Technical Tuesday: Removing And Installing A Headset

Jun 22, 2010
by Mike Levy  
Today's Technical Tuesday will show you how to remove and install a headset on your bike. Inside you'll find step by step instructions, as well as a great How-To video to guide you through the process!

Read on...Earlier we showed you how to check and properly adjust your bike's headset, but what do you do if it's time to replace the entire unit? A lot rides on how well your headset is working and if the bearings are shot or if the cups are damaged, your bike will not handle how it's supposed to. It may be time to replace the entire unit!

There are a number of different types of headsets on today's bikes, from integrated, semi-integrated, and the standard threadless headset that is still most common. Today we'll focus on the standard threadless headset, but many of these same principles will apply to other kinds as well that use cups pressed into the frame.

A headset is made up of a number of pieces that allow it to turn freely under the preload that keeps it from rattling around. The two main and most obvious parts are the upper and lower headset cups. These are pressed into your frame and require tools to remove and install. Within these cups is where you'll find the headset bearings. Many different types of bearings are used throughout the industry, ranging from inexpensive loose balls, to different variations of sealed bearings. One of the most important parts of a headset, even though some brands elect not to use one, is the wedge. The wedge sits on top of the upper bearing and the outer circumference usually has a 45 degree angle that makes contact with the bearing. It is usually split and this allows it to conform to the inner diameter of the inner bearing race, as well as hold it's tension better. Above the wedge is the headset's top cap that helps to seal the bearings from the elements. At the bottom end of the headset is where you'll find the crown race. This small, but necessary piece, is what the lower bearing turns upon. Without it your fork crown would come in direct contact with the bottom headset cup. Certain headsets may also use separate seals to protect the upper and lower bearings. While they will all differ slightly in appearance, most will follow the above description. This tutorial will guide you through removing and installing just the cups. Follow the instructions provided with your new headset to complete the installation and have a read through Tech Tuesday #5 where we show you how to properly tighten your headset.

Watch the video to learn how to remove and install headset cups:
Views: 65,431    Faves: 103    Comments: 11

Step by step instructions:

Tools needed: Headset cup remover, headset cup press and a hammer.

Cup remover, headset press, hammer, and some grease

Before we start, a word about using the proper tools. This job is possible to accomplish without a proper cup remover tool and headset press, but we highly recommend using the correct tools. Using the wrong tool to remove your headset cups could result in a gouged headtube at best, or fatal damage to your frame at worst. Likewise, when pressing headset cups into your bike's headtube, having them go in crooked can have dire consequences. Using a proper headset press minimizes this risk. Take your time and use the correct tools, and if you don't feel that you're up for this job, take your bike to the local shop to have them do the work.

Step 1. Begin by sliding the cup removing tool into your head tube. You can remove either the top or bottom cut first

Step 2. Before you use the hammer, be sure that the edges are resting only on the inside lip of the cup and not any part of your frame

Step 3. With one hand over the opposite end of the headtube to keep the frame from moving, begin to hammer out the headset cup. Holding your hand over the cup will also keep it from flying out and giving you an embarrassing black eye

Step 4. Ease up as the cup starts to exit the headtube. Repeat the above process on the remaining cup

Step 5. Now it's time to install your new headset cups. Begin by checking the inside of the headtube for any damage from removing the old cups, and then greasing the inner surface to ease installation.

Step 6. Only install one cup at a time to minimize the chances of one going in crooked. Once the cup begins to enter the headtube, stop to make sure that it is perfectly straight. If so continue pressing it in, but if not you'll need to use your cup remover and try again.

Step 7. Once you've fully pressed the cup into the headtube, have a very close look to make sure that there is no gap between the outer edge of the headset cup and the face of the headtube. Repeat the process on the remaining cup and then follow your headsets directions to finish off the installation.

Past Tech Tuesdays:

Technical Tuesday #1 - How to change a tube.
Technical Tuesday #2 - How to set up your SRAM rear derailleur
Technical Tuesday #3 - How to remove and install pedals
Technical Tuesday #4 - How To Bleed Your Avid Elixir Brakes
Technical Tuesday #5 - How To Check And Adjust Your Headset
Technical Tuesday #6 - How To Fix A Broken Chain
Technical Tuesday #7 - Tubeless Conversion
Technical Tuesday #8 - Chain Wear
Technical Tuesday #9 - SRAM Shift Cable Replacement

Have you found this tutorial helpful? Share any of your hints or tips below!

Visit to see their entire lineup of tools.

