Headset becoming tighter instead of looser after maintenance and a couple of rides

Discuss light weight issues concerning road bikes & parts.
Delorre
Posts: 867
Joined: Sat May 24, 2014 12:09 pm

by Delorre

Hi folks, could you please help me understand what has been going on with the Ritchey headset of my Scott? I took it apart this winter, cleaned it completely, checked both bearings (they still spin as new), put everything back together with some white grease. I intenionnaly adjusted the headset a little too tight, as from years and years on bike wrenching, I now that a freshly put togeher headset tends to get a little loose after some rides on rough roads. After 3 rides, and almost 175 miles, the headset adjustment wasn't changed at all, but after a nasty cobblestone section on my yesterday ride, the headset suddenly had become way too tight, with a lot of drag and turning very roughly.

I'm very surprised about that, as after that cobblestone section, I was sure the headset would have been 100% fine, or even a little loose, but not tighter :shock: Back home, I unbolted the 2 stem bolts and turned the preload of the headset 1/4 turn back, and everything is perfect now. Spins freely, without any play. All good, but I still don't understand what hapened :?:

by Weenie


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Calnago
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Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2010 9:14 pm

by Calnago

Yeah, that's a bit puzzling to me as well. Sometimes you just have to accept that something went wrong, but all is good now, and move on. I know I know... I hate to "move on" without knowing why it happened in the first place. But what can you do at this point. Now, if it happens again, then you must not give up troubleshooting until you find the source of the problem. Would drive me nuts. I had a couple of theories that I actually wrote out, but then deleted since they would only apply to the opposite scenario, where the headset loosened up. But to get tighter afterwards... that's a head scratcher. Unless you tightened it so much that when you hit the cobbles it smashed a ball bearing or something. The only other thing I can think of is maybe the carrier inside the bearing broke (it's plastic or nylon or some such material) and made things stiffer. Then when you loosen it off after getting back home, even though it's broken it appears to move freely. The only way you could tell I suppose would be to remove the bearings from the headset and carefully remove the seal so you could see inside, but even then it would be hard to tell if the carrier was broken with a quick glance. And disassembling the bearing completely would likely damage the bearing in the process. Good luck.

Delorre
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Joined: Sat May 24, 2014 12:09 pm

by Delorre

Thx for the confirmation that this is against any logic at first sight. :noidea: I will keep an eye on it for sure, headsets must be perfect. I can't understand people riding with even the slightest play in their headsets. Mine was only a little too tight. In the garage, the bars turned without any roughness, but not by themselves unless some good lean of the bike. Too tight, but barely noticable when riding. After the cobbles, there were even some 'hard' spots. Nothing anymore now, so I guess the bearings are still fine, so, I'm not at the point of taking everything apart again unless I run into trouble after x numbrs of rides. Time will tell.

Delorre
Posts: 867
Joined: Sat May 24, 2014 12:09 pm

by Delorre

Update and still a little head scratching on this one. This bike has run an other 4000 miles since the issue above, and the last weeks, the headset has started to tighten up again, to the point of having a hard spot and gritty feeling in the headset. This time, I took the headset apart. The white grease was still there for most of it, and only the lower bearing has some little corrosion on the outside. Top bearing is like new and spins like new grease has been added just a few days ago (read : not freely spinning at all, but really smooth). The lower one feft a little gritty, so took off the seals, de-greased, checked and put new grease in it. Not perfect, but good to go again. So far so good, until I saw that the compression ring at the top of the headset, has left a clear rubbing mark on the steer tube. This could be seen and felt, some carbon has been rubbed away. Not a mm or so, but a few 10th of a mm anyway. Didn't take a pic of it and put everything back together. The feeling is OK, but not 'as new', the lower bearing not beeing in 100% condition anymore.

But that wear on the headtube puzzles me. Could this be the cause of the gradual tightning of the headset? Is this a common issue? Never had this in years or cycling. My fear also, is that this damage will get worse if I don't do anything, but is there something I can do, apart from bying a new fork and headset + have the local frame repair / paint shop redo the painting of that new fork, I doubt I will find a fork in Orica colors anytime soon.

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kkibbler
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Joined: Tue Sep 09, 2014 9:30 am

by kkibbler

Is it possible the bearings are not seated properly and the top and bottom are not co-planar?

alcatraz
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Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2016 11:19 am

by alcatraz

Is it possible your compression plug is overtightened and is giving the steerer enough of a cone shape to kind of guide the stem downwards when it vibrates?

If possible put your compression plug a bit deeper and see if the problem persists.

If you are not experiencing issues then what you have is a nice safety feature. :D Maybe just leave it as it is...

/a

Delorre
Posts: 867
Joined: Sat May 24, 2014 12:09 pm

by Delorre

kkibbler wrote:Is it possible the bearings are not seated properly and the top and bottom are not co-planar?


