Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Number of The Beast

The Boys from Leyton had it wrong (as does the rest of the Judeo-Christian world as well, come to think of it). The beast that will wreak havoc upon the Earth hath a number, but it's not 666...

Here is a picture of the 2nd most beautiful bike in the world. Why is it so lovely? It fits, it's light, and it was (relatively) cheap to build.

It has its quirks, but it is a tool suited to its purpose and as such receives all the care and maintenance it needs. and then some, but it has one soul-grinding flaw.
Whoever the knucklehead was that spec'ed its non standard headset, deserves to be whipped in public by the janitorial staff of Chris King Industries using an artisanal bamboo cane .

Is it a Reg'lar Ol' Zero Stack headset?
Is it an Integrated headset?
Can It be upgraded or replaced with something better or even WTF more expensive?
Well, old buddy, that's OK. just get a few replacements and save them for that sad day when your's is too bunged to service again.

Spec'ed by said knucklehead, made by FSA sub contractor VP, Badged and supplied by CaneCreek, then pressed into my deal-of-the-century aluminium frame. No wonder it was such a great deal.

I've got spec sheets, drawings, part numbers...but f**k me if I can actually buy a headset. Like trying to find an upper rad hose for a friggin' 74 Dacia. In Moose Jaw. In the dead of Winter...

Why is such a little detail so important to me?
Reread the title of this Blog.
That and I ride in the rain. A lot.

Besides all my other good qualities, I am also gullible (and I make a great salt fish fried rice).
On forums where people had vented their frustration regarding this very same headset, the general consensus was that it was not even serviceable.

Don't believe it.

As is so often proven by 5 year olds with screw drivers and 15 year old Indonesian motorcycle mechanics; if it was built it can be unbuilt (and in some instances rebuilt by the latter, but most likely not by the former).

Here's How:

Once the forks, spacers and bars are removed and safely out of the way, clean any accumulated crap from around the bearings, head tube and steerer tube.

Be sure not to lose track of the lower seal that sits on the crown race support. Using a pointed tool, pry out the plastic bearing retainers and release the bearings in their cages. I like to keep them separate so that they go back from whence they came. The bearings and cups can now be cleaned with your degreaser of choice, being mindful of the bike's finish.

note; cups shown removed for clarity
Once clean, the cups and bearings can then be repacked with fresh grease. The final step is to pop the bearing retainers back in their grooves and give things a final wipe before reassembling the front end of the bike.

At this point I'll give you a little tip; When the fork is installed, particularly if the steerer is carbon, give the crown race support a wipe of white lithium grease and do the same when the upper compression ring is installed.

I cannot tell you how much stress I have been caused by a mysterious clicking on my Cervelo, and again once I upgraded the fork on this Giant. All caused by stiction between the alloy upper compression ring and the carbon steerer tube.

We don't want any grease on the steerer tube when the stem is installed, so give it a good wipe with a soft clean cloth wetted with rubbing alcohol after the upper cap is slid home.

To finish things up, apply a bit of assembly paste to the steerer tube, install the stem then torque the preload cap and stem fasteners to spec.

Score; VP/Cane Creek/FSA/Giant-0: ME-1

Note that this is generally the procedure to repack the bearings of an integrated headset too, but extra care is needed with your tool when removing the bearing seals to ensure that they are not distorted or their lips damaged (yes, I just said that).

Once the seals are removed, the bearings must be cleaned in their housings and dried completely before repacking using the palm of your hand to work the grease in. I live in a very humid environment and shy away from using compressed air to blow out the bearings so as not to contaminate the bearings with moisture.

Final tip; save your skin. Don't use solvents or harsh cleaners to get the grease and corruption off of your hands. Just work in a little cooking oil (or extra virgin olive oil if you're a dentist, or your hair if you're Cipo), then wash up with a mild soap. Works the treat, it's cheap and leaves your hands as soft as a Schleck!

Rant Over. Ruben out.

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