Posted In:
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Member since Oct 18, 2005
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  • 23 1
 i wanted bloopers of a flying headset cup!!!!!!!!
  • 40 11
 yeah, great... I bet 100 bucks that all of you, just like me, have all those tools shown here, don't ya?...
todays tech tue is not for 'people' but for mechanincs or sth...
  • 38 2
 If you have watched technical tuesdays over its course many have complained a lot about them not showing more complicated jobs. Just shows you cant please everyone.
  • 5 2
 even tho i'd only use those tools once a year i still want them as i could help friends install headsets to.
  • 12 5
 i got those tools.. and i don't even know how to use them.. and now thanks to this.. i do. thanks.
  • 5 0
 i use a hammer mostly,but i made the headset removal tool got a thick bit of pipe (think its a weight lifting bar of some find). then cut a cross in the end, and folded out the four 'prongs'. looks exactly the same as the park tools one pictured, works pefectly, and didnt cost the silly amount they charge for a pipe Big Grin
  • 6 0
 I know its really dodgy to put a headset in squint, but I just used sum washers, 2 nuts and a threaded piece of metal and just wound it together myself, and if it was going squint gave it the odd tap with a hammer.
  • 4 3
 heres a way without buying tools; take the cups by using a flathead screwdriver and a hammer and hammering around the edges until they are all the way out, then use a rubber mallet to hammer the new cups in (a wooden tenderizing mallet works too).
  • 6 2
 a hammer, a strong flathead screwdriver, a plank of wood and patience, its all i need.
  • 6 2
 this is one of those things the average rider might have to do once or twice in their life time. So letting the bike shop do it might be cheaper than investing in tools you will only use a few times.
  • 8 2
 @ncrider: yeah maybe you're right.. but some guys go through bikes alot... and they also have friends.. and since Mtbing is pretty much a bro sport, its nice to Bromance over a set of park tools in ya shed.
  • 7 2
 remind me to never buy anything from you hammer/screwdriver guys... Come on are you really gonna work on you 5k+ bike with cave man tools? At the very least buy the removal tool!
  • 8 2
 I'm just happy that this tuesday it isn't "How to Lower Your Seat" or something dumb like that.
  • 2 3
 its still tecnical tuesday: ho to do really obvious jobs, or how to do the ones you never do properly anyway or how to do somethin involving ridiculously expenive tools that you'd get bikeshops to do if you care that much.

I' waiting on next weeks, 'how to tighten a bolt feature' an almst MBUK worthy piece Big Grin
  • 4 3
 @loaded. my imperial was 800 bucks... and good luck breaking it. (if you were suggesting that caveman tools weaken the frame that is).
  • 2 1
 i have those tools, i know how to use them. I built my own press with universal headset cups, ready rode and some nuts. I am not where near a mechanic or anything.
  • 2 1
 'loaded' why by the removal set when you dont need it? installing and removing a headset is a really easy job, and i have better things to spend £50 on
  • 3 4
 Oh boy.......first we want to get more tech, then we complain that we dont have the tools. Why am I not suprised? Anyone who considers themselves a serious rider, who wants to fully maintain their bike, should have a press. Its WELL worth the investment. You just should, OR, take it to a shop. Now, Im not gonna argue over the "ghetto" method. Ive done it all, screw drivers, drifts, wooden blocks and hammers - even a "homemade" press that consisted of a threaded rod and two washers. These things CAN work, but can also really F up your bike in the wrong hands. You should really have at least a dozen normal installs using a proper press before you consider trying the half-ass way.......and never on a really nice (expensive) frame.
  • 5 1
 well not really, you can be a serious rider not spend £50 on a headset press, and aslong as your carefull and take your time the 'ghetto' way works perfectly fine.
  • 1 0 just saying its not a RIDICULOUS thing to have in your garage. I still would not advise "ghetto" method on a nice frame. Example: Ill ghetto headsets into my steel SURLY frame all day long....
  • 2 0
 shh... haha, oh come on mum, my frame is not so expensive, (whispers) is it?:P
There are a few tools, like bb wrench or key for cassettes that we all should own. Easy.
It's just a headset that we don't need to remove or install so often so this big'n'shiny tool just threatens us a bit. I'll be honest now. I've never seen such a thing before, really... Hammer + screwdriver + wooden block (+patience) were so obvious for me, no matter what frame or fork. And always worked perfectly (fortunately? maybe...)
  • 2 0
  • 2 1
 Thats actually not a bad idea. A mini booter for the car would be a good idea
  • 7 0
 I think all of the Tech Tuesdays are a great idea, good job Mike ! someone has to show people how-to...
  • 3 0
 Tech-Tuesdays are are wonderful idea, no matter what level they are aimed at.

