Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

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AndyA
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby AndyA » 15 Sep 2018, 5:45pm

Sweep wrote:
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..


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.


I agree with iow - it's definitely worth taking the time to drop the fork to check the steerer for cracks. Unlikely to find any but....

An excellent method for extracting a 1 1/8" threadless fork is to use a section of 28.6mm (1 1/8") tube to replace the steerer in the frame.
Remove topcap, undo stem, push tube into stem while supporting fork.
I use an old 28.6mm seatpost, it's got a chamfer on the end that makes it easier to slide into the various gubbins.

Brucey
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Brucey » 15 Sep 2018, 5:45pm

gxaustin wrote:.... - it turns out that that there are not too many diameters and chamfer angles in practice....


oh yeah, there are only fifty odd here....

https://www.kineticbikebearings.com/chromium?limit=all&mode=grid

and that doesn't include the stainless ones they stock, and they don't have all of the many different types that you might find....


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.


in the grand scheme of things maybe not. But riding a bike with a bad headset is a pretty miserable experience, like walking with a stone inside your shoe.

Headset bearings clap out all the time in modern headsets; very many of them are poorly designed and the bearings are poorly specified for the service loads that they see, e.g. with the likely 'average quality' adjustment.

cheers
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gxaustin
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby gxaustin » 16 Sep 2018, 10:01pm

oh yeah, there are only fifty odd here...


Without knowing the geometry of each we don't know how many are interchangeable. I saw 2 which were described as same as ........
As for stainless options - they are options that will both fit. I'm sure you're right when it comes to integrated bearings though because there are no restrictions on sizes or tapers. At least where headset shells are fitted there are a finite number of headset manufacturers.

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Sweep
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Sweep » 17 Sep 2018, 9:31am

Thanks for all the replies.

I take your points Brucey about the confusing number of cartridge bearings - I went through that awful faff a few years ago when sourcing bearings for a Dahon Speed Pro. Anyone who knows anything about Dahons from a few years ago will know that anything involving spare parts, or even the specs for them, was a total nightmare. May still be the same.

Will be sending mails to Hewitt and Ridgeback (re the Expedition) for the spec of the bearings in their bikes' headsets for I well remember from the Dahon torture that reading the markings on the bearings wasn't at all easy.

Must admit that part of me is inclined to get the headset in at least one of the bikes replaced with something using loose ball bearings. Does anyone have any views/recommendations for such a thing for a 1/ 18inch threadless?

I seem to remember that there was something called The Pig (from FSA?) but also maybe have memories that some said that it's weather sealing was poor.
Sweep

Brucey
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Brucey » 17 Sep 2018, 11:20am

almost any headset can be made to work but the devil is in the detail concerning the sealing, the availability of spare bearings, you name it. For example the M:part headset are OK but the cover over the top ballrace is plastic, and this can be broken. other headsets have weird bearings or have poor sealing.

One headset I think is OK (but is now obsolete) is the Cane Creek C2. This has what looks like bearing cartridges in it, but these cartridges are not 'sealed bearings' in the usual sense, they are made specially and fitted with a full complement of loose balls (IIRC there are about 20 x 3/16" ball bearings inside each cartridge) . This means that the cartridges can be removed easily and overhauled on the bench, new balls fitted etc. Basically it works a lot like a loose ball headset but the bearings can articulate slightly (which spares them certain types of loading) and the cartridges can be overhauled fairly easily.

The load-bearing capacity of steel balls goes with the square of the diameter, so a typical sealed headset cartridge bearing (which might have ~26 x 1/8" balls in it) is about half as strong as the 20 x 3/16" ball headset bearing seen here. The main flaw with the C2 headset was that there wasn't enough grease inside it when it was new, and the grease that was in there wasn't very good grease; corrosion in the lower bearings (on bikes without mudguards) soon set in. However if the headset is repacked with decent grease (I've used FL Teflon grease in several) then it can work very well.

This used one

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Retro-Mountain-Bike-Cane-Creek-C2-Headset-1-18/123365184134?hash=item1cb9235286:g:EJAAAOSwQS1bmpbt

may be worth a punt but IIRC when they were new they were often discounted to less than £20 so it is not worth much more than £10 and of course there may be corrosion inside the cartridges and the lower seal may be worn. IIRC the same cartridges were also used in some Tange headsets.

cheers
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Gattonero
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Gattonero » 19 Sep 2018, 12:28am

Sweep wrote:Thanks for all the replies.

I take your points Brucey about the confusing number of cartridge bearings - I went through that awful faff a few years ago when sourcing bearings for a Dahon Speed Pro. Anyone who knows anything about Dahons from a few years ago will know that anything involving spare parts, or even the specs for them, was a total nightmare. May still be the same.

