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I have a rather simple threadless headset in aluminum frame, and forks. It's creaking quite a bit, I think I'll replace the bearings and races. It has "retained" bearing rings (semi-loose) and cup races. I was wondering if it's possible to replace these with a sealed type bearing set?

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    ball bearings don't creak - they are all greasy and round. The various clamped parts (stem, handlebars) do creak. – Henry Crun Sep 1 '18 at 6:01
  • @HenryCrun that's a bit too general, it's definitely possible to make ball bearings creak. Add some sand then overtighten them, for instance, and they also will end up not-so-round anymore. – stijn Sep 1 '18 at 7:36
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    Definitely worth investigating whether the creak is really coming from the headset. The interface between the bars/stem and stem/steerer can often the culprits. – Argenti Apparatus Sep 1 '18 at 11:44
  • On my bikes, the adjustable stem was an endless creaking nightmare, until I eventually lubricated it with epoxy. The stem/handlebar also creaks, but a bit of grease fixes it. I havn't had the stem/fork clamp give me any problems. – Henry Crun Sep 1 '18 at 12:22
  • @stijn OK but we're talking about situations that actually occur when riding a bicycle. – David Richerby Sep 1 '18 at 19:17
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Yes, it is possible. The headset compatibility is determined by steerer tube and head tube dimensions. The type of bearings inside does not really matter, and the difficulty of getting spare parts for sealed bearings or maintaining loose ball bearings are both exaggerated.

When replacing the headset, check the condition of the frame: if the creaking is because of deformed head tube, a new headset will not help.

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