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Very odd thing. I can turn my handlebars more freely in one direction that the other. It feels like it's rubbing against something inside when I turn it in the "bad" direction. Any ideas?

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  • Can you post a picture of your headset? Your bearings may need service or replacement. – ebrohman Apr 24 '17 at 12:44
  • You mean take it out and take a picture? I'm not sure how to do that... However, my LBS did warn me at my last tune up that my headset was "going". They didn't seem that concerned at the time, but if that's the first thing you thought of... If that's the case, can I keep riding it, or will it fail catastrophically? – Michael Stachowsky Apr 24 '17 at 12:46
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    Not so much fail catastrophically as excess wear. Good idea to get it serviced. – paparazzo Apr 24 '17 at 13:22
  • There are causes of this that can indeed cause sudden catastrophic failure. – Nathan Knutson Apr 24 '17 at 16:13
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    Have you ruled out the obvious things? For example, the brakes or the derailleur lines? – RoboKaren Apr 24 '17 at 16:35
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There are a couple possible causes. Proceed with caution.

  • One cause of this is if a ball bearing, or a broken piece of one, has gotten out of place and is now grinding between the steerer and the headset cup or frame. This could happen either due to extreme wear or someone opening up the headset and not being careful enough when putting it back together. This can wear a groove in the steerer that can lead to failure, and it's also imaginable that it could lock up the fork's turning while riding in a dangerous way.
  • It's possible that simple wear could wind up causing this, but only if someone then adjusted the headset with the goal of taking out all the play, and then it caused it to stiffen up elsewhere. If you slowly acquired this problem without anyone putting their hands on the headset, simple wear probably isn't what happening, although extreme wear (balls and retainers tearing themselves apart, etc) could cause it.
  • A bent steerer causes this. So if the bike's been crashed or smashed into something, that's important to look at.
  • Poor headtube facing causes this, although typically you wouldn't experience that as an acquired problem. I could imagine a situation where acquired headtube ovalization causes it too.
  • Incomplete cup insertion always causes this, but again that's not an acquired problem.
  • If the steerer is bulging, as in an overtightened quill stem wedge, or has any other irregularities that could affect the alignment of the headset, that can cause it.
  • It's uncommon, but threadless stems with poor facing (uneven surfaces) can cause this.
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  • Interesting. You mentioned that it is possible the steering tube is bent. The bike did have quite a tumble last year, just before I put it away. However, I rode it once or twice after that last year and didn't notice anything (although I'm not sure if I was paying attention). I only really noticed the problem this year, but it was on the first ride. How could I check for a bent steering tube? – Michael Stachowsky Apr 24 '17 at 16:37
  • Bent steerers are usually accompanied by some kind of damage to the fork that can be spotted by looking at the assembled bike. The usual case is a frontal impact that's causing the fork to be bent back at the legs or crown. Or with MTBs you sometimes see the opposite thing from landing too hard. To check the steerer itself you remove the fork and hold a straight edge against the steerer, looking for light gaps, and then also inspect the exposed crown race area to make sure everything looks right there. – Nathan Knutson Apr 24 '17 at 16:46
  • After a while, damage can show as rust on a steel bike. I saw a 10 speed with twin rust rings around the downtube and the top tube, about 1-2 inches behind the headtube weld. That was indicative of a frontal impact sufficient to bend the fork tines but the wheel was fine. – Criggie Apr 24 '17 at 22:11
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I had the same issue on my Specialized Allez - after completing a ride, it was stiff turning the bars to the left - turning the bars right was fine. But after wiggling the bars left and right, the stiffness would subside. I then read another thread that suggested the following:

(a) untighten / loosen the steerer cap bolt (b) slightly loosen the stem bolts (c) re-tighten the steerer cap bolt

It seems to have worked... Just back from a ride and despite the wind (gusting), ride was fun - no handling issues re the bars. And after the ride - no stiffness when turning the bars left.

Hope this helps.

^o^

PS. and no, the original issue wasn't caused by tight cables.

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    This post was a long time ago, but thanks for the advice. For the curious, the actual issue was the headset. What had happened was water got into it and corroded it like crazy. I had to get it replaced. – Michael Stachowsky Apr 5 at 12:40

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