Will be sending mails to Hewitt and Ridgeback (re the Expedition) for the spec of the bearings in their bikes' headsets for I well remember from the Dahon torture that reading the markings on the bearings wasn't at all easy.

Must admit that part of me is inclined to get the headset in at least one of the bikes replaced with something using loose ball bearings. Does anyone have any views/recommendations for such a thing for a 1/ 18inch threadless?

I seem to remember that there was something called The Pig (from FSA?) but also maybe have memories that some said that it's weather sealing was poor.


The vast majority of headsets fail for two reasons: bad assembly and adjustment, or for contamination that leads to rust.
If you get past those two problems, any headset, either loose or cartridge bearings, will do.

The problem with cartridge bearings is the wild number of dimensions and angles they are made with. In theory, for 1" 1/8 you would have only three main common sizes: 41.0, 41.5 and 41.8mm, BUT each one of those is often made slightly taller or shallow, and can have a more or less longer slope where the cartridge meets the center-cone of the fork or the top assemply. In practice, this means that a bearing that fits the headset (or frame) may require new center-cones as well.
This somewhat defeats the purpose of simplicity for the cartridge bearings regarding maintenance (remove and replace with a new unit is all should take), so my advice would be to get spares immediately when new.

For example, some of my mountain bikes have nearly 20yrs on their cartridge bearings now, despite the horrendous bashing that is typical from the use those bikes will get, those little bearings are still there: correct installation and maintenance trump the strongest and biggest loose bearings that are poorly fitted and poorly serviced :wink: so my problem now is that the spare bearings I bought over 15 years ago are now hell-knows-where-in-that-garage :lol:
It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best,
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Thus you remember them as they actually are...

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Sweep
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Sweep » 19 Sep 2018, 7:49am

Thanks for the interesting reply gatto.

I take your point about care and servicing being important whether you use cartridge or ball bearing systems, but in view of your outlining of the horrendous variations in cartridge bearings am a bit surprised that you don't advocate using ball headsets.

No problems at all then deciding which bearings are needed, or finding them - if all else fails some can be dropped though your letter box in days.

I do actually have some spare cartridge bearings in my toolbox but can't for the life of me remember what bike they are for.
Sweep

Brucey
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Brucey » 19 Sep 2018, 8:02am

in 1-1/8" headsets as well as cartridge bearings that are 41.0, 41.5, and 41.8mm diameter with different heights, angles, seals etc there are also bearings of 41.7mm (again in several different types) that do not interchange with the others.

If you can buy bearings with identical markings on them or measure them accurately enough (difficult) then you can usually get spares OK. But it can easily turn into a complete nightmare instead....

cheers
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Gattonero
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Gattonero » 19 Sep 2018, 8:06am

Loose-bearing headsets aren't a silver bullet either.
For a start, if you've discarded the cage you may be in trouble as they differ wildly in diameter, height and the way they keep the balls in. Let alone the crown-race on the forks, which is the most subject to rust. This can be difficult to source on its own and may go for over 30% of the cost for a complete headset.
I'm not a fan of ball-bearings without a cage, surely they hold more load and work better, but often can be annoying for the regular maintenance.
Also, the problem with loose-bearings is that once the cups in the frame are rusty and pitted, you have to throw away the headset and fit a new one. While a cartridge-system should only need to replace the cartridge while the cups and races stay in the frame or top-assembly.

It is my opnion that there's no real better or worse system, it all depends on the circumstances (i.e. cartridge-systems have a higher stack) and especially what's available as far as spares: are they easy to find and correctly priced? I.e. some cartridge bearings go for over £25 each! :?
It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best,
since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.
Thus you remember them as they actually are...

Brucey
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Brucey » 19 Sep 2018, 8:21am

I agree that there is no such thing as a perfect system; each has its own pros and cons. But the main benefit of loose ball headsets is that they are (for any given purchase cost especially) quite a lot stronger. In a bike shop faffing about with loose balls is a bit time consuming but in a DIY setting this is less of a factor.

The Cane Creek C2 design -whilst also not perfect of course- seemed to me to share most of the benefits of both cartridge bearing headsets and loose ball headsets, but I'm not sure what (if any) models currently use that arrangement.

cheers
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Sweep
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Sweep » 20 Sep 2018, 1:08pm

Have emailed Ridgeback to ask them what the bearings are in the Expedition bike.

I won't be impressed if they can't tell me as it's a 2016 model - hardly lost in the mists of time.

