Instructables

How to make a bike headset press & install a headset

Installing a bike headset is not difficult, but you don't want to do it on a nice new frame without a decent setup to make sure it goes in right and your nice bike hardware doesn't get damaged. The Park headset press is quite expensive, so I just made my own and used it to install a new headset in a nice titanium frame i found.

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Step 1: Assemble the headset press

Picture of Assemble the headset press
The keys to a headset press are:
- you need to be able to apply a LOT of force to the headset cups
- you need to apply the force STRAIGHT in line with the head tube, so the cups don't end up crooked or bent, or bend the head tube.
- you need to protect the frame and headset from any metal tools you use, which can scratch or dent them.

The basic strategy is:
- put a threaded rod through the center of the headtube and use a nut on each end to apply force in a controlled way
- space out the threaded rod and headset cups with plastic tubing so that they are centered in the headtube, and can't get off-angle

Ideally you will want a variety of sizes of rigid plastic tubing (such as PVC plumbing pipe) which you can use to to fit the various diameters of the head tube, the headset cups, and the tightening bolt.
medusa5693 years ago
It would be nice to get an idea of approximate pip needed..frankly all I see is basically what look to be like a about a foot of 2" pvc. Also what is the round metal showing on this pick?? I though you would have the pvc spacer on each side of the cups so what is the metal?
Prometheus8 years ago
actually I'd recommend against pvc as it can explode under sufficient force. Use washers to keep thje load secure. The press force is not extreme, only about 500 lbs at worst...
500 pounds of linear force won't make PVC pipe explode. Maybe you are confusing with PSI rating of the pipe?
You might be confusing PVC bursting when used as a high pressure air line. In this case, the force increase is gradual. I think it would crack first. I have used PVC to hammer out old headset cups with success.
mjreller5 years ago
hi nice job and thanks for sharing the wealth any chance you could do a bottom bracket instructable? doin it for the first time and want to get it right thanks, Fatty
dan (author)  mjreller5 years ago
ok, here is my instructable on bottom bracket: (1) grease the threads. (2) screw in bottom bracket
Prometheus8 years ago
NO NO NO!!! Never pres against the inner diameter of the cups as this can not onoly warp them but also potentially damage the case-hardening of the cups themselves! ONLY press on the outer ring of the cups such as using a bolt-and-washer design. Ideally in this photo the lower piece of pipe should not even be in this pic, it would have been better to leave the wood to handle the pressure DO NOT follow the above example or you may damage your lower, and mos5 critical, headset cup. Press flat against it's outer edges only...
The Park Tool version used in bike shops everywhere presses on the inner cups.
Yes, but that is a tool MADE for the job. When using something other than that, it is best to press on the outer lip of the race.
I have been a professional bike mechanic for 25 years. I wouldn't use wood in a headset installation even if my life depended on it. We use a headset press because people don't like the sound of a rubber mallet. Honestly, a headset press still leaves the headset unshelved against the frame. It is manufacurer approved, but it is typical for a new headset to "seat" after a few miles, and need tightening. On our own bikes, a rubber mallet is the tool of choice. It doesn't scratch the headset, but it shelves the cups against the frame, so you only have to tighten it once. This is a big plus if you are using a Ti or aluminum bolt. Another thing is cooling the headset. If the metal is cold, then gets hot, as it surely does on it's way into the frame, it can craze the metal. Unless it's a King Steelset, or some other odd animal, it's going to be aluminum, and that stuff gets super brittle when cold, then soft when hot. It really is better off to keep it all room temperature, rather than lose anodization on the parts inside where moisture gathers between cartridge bearings/balls, and more importantly to keep anything from cracking. A broken off headset collar inside a frame could ruin the frame's facing on the way out. Cutting (milling the flat faces) and facing (shearing the inside of the headtube round)a frame for a headset should only ever be done once, and with proper cutting and facing tools. If this is done right, a few taps with a rubber mallet should seat each cone perfectly, and snugly, but not so tight as to require more impact than a headset removal tool applies, which isn't much. In the best case, you can afford to spend $10 at the shop to have someone press in your cones. They'll do it at room temperature, and if you need it reamed (a cutting) or facing they can warn you, and provide the service should you choose to have it (usually about another $15). I guess if it's your own bike, word up. My bike? King headset in a custom and polished Ti frame with an alloy steer tube on a Judy FSX carbon fork, long travel piston and spring kit, SRP Ti bolt package. I used a rubber mallet. No scratches, and it's precise as ya can get. Ever see an overtightened headset press? AAAAAH Squished bearing races... ug-Lee
me and my friend just installed a headset with a plastic bag, a wooden block and a hammer :P
dan (author)  tasmancrawford7 years ago
thanks for the feedback! i actually tried it first with a rubber mallet, but it was so tight it wouldn't go in. then i figured i'd search the web to find out how to get it in, and everyone said i should use a press, and it did work well with the press. the frame had been faced and cut, is it common for it to be so tight? i don't think there was any way i could have got it in with a mallet.
dan (author)  dan7 years ago
also, why are you dissing wood? if you're a bike mechanic it's probably because you don't know the first thing about it. wood is great stuff, and works darn well for a lot of things, including the application here where it is acting as a self-compensating high take-up alignment gasket, as well as a tension monitoring and feedback sensor.
Prometheus8 years ago
NO NO NO!!! Never pres against the inner diameter of the cups as this can not onoly warp them but also potentially damage the case-hardening of the cups themselves! ONLY press on the outer ring of the cups such as using a bolt-and-washer design. Ideally in this photo the lower piece of pipe should not even be in this pic, it would have been better to leave the wood to handle the pressure DO NOT follow the above example or you may damage your lower, and mos5 critical, headset cup. Press flat against it's oputer edges only...
Prometheus8 years ago
Is that a MTB frame? what is that head angle about 72°? Man I could use one of those lol... Alth9ough I coverd a project much like this, the same goes to only establish "firm" and not "tight", as this may warp the head tube
radiorental8 years ago
Hey Dan, where on gods earth did you 'find' a freaky deaky Titanium frame?? wowzers!! nice find.