Monday, July 2, 2012

Headsets and Heat

Oh for godsakes. The humidity is at 85% and as fully determined as I was to ride to work today (I'll bring ice water! I thought. I'll stop for a slurpee! I'll say many prayers!), there's just no way that it could possibly be a good idea. I have to veto my own decision to ride today. Turns out I've developed a good inner mom voice, which pipes up when my everyday risk-taker self gets all stubborn. It's obviously the endurance training that has brought out this self-caretaker side of me, since I learned that you really can't mess around with some things, heat exhaustion being at the top of the list.

This is a smart decision and I know it. But still. Arrrrrrrrrrrrgh. It figures that as soon as I buy a bike I love and just want to ride all the time, we get a nearly 3-week heat wave that leaves me faint and gasping if I'm out in it more than 10 minutes. And it's not supposed to let up til AFTER this coming weekend. It's just so damn unfair, I could cry. Or at least pout extensively.

At least last night I got some bike-time in the form of my class. Instead of bottom brackets, we broke from the calendar and did headsets.

So look, here's the bike I am working on:

My project bike. Blurry enough for you?
In case you don't know bikes - or, like me, have had only the vaguest notion of exactly what a headset is - let me explain a little. The handlebars (horizontal bar with grips) are set in the stem (vertical silver bit just under the handlebars), and the stem runs down the head tube (short bit of tube largely hidden by the tag there) - well really there's another tube hidden in there called the steering tube, which leads to/is part of the fork (the part in front that looks like a fork and goes down to the wheel, see?) and this obviously all gets very confusing. Anyway, the headset is all the little bits that keep the stem connected to the fork, inside the head tube. Basically.

Last night, I learned how to take a stem out of the head tube. There are two different types of stems, threadless and quill. (Personal opinion: threadless stems are easier and just a smarter, cleaner design. But quill stems are far, far more attractive.) My bike has a quill stem, and look - ta-da!

Here's how it looks with all the bits of the headset removed. To get to this point, I got to smack the stem with a hammer and use a big-ass wrench to take off this rather hug nut and then there were washers and spacers and ball bearings to remove.  Then I cleaned them all off and greased them up and put them back together, hurrah!

I'd say the most important things I learned here were:
1. Never fail to grease everything. There was virtually no grease anywhere in this headset, except for some very old grease, dried to a sticky film, on the ball bearings. Where metal meets metal, Grease Is Good. So it was a good feeling to smear grease all over in there.
2. Have a system to keep all the bits in order as you take them off, because you have to put them on again. In order. It becomes a rather stressful puzzle to put together when you have no idea where everything goes.

Apparently a loose headset is a very common thing, so check yours. Or have it checked, because I can't describe how to tell when it's loose. (It's basically: hold on to the top tube close to the head tube, other hand on the stem, jiggle in a pull-apart/push-together motion, and see if you can feel anything. See? Rather a useless description.) Having a loose headset is really Not Good, so I'm all proud of myself that I learned how to inspect it, clean it, tighten it. Also I liked it because there were no special tools involved. I like things that I can theoretically do with the tools I already own.

And now back to eating lemon ice, riding the train, missing Olivia, and generally resenting meteorology. Nice life I've got going here.

1 comment:

Megan said...

Oooh, headsets. They are on my list of Bike Parts I Do Not Understand. You are impressing me so much right now!

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