How often should one disassemble one's headset and service the bearings, assuming it's a fairly new road bicycle with sealed cartridge bearings and is ridden every day?

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    Every 30 years, whether they need it or not. – Daniel R Hicks Jun 22 '15 at 1:58
  • It should be noted headset bearings -- at least the old "threaded" style -- can come completely apart (all the balls fall out) without severely impairing the handling of the bike (though certainly this condition would drive a "bike nut" crazy). I've seen many bikes -- still being ridden -- with severely loose headsets. (Dunno what would happen with "threadless" units in a similar situation, though.) – Daniel R Hicks Jun 24 '15 at 0:24

I'm an almost daily all-season rider for a dozen years. Press fit headset bearings are subject to wear and corrosion. If you ride and/or wash your bike regularly you will feel a slight stiffening over time (handlebars don't move as readily when walking the bike with hand on the seat). This steering symptom gradually increases to feel like you would expect from compromised bearings. Like most things that are press fit, screwed or slipped into a bike frame if they don't get busted loose every few years they will become corroded in place resulting in fits at the bike shop. And while you're at it you may as well replace them.

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Probably never -- headsets can easily last the life of a bicycle for most people without needing an overhaul.

If you ride in the wet, it is advisable to have a front fender, though (to reduce the likelihood of needing an overhaul even further).

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  • +1 on the never at home. Something that you get your LBS to do for you every few years if needed as the tooling to remove the original without damage and then fit the new one is prohibitive for most. Even MTB ones only need it not very often. – Warren Burton Jun 23 '15 at 20:58
  • You really don't need to worry about this, but I would not say never. If you open a 5 or 6 year old bike you sometimes see some principles of rust or a lack of grease. If you bike year-long on the rain for example, it doesn't hurt to do it every year or two. Water always finds a way, and this is also true for bottom bracket and hubs if they don't have sealed bearings. Hubs can be a pain to disassemble and assemble, but BB and headset are pretty easy. @Warren is wrong, you do need a special tool to replace the headset, but to service the bearings one or two allen keys and 20 minutes is enough. – super Jun 23 '15 at 23:11

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