27 December 2011

I guess this is why mechanics are helpful?

So I have this early 80s (I believe, at least) Basso in the shop that a customer has given me semi-free reign in doing a conversion to a 2sp Sturmey kickback hub along with some other changes. He's a really good guy and it's nice to be given a bike, a general idea of where he'd like it to go, and just be told to kind of do my thing. I'm sure I'll post about the bike once it's done.

Anyway, so since I've been poking at it I've noticed that this bike's headset has been doing weird things. At first it felt a bit tight, but also had a bit of play at the bottom cup. When tightened to get rid of the play it seemed fine, but then would intermittently feel like it was overtightened - but not always. This bugged me, so today I went in to pull the fork out and see what all was going on. I popped the fork out, and was presented with this scene:

When you drop a fork out and the supposedly pressed-on crown race stays in the lower cup, you probably have a problem.
So it turns out that for the past howevermany years, this bike has been ridden around with the lower headset bearings not moving, and instead the race has just been spinning around on the steerer. In the meantime, the grease in the bearings has turned to paste. Amazingly, there doesn't seem to have been any permanent damage. The culprit is a 27mm ID crown race on a 26.5mm OD fork. The customer bought this bike used a while back from a guy that raced on it, and this was the headset it came with, so who knows how long it has been clonking around like that. I really hope that the original owner built this up himself, and that this wasn't done by a "professional."

It always makes me laugh when I encounter things like this, which is alarmingly often. Here I am stressing over chain line and seat height and tire pressure and whatever else and then there are people out there riding around with wrong-sized headsets, or hubs with no bearings in them, or 6 speed freewheels on 9 speed shifters, or some other absurd thing, and nothing is lighting on fire. Of course I'm glad I stress about things like that, but every once in a while - usually when I'm freaking out because my bike makes some nearly inaudible rattle every 10.65th crank revolution - I can't help but wish that I could have the ability to tune that stuff out, if only just for my own bike.

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