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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I can't seem to dial in my headset properly. At first it was a little loose so nipped the top cap up. Now it's too tight. I've tried all manner of the spacers here to try and sort it. Just feels like I can never get it right. Either has play or is too tight.

Have watched quite a few videos to see if I'm doing it wrong but have followed all guides.

Really want to get back out riding if anyone can help me.
 

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This is something you do by feel. If there's an actual spec for bearing preload, I've never read it, never used it, and I have no apologies about doing so. The amount of stress on a headset is so minimal, that I would just say make sure that the cups are bottomed out in the frame, that you're using the right parts to begin with, snug it up, tighten your stem, and call it a day. Don't over think it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
This is something you do by feel. If there's an actual spec for bearing preload, I've never read it, never used it, and I have no apologies about doing so. The amount of stress on a headset is so minimal, that I would just say make sure that the cups are bottomed out in the frame, that you're using the right parts to begin with, snug it up, tighten your stem, and call it a day. Don't over think it.
Yep it's just that when everything is snug it's just too tight. If I pick the bike up the handlebars don't move when I tip the bike.

Everything seems to be in it's correct place according to all the guides I've read. For some reason it's not a sealed headset bearing like I thought it would be so wondering if that is the issue?
 

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Does it feel rough or hard to turn after snugging it up? Cable tension may be a factor in why it doesn't move when you tip the bike.
In addition, if it feels like there is play when you think it is loose, make sure and check that any play you feel is the headset and not the fork moving slightly at the seals. New bike? Or are you replacing bearings in an used bike?
 

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Are you loosening the stem bolts before making adjustments?


Set the preload to what you think is correct.
Wrap your hand around the head tube so you have a finger or two on the stem. Pull the front brake lever and rock the bike forward and back -is there play?
If yes, tighten a tad and repeat the rocking procedure.
If no, lift the bike and turn the bars back and forth. Is it stiff or feel crunchy?
If yes it feels stiff, loosen a tad.

When doing fine tuning at this point, the amount you turn the screw is very limited. Don't think of it like tightening your brake clamp to where you turn it enough to make it snug. Bearing preload is a much more fine procedure.

It's tedious, loosen stem bolts. Set bearing preload. Align bars and tighten stem bolts (because we assume we got the bearing set properly the first try).
Repeat until satisfied.

Just remember to make small adjustments to the top bolt at at a time.

Could your bearings be worn? Pretty difficult to set preload if bearings are worn out.
 

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I'm guessing something is binding, maybe the headset cap against the headtube of the bike. It could be due to incorrect installation or parts, missing parts, or just needing a spacer or shim.

How did your arrive in this situation? Are you installing a new headset, new fork, servicing and existing headset, replacing the fork after getting it serviced...?
 

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As the previous poster asked...Are you loosening the stem bolts before making adjustments?

Also, the bars don't need to fall to the side on their own when you lift the bike, it just needs to be tight enough that you don't feel resistance when you turn, cables could prevent bars from free falling...

Sent from my XT1585 using Tapatalk
 

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I'm in the same boat here. I've installed my new headset, second actually as I couldn't get the first one to snug up. I'm confident its the right headset, od and id all match and i used cane creeks website to get a size and bought a syncros (scott bike) headset. The previous cheap headset i was able to snug it up nice and tight but if i backed it off any it would have play. It seemed either too tight or too loose. I mixed up spacers, old part with new part and shims and couldn't get it right. So i figured a better headset might work. Now i can't even get it too tight. What am i missing? I have a spacer, bottom cup and then bottom press fit bearnig. on the top, press fit bearing, spacer, top cap.
 

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Some of the fork races look "upside down" when they are inserted right-side-up, causing some people to install them upside down.
 

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I just had the same issue. After stripping back down I realised I had put the bearing seal on the bottom and not the top bearing!!!! Changed it and it was back to normal. Too many hours wasted🤪
 

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My preferred method is to pinch the crack between the head-tube and the fork with my hand, then lock the brake and push back and forth. You can feel if there's even a little bit of play in the fork+frame. If there's any play at all, then it needs tighter; if there's no play at all, you should be good. Without the pinch technique, it can be hard to tell, unless it's really loose, because there's tire squish, flex in the brakes, etc.

On steel bikes, I put a magnetic dial indicator on the head-tube, and position the needle of the indicator on the fork crown. Then you can do the same type of motion and if there's any play, you can see the needle move easily, and that's the absolute best method, but it's not very convenient if the dial indicator won't stick to the frame, and I haven't got around to making a mechanical clamp.
 

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On steel bikes, I put a magnetic dial indicator on the head-tube, and position the needle of the indicator on the fork crown. Then you can do the same type of motion and if there's any play, you can see the needle move easily, and that's the absolute best method, but it's not very convenient if the dial indicator won't stick to the frame, and I haven't got around to making a mechanical clamp.
I'd like to see that, never heard of that method.

I give the front wheel a rap and listen for the telltale rattly sound of a loose headset, if I don't hear it and the bearings spin free I'm good. Works for me.
 
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