After what seemed like absolutely ages, the painting was done and I was ready to fit the headset. The question was whether I was going to attempt it myself or go to a bike shop where an actual bike mechanic with the proper tools could do it for me pretty painlessly.
I have really wanted to do the whole thing myself from start to finish, and I found loads of instructions on forums on how to do it yourself, and the simple DIY shop equipment people use to do it. My main problem was that I couldn’t see how I was possibly going to get the crown race- the bottommost part of the headset- to fit where it is supposed to on the fork crown. (To see what I’m on about you may want to look at the photo of the headset diagram in the Headset post.) I was just examining the forks when it struck me that they already had a crown race fitted- it had never been removed from its previous incarnation, and not noticing I had sprayed over it.
My new crown race next to the old painted-over one on the forks
I did a quick test to see on the off chance whether I would be able to just keep it there and use that, but the bearings from the new headset didn’t quite fit, so I was going to have to remove it. It was pretty easy to do, but I wanted to be careful not to damage the forks so took my time.
Secured and ready for removal
Slowly but surely
Off it pops
Buoyed by this revelation I slipped the new crown race on and tried to work out how I was going to fit it snugly over the fork crown. Most of the things I read involved a piece of plumbing tube over the steer tube of the forks and whacking it with a mallet. This applies equal pressure all the way around the race cone to make sure it stays straight as it goes on. I didn’t have any tubing, but I did have some electrical tape with a perfect sized spool, so I put this next to the race cone on the steering tube and secured the forks in my Workmate. Rather than hitting it from the top I inverted it and used a wood block to hit it from the underneath.
It was after some going at it with the mallet that I decided it wasn’t happening. Back to the drawing board. I found out that despite being a standard 1″ threaded headset, there isn’t actually a standard for the diameter of the fork crown, more a range of standards depending on when and where they were made. It can range from 26.4mm to 27mm, and evidently my headset has a 26.4mm internal diameter, and the frame has a 27mm diameter. Not the end of the world, as it is possible to mill down the fork crown to get it to the correct size to fit, but clearly this would involve more specialist tools that I don’t have.
I was ready to surrender and take it down to the bike shop to get them to do it for me. I called the local shop to ask how much they would charge to fit the headset, and warned them that there would be some milling of the fork crown involved. They told me they would charge around £30 for the fitting, and with regards to the milling, it would be about another £5er- it probably just needed a bit of filing down.
Filing down? Well I can do that! Right, so with my spirits back up again I set my forks back in my workbench and got the files out. Thinking about it, how hard can it be to file off 0.4mm anyway?
Forks protected, secured and ready for filing
Hard, as it turns out. I had to make sure I took off an even amount all round to keep a constant diameter. I had to make sure the 5mm hight of the bit I was filing stayed constant, flat and at 90˚ to the perpendicular. Which, incidentally, I had to ensure I didn’t remove any of with the file. Because removing too much of the diameter would have bee fatal I had to keep stopping, grease up both pieces and try to drive the race on, and because it needs to be a snug fit I had to give it a good go to get on each time. I think it was getting on for a five hour job in the end, certainly not what I had anticipated.
The block-o-wood-and-mallet method
Crown race: fitted
Finally I managed to get it on, although I had maddeningly damaged some of the paintwork on the underside of the forks and along the tubes, despite my precautions.
I went to bed slightly dreading the next task of fitting the two cups of the headset onto the frame.