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I'm replacing a suspension fork on a bike with 1 1/8" integrated. I'm following these steps

  • As the fork slides down, have an assistant hold the lower bearings, so they stay up inside the frame. Try to extract the bearing complex intact. Hopefully, the bearings will be in a bearing clip.
  • Once the fork is extracted, remove the top bearings as well.
  • Once the old fork is out of the steering tube, clean and lube the inside of the steering tube. Make sure the surfaces where the bearings sit aren't pitted
  • Using a degreasing solution, clean the bearings, cups, and clips. A good technique to get dirty gunk off free-rolling bearings is to roll then between layers of paper towel. The towel will pick up the gunk.

These instructions seem to apply to a Standard headset configuration, not an Integrated configuration. The bearings don't seem to come out, at least they certainly don't fall or drop out as the article cautions.

So, I've removed stem, spacers, headset cap but not the bearings.

The old fork slides right out and I can slip the new one right in, so far so good.

This other answer suggests that headset bearings rarely, if ever, really need to be serviced.

Questions

  1. Do I need to (or rather, should I) attempt to remove the headset bearings (i.e., to attempt to clean them)?
  2. If so, do I need a Park Tool RT-1 to do this? Or can I use a metal rod or a wood dowel and a hammer (with caution, of course).
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    If you have something open its common sense to inspect parts and replace if required, because you're already in there. But if the items look and feel okay then pre-emptive replacement is a pain in the wallet for no real gain. Comment because general advice, not an answer. – Criggie Jun 26 '17 at 20:22
  • @Criggie thanks, yes that all makes sense. The question is really more about whether I need to do this service, and if so, whether I can get by without a specialized tool that I'll only use 1 or 2 times ever :) This will be for a "secondary" DH bike, and probably will only be ridden a few days per year versus my primary hardtail. – David Zemens Jun 26 '17 at 20:24
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    Check the bearing's action by inserting your fingers in the hole where the steerer tube goes. If they feel OK they probably are. If you have any cause for concern then trust your instinct and check further. If you can't reach the bearings then try reinserting the steerer of the fork, and turn it while feeling for crunchiness. – Criggie Jun 26 '17 at 20:31
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If your headset bearings are cartridge - in a sealed unit as opposed to exposed ball bearings held loosely in a cage. The cleaning and re-greasing of the bearings does not apply to you.

Although it is also known for some people to remove the seal over their sealed cartridge bearings - to clean and re-grease and then pop the seal back over them.

But generally - you don't need to do this.

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