Mike, perhaps the topic be based on popularity (like POD or VOD): trawl through the Mechanics Forum and see what keeps getting asked over and over.
  • 7 5
 Pinkbike, I'm a big fan of the Tech Tuesdays, but even I think this one is a little out there.

If anyone has the tools to do this, they shouldn't need to learn how to use them. And since most people on here aren't going to fork out the huge moola for the right tools, then this bit doesn't really service anyone. The articles need to be for people who have a bit of knowledge, basic tools and want to learn more. This article is begging for people to jerry rig up a setup, with potentially terrible results. Besides, how often are headsets actually replaced? Please try and direct these to more common, less specialized issues in the future.

Still, I think the Tech Tuesdays are a great idea, and looking forward to seeing more in the future.
  • 7 1
 I'm afraid I'd have to disagree. I think there have been plenty of tutorials so far that are "simple", and users have been very outspoken to have more advanced topics covered. This is proof that it's impossible to make everyone happy. I think that Tech Tuesdays should not be "advanced" or for "beginners", but should cover the whole range to try to give at least SOMETHING to everyone. There are bound to be articles that you already know how to do, and ones that you don't. Even if you don't have the tools or confidence level to do this tutorial now, it will no doubt be a useful resource down the road if you choose to pursue it then. I think ALL tech tuesdays, of all skill levels, are good.
  • 6 1
 I agree with smike. Personally, just because some topics are advanced and require specialized tools, doesn't mean it's not worth knowing and understanding. Just understanding what is done by your lbs shop, even if you're not inspired to attempt it on your own, makes you a better informed rider. I'm enjoying all these tech Tuesdays, keep it up!
  • 2 0
 Correct. Everyone should know how this is done, even if they dont do it themselves.
  • 2 3
 I too enjoy these but would agree with Kyle up there - if you have these tools, I expect you to know how to use them. I guess this TT is for people who want to go out and buy $190+ worth of tools on a whim.
  • 2 0
 So... if you DO have these tools already, you should already know how to use them? Is that what you're saying? OK, so let's say I need to replace my headset. What's the order of events? 1) I learn how to do it by doing some research (and/or watching this tutorial) and then I go out and buy/make the tools I need. or 2) I buy/make the tools I need, and then learn how to use them by watching this tutorial. Am I correct in assuming that BOTH possibilities require one to LEARN how to do this, therefore making these tutorials useful?
  • 4 0
 Smike.........just stop, you're making way to much sense.
  • 1 2
 It just seems strange that someone would watch a video like this and be inspired to go and buy the tools. Whatever, here it is, and it's helpful, so I'm not complaining.
  • 1 0
 It's actually quite easy to make your own headset press. Just use a treaded rod, washers at either end that are the size of the head tube and get smaller till you can thread a nut onto the rod. then you can just tigthen the nut down which will push the washers down compressing the headset cups into the frame. Super cheap home made tool that will only cost you a few bucks at the hardware store.
  • 2 0
 for those who dont want to spend money on the Park tools, these are great, cheap alternatives that has worked for years for me.
  • 1 0
 deadatbirth, thats exactly how I installed my headset, thats probably where I got my info on how to do it haha Razz
  • 3 0
 Works just s well as the headset press, and has about a 100 other uses...
  • 3 0
 This is great ! so many people fail at asembling head sets. but the tools make all the difference XD
  • 1 0
 My new bike is the first one I've had with a semi-integrated headset. I'm assuming it's pretty much the same deal to remove and re-install it - is that the case or is there anything I need to watch out for? Cheers.
  • 1 0
 It would actually be different. Integrated headsets don't have cups. The bearings just press right into the frame. I'd assume remove the bearings and then press in new ones. Although I'm not sure how removal is done. But pressing new ones in shouldn't be any different from any other bearings you would press in.
  • 1 1
 Heres an interesting point. I ride a a bike with an 1 1/2 set up. None of my local bike shops have invested in tools to press 1 1/2 cups in. They mostly cater for xc and everyday cyclists.
Choice 1: Take it to the local shop, where they do it with a Screwdriver, block of wood and a hammer. (or maybe a big vice or threaded bar to install the cups)
Choice 2: Take it 60 miles to the nearest store that has an 1 1/2 press.
Choice 3: Do choice one myself.

