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
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.
Step 2: Prepare Headset Cups and Head Tube
- Before you start the head tube of the bike must be faced and reamed, this is a separate process which requires its own tool. If you are welding your own frame you will need to do this yourself, if you bought a frame like I did, it really ought to be already faced and reamed - you should be able to tell by looking for machining marks on the inside of the head tube near the ends.
- Grease the inside of the head tube and the outside of the headset cups.
- Put the headset cups on ice until just before installation, this makes them a little smaller so they go in easier.
Step 3: Install First Headset Cup
- Insert the headset press from bottom (we'll be putting in the top headset cup first)
- add the headset cup and remaining spacers on the top. make sure the setup is keeping the threaded rod, headset cup and head tube fixed in line. a bit of play is not a huge problem, but do as well as you can with the plastic spacer tubes.
- crank on the nuts! the headset fit can be very tight, and require a lot of force to get it in. the soft wood will make cracking sounds as the head tube cuts into it.
- it is common for the headset cup to get a bit tipped when it first starts to go in, but this setup will correct that as you continue cranking.
Step 4: Install Second Headset Cup
For the second cup, you will need to use a different plastic spacer setup in order to be able to get the spacers out after you put the cup in.