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Play in headset - am I checking for the right thing

Hi.

So have my bike (Pinnacle Dolomite 2015) only recently bought 2nd hand, in really good condition. Came with a costom BTwin stem that was longer than the original, so managed to get hold of the original stem from the seller. I really am new to bike stuff, so everything I'm doing is via websites and YouTube.

Removed the BTwin stem, put the other shorter one on. There feels like a bit of play when I move the handlebars, just a tiny bit of play.

I ensured I tightened all bolts in the correct order. I.e after attaching the handlebars, put the headset cap and bolt on, checked for play and there was some, but couldn't really tighten the headset bolt much more. Tightened the stem clamp bolts and most play gone but a tiny bit remains.

Now here's the thing. I'd read that the stem clamp bolts don't have anything to do with headset play. And yet it resolved most of the play I found. So got me thinking was I checking for the right sort of play. I then read that to check for headset play it's a back and forth motion, with front break on, whereas I was checking by putting downward pressure on each bar with my left and right hand and trying to sort of tilt the handlebars left /right sort of movement (down with my right hand and up with my left, and vice versa).
When I actually checked the back and forth motion there was no play.

So I THINK I was checking the wrong sort of play originally, it's that right? And if so, what sort of play (and its very small) is the left to right motion, and is it normal /safe? All bolts on the stem and tightened to the correct torque etc.

Thanks in advance!!!

Posts

  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 14,156
    Do you have a spacer between the stem and headset cap as shown below?
    These are usually required unless the steerer has be cut with precision.


    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • me-109me-109 Posts: 1,369
    Lightly hold the headset top where it meets the frame between your thumb and forefinger, then apply the front brake and rock the bike forward. When you no longer fell the headset move you have enough pressure through the top cap. Lift the bike front off the ground and turn the steering left and right. If it flops too easily you need a little more pressure; if it's stiff at that point one or both bearings are junk. Once you have taken out the play and got the right steering feel, align the stem and tighten it. Job done.
  • Thanks both for your time.

    Yes I have spacers, although they are under the stem and not above (as I need a bit of height on the bars).

    I have tried rocking the bike back and forth. Not felt any play doing it that way but I hadn't placed my fingers where you say. I'll give that a try.

    Is it normal to feel a small bit of play when rocking the bars side to side from left to right as I explained above? Is that something not even normally checked?

    Cheers, Ricky
  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 14,156
    Chances are that you need a 5mm spacer on top.
    This could be your problem. No, it is not normal.
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • i.bhamrai.bhamra Posts: 149
    It's not clear if the play you are referring to is in the headset or the bars, do what me-109 suggests and if there is play in the headset then undo everything and re do as suggested with an an additional spacer between the stem and top cap (should only need a couple of mm spacer to ensure the bolt isn't bottoming out. If no play in the headset and there is still movement in the bars then maybe the stem faceplate isn't tightened up properly? You need to tighten the bolt up evenly a bit at a time to ensure equal clamping force on the the bars from the stem face plate.
  • Ben6899Ben6899 Posts: 8,158
    You're not feeling the bars flexing are you? Rather than play being present?
    Ben

    Bikes: Donhou DSS4 Custom | Condor Italia RC | Gios Megalite | Dolan Preffisio | Giant Bowery '76
    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ben_h_ppcc/
    Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
  • Thanks all.

    Yes yeah I'm wondering if it's a bit of flex in the bars. They're is definitely no clicking or movement in the headset front to back etc.

    That said, I do notice that the is only 1 mm or 2 at most gap between the top of stem and the tube, where looking online /you tube vids the gap looks to be about 3mm. I also notice that the headset cap quickly tightens to a stop, i.e the is no gradual tightening. In fact I'm not able to tighten the headset till a point that the bars are too stiff. So these 2 factors make me think that I don't have enough space between the top of stem and the tube and need to add another 2mm spacer as suggested (I've got a total of 30mm at the moment, so assume another 2mm isn't a problem)?
  • Ben6899Ben6899 Posts: 8,158
    You need a 5mm spacer on top of your stem. Like in the photo in pblakeney's post ^^^.
    Ben

    Bikes: Donhou DSS4 Custom | Condor Italia RC | Gios Megalite | Dolan Preffisio | Giant Bowery '76
    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ben_h_ppcc/
    Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
  • OK thanks. I've ordered some spacers including a 5mm. If I do add one though, does that mean I need to take away 5mm from underneath? What is the precise amount of space I need between the top of the stem and the top of the tube in order to allow the headset cap to engage and pre load?
  • Ben6899Ben6899 Posts: 8,158
    edited October 2020
    You need about 3mm between the top of the stem (or spacer, depending what you have as the final piece of the stack) and the steerer tube.

    Without looking at what you have now, it's impossible to say whether you need to add or remove spacers. Just aim for the 3mm figure - with that, you should be able to bind the headset to prevent turning (but obviously you don't want that as your end result!).
    Ben

    Bikes: Donhou DSS4 Custom | Condor Italia RC | Gios Megalite | Dolan Preffisio | Giant Bowery '76
    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ben_h_ppcc/
    Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 14,156

    OK thanks. I've ordered some spacers including a 5mm. If I do add one though, does that mean I need to take away 5mm from underneath? What is the precise amount of space I need between the top of the stem and the top of the tube in order to allow the headset cap to engage and pre load?

