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After a complete tear down and reassembly I can't seem to find the right tightness adjustment for my threadless fork / headset. If I loosen it to the point that the front fork turns freely, there's play in the system and every time I apply the brakes there's a small clunk (that annoys the heck out of me). If I tighten the top nut to the point we here there's no more play, the fork binds up such that the fork doen't turn by itself due to gravity when the wheel is attached, if you know what I mean - suspend the bike and tilt the frame and the steerer should turn on its own.

It's a horrible feeling riding with a steerer that's too tight, but the looseness is also pretty annoying.is there an adjustment I'm not doing right? My process is (after completely servicing the headset and bearings) to tighten the stack using the top nut, then tighten the clamping nuts, then slightly back off the top nut.

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    My guess is you did not put it together correctly. Are you sure you don't have a bearing up side down? – paparazzo May 18 '15 at 15:39
  • After you tighten down the bolts on your stem, the top nut shouldn't matter at all. Have you checked your spacers to make sure they are clean and undamaged? – Deleted User May 18 '15 at 15:40
  • @Blam I certainly hope that's not the case! It's pretty hard to get it wrong on this Ritchie system - the bearings are restrained by a cage that really won't work if you flip it. Still, you've made me question it (which is a good thing, except I might have to go and disassemble the darned thing again now to check.) – Tom Auger May 18 '15 at 21:04
  • @ChrisinAK Yeah, the top nut is just there to get the right level of tightness. There's not much to the spacers - and they're in pretty good shape. But I'm curious now - why would the condition of the spacers have anything to do with how well the forks rotate? – Tom Auger May 18 '15 at 21:06
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    It sounds as though either a bearing isn't sitting flat/straight due to grit where the bearings sit on the frame or fork, or you've got grit in the bearings. Check that the bearing s are seated properly and the frame/fork are clean. Then make sure you haven't damaged a bearing while disassembling the headset, especially that there's no damage to the seals and no grit sitting on them. – Móż Nov 15 '15 at 2:20
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Just noticed this old question and I thought I'd try to close it out. I finally took the bike in and the tech tinkered a bit and ended up replacing one of the bearings. It's entirely possible that I had, in fact, installed it incorrectly, which wouldn't be too surprising considering I'm still learning.

Thanks to everyone for their comments!

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