[Tech Corner] How To Install A Headset



After a lot of waiting we are finally building up our test frame from Transition that we will be riding extensively and using as a base frame for our parts tests in the next months at Punta Ala Trail Center. One of the most important parts to install is the headset. Here we take you through the steps to do it properly.


Tools: Headset press, carbon paste, bearing grease, star nut setting tool, race setter, pipe cutter, hack saw & file.


Here our frame is at the trail center work shop in the bike stand which is set to an easy to reach height.


Up close check that everything is clean and in good shape inside the headset tube before beginning.


Our headset is in two parts, the upper and lower assemblies.


We grease with carbon grease the actual headset cups which will be pressed into the frame.


These are the two tools most people will think to use, but the correct tool is the right hand one. Using a hammer risks bending the cups, distorting the position and also breaking the carbon frame. Use the press!

start install

We mount the two cups to be installed and place the tool into the frame.


The tool goes into the frame like this.

press together

Place the lower cup in position and take up any slack with the lower toll on the grooved shaft, then slowly twist the handle pressing the cups in. Make sure they go in straight, only turn the handle gently on the tool.


Once located remove the tool and check that the cups are seated properly with no gaps.

Install ring

Next we install the lower race on the fork.  Grease the steerer tube lightly JUST where the race seats. Slide the race on it, then with a race setting tool, gently tap the lower race into place. Make sure you install this in the correct orientation so the bearing sits on the race as it should.

check length

Place the greased lower larger bearing on the race on the fork and grease the cups of the headset. Then place the fork into position and secure with the stem. You can see that we have not cut the steerer yet here. Before cutting it is best to check that the stack height is as you wish. If you already know this, then you can cut and install immediately, (see next photo) as it is a new frame we are going to show you how to decide your stack height in another article.


Once mounted, the bearings should be flush. Check that the fork rotates smoothly.

cut and install star nut

If you know your stack length, cut the steerer tube with a pipe cutting tool, and install the star nut with a star nut setting tool. Then remount as above. You are ready to go.


We recommend not cutting the steerer tube until the very end of a new bike build. You should build up the bike and sit on it to feel it out.  Very few people know their perfect stack height. We will look at this in a future post.

Mechanics @ Punta Ala Trail Center
Frame: Transition Bicycles


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