Replace Caged Bearings With Loose Bearings In Bike Headset

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I show how to replace bearings in retainer cages with loose ball bearings. Bearings in cages are easier to install. But loose bearings have an advantage in that you have more bearings to distribute impacts. Cages also restrict movement of the bearings so that repeated impacts will be focused in the same spots. Loose ball bearings will move more freely and distribute impacts. This helps to minimize damage to the headset/crown race from brinelling.

Some of the tools used:
Dualco Grease Gun with Short Nozzle:

Park Tool Spoke, Bearing, and Cotter Gauge – SBC-1:


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I'm going to show you how to replace the cage bearings or retainer type bearings in a headset with loose bearings one of the advantages of having loose bearings in the headset is that you're going to have more bearings in there and so any impact is going to be distributed over more points more bearings what happens with cage bearings is since there's fewer bearings all that impact is more focused down and you get you're more likely to get little Dinks in the crown race also with cage bearings the bearings are less free to move around and so when you do get impacts you're more likely to get impacts in the same places over and over and over again when you have loose bearings in there the bearings are move more freely around and so you're less likely to have impacts in the same spot you know time after time after time and so just everything becomes more durable one of the cons of heavily loose bearings in it is it's just a little bit more difficult to install them where cage bearings just pop them in you're there wear loose bearings hit put them in individually and when you go take things apart they tend to fall out a little bit so they're a little bit harder to use but they're a little bit sturdier and especially if you're going to be riding in rough terrain type thing anyway I'm sure you do that let's start off by removing the brakes from the forks because I need to drop the fork down so I'm just going ahead and just remove these screws here and pop these off and then next one go ahead and remove the stem from the fork this is a threaded headset a Threadless headset is going to be a little bit different pull this out that and next go ahead and remove the locking nut on here let me move this and then drop down and there's the the case bearings them and be replacing these are the cage bearings I pulled out of the headset and what you need to do is determine what size of bearings are in these cages so you're gonna have to remove a bearing out so just bring take one bearing out and I've got a gauge here from Park Tool and so you slide the bearing down through there so it's not 1/8 it's 5/32 it's so the hole that goes through that's the size of bring it says 5/32 inch and so I've got some brand new 5/32 inch bearings right here now this is a threaded headset a Threadless headset is going to be set up slightly different with a threaded headset I've got a cup here and that the cup was screwed down on the top on a Threadless headset you can have a cup down here and then you have another cup up here what we're going to do is fill both cups with grease and load them with bearings so I'm go ahead and start off with this one here over on the table and I'll come back and do this one on the stand okay so here's the top cup I'm gonna do is take some grease this is like marine grease here and I'm just going to go ahead and squirt some around this race right here that and then I you just might use my fingers to kind of just smear it around smooth it out a little bit like that now I've got my bearings here and what I'm gonna do is just insert them one by one and press them down into the race like this okay so now I've got all the bearings in there you want to leave a gap in there about two to three bearings wide you do not want to completely fill this so these bearings are all side to side in here but there's a gap right in there about two to three bearings wide and here's the bottom Cup and I have this all I bet a bike in the stand with this facing up just you know make it easier to go ahead and access so I'm clean it out let me go take some grease injections grease around the race then smear the grease around to smooth it out with my finger I want to have enough grease in there that the bearings are going to stick in there while I meant when I insert them like that now I want to go ahead and start inserting the bearings into the race and there and I want to leave a gap again about two to three bearings wide in there and what that does is it allows the bearings to move freely in the race like this now the hard part is done now I want to do is I have all the bearings down in this cup down here so to carefully slide this up through there now I be careful not to knock any of those bearings out of there and then I have the other cup here with those bearings on in there so I'm going ahead and thread this on to here and be careful not to knock any of those bearings out and then screw that down on tipic the the comb there and so I want to adjust this so that it moves freely but then it doesn't have any play in there and actually feels pretty good like that okay now I've got two little lock washers on here there's like little notches in there and they have to like line up with the little match back there slide those on I've got the lock nut and I'll thread this on and then this comes the tricky part is I need to tighten this down without this moving in relationship to the fork and so I'm gonna tighten this down and hopefully the yeah the cohens starting to turn a little bit so with a cone wrench I hold this with a cone wrench and then tighten the lock nut on like that and then test the 2/4 make sure it moves nice and smoothly check overplay I want to have play in there but I want to have it move smoothly and actually feels pretty good I'll bring the handlebars back forward again set these down into here and then tighten this nut down into here and I'll just afore straighten this a little bit later let me get a wheel in there and we'll reinstall the brakes there's that and I'll have a wheel for this bike yet so I'll get one but right now that moves nice and smoothly and everything's nice and tight in there I hope you found this video interesting or helpful it was kind of cool little thing to do that I like especially if you want shocks on there you just have about like a fork on there you're more likely to get more impact coming up in your headset with shocks on there some of that impact is damp dampen so having more bearings and there's going to help anyway I found this video interesting or helpful please click the like button always appreciated getting likes on my videos and if you're not subscribe to my channel please subscribe my channel there's big try button down here go ahead and click that and you'll see new videos as they come out anyway thank you for watching I hope this is helped