Bearings are nice and flush with the frame, both at top and at the bottom, but I don't have the tools and skills to aswer the secound question. As I only have the fenomenon starting of couple of months ago (bike had already 15.000km at that moment), I guess the frame is right.

Delorre
Posts: 867
Joined: Sat May 24, 2014 12:09 pm

by Delorre

alcatraz wrote:Is it possible your compression plug is overtightened and is giving the steerer enough of a cone shape to kind of guide the stem downwards when it vibrates?

If possible put your compression plug a bit deeper and see if the problem persists.

If you are not experiencing issues then what you have is a nice safety feature. :D Maybe just leave it as it is...

/a


If so, wouldn't my topcap and 5mm spacer above the stem start to feel loose? But I checked, and the compression plug is only 5nm tight. The expanding part is in the middle of the stem. Will do some riding without the expanding plug (as I do with my Canyons).

But what aboout the compression ring wearing away the stear tube. Seems a real issue to me!

alcatraz
Posts: 585
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2016 11:19 am

by alcatraz

The compression plug shouldn't be moving. Unless it's undersized with inadequate friction.

If (big if to me) it would wear the steerer then the result is the vibrations would eventually loosen the headset not tighten it.

Is it possible you got like a 36 degree angle somewhere trying to mate with a 45 degree angle? Maybe the vibrations are kind of causing an edge somewhere to dig into a surface or slowly becoming blunt.

Unlikely I know, and it should result in a loosened headset although could explain some of that rough bearing action.

/a

Delorre
Posts: 867
Joined: Sat May 24, 2014 12:09 pm

by Delorre

alcatraz wrote:The compression plug shouldn't be moving. Unless it's undersized with inadequate friction.

If (big if to me) it would wear the steerer then the result is the vibrations would eventually loosen the headset not tighten it.

Is it possible you got like a 36 degree angle somewhere trying to mate with a 45 degree angle? Maybe the vibrations are kind of causing an edge somewhere to dig into a surface or slowly becoming blunt.

Unlikely I know, and it should result in a loosened headset although could explain some rough bearing action.

/a


I'm talkng about the compression ring in the headset f.ex :
Image

and not the expander inside the steer tube. That ring is causing damage to the outside of the steer tube.

alcatraz
Posts: 585
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2016 11:19 am

by alcatraz

Sorry. That's weird.

Check the ring and see if it contacts the bearing properly. Maybe it's getting wedged because it's a 45 degree angle and the bearing is a 36 degree (or vice versa).

(the ring should of course act as a wedge but it's contact angle with steerer/bearing might somehow be off causing some strange behavior)

Did you grease the surfaces a bit?

If your compression ring easily can put marks or dig into your steerer it further strengthens my suspicion that your steerer is a bit soft and flexy and thus the stem likes to glide. Carbon paste and a well positioned compression plug would be something to try.

Me personally I got the opposite problem. Steerer strong, compression plug a bit too small. Stem likes to creep up. I really need the compression plug a bit higher than the center of the stem and set it to it's max torque. Then I can really feel that my upper stem bolt really gets tighter after riding. Like it's trying to creep up over a bump.

/a (I'm not an expert on headsets, I just love mysteries. Very curious to find out what's causing this.)

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kkibbler
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by kkibbler

Is it a straight steerer? Is it possible the top and bottom bearings got swapped?

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bikerjulio
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Joined: Fri Dec 11, 2009 10:38 pm
Location: Welland, Ontario

by bikerjulio

Some clearer information about the frame and headset would help.

For the moment I'm going to assume it's an integrated drop-in headset. Is that correct?

To start, I'm going to go with undetected damage either to the lower bearing or to the bearing cup within the frame.

Another question related to the compression ring mark - is it even around the steerer? If so that could just be from over tightening. If not, then it points to misalignment of the upper bearing.
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kode54
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Joined: Tue May 23, 2006 9:39 pm

by kode54

if the bearings are smooth...is it possible that the bearing races are worn? causing undue pressure when tightening?
- AX Lightness Vial EVO D + DA9150 + Enve SES 3.4 carbon hubs
- Parlee Altum + DA9150 + Enve SES 4.5 carbon hubs
- Parlee ESX + DA9150 + THM SRM PM + Enve SES 6.7 CK hubs
- Independent Fabrication Ti FLW + DA9100 + Enve 3.4 CK hubs

by Weenie


Svetty
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Joined: Thu Mar 26, 2009 11:06 pm
Location: Yorkshire - God's Own Country

by Svetty

I have had something similar when the top bearing cover is partially fouling on the head-tube instead of resting on the compression ring/upper bearing. Solved by using a thin shim under the bearing top-cover.

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