Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

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Sweep
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Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Sweep » 14 Sep 2018, 8:11pm

I have serviced in my time 3 or 4 threaded headsets - mainly because they were second-hand bikes that needed a lookover, or bikes of mine that I'd had from new but neglected. Replaced loose bearings, greased everything etc etc.

Jobs well done but it is clearly a bit of a fag of a job involving a fair bit of disassembly/disconnecting of bits/ etc etc.

I have an expedition bike with a threadless headset.

Had it about a year.

Reasonable mileage but nothing mega as yet.

But so that it is ready for a trip and warned by some on here about supposedly less than perfect manufacturing techniques/original lubing, I have been over it - extracted and regreased BB housing, adjusted and regreased front and rear wheel bearings.

To the headset. As I said threadless. Pretty sure it will be cartridge bearings inside.

No signs of problems with it at all - seems properly adjusted, all turns smoothly as it should.

Should I just leave it well alone or would folks take it apart and have a look inside?
Sweep

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cycleruk
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby cycleruk » 14 Sep 2018, 9:51pm

Very easy to look inside. Just remove the stem, spacers and drop the forks a fraction so that the lower bearing is exposed. The lower bearing will be the one mainly effected by the weather and a decision on its condition can be made. Easy just to wipe clean, re-grease and reassemble if all is well. Obviously check the top bearing.
Piece of mind will then ensue. :D
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Brucey » 14 Sep 2018, 11:33pm

cycleruk wrote:Very easy to look inside. Just remove the stem, spacers and drop the forks a fraction so that the lower bearing is exposed. The lower bearing will be the one mainly effected by the weather....


unless the top race has filled up with rainwater, dribbling down the steerer, as happens often with A-Head setups.....

Yeah, I'd check it, for sure. Any bike that sees the weather and has an A-Head ought to be seen to at least once a year.

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Sweep
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Sweep » 15 Sep 2018, 1:43am

cycleruk wrote:Very easy to look inside. Just remove the stem, spacers and drop the forks a fraction so that the lower bearing is exposed. The lower bearing will be the one mainly effected by the weather and a decision on its condition can be made. Easy just to wipe clean, re-grease and reassemble if all is well. Obviously check the top bearing.
Piece of mind will then ensue. :D

Fair point. Don't need to completely disassemb!e/take the forks out unless I discover serious bearing issues.

Regrease? Do you need to add grease when checking cartridge bearings? Google reveals a certain web debate about this.
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Sweep » 15 Sep 2018, 1:45am

Brucey wrote:
cycleruk wrote:Very easy to look inside. Just remove the stem, spacers and drop the forks a fraction so that the lower bearing is exposed. The lower bearing will be the one mainly effected by the weather....


unless the top race has filled up with rainwater, dribbling down the steerer, as happens often with A-Head setups.....

Yeah, I'd check it, for sure. Any bike that sees the weather and has an A-Head ought to be seen to at least once a year.

cheers


So if I don't see any signs of water ingress at the top no need to take the steerer/forks out?
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tim-b
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby tim-b » 15 Sep 2018, 6:39am

Hi
IMHO, either disassemble fully or don't bother
By the time you've dropped the assembled fork to expose the bearings for a visual inspection, and rigged up a rope to stop the whole lot dropping on the floor while you put parts and tools down, then you might as well do the full job
Get both bearings out to feel their movement; if their movement feels smooth but a little draggy (good seals) then reassemble
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby peetee » 15 Sep 2018, 8:35am

I would take a look. Some of the weather seals on aheadsets are woeful.
Given that you are more used to threaded headsets do be sure you are familiar with threadless reassembly. It is a totally different system of adjustment. Don't try to tighten the stem with the centre bolt!
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iow
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby iow » 15 Sep 2018, 9:48am

i'd want to disassemble at least once a year to check the condition of the steerer anyway, so repacking the bearings whilst it's in bits is a no brainer..
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Sweep » 15 Sep 2018, 10:00am

iow wrote:i'd want to disassemble at least once a year to check the condition of the steerer anyway, so repacking the bearings whilst it's in bits is a no brainer..


But am almost certain they will be cartridge bearings. No need to "repack" those surely?

I could add more grease around the cartridges (I have a big tub of nice Finish Line Teflon) but is it a good idea to do that?

1: Is it needed as there will be grease in the cartridges?

2: Could it cause "reaction" issues as there will be two different types of grease there? (the Finish Line and whatever was in the cartridge bearings to start with)

Thanks for responses so far folks.

Have decided to at least partly drop the forks - still deciding how far to go.

By the way, if anyone has a handy tip/youtube video showing how to handle the disassembled jigsaw of metal and cable you end up trying not to wreck when fully extracting forks, please post. I don't have anything on my ceiling kitchen I can attach a rope to (see nice post above) - tend to zip tie the bars to the bike and hope I don't kink the cables too much.
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Mick F » 15 Sep 2018, 10:20am

Sweep wrote: But am almost certain they will be cartridge bearings. No need to "repack" those surely?
On the contrary.