Replace Caged Bearings With Loose Bearings In Bike Headset

26 thoughts on “Replace Caged Bearings With Loose Bearings In Bike Headset”

  1. Can you make a video on how to tighten a bmx quill stem? Every time I crank the bolt down, it loosens up and I’m having trouble tightening it. I checked my stem and the steer tube and everything is not scratched up or broken.

  2. This video not only helped me diagnose and fix a problem with the steering on my 18 speed MB, but also saved me paying someone £80 for a 10 minute job I did myself! I now also own a bearing ruler and the same grease gun you use! Wish I had learnt all this many years ago. Thank you RJ.

  3. I'm curious about your advice to not completely fill the races with bearings but instead to leave room for two or three bearings. I don't remember any such advice in your corresponding video for the bottom bracket. Why would you omit bearings for the headstock but not for the bottom bracket?

    I'm changing the bearings in my Dura Ace 7400 headset. Each cage has 20 bearings but I could install 22 loose bearings. Should I install only 20?

  4. I'm putting together an old M500 to ride for a while, as I've been off the bike…. and way outta shape. Though I believe the BB is sealed cartridge, I think the Tange Seiki headset could use an overhaul with loose bearings, just to help out with the extra "me".

  5. the stem diameter is usually very close to a mandrel diameter instead of sloppy Grease, you should be able to set the bottom ones in flip it over and do the top ones woohoo revert back to 1941 loose bearings, read the story of Horace and John Dodge the Dodge Brothers were some of the first in developing so-called "sealed bearings" nothing is sealed,but hey NASA won't give up ("loose")axial sphere telemetry, well that's a moment of Arc we will never get back, PS implying cage removal is the repair you got the ozone layer to get to work on

  6. Precision slop? Chrome is not made to beat against another Chrome surface bearing should be pre-loaded or replaced, loose bearings, does that sound right to you, with loose bearings you should have a smaller bearing in between every load bearing, and the reason for the cage is because when two bones contact each other it is such a pinpoint surface does more damage then your scenario of impact that also should not exist

  7. let me ask you this, I bought a new headset cap, & it was too big, is it common for stock steer tubes to be short? can i just get a longer compression screw? it's weird because i have a brand new mac 1 from FIT (2017) & my second question is the red plastic seal fell off bottom fork bearing ring, that's not too big of a deal is it?

  8. Hey RJ, I replaced the bearings on a Raleigh Sprite bike and now there is a grinding noise when turning. Any Idea on why it makes the noise? Did I tighten it too much? Thanks

  9. bro I got same type of handle bars but can't remember which way the top bearing goes because it's like a double cup one over the other and they a bit bent lol..would this work on me bike lol

  10. I'm so glad I found your channel. Thanks a bunch!!!! I'm currently building my own bike for the very first time and I'm learning heaps. I've got a bunch of your videos on my playlist (Bike Maintenance). You have saved me lots of money and helped me understand little tricks like this video. My bike needed this because the front fork is Cromo and no shocks. Thanks again your the best…

  11. Is true that bearing cages face inwards towards the center of the head-up side bearings point down and vice-versa or do bearing cages point out-top face up and bottom face down? I always get confused about this. Is this operation necessary? caged bearings work fine unless you're really rough on your headset like motocross or jumping then you might need to change them out every year or so.

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