Unless you know what you’re doing, working on a threaded headset can be a little difficult. Throw in a Chris King Gripnut threaded headset and you’re likely to end up, as I did, at the shop with a bunch of parts asking the tech to show you how to put everything back together. The trick is the Gripnut – everything else is easy peasy lemon squeezy, but that Gripnut is tricky. Once you know how to work the Gripnut, the rest is ridiculously simple.
So, if you’ve ever attempted this, you know the Gripnut comes in three pieces. The top nut, bottom nut and the sleeve inside, as you can see in the photo above. The top nut threads over the bottom and squeezes everything together. It’s quite awesome and once tightened down, it grips on the threads. So what I, and most other people of normal intelligence will do is loosen and remove the top nut and then try to unthread the bottom nut. But the bottom nut won’t unthread and come off… it gets locked on and just spins, leaving you to wonder what the hell just happened. You’ll sit there and spin on the bottom nut and nothing happens, it won’t unthread. Worse, when you try to put the top cap back on, it won’t re-thread to the bottom nut… this is all because it’s the sleeve that has the threads on it, not the bottom nut.
Fear not, here’s the trick: The three pieces need to remain together while you’re unscrewing the bottom nut and bearing cover from the threaded fork. That third piece, the sleeve, has a key and if the bottom nut, sleeve, and top nut don’t line up just so, you can’t thread everything together properly.
The key to removing the headset bolts is to take two 32 mm cone wrenches and loosen the top nut, but don’t completely de-thread it from the bottom… you only loosen the top. Then, simply grasp both bottom and top nuts and twist counterclockwise until the assembly comes off the top of the thread. Then you can service the bearings and clean everything up (including fixing any annoying creaks).
Just remember, if you separate the three parts of the Gripnut, the parts have to be lined up so the key fits in the slot to thread everything back onto the fork.
When I had it demonstrated for me at the shop, I was more than a little nervous that I might mess it up. Several months later, when I did attempt removing the fork to service the bearing race, it was a lot easier than I expected.