I have a BH road bike and it has some movement with the tube that connects to the fork.

I took it to a bike shop for a tuneup. When I picked it up the guy mentioned the issue. He said he tightened something (I forgot what it was) but it didn't fix it. He then suggested that I needed to change a bearing (or something) inside the frame (where it's circled). The guy said that it may crack the frame since I'm riding and the tube is moving around.

It moves very little from side-to-side, and I don't actually feel it. But it got me a little worried after he said that it could crack.

Here's a picture of the small gap: in the left I'm pushing the handlebar towards the front: enter image description here

Is this something that can be fixed?

enter image description here

  • 1
    Generally, any movement of a bearing assembly, other than simple rotation, is bad. But headsets are a special case, and a little "looseness", while not a good thing, is usually not something to worry about. (Though it should be corrected the next time you service the bike.) Jun 22, 2020 at 21:04
  • 6
    You might need to find yourself another bike shop. If your headset is a bit loose, the first thing they should have done is loosen those two clamp bolts you see near the "6N-m" marking on your stem, tightened the top cap nut a bit (on the very top), then retightened the two clamp bolts loosened at the start of the process. Did they do that? Did they say that might fix the any loose feeling? That's the FIRST thing they should have done. If they immediately jumped to trying to upsell you into replacing your headset bearings, they're more than a little shady. Jun 22, 2020 at 21:23
  • You've got a "threadless headset". The shop was presumably referring to the bearings inside (whether "cartridge" or "loose", they are composed of ball bearings).
    – Armand
    Jun 23, 2020 at 2:20
  • If you're feeling confident with tools, you can proceed in the way @AndrewHenle suggested. There are several videos on the Net that explain the procedure.
    – Carel
    Jun 23, 2020 at 7:15
  • 1
    I second what @AndrewHenle said. It's possible the OP miscommunicated due to lack of knowledge, though. So, to clarify: did the bike shop try to tighten the headset? Did they say that there was damage to the headset bearings?
    – Weiwen Ng
    Jun 23, 2020 at 13:51

2 Answers 2


The tube you’ve circled is the head tube. Inside the tube, on the top and bottom are the headset bearings which allow your fork to turn smoothly.

The bearing play or preload has to be set correctly with the vertical screw on top of the stem cap.

If there is play in the bearings allowing the fork to rock back and forth you’ll have to adjust the preload. To do that you have to loosen the two screws on the left and right side of the stem which clamp the stem to the steerer tube. Then slightly tighten the vertical screw until the play is gone. You shouldn’t need force, we are talking <2Nm torque here. The fork should still turn freely, if it doesn’t you’ve tightened too much. Afterwards, make sure the stem and handlebar are aligned correctly to the wheel and tighten the two screws to the left and right.

See this tutorial: https://www.pinkbike.com/news/tech-tuesday-headset-adjusting-2010.html

Since you have carbon components you should use a torque wrench to tighten to the specified torque.

If the steering feels rough the bearings are worn and have to be replaced. If you suspect bearing damage it could also be a good idea to completely remove the fork and take a look at the bearings directly and how smoothly they run.

  • 1
    Just to clarify preload for the OP: this basically means that you need to tighten the headset in the up-down direction. That bolt on the top cap does this. The two stem clamp bolts on either side of the stem (the thing that clamps your handlebars in front and the steerer tube of your fork in back) basically just hold the stem firmly in place. You thus need to loosen them before tightening the top cap bolt.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Jun 23, 2020 at 13:54

Unfortunately the mechanic didn't express the issue very well to you, or used vocabulary that you haven't come across before, but the best person to ask for clarification is that mechanic. He is the only one of us who has been hands on with the bike.

I would expect normal headset adjustment to be part of a tune up, and the fact you say he tightened something, would be just that, tightening the preload bolt with the stem loosened. I suspect that because you only took it in for a tune up, he didn't take the assembly apart to do further diagnosis. He certainly could have done, then charged you for the time it took to fix it and the parts required; your bill would have unexpectedly doubled and he would have lost time for other work when bike shops are under unprecedented demand. Can't please all the people all the time.

It's unlikely that there's damage to the bike that can't be rectified quite easily. There are self-contained bearing units top and bottom of that head tube which can wear but also potential for dirt, grime, corrosion etc to prevent the precise fine tuning of the preload. It might just need taking apart, cleaning and greasing and putting back together, or a new bearing assembly dropping in.

Something you can try is to try and twist the three carbon spacers just under the stem itself. If they rotate then there is probably too little preload, but if they don't rotate then they are clamped tight, and the play you feel in the headset is more mysterious

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