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How to Adjust a Threaded Headset on a Bike

Learn how to adjust a threaded headset from Silk Road Cycles' Brendon Nicholas in this Howcast bicycle repair and maintenance video.


OK. Now we're going to talk about threaded headsets. Basically this is an
older style headset. It's still used today on some bicycles as like a
classic style. This bike looks like a classic style bike even though it's
new. Or it's just used on less expensive bikes because this is a little bit
cheaper of a headset.

The way they can tell that, is it has something called a quill stem here.
It doesn't look like the other stem that came out from the actual steering
tube. This one actually sticks inside the steering tube.

I'll show you what it looks like off the bicycle. You just unscrew this
with a six millimeter hex wrench usually. Then you can pull it out and you
can see it's a quill stem. Basically it uses compression, pushes up in and
pushes against the steering tube. That's what keeps it in place.

You don't need to touch that. I just wanted to show you that that was the
different stem than what the last one on the orange bike was.

You'll see, right here, it looks like two very large nuts on the top of the
headset here. Basically what that does is both of the nuts are going to
push against each other and lock in place. It makes sure that it doesn't
wobble back and forth. It doesn't have too much play and also it isn't too
tight so you're going to break your bearings and ruin your headset.

To adjust this headset you're going to need a headset wrench. Usually
they're around 32 millimeter or 36 millimeter in width. Also, an adjustable
wrench. You can use this or we use here a little bit different of an
adjustable wrench that's a little bit easier to use.

Now, what you can do is you just loosen the top nut which is basically
called a lock nut. Now it's nice and loose. You can adjust the bottom nut
which is basically compressing the bearings and making sure that your
headset is not too tight or not too loose.

Again if you make it too tight it's not going to move. If you make it too
loose it's going to wobble back and forth and break your steer tube. You're
going to make sure that's at the right tension.

You're going to adjust it with your headset wrench. Get it to where you
like it. It's not too tight, not too loose. Feel it with the fork and then
the stem. Make sure it's not wobbling back and forth. Nice and smooth.

You're at the spot you want to be. Now you can screw down your lock nut.
Then, what you're going to do is you're going to put your headset wrench
on. Your adjustable wrench on top. Hold the headset wrench in place because
that's where you want it to be. Then you're going to lock the two in place
basically by turning the two together.

Now, this may take a couple times. Kind of like adjusting a hub or
adjusting something else with bearings where sometimes it takes a couple
different tries to get it right. Once you get it properly adjusted it
should stay for a while. You want to make sure you check it often though.
Just to make sure that it isn't out of adjustment.

That's how you adjust a threaded headset.

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