Bike headset

headset Fixes, Reviews & Guides

Embedded thumbnail for How to Tighten A Bicycle Headset

How to Tighten A Bicycle Headset

One of the most basic maintenance tasks you can do but one that can make a tremendous impact on how your bike handles is tightening your headset. If you are noticing that your fork shakes or you...

Part headset
Company: Chris King
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for DIY- Make Your Own Headset Cup Remover Tool

DIY- Make Your Own Headset Cup Remover Tool

This video will show you how to make a DIY bicycle headset cup remover tool.

To do this at home, you will need a hacksaw, something to secure the tube such as a seat clamp or vise, a file,...

Part headset
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for Install An External Cup Headset Without A Press

Install An External Cup Headset Without A Press

How to install an external cup bike headset without a press:

To do this project at home you will need bike grease, a piece of wood or something similar, and a hammer. The reason for using a...

Tools greasehammer
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for  Great Introductory Tutorial: Parts of a Bike Headset and How to Adjust

Great Introductory Tutorial: Parts of a Bike Headset and How to Adjust

Let’s talk about adjusting your headset.

You might not even know what your headset is, and if you do, you might not know if it’s loose or not. But, if it is, chances are you had heard that...

Tools hex wrench
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for How to Install a Cane Creek Threadless Headset

How to Install a Cane Creek Threadless Headset

The headset is a small, yet critical component that is often overlooked. In this video you’ll see how to service, adjust, and install your thread less headset.

For this, you will need a...

Company: Cane Creek
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for DIY Fix a Loose Headset

DIY Fix a Loose Headset

There's a lot of moving parts on a bike that we often take for granted. Most riders don't think twice about our seat until it starts swiveling or our pedals until they get stuck. Along those same...

Part headset
Company: Park
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for DIY Cut Bike Steer Tube and Tap Star Nut Down

DIY Cut Bike Steer Tube and Tap Star Nut Down

I'm going to be trimming down my steer tube. I actually just thought this up on how to tap the star nut down without using an actual star nut tool. What I'm going to do is...

Company: Cane Creek
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for How to Install a Star Nut in a Bicycle Fork

How to Install a Star Nut in a Bicycle Fork

I'm going to show you how to install a star nut into your bicycle fork.

Star Nut in Fork

In order to install the star nut straight into the...

Company: Park
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for DIY Chris King Headset Installation

DIY Chris King Headset Installation

I'm cheap this man Dan found the shirt on the side of the road replacing at Chris King headset I sent Chris King my old ten-year-old headset to be refurbished and they sent me back a brand new one...

Part headset
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for How to Overhaul a Threaded Headset

How to Overhaul a Threaded Headset

When you want to overhaul your threaded headset, remove the handlebar stem and use a wrench for the locknut. Remove the spacers and the top race. Check the races for pitting. Remove fork and...

Company: Chris King
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for How to Install a Threadless Headset

How to Install a Threadless Headset

A headset is basically the piece that holds the fork to the frame of a bike, thereby allowing for steering. A sealed bearing headset normally has a plastic or rubber gasket to protect the insides...

Company: Cane Creek
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for How to Install a Threaded Headset

How to Install a Threaded Headset

A headset is basically the piece that holds the fork to the frame of a bike, thereby allowing for steering. A sealed bearing headset normally has a plastic or rubber gasket to protect the insides...

Company: Chris King
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for How to Install a Sealed Bearing Headset

How to Install a Sealed Bearing Headset

A headset is basically the piece that holds the fork to the frame of a bike, thereby allowing for steering. A sealed bearing headset normally has a plastic or rubber gasket to protect the insides...

Company: Cane Creek
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for How to Install a Sealed Bearing Headset/Threaded Headset/Threadless Headset

How to Install a Sealed Bearing Headset/Threaded Headset/Threadless Headset

Headsets are the bike components that provide an interface between the moving forks that steer, and the head tube of the frame. There are a lot of special tools for the installation. If you...

Company: Cane Creek
Type: Repair Tutorial
Embedded thumbnail for How to Adjust your Bike’s Geometry/Seat Height/Stem Length

How to Adjust your Bike’s Geometry/Seat Height/Stem Length

Most people who start biking don’t realize that bikes come in different sizes. However, if you have a tall person and a short person get on the same bike, the difference can be clearly seen....

Company: FSA
Type: Repair Tutorial

bike headset

The headset is a rotatable interface that mounts the bike forks into the frame. It consists of two cups (upper and lower head-tube races) that are pressed into the top and bottom of the head tube of the bike frame. They allow the forks the necessary movement for steering by using smooth bearings simultaneously held in place by the cups of the headset.

While all headset cups are pressed into the frame, there are two ways in which they hold onto the steerer tube of the forks:


Threaded - The steerer tube of the forks has threads on the end, so that when it slides up through the headset, a lock nut at the top of the headset threads directly onto the steerer tube, tightly keeping it and the guts of the headset held in the frame. 

