I serviced my headset few times on my new bike, each time without problems. But when I was serviced it few days ago, I had play in the headset that I couldn't get rid of. First I unscrewed top cap, then loosened and removed the stem, removed the spacers and cover. Then I degreased bearings and cleaned everything. Then I regreased the bearing and put everything back together.

This time there's play in headset when I move the fork. So I unscrewed stem and tightened top bolt until there's no play, but now I can't rotate the bars without using a lot of force. When I do that, it makes rubbing sound like there's no bearings -- just metal to metal contact.

I spent 30 minutes trying to find the balance where I can steer and there's no play in the bearing. However it seems like this sweet spot is no longer achievable.

What could cause this issue now, when before I was consistently able to properly adjust the headset preload?

  • 2
    What exact kind of headset is it? On what kind of bike? Do you have a photo? Commented Jan 10 at 18:04
  • How old are the bearing balls? Did you clean them or is it a cartridge bearing ?
    – Criggie
    Commented Jan 10 at 21:37
  • 3
    I had a very similar problem once, and it was that one of the bearings was installed up side down.
    – Jahaziel
    Commented Jan 11 at 1:28

1 Answer 1


Try flipping your bike upside down. remove the front wheel. loosen (do not remove) the Stem bolts 1st and then the top cap. with one hand on the hex key to tighten the top cap bolt and your other hand on one of the fork legs wiggle the fork leg gentle but firm fwd and aft while tightening the top cap hex bolt. keep going till you start bouncing your seat off the floor. secure the stem bolts and flip your bike back up. that should help tighten you steer tube up. repeat if necessary

  • 2
    How do you tighten the top cap with the bike upside down? Why do you flip the bike upside down in the first place? This doesn’t sound terribly different than what the OP has already done.
    – Paul H
    Commented Jan 13 at 6:14

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