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So I took my bike in to the repair shop, to have the rear wheel replaced, but after the repair I noticed immediately the steering feeling a bit strange. I've since worked out why.

The problem is that the front forks are somehow pulling the front wheel back to a straight position, each time the front wheel is turned slightly.

I can see this most easily when picking the front wheel up off of the ground, and turning the front handlebars. The handlebars basically 'snap' themselves back to the straight position, quite strongly.

So it's not related to the wheel, or tyre, since this happens with the wheel completely lifted off the ground.

And it's not related to the brake or gear cables either, since it does exactly the same thing with these cables pulled out of the way manually.

So, as far as I can work out, it must be due to something inside the actual tube of the front forks.

I'm pretty sure it didn't do this before going in to the repair shop (or at least it didn't do this to any noticeable extent).

Note that, based on looking along the wheel, it really seems to centre front wheel quite accurately, and the centring forces seem quite evenly balanced and smooth on either side. So it kind of seems like something that would need to be set up by design (rather than something being randomly broken).

But, this is definitely not something that is desirable for steering, as it makes it difficult for me to steer appropriately when going around bends (since the forks try to pull back to the straight position, which is not what I want when turning).

So the question is: are front forks supposed to do this kind of 'automatic recentring' to some extent?

(I'm thinking perhaps that maybe it used to be much more subtle before going in to the repair shop, so maybe I didn't notice it, and it was ok for steering before, but it somehow got exaggerated.)

If so, is there some way I'm supposed to be able to 'turn down' the effect.

If not, i.e. if front forks are just not supposed to do this, why could this be happening now, and what should I do about it?

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    It must not be so. Riding will destroy your headset. Have it fixed as soon as possible. – Carel Sep 30 '14 at 15:48
  • About all I can figure is that the mechanic over-tightened the headset bearings, but one would think that you'd feel that as resistance to turning rather than "snapping back". (Though I suppose if the balls have made indentations in the races this effect would be seen when over-tightened.) – Daniel R Hicks Oct 14 '14 at 0:46
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If it appeared immediately after a repair then the following probably isn't the right diagnosis, but the symptoms sound like "Indexed Steering" ("Brinelling") described on this page.

  • Seems like this was the problem, as it turned out. – Thomas Oct 15 '14 at 6:21
  • I took it back to the repair shop. He swears he didn't touch the front of the bike at all during the previous repair (so the fact that it started immediately after the previous repair is basically unexplained, maybe just a coincidence). He tried just loosening the bearings first of all but had to replace the bearings completely. Apparently there was a big old hole the bearings had pushed down into at the front.. – Thomas Oct 15 '14 at 6:27
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This is a usual issue if the bearings in the steering tube are overtightened. Re-adjust the bearing (or take it back to the shop) and you're good to go.

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I'm not an expert by any means but I had the very same problem. I found that the forks were too tight. I'm not sure what the design of your bike is but on mine there's a large nut at the top of the neck just where the handlebar stem goes in. I loosened that a little and also the larger gripped fitting immediately below it which houses the ball bearings. Be careful not to over loosen it. It should be just enough so that it rotates freely. A good check to see if you've over done it is to apply the front break and rock the bike back and forth. There should be no movement or clicking in the neck. It might take a little trial and error but if you're anyway useful with a spanner you should manage it no problem. That said if it was me I'd bring it back to the shop and have them sort it as clearly it must have been their doing.

  • We have a running joke at work "you changed something on the firewall, and now my car won't start, the coffee machine tastes bad, and the cat's pregnant. What did you do?!?! " Its highly unlikely any change to the back end made a difference to the front. More likely is the rider is paying more attention and noticed the gradual degradation in the headset. – Criggie Jan 13 at 21:25
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What most likely happened is the guy at the bike shop was pulling wheelies on the bike after completing the repairs and when the front forks came down on the ground it destroyed the steering head bearings . He didn't touch the front, and the issue happened after you took it into the shop...

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    Seems like an unsupported assertion. Please take a moment to read the tour and learn how SE works. It is not a chatty web forum, its a Q&A format and answers should answer the question. If you're going for humour, then it should be highly obvious that you're not being serious. – Criggie Jun 24 at 3:20
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    This is not "most likely" at all. In fact, it is exceptionally unlikely. Bike shop mechanics don't typically test-ride bicycles at all, let alone pull stunts on them. – David Richerby Jun 24 at 10:04

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