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Daily Archives: October 7, 2022

I FIXED MY TREK’S CREAKING HEADSET! Simple and Painless

My Trek 5200 is a phenomenal rain bike. Always has been. It has a deep, dark secret in its past, though. It suffered years of neglect before I bought it in terms of the headset and steering assembly. By the time I got it, it was a rusted mess.

I had a new Chris King headset installed when I overhauled the bike back in 2016.

The headset, even the new King headset, was notoriously difficult to dial in. It had to be within an eighth of a turn or it would present difficulties. A sixteenth too tight and it would bind, causing the front wheel to “gyroscope” – this feels incredibly unsettling in a corner when the bike tries to right itself as you’re leaning into it. A sixteenth too lose and it would creak when I got out of the saddle to put max power to the pedals. Let’s just say I lived with a creak. Oh, I’d get it right now and again and it would only creak under excessive load, but for the most part, it’d creak when climbing hills and during sprints.

All of that pitting is the cause of the creak that I lived with for all those years. The new race wasn’t enough. So, after years of messing around with trying to get the Chris King Gripnut right, I’d worn the paint off it and made it look messy. It was good enough from afar, as I’d dress it up with black nail polish from time to time, but it was ugly. Two years ago I placed an order for a new Gripnut… and because of the pandemic it took until this week to come in.

My glorious, outstanding, beautiful wife went in to pick that beauty up when she went in to pick up her next new/used road bike and I just had time to install it last night. However, instead of living with the same problem, I emailed Matt and asked if there was anything that could be done about the pitting to fix the creak. The crown race is still tight on the fork and obviously looks amazing. The interface is the problem, though, but he said that could be re-machined. I got to thinking, if it can be re-machined, why can’t I just sand the pitting down?

I picked up 4 sheets of sandpaper on the way home last night… 80 grit, 120, 160 and 320. I used the 120 and 320.

I took the fork off after getting home from work and cleaned it up, making sure to degrease it entirely. Then, I simply took a long strip of each kind of sandpaper and sanded the interface smooth(ish). I cleaned it up, de-dusted it, lubed it and put everything back together so it was just tight enough to take up the slop in the fork.

I was certain it was going to creak because it wasn’t anywhere near tight enough to start binding, but the steering was better than on my Venge (which is immaculate) so I decided to suit up and give it a try just for shits and giggles.

Not a creak, groan, moan, or… anything. It’s perfect. That bike is going to get a lot more use in the future, I can tell you that! Well, technically that’s not exactly true, either. The new tandem is going to get most of the miles. The Trek will split solo rides with the Venge and will be my exclusive (solo) tour bike for things like DALMAC and possibly the Horsey Hundred (I just remembered we’re likely to take the new tandem on Horsey next year). I’d chosen the Venge a little more frequently lately because of the creak, but with that gone, the Trek operates just as good as the Venge! Happy Day!