    I'd go with the 3mm as Ben says, but yes, you have to swap the spacers around.
    You can get smaller than 5mm to achieve maximum stem height but 5mm is standard. If the stem is too low after this then you need new forks and cut the steerer to suit you, or adapt to a more aggressive position.
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • Thanks so much for all the responses. The spacers I've ordered come in a pack from 2mm to 20mm. Currently I have 30mm of spacers below the stem.
    I'll add a 5mm above the stem, but I think I'll need more than 25mm below the stem as otherwise I'd still end up with the same 1-2mm gap between top of stem /spacer and tube, that I dont think is quite enough. So looks like I'll need an additional 2mm spacer under the stem, which will give me the extra space between tube I'm looking for. But means I'll have 32mm of spacers in total then which hopefully is ok
  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 14,156
    I'd try 10+10 (or 20) +3+5* under and 5mm over. Total of 33mm.
    If I follow correctly that would leave 2mm steerer above the stem for the spacer to centralise and 3mm for compression.
    If that's too low then 20+3+10* under and none above.

    *I prefer narrow spacers to be in the middle. Not sure why.
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • me-109me-109 Posts: 1,369
    You don't need to mess about with any spacers under the stem, just add a suitably thin one above it. If the steerer is not protruding past the top of the stem, don't worry. Just centralse the top spacer as you tighten the top cap bolt.
  • Yep, unless yo need to change the stack height of our stem, you don't need to touch the spacers underneath it- just add the 3 or 5mm spacer on top under your compression cap to give it more space to....compress
  • Yep, it's all about finding the right margin that will allow you to compress the whole stack, Unfortunately we aren't pros who can slam the stem right down to the top tube for a super-sanitary look. I have had to add a 5 mm spacer to the top of my stem, sadly; I couldn't bring myself to cut the carbon fork to the exact length...happily it's all black CF...
  • bompingtonbompington Posts: 7,604
    So this thread might be the right place to ask advice about headset bearing replacement: as I'm a bit fed up of choosing between having a front end that doesn't wobble about on the frame and one where I can actually turn the front wheel.

    When I went to remove the bottom headset bearing, out popped a little ball race on its own.
    Looking at the replacement cartridge I had acquired, I confusioned a bit, until I realised that the ball race was basically half of the same thing.
    But the other half doesn't want to come out with a tap or two, and it really looks like it's moulded into the frame. Can anyone reassure me that it is indeed possible to bang it out safely - or do I have to fit half of the new bearing onto the existing part?

    (The bike is a 2014 PX Pro Carbon)
  • Ben6899Ben6899 Posts: 8,158
    I don't know for certain, but I'd put money on there being half a cartridge bearing stuck in the frame. So an integrated headset with the races machined into the headtube.

    Halfway down this page: https://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help/headset-standards

    PX should tell you which replacement cartridge bearings you need.
    Ben

    Bikes: Donhou DSS4 Custom | Condor Italia RC | Gios Megalite | Dolan Preffisio | Giant Bowery '76
    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ben_h_ppcc/
    Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
  • bompingtonbompington Posts: 7,604
    Cheers Ben, I hadn't come across this and it explains a lot.

    I had bought - from PX themselves - what was allegedly the correct replacement headset bearing set. I came to the conclusion that the upper half of the cartridge was indeed not coming out, and tried to fit the bottom half of the replacement - which didn't fit.

    I ended up cleaning out the old bearing seat and putting the new balls into the old race. With lots and lots of grease.

    Seems to have done the trick, and at least defers the problem of what to do when the integrated bits need to be replaced...
  • pblakeneypblakeney Posts: 14,156
    Depending on the headset design you may need the following tools in the future.
    These are for if you are replacing the races. Check though.

    Removal - https://www.wiggle.co.uk/park-tool-universal-head-cup-remover-1

    Installation - https://www.wiggle.co.uk/lifeline-headset-press-workshop-tool

    That said, people will say all you need is a hammer and a piece of wood. 😉
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • Ben6899Ben6899 Posts: 8,158

    Cheers Ben, I hadn't come across this and it explains a lot.

    I had bought - from PX themselves - what was allegedly the correct replacement headset bearing set. I came to the conclusion that the upper half of the cartridge was indeed not coming out, and tried to fit the bottom half of the replacement - which didn't fit.

    I ended up cleaning out the old bearing seat and putting the new balls into the old race. With lots and lots of grease.

    Seems to have done the trick, and at least defers the problem of what to do when the integrated bits need to be replaced...


    Post back here, if you have any problems. 🤙🏼
    Ben

    Bikes: Donhou DSS4 Custom | Condor Italia RC | Gios Megalite | Dolan Preffisio | Giant Bowery '76
    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ben_h_ppcc/
    Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
  • bompingtonbompington Posts: 7,604
    Thanks.
    Only problem - it's now so smooth it's gone incredibly twitchy!
  • Ben6899Ben6899 Posts: 8,158
    Is it tight enough?
    Ben

    Bikes: Donhou DSS4 Custom | Condor Italia RC | Gios Megalite | Dolan Preffisio | Giant Bowery '76
    Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ben_h_ppcc/
    Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/
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