Threaded Crossect


Threadless - A star nut is inserted inside the fork steerer tube. When the headset is assembled with all the spacers, bearings, and stem, a bolt in the top cap reaches down and threads into the star nut. Tines on the star nut dig into the walls of the fork steerer tube, holding the forks and the headset pressed together.

Threadless crossect

Headsets (and their assorted pieces) can be bought online in any size and compatibility, however 1 1/8" threadless headsets are the most common. Chris King, Cane Creek, and FSA are a few brands that dominate the aftermarket headset scene. 

Threadless headsets can range from less than $20 to over $400 on Amazon.com with a median price a little less than $50. 

Threaded headsets are simpler and take less time to manufacture, therefore they are cheaper. Some Threaded headsets come for less than $10 online with the Amazon price range topping out at $145, with a median around $25.

Headsets are very hardy components that rarely need replaced. However if symptoms of a loose or broken headset persist, don't fret. It's not as hard as you might think.

Signs of a worn headset:

  • Shaking - the headset is too loose, and is rattling in the frame, 
  • Stiffness - the headset is too tight, and steering comes with resistance.
  • Indexed steering - the bearings in the headset create dimples which makes the headset favor steering at a certain angle.

None of the above are fun, and if you can't adjust the headset to make it work, an overhaul may be in order. To remove the headset:

 

Threaded - Unscrew the locknut, and remove any spacers, and finally the threaded bearing race. The forks will fall from the frame.

Exploded headsets


  • Threadless - When the top cap is removed and the stem is off, the spacers should come out easily. Usually the steerer tube will be still sitting comfortably in the bearing race cup, but a simple, light hit with a hammer (through a block of wood to avoid damage) should dislodge the forks.
  • Exploded threadless

With the forks removed, check the health of the bearings in the headset. Threadless headsets have cartridge bearings that can be easily replaced. If they are loose or not rotating smoothly in threaded systems, the entire headset may need to be replaced. When replacing any bearings always use an excess of grease.

Because the cups are press fit, the head-tube races come out simply with a screwdriver or a hammer, alternating sides with light impacts will take them out. It's a good idea to have the bike frame on a rotatable repair stand, so each head-tube race can be hammered on from different angles.

To install the new headset, the races need to be pressed in using a mallet, or a block of wood/hammer setup. When the new cups and bearings are installed, replace the steerer tube, the spacers, and finally lock down the stem.

NOTE: Sometimes the head-tube races won't be 100% tight the first try. If you notice the signs of a loose headset, rest assured you're banging the cups into place as you ride. Take it on home and tighten it down once and for all. 

The outside diameter of the steerer tube dictates the size of the headset. When measuring the headset, it is important to double-check the dimensions that are actually being measured. It's common to mistake the diameter of the stem or steerer tube for that of the headset.

Most threaded headsets are standardized at 1 inch, with a minority having diameters of 1 1/8 inch.

Threadless headsets have an ISO (International Standardization Organization) 1 inch diameter, but most new mountain bikes use 1 1/8 inch. Tandem bicycles in both classes use 1 1/4 inch headsets.

                              Common Threaded Headset Sizes
Type of headset/Steerer outside diameter Crown Race inside diameter Frame cup outside diameter Threads per inch Notes
French/ 25mm 26.5mm, 27mm 30.2mm 25.4tpi Obsolete. Bottom headset components wear fast, but the upper parts can be used in compatibility with ISO standard 1" headsets. 
1" ISO standard (25.4mm) 26.4mm 30.2mm 24tpi Standard 1" headset size.
1" Italian (25.4mm) 26.5mm, 27mm 30.2mm 24tpi Obsolete. Threads have an awkward pitch of 55 degrees, but ISO components can be interchanged if the other minimal sizing differences are overlooked.
1" Raleigh (25.4) 26.4mm 30.2mm 26tpi Size used exclusively on Raleigh bikes from the UK
Austrian (26mm) 26.7mm 30.8mm 25.4tpi High quality Austrian-made bikes use these dimensions. Compatible with ISO.
Tandem 1 1/4" (31.8mm) 33.0mm 37.0mm 26tpi Commonplace on tandem bikes worldwide.

 

                                Common Threadless Headset Sizes
Headset size Crown Race inside diameter Frame Cup outside diameter Notes
1" ISO standard (25.4mm) 26.4mm 30.2mm Standard 1" size throughout the threadless market
1 1/8" (28.6mm) 30.0mm 34.0mm Used on many new mountain bikes
1 1/4" (31.8mm) 33.0mm 37.0mm Used on tandem bikes
1.5" (38.1mm) 39.8mm 49.6mm Proposed new standard on downhill machines.