How to Assemble a Bike Headset

How to Assemble a Bike Headset
Though small and nearly invisible once assembled, a bike headset serves a critical function. A modern headset is composed of several individual parts, including sealed bearings, a crown race, compression ring, dust cap, top cap and compression bolt. Though each part has a unique purpose, the overall function of an assembled headset is to connect the fork and handlebar stem to the bicycle frame while also allowing the fork and stem to turn independently of the frame.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • 5 mm and 3 mm Allen wrenches
  • Bicycle grease
Step 1
Place the crown race over the fork tube until it settles on the crown, or base, of the fork. The crown race is a thin enclosed aluminum disk with a beveled edge. The beveled edge will need to be face up.
Step 2
Lower one of the two greased sealed bearing cartridges over the fork tube so that cartridge sits on the crown race. The beveled edge of the bearing cartridge should also be facing up.
Step 3
Pass the fork tube through the bottom of the head tube of the bicycle frame. The installed bearing cartridge should rest in the bearing cup at the base of the head tube.
Step 4
Lower the second bearing cartridge over the fork tube until the cartridge nestles into the bearing cup at the top of the head tube of the frame. The beveled edge will face down, toward the tube.
Step 5
Fit the compression ring over the fork tube so that its beveled edge is also facing down. The compression ring will nestle against the upper bearing cartridge.
Step 6
Slide the cone-shaped plastic dust cap over the fork tube until it settles against the compression ring and bearing cartridge.
Step 7
Place any spacers over the fork tube, and lower the handlebar stem onto the spacers. With the correct amount of spacers, there will be no more or less than 3 mm between the tip of the fork tube and the top of the handlebar stem.
Step 8
Straighten the handlebar stem so that it is in line with the front wheel, and place the headset top cap onto the stem.
Step 9
Thread the headset compression bolt through the center of the top cap, and tighten the bolt using a 5 mm Allen wrench.
Step 10
Tighten the two 3 mm Allen bolts on the side of the stem.

Tips & Warnings

Always test your bike after doing any adjustments on the steering. It's crucial to your safety that the headset and stem are assembled and tightened properly. A loose steering column, caused by an improperly assembled headset or loose bolt, will rattle slightly under braking.

Article Written By Matthew Ferguson

Matthew Ferguson is a writer living in Savannah, Ga. He has been writing for over 10 years and his work has appeared on various online publications. A collection of his short stories was published in spring 2010. He is a graduate of Appalachian State University.

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