Chances are if your local store doesn't have the right tool, unless you ask them they will probably take the job on and then cook up a home made tool. Point being with enough experience and thought anyone can make a serviceable home made tool
  • 1 0
 Also bear in mind if you make your own press. If your head set has tapered bearings cup alignment is fairly critical.
  • 1 0
 Cup alignment is always critical.
  • 1 0
 Agreed but certainly more noticeable with tapered bearing.
  • 3 0
 Seems quite easy when the right tools are used.
  • 2 0
 I love Tech Tuesday. Very helpful info and how to use these tools! Keep em coming Pinkbike!
  • 2 1
 To remove a headset, just use an old seat post and a hammer haha that's what I do...
  • 1 0
 so bulgarian Big Grin
  • 1 0
 Normally i use a screwdriver a big hammer som grease and a piece of wood when install headsets Big Grin
  • 1 0
 I agree "Cup alignment is always critical." There was this one time at baseball camp....
  • 1 0
 Replace Bike Headset With Cheap Homemade Tools
  • 2 0
 how much does it cost for the tools ?
  • 7 2
 pfft don't worry about tools. Simple hammer and screwdriver to get it out. Large clamp/bolt and something to cover the surface area of the headset (eg. wood) and tighten it and it will go in
  • 1 1
 the whole sledgehammer thing was what i used i fabed up an old fork with a threaded steer tube and welded a bar onto the nut, and i had a few different cups to make different types of adapters it works great but the tools from park make it apsalutly easy.
  • 9 2
 KHS-MARKKKK: In a way you are right, there's no rocket science in taking the old headset out. Everyone can do it as the brute force is vital here. At the same time mind what you are doing and saying. If you use screwdriver, fine: screw your bike yourself. But don't encourage others to do that stupid thing too.

Screw driver has a little surface that will damage the cup and screw up the inner headtube surface. Sure it does not hurt much just as sitting with your muddy ass on your cars seat without a plastic cover... or peeing in the shower... can't do much wrong ha?

1.Use some old tube or pipe with well faced end instead - preferably with size nearly as big as the cup, but so it still goes through the other end. Tube/pipe bottom will have bigger surface of contact with the cup. Don't forget to take your time and do it consequently tapping the cup around so it comes out as perpendicular as possible, evenly progressing all the way down.

2.Step 1 is where I personaly end my adventure with garage headtube-works. I head to the bike shop with my frame and the new headset, and they do it for me for 5$ in 5 minutes, with the proper tool and they do it right. If you pay so much money for the frame and the headset, do it damn right!
  • 2 2
 As long as your not cack handed a screwdriver and hammer if fine for taking out a headset, just take your time. It's reasonably easy to make your headset press as other people have mentioned.
  • 2 0
 i use a hammer mostly,but i made the headset removal tool got a thick bit of pipe (think its a weight lifting bar of some find). then cut a cross in the end, and folded out the four 'prongs'. looks exactly the same as the park tools one pictured, works pefectly, and didnt cost the silly amount they charge for a pipe
  • 3 1
 I used a screwdriver because my old headset had no use to me, so it didn't matter if it got damaged. When I did it I hit it not too hard all around the headset evenly and when it came out it wasn't damaged at all. If I wanted to keep the headset I would have used something like a steel pipe like you said Smile
  • 1 0
 he likes saying headset cup
  • 2 3
 i use a handle bar to get cups out(normally a good whack on either side of cup, ping!) and piec of wood and mallet for insertion, if it goes a bit wonky hit it straight!
  • 1 0
 is it the same for a chris king inset headset?
  • 2 0
 All King headsets require the use of special fittings in order to achieve proper pressure on the correct parts of the headset. King offers a variety of different adapters to fit their headsets, and they are designed to work with the Park Tool headset press.
  • 1 1
 wow, at least, first article which would be useful for me ;]
  • 1 0
  • 1 4
 im with kyle on this one
maybe something along the lines of hub servicing or an after a ride cleaning/greasing guide
  • 3 0
 Are you actually saying that you know all about headsets, but you dont know how to clean/grease your bike. Are you really serious?
  • 1 0
 no i just meant things along thos lines like jobs that don't require unique tools or things you only use two maybe three time in a life time
  • 1 0
 No offense steve but in ten years you will be my age and If you still ride you will have had a use for a press waaayyyyy more than 2 times.
  • 1 0
 how many time am i ever going to change a headset i have been riding the same xc bike since 06 and the headset is still in great shape same with my dh and dj
  • 2 4
 what kind of grease!?
  • 1 0
 White lithium I suppose.

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