PB
     
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