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I can't seem to find the perfect balance between tightness/looseness on this Tange Levin 1" threaded headset.

If I adjust it so the handlebars turn with no noticeable friction, I can feel a very slight knocking when grabbing the fork and pushing/pulling the stem, and I can hear some rattling when riding on a bumpy road.

If I adjust it so there's some slight friction and no play/rattling, the handlebars don't turn 100% freely and riding the bike with no hands becomes difficult (the bike leans to one side).

Is having a small amount of play normal on 1" threaded headsets? The headset and frame are new, and the fork crown race and cups are tightly pressed in with no movement at all.

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    It's possible the frame or fork crown aren't faced square. A quality headset should be adjustable
    – JoeK
    Jul 6, 2021 at 20:54
  • A good bike shop will have the facing tools
    – JoeK
    Jul 6, 2021 at 20:54
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    The frame builder assures me that the head tube is faced and parallel, but now I realize that the fork crown race may not be fully inserted in the steering column, simply because I didn’t install it with the proper tool, so I’ll try that next. Thanks!
    – Diego R
    Jul 6, 2021 at 23:18

1 Answer 1

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No, that is symptomatic of a problem and should not be seen as normal.

Wear can cause this issue, but not usually to the point of forcing a choice between looseness and binding. In cases like that it's more common for something to be out of place, which in turn can be dangerous in some situations. (One iteration of this problem is a ball bearing has gotten out of place and is now wearing a groove into the steerer.)

Sometimes frames need facing and crown races need milling to address this, but not usually, especially if it's an acquired problem.

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