How To: Service A Headset

Mountain Biking Magazine


Technical & Maintenance

How To: Service A Headset

Ever wondered how to service and adjust your headset? If so, then watch the video above…

(And apologies for some of that video being a bit ‘cut and shut’ but some eegit deleted a load of the original video files and so we had to shoot some of it again.)

It amazes me how many people are scared of trying to adjust their headset, let alone strip it apart and service it. Maybe it’s because it contains those mystical bearing things? The fact is though that like the vast majority of jobs on a bike this one is actually really simple once you know how to do it.

If you’ve got a cartridge bearing headset then regular maintenance isn’t quite so much of an issue (although it certainly won’t do any harm and it’ll help keep any creaks at bay), but if you have one that uses loose bearings then a bit of a clean and re-grease every so often will help keep it running smoothly for years.

Aside from dirt and water infested grease the other biggest headset killer is poor adjustment, and this counts just as much for cartridge bearing headsets as it does loose bearing ones (although at least with cartridge bearings you are less likely to damage the cups themselves). Your headset should allow you to turn your bars nice and smoothly. If you over-tighten it everything will feel stiff and this will reduce the life of your bearings. On the flip side if it’s too loose then it will rock back and forth with each impact and braking force, effectively trying to smash your bearings to pieces each time.

Your headset should be tightened so that any play is only just removed, and if you feel any play start to creep in whilst out on a ride you should try and remove it as soon as possible. It’s an easy job that only requires an allen key or two. If you find that your headset feels rough even though you have only just taken the play out then your bearings are obviously shot. Whether this means a new headset or just some bearings depends on the type of headset you have, and what you find when you take it all apart…

Good luck! And if you’ve got any questions then just fire away…

Sponsored by ATG Training: authorised by the Association of Cycle Traders to provide Cytech technical training courses.

Dirt users are entitled to a 50% discount off Cytech Technical One Theory Online (down from £139.99 to £69.99). Just quote the code: DIRT001. The offer expires 30/9/12 and you can find out more and apply here.


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