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Headset & Fork Installation

By Brad Quartuccio

Headsets are fairly simple—a bearing on either side of the headtube that the fork rotates within—but installation and removal require dedicated tools. Many find headset and fork installation one of the first obstacles to overcome when building up a new frameset. Starting with a blank canvas, this article covers the basics of how to install a headset and fork, using the most common 1 1/8” threadless example with conventional press-fit bearing cups.

Before you begin, you’ll want to make sure you have all of the parts, and give them a quick inspection to understand how it all fits together. Inspect the headtube of the frame and base of the fork crown for excess paint or burrs, and otherwise to make sure the surfaces are clean. The importance of “facing” the headtube—grinding the opposite faces of the headtube absolutely parallel with a special facing tool—is real but debatable in most cases, few shops do it for every frame in the door and even fewer home mechanics have access to the proper tools. Besides common shop tools, you’ll at least need access to a headset cup press, with both shop and consumer models available and a number of DIY versions out there. I’d suggest sticking to the purpose built models or borrowing the tools through a local collective before risking damage with a homemade press.

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