Headset Adjustment

Being able adjust a head set is just one of those jobs that will ultimately save you a early morning pre-ride trip down to the bike shop. As always we’re more than happy to help but being able to fix it yourself isn’t a terrible thing, is it? Provided that you have basic maintenance gear adjusting your headset should be a doddle.

Most commonly your bicycle will have a top cap bolt and 2 or more pinch bolts at the side of the stem. The pinch bolts are designed to hold the stem tight to the steerer tube of the fork. The top cap acts as a compression bolt, which pushes the stem down thus tightening the head set.

Firstly undo the pinch bolts on the side of the stem until the stem can rotate independently from the front wheel. Do not attempt to tighten the ‘top cap’ whilst the pinch bolts are still tightened.

Next you’ll need to adjust the top cap. This component controls the compression on the headset so it is important not to over tighten this. Generally 3-4nm will be perfect. If you don’t have access to a torque wrench a good gauge is to tighten the top cap until you can’t rotate the spacers under your stem with your fingers.

Check the tension of the headset before you tighten the bolts on your stem by placing you fingers between your head tube and the top bearing of the headset and applying your front brake. Rock the bike back and forward and feel for pinching between your fingers this will indicate that the headset may still be slightly loose. Tighten your top cap some more and rock the bike back and forth again.

If your headset isn’t getting any tighter tighten the pinch bolts on the side of the stem to hold it in place and remove the top cap completely. Check that the steerer tube isn’t touching the top of the stem, as this will stop the headset compressing properly. Adding a new spacer below the stem will raise it enough to properly compress the headset.

Once your headset is adequately compressed you’ll need to need to align your stem to your front wheel before tightening the pinch bolts on the side of the stem to the manufacturers specified torque setting. Completing this stage is much easier with an adjustable torque wrench.