Tech Tips & Tales from the Mockster

  What’s Hiding in Your Headset???

Typical bicycle headset layout

When’s the last time you had your bike’s headset bearings serviced?  If your are a typical rider, the answer is maybe never.  Last week’s “ARB Bike Maintenance” post dealt with rainy day bike issues.  In recent days we have been seeing more and more cases of bikes with maintenance related headset bearing issues.  Because you can’t see the headset bearings and they don’t noisily complain like bottom bracket bearings, often this critical part of your bike is over looked and rarely if ever serviced.

Rusty failed bottom headset bearing

At the left is a drawing of a typical bicycle headset configuration.  As you can see, the bottom bearing, because of it’s location, is exposed to road spray and grit that is kicked up by the front tire.  Without regular service, this is a recipe for failure.

A simple pre-ride check of your headset bearings is always a good idea.  Too loose or maybe failed headset bearings will be apparent by a clicking or knocking sound as you rock your bike back and forth with the front brake on.  Too tight headset bearings will be indicated by a sluggish or dragging feel when you turn the handlebars.  A rough or notchy feel as you turn the handlebars can indicate a bearing set that is “Brinelled” (an engineering technical term that simply means “worn out”).

Unfortunately, normal checks may not reveal bearing sets that are well on the road to damage until it is too late.  By the time a previously well adjusted headset shows itself, the only solution may be replacement.  The alternative is to pull the fork and bearings, flush out old grease and grit and re-pack with new grease.  The ARB Service Department charges $25.00 for this service.   A regular look at your bike’s headset, particularly if you’re out riding during rainy weather, is a good part of your preventive maintenance program.   It’s funny how parts never seem to fail when the bike is in your garage but always inconveniently out on the road!

Don “Thinking Ahead” Mock






Leave a Comment