Forum home Road cycling forum Workshop

Threaded headset coming loose

bicebice Posts: 772
edited April 2015 in Workshop
My Italian steel frame road bike has taken a battering on tracks and tough conditions, and the Stronglight headset with roller-bearings keeps coming loose.

The headset is not damaged at all – ie no bearing marks in the races or split.

Two things aren't helping: nearly two cms of spacers and only having one headset spanner (I bodge with a plumber's pipe grip, which is not ideal).

I may also be a little too reluctant to tighten up the bearings enough.

My thought is to put some plumber's tape on the threads to prevent loosening, both for the bearing and the lock nut.

Alternatively, I could try a Miche substitute, which has ball bearings.


  • nicklousenicklouse Posts: 81,520 Lives Here
    Do you have the tangled soacer fitted?

    And buy another spanner and tighten thing correctly.
    "Do not follow where the path may lead, Go instead where there is no path, and Leave a Trail."
    Parktools :?:SheldonBrown
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,406
    I have the same headset. Use two spanners. Adjust to get rid of bearing play. Then tighten the two big nuts against each other - that is, as you finish tightening the upper lock nut clockwise, you tighten the lower bearing adjusting nut anti-clockwise against it. That locks everything in place.
  • Monty DogMonty Dog Posts: 20,614
    Firstly, make sure the top lock-nut isn't bottoming-out on the top of the steerer - add a spacer or cut it down a bit if needed. Then tighten it properly using two spanners - job done.
    Make mine an Italian, with Campagnolo on the side..
  • bicebice Posts: 772
    The lock nut on this headset is a light alloy and only has 4-5 threads.

    The Miche spare headset locknut has about the same number, but seems more robust. But it may not fit with the spacers as neatly.

    Neither locknut is as strong as steel ones I have used on basic bikes.

    But plumber's tape: surely not a bad idea?
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,406
    bice wrote:
    The lock nut on this headset is a light alloy and only has 4-5 threads.

    The Miche spare headset locknut has about the same number, but seems more robust. But it may not fit with the spacers as neatly.

    Neither locknut is as strong as steel ones I have used on basic bikes.

    But plumber's tape: surely not a bad idea?

    No need to use plumber's tape. I've used these Stronglight headsets on my tourer for well over 20 years and have similar alloy headset on another bike. As I said, the trick is to lock upper and lower nuts together. If you just do up the top locknut tight, the lower nut can work loose. I used to have occasional loosening after high mileage and rough roads. Then I was told about tightening the nuts against each other and the issue was resolved. But you do need two headset spanners or one headset spanner for the bearing nut and a big adjustable for the top locknut. Take out the play with the bottom nut, tighten the locknut, nip the bottom nut hard anti-clockwise against top nut and spacer, and then a final hard tighten clockwise on top nut. I guarantee this will hold everything securely.
  • bicebice Posts: 772
    The Stronglight is a multi-piece bit of kit: the races are loose steel disks fitting inside the alloy.

    I think the problem here is that the threaded fork has not been cut and there are 2 cms of pointless spacers. If the lock nut were locking the headset directly it would probably work better, perhaps.

    Interesting that you have used these for 20 years (with barrelled bearings?). The Miche one seems tougher and a good deal less complex: ie proper ball bearings and the steel races fixed inside the alloy cups.
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,406
    Mine runs with a spacer, a washer with a tab on it that fits in a slot on the steerer tube and a hanger for my cantilever brakes - so effectively the locknut is above three spacers. You and I both have the old type of Stronglight roller bearing hubset (probably A9) with roller bearings in plastic carriers working on separate steel races - much higher load bearing than the ball bearing type. Fixed steel races in alloy cups mean the whole headset has to be replaced when it wears. The type you and I have can be kept going for ever by replacing the bearings and races. They were one of the best high quality headsets of their day.

    Stronglight no longer do bearing replacement kits for the old A9. Their modern A9 uses cartridge bearings which don't fit the old ones. A chap called Mario in the Netherlands seemed to have most of the old stock when I bought a replacement bearing kit a few years ago - he's at A good person to deal with.

    I tried plumber's tape when mine loosened in the past but it was really messy and fiddly. Try the trick of locking top and bottom nuts together - it really does work well for me, even with three lots of washers/spacers. However, 2cms of spacers does sound a lot.
  • bicebice Posts: 772
    Curiously, here is someone who agrees with you. A really good article making the case for roller bearings over ball bearings in the headset. ... dsets.html

    I really like my very light Italian steel frame. It is so comfortable even compared with my alloy/ carbon forked modern road bike. It just absorbs road rumble effortlessly.

    I would hate to make road rumble more pronounced by replacing the headset. (A shame, I have taken it all off!)

    The one weedy bit of the Stronglight is the locknut: the Miche one looks like it could handle more tightening.

    But first off, I want to trim the fork tube and get rid of the 2 cms of spacers, which are serving no purpose.
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,406
    Interesting article on bikeretrogrouch. The advantages of roller bearing headsets were widely known back in the day. Top end bikes, such as my custom Alves touring frame from 1991, often had them fitted as an upgrade over ball bearing headsets, particularly for heavy use.

    I've never felt the alloy top locking nut on the Stronglight couldn't be done up tight enough. You just need to use the proper spanner, or be careful with a big adjustable, to prevent rounding off the flats. It's the locking together of top and bottom nuts that is the secret. Otherwise, the top nut is firm on the spacers but the bottom bearing adjuster nut is effectively "floating" under the spacers and can go out of adjustment.
  • bicebice Posts: 772
    edited March 2015
    This exchange has been really useful to me.

    I had removed the Stronglite headset with all its multiple pieces, and was poised to replace it with a less well engineered Miche one.

    I re-examined, and agreed that it was actually well made and re-attached it. The problem turned out to be the spacers: the lock-nut was only attached for about 2-3 threads and half of it was not on the threads at all. Removing 4mm of spacer has made this fit fine.

    This bike is extremely comfortable, and I do not want to lose that with vibration up the forks.

    The locknut must be pretty good because it was only by going cross country on the Coast to Coast paths (on 23mm tyres) around Keswick that it worked loose. It was a lovely route, but I was ill-equipped.

    Thanks very much for encouraging me re-consider this, which would have led to me scrapping something superior to what I proposed replacing it with.
  • mercia_manmercia_man Posts: 1,406
    Glad to hear it's sorted. To ensure long life with your Stronglight headset, keep it well greased as if it's an A9 there are no seals. Cycling in the rain without mudguards will play havoc with the bottom race although you can buy neoprene covers which attach with Velcro. Wiggle etc sell these for mountain bikes.
  • cyclecliniccycleclinic Posts: 6,865
    Good it sorted a well fitted threaded headset does not wprk loose. -wheel building and other stuff.
Sign In or Register to comment.