When I find the paperwork for the Hewitt I will mail them as well.
Sweep

MikeDee
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby MikeDee » 20 Sep 2018, 3:56pm

Aren't cartridge bearing headsets the ones that solved the fretting (false brinelling, pitting, index steering) problem? I ride in almost exclusively dry conditions and haven't had a headset problem with these types of headsets as compared to the old caged bearing types.

Brucey
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Brucey » 20 Sep 2018, 4:31pm

MikeDee wrote:Aren't cartridge bearing headsets the ones that solved the fretting (false brinelling, pitting, index steering) problem? I ride in almost exclusively dry conditions and haven't had a headset problem with these types of headsets as compared to the old caged bearing types.


Possibly it helped, but really the main thing was, I think, that this coincided with the move to 1-1/8" steerers. These are 'quite a lot' stiffer so the crown race doesn't try to articulate in service anyway. When a stiff steerer is used, the main benefit of some articulation (rather than none) is that the average (i.e. poor) frame prep on most bikes is better tolerated.

Jobst Brandt wrote reams on the topic of headset wear but IMHO he was quite wrong in what he said; he ignored the fact that the steerer deflects a fair bit in any bike with a 1" setup, (and his steerer was so long it was almost certainly twice or more as flexible as the average.... :roll: ) and this loaded the balls very unevenly indeed. He probably was getting true brinelling; a small dent is easily visible; the raised material to the sides is maybe 1/10th the height and is much less easy to spot. I think he had (because of his longer steerer) a genuinely insoluble problem for a conventional 1" headset, but most of the folk who thought they had the same problem almost certainly did not; they would most likely have been suffering the usual consequences of poor adjustment, which are slightly different (*).

Note also that as soon as you have cartridge bearings, and an A-head system, true fretting is less likely because it is much less likely that you will run with slack or too little preload on the headset bearings. The reason for this is twofold;

1) most folk put too much preload on their headsets ("..a good thing I found that screw was 'loose' in the top cap...." etc etc etc) and
2) if there is the slightest slack the whole affair rattles like crazy; much worse than a traditional headset.

1) also means that a lot of bearings clap out by being overloaded anyway. Indexed steering is alive and well, and average quality cartridge bearings are part of the problem; ~25 x 1/8" balls is not a very strong bearing at all, and easily indents with some combination of service load, excess preload and lack of decent grease.

If you are careful with your setup and maintenance, you probably won't get any problems. The same was true of 1" threaded headsets too, for the most part; once I'd figured out how to adjust/maintain them correctly, and that caged balls were no real advantage, and could in most cases be replaced by a stronger arrangement of loose balls, I don't think I have wrecked a headset.

(*) For example here there was one poor blighter who had experienced bad indexing on no less than (IIRC) four Dura Ace 1" theaded headsets in succession. I think he'd read what JB had written and assumed he had the same problem ( and said "they don't seem to be very strong...."). He had, of course, nothing of the sort; he'd been screwing the adjusting race down finger tight and then bringing the locknut down on top of it, thus (probably) generating a good fraction of one tonne preload on the bearings. Because they were high quality bearings, they initially didn't bind badly despite the monstrous preload, but the service loads soon added to the preload and indented the bearings (all the way round....).

cheers
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Lance Dopestrong
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby Lance Dopestrong » 20 Sep 2018, 5:01pm

Sweep wrote: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?


Once the bike was on the work stand a service would have taken you about as long as it would to have typed this post. Keep a syringe full of grease handy and it's even easier.
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mikeymo
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Re: Threadless headset servicing - would you bother?

Postby mikeymo » 20 Sep 2018, 8:36pm

Sweep wrote:Have emailed Ridgeback to ask them what the bearings are in the Expedition bike.

I won't be impressed if they can't tell me as it's a 2016 model - hardly lost in the mists of time.

When I find the paperwork for the Hewitt I will mail them as well.


I just built up a bike using the Ridgeback Panorama Deluxe frame from the same year as your Expedition:

https://www.ridgeback.co.uk/uploads/docs/ridgeback2016.pdf

The frame came with a VP-A51A headset. That's also the same headset that is on my Ridgeback World Journey from about 2012. As the Panorama Deluxe was the top of the range, but the VP-A51A looks like a fairly basic headset, I'm willing to take a punt that yours will be the same. Mine has "VP-A51A" stamped on the top:

Image

If yours is the same then it's got ball bearings in a cage:

Image

I think that set of caged bearings is a fairly standard component, though some recommend replacing with loose bearings. Which are probably 5/32". See my thread here:

https://forum.cyclinguk.org/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=125064

If you get any info from Ridgeback let us/me know please.
Last edited by mikeymo on 21 Sep 2018, 9:08am, edited 1 time in total.