The other day I was replacing a bearing in my headset when I saw it doesn’t have any cups in it, the bearings just slot in the frame. I can feel a little wobble in the bearing unless I make the headset extremely tight. I was looking to figure out where I could buy the cups themselves, not a whole headset and if this is a serious problem or if I even need them with my bike. It is a Cane Creek 40 headset on a Norco Fluid 2019 frame with a Fox 36 Rhythm fork.

I have to tighten my headset a lot to stop the movement and also when I got it serviced I wasn’t asked about it, even though it was completely regressed.

The bearings are in a sort of sealed case with an angle, kind of like how linkage bearings are contained, you can not see the balls without taking apart the bearing. Thanks for the help.

Image 1: that is where the top bearing is, it slots into the frame like how it is with the part on top, that’s the only thing I pulled out apart from the spacers and stem on top of it as well as the star nut bolt.

Image 2: that is the bottom bearing, on the fork is the crown race then the bearing slotting into this part of the frame. Sorry I did not get any good photos of the bearings but this link will take you to what the bearings look like (they aren’t these exact bearings, just exact look alike)


enter image description here

2 Answers 2


You have an Integrated Headset. You don’t need cups as the cartridge bearings fit into the angled seats at either end of the head-tube.

To replace, pay attention to the codes stamped or printed on the cartridge but I wouldn’t expect a 2019 bike to need a new headset unless your riding environment is particularly wet and muddy or you're into jumping a lot.

The technique which you’re using of preloading the bearing stack via the top nut is correct.

You saying that you need to tighten the top nut a lot seems odd as it should be roughly wrist tight (not very) to pull all the slack out of the system prior to torquing the side bolts without being so tight that the bearings bind and feel “notchy”.

Make sure to put a light film of grease on the angled exterior of the bearings and the headset seats to assist with the preload process of the bearings sliding down the seats.

You don’t need to worry about play in an uninstalled bearing as it’s not loaded until installed. All that matters is that you can’t feel knocking when you grab the front brake and rock back and forth on the wheels.


Screenshot of the specs of a 2019 Norco Fluid FS is below. The Fluid does, in fact, require an Integrated type headset (IS). This is a headset where the frame manufacturer machines or otherwise integrates the bearing cups directly into the frame's head tube. This means that there are no separate cups that require pressing into the frame. An Integrated Headset comes with crown race, lower sealed cartridge bearing, upper sealed cartridge bearing, split ring centering sleeve, perhaps some slim shims, and then the top cap assembly that has seals, top cover and cap with its bolt that goes into the star nut to preload the system. The Standardized Headset Identification System (SHIS) shorthand for your headset is IS42/28.6 | IS52/40 as noted in the screenshot.

My experience with integrated headsets and cartridge bearings here in general is that they can take quite a bit more preload than loose ball (or open, caged bearings). So you will notice the top cap bolt getting pretty tight. In my opinion, it can get too tight without the steering binding up. This situation then can cause premature or uneven wear of the cartridge bearing and even the integrated cups in the head tube. As these are a part of the frame, excess wear here can end the life of the frame. So, while the cartridge bearing can expand the window where the preload is tight enough to remove play and the point where steering is bound, it's still important to stop preloading at a point close to where play is just removed. There is a bit of art to it yet-- or perhaps better to describe it as need to experiment just where the preload should stop. My bikes with cartridge bearing headsets have just a hair of play felt only at the top. You don't want to feel it riding and it should not be enough to hear any movement. So what I do is tighten the bolt and remove the obvious play and as I reach the point where I'm wondering if it's enough (as I noted, one can still feel a bit of wiggle at the top. You should not feel it at the fork), I see if the wiggle changes with another half to 3/4 rotation of the bolt. If it doesn't change--neither binds nor disappears, I know I'm done. I'm anal enough that I'll back it off to where obvious movement starts, noting how much I've gone and then preload again to where play disappears and see how it compares to the first time.

A final note regarding the cartridge bearings is that they are serviceable. One can carefully remove the seal on the non-tapered side of the bearing (the green ring in your top photo is a seal, but the one on the other side of the bearing is the one to remove), exposing the balls. Flush and brush old grease and dirt out of the inside and repack with new grease if inspection doesn't reveal any abnormalities. Replace the seal making sure the inner and outer lips are tucked into their spots in the metal. One can also obtain just a new cartridge bearing. Oftentimes just the lower bearing as it faces the elements to a larger degree. Stamped or laser etched onto the outside circumference of the bearing are the pertinent numbers (diameter, thickness, angles) to obtain a like replacement.

Norco Fluid specs

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.