They never put much in, so pop out the seals - I use the point of a Stanley Knife - and put loadsa grease in there and re-fit the seals.

You never know, but the present grease could be contaminated. Clean the bearing thoroughly - I've used petrol - dry them, then grease with loadsa grease.
Mick F. Cornwall

Brucey
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Brucey » 15 Sep 2018, 10:29am

cartridge bearings vary in the way they are made, so do the seals and so does the grease. The usual thing is that you find that there isn't very much grease inside, the grease there is is not very good quality, and the seals are not as good as they could be.

I don't ever remember regreasing cartridge bearings in a headset and thinking 'well, that was a waste of time'.... most commonly I am thinking that I am glad I've done that because it would only have been a matter of time until the bearings failed because the weather was well on the way to defeating the seals/grease that was there.

My usual tactic is to open up the bearing at one end (assuming it is sealed at both ends, which is often not the case anyway), to fill it up with grease, and to then push it against the soft part of my hand at the heel of my thumb. Repeated a few times this results in the bearing being purged of grease, since the old grease is pushed out the other side of the bearing (*). That FL Teflon grease might react with what is there is a theoretical concern; however I've never actually seen it happen; what grease there is tends to be compatible and anyway there is so little of it you are literally "worrying about nothing" in most cases..... :wink:

(*) BTW any surplus grease can be retained and used as a non-critical assembly lube; nothing much is wasted this way.

Once it is all apart you can apply grease to the steerer (to help stop it corroding) etc and (even if it hasn't already) try to figure out if water will very easily penetrate the upper workings/lower seals or not, and if there is anything you can do about it.

If you can't easily suspend the handlebars separately from the bike, best to lay the bike on its side and avoid straining the cables that way. On some bikes it is easy to pop all the cables that go rearwards out of slotted guides and avoid strain that way.

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Sweep
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Sweep » 15 Sep 2018, 10:47am

Thanks for the reply Brucey.

Not questioning your judgement at all but that is a hell of a faff isn't it?

Does of course beg the question whether there is any advantage AT ALL to cartridge bearings.

I have replaced clipped loose ball bearings in a headset with loose balls.

Is it feasible to replace cartridge bearings in a headset with either clipped balls or loose balls?

Clipped balls sounds so much better than cartridge bearings if that is what is involved in servicing a cartridge assembly.

Am struggling to think what advantage there is in the things.

And then of course there is the faff of specifying/sourcing the correct replacement cartridge bearings with the correct interface angle etc.
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Brucey » 15 Sep 2018, 11:07am

in theory you can just replace the cartridge bearings when they get a bit manky and this takes less time.

However there are so many different types that very often you will lose the will to live before you have even identified the correct ones to buy and only then do you discover that in fact the bearings are very often about the same price as.....(drum roll)....a new headset.

A similar problem exists in identifying the correct headset to buy. A few years ago I downloaded a complete FSA headset catalogue and it ran to 300 pages. There were at least fifty different bearings that were used within the headsets then, and they have introduced many more since. With a few exceptions I think it is probably worth spending time on preventing the original bearings from failing, since it largely sidesteps the whole ghastly business.

It isn't a bad idea to note the dimensions of the bearings (as measured using an accurate Vernier caliper), the chamfer angles, and any numbers that are writ upon them. If you write this information on a card and then photograph the card and the bearing together, you might be able to find the info again when you need it.

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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby gxaustin » 15 Sep 2018, 5:21pm

I've found that buying cartridge bearings on Ebay is actually quite good - it turns out that that there are not too many diameters and chamfer angles in practice and they can be bought cheaply. For instance I noted that my Cane Creek was the same size as my Hope headsets. The bearings don't see much load, turn little and comparatively slowly and therefore shouldn't really wear out? The ones I have changed have been the lower ones which have rusted so I put plenty of waterproof grease around them.
By the way - if they are a bit rough does it matter? It would in a hub or BB where there is constant rotation but a headset is just a posh hinge really.

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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby PH » 15 Sep 2018, 5:42pm

Sweep wrote:Does of course beg the question whether there is any advantage AT ALL to cartridge bearings.

Theoretical advantage is that each time you replace the balls you're also replacing the race, whether that's of practical use depends in part on whether you're the sort of person who would allow the race to become worn enough to require replacing and how big a job you'd consider replacing the cups to be. Of course once you do away with cups in integrated designs the choice is lost.
Is it feasible to replace cartridge bearings in a headset with either clipped balls or loose balls?

I wouldn't have thought so, they'd be running on a track not designed for them.
As for the faff, I don't find there's much difference between servicing lose balls and cartridges, unless you drop a lose ball and spend half an hour moving furniture looking for it :oops:
Last edited by PH on 15 Sep 2018, 5:47pm, edited 1 time in total.