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Obscure Bicycle Maintenance: The Headset


June 2014

I am meticulous about the maintenance on my Venge.  It is cleaned on the outside every week.  The drivetrain (including the derailleurs) is completely is cleaned and re-lubed every other week (keep in mind, I put in enough miles to warrant a chain cleaning every other week – 350-400 miles).  I even take the crank assembly apart once every month or two to clean and relube it (it’s quite easy, takes about 15 minutes from start to finish).  The bike, with no exceptions, looks showroom new after almost a full year and 5,000 miles on it.  In fact, I’ve taken great pride in how good it still looks after all of that use.  It also helps that it’s never seen rain (a few drops, yes, but I ride my Trek if a chance of rain above 20% is in the forecast).  In other words, my Venge only sees the best of road conditions.

As I wrote in a previous post, I had my bike in for a yet unknown mechanical problem (clicking in the drivetrain) and when the mechanics started running out of ideas to pin the cause on they took the headset apart:
I’ve never done this, on any of my bikes because A) I didn’t know that it had to be done and B) I didn’t know how.  After all, the whole steering assembly is sealed, no?  Well no, it isn’t as it turns out.  According to one of the shop’s main mechanics, the top was clean but the bottom was quite caked with road dust.  I apologized and explained that I had no idea I would have to do that, then asked how to do it.  I almost wish I’d hit YouTube first…  The threadless headsets are so easy to take apart (at least the part that has to be cleaned and re-lubed), it’s slightly ridiculous.

Basically, you take off the stem cap, then the stem and the fork comes right out.  You wipe it down, lube it back up and you’re good to go.  That’s it.  Well, thankfully with cycling I’m always learning something new.  At least it keeps things interesting.

So, for those who wish, here are a couple of YouTube “How To” videos:




  1. sxeveganbiking says:

    Good post, I think people lack confidence with maintenance at times. As long as you are slow and methodical you usually can’t go wrong. Videos like these are great. Incidentally, on my Specialized Rockhopper many years ago I removed the forks and slid sections of old inner tube over the top and bottom parts of the headset to keep the worst of the mud out, I think Lizard Skins used to sell something similar. Worked a treat for MTB.

  2. I’m right there with you. In a ride the other day, a guy asked me if I cleaned my bike with Q-tips. I can’t say my bike hasn’t seen rain, but I do have my Madone that I ride on proposed rough days. 🙂

  3. PedalWORKS says:

    I’m with you. That’s why I ride 3 bikes. The Garneau has never seen rain either. I check the headsets regularly and they get rebuilt every year.

  4. My poor old roubaix has seen way too much rain (& snow, ice, gravel etc – Scotland summer & winter), but at least I’ve learnt reasonable bottom brackets are a doddle to replace, derailleurs can be adjusted with patience, cassettes & chain rings are not too bad either with the right tools, patience, friends & online vids.

    • bgddyjim says:

      You’re weather is world renowned. The newer bikes are even easier though! My whole crank/bottom bracket assy. consists of the drive side and left arm of the crank and two bearings that are pressed into the frame. That’s it.

  5. fastk9dad says:

    Good tip. Also need to make sure you don’t over tighten the stem cap or leave it too loose when putting it all back together.

  6. […] though…  If you absolutely can’t wait for the post in the new series, I’ve written about this issue before, and the link has two videos embedded that explain both the threadless stem and the quill […]

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