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Installing a headset is one of the few things best be done with a proper tool. That's assuming you are installing a traditional, non-integrated headset. Integrated headsets can be installed without tools. I would spring for a few bucks and have the LBS do it for you. Using a hammer, mallet or other means of beating the headset in can damage the headtube or the headset itself. Not worth the risk, IMO.
 

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Do it yourself.......

First, let me say that doing this install could ruin something and cost big bucks, so make your own decision.

That said, I have installed every single one of my headsets with a "homemade" tool. Basically, go to your local hardware supply place, get a very long bolt, one that will easily fit through your headtube, and leave you some room for the headset itself.

Next, get a nut to fit onto the end of the bolt.

Next, and this is important, get 2 large flat washers. Make sure the inner circle of them fits over the long bolt obviously, but make sure it's not TOO big. Also, make sure the outer diameter of the washers is wider than a headset, 1.5 or so inches is probably the smallest, bigger is okay.

Basically, you are making a sandwich with the washers, by tightening the nut on the other end of the bolt.

Do either the top or the bottom first, doesn't matter. Make sure the washers stay centered on the races to avoid anything bad. Put grease all over the parts that will slide (inside headtube, and over races, and a little on the washers doesn't hurt, so it won't scuff the headset).

Tighten slowly the nut onto the long bolt, and make sure the race goes into the tube evenly. If it gets lopsided, back off, tap it out, and start over, this is how you could ruin the frame. Make sure it's in there all the way, then do the top/bottom part (whatever you didn't do the first time).

A "real" tool does the same exact thing. You can actually do both parts of the headset if you get good at it, but it's easier to see if something is going wrong with only doing one piece at a time. Using a mallot is a bit barbaric for my taste, but some say it's fine. I know for a fact, that I have done the bolt/washer idea on every single frame material made, and it has been fine. Carbon, scandium, ti, aluminum, etc.

Again, make your own decision. For 20 bucks, it could be worth the piece of mind to have your LBS do it, but i hate my LBS, and don't like lugging parts to/from the shop, so I do everything myself.

Have fun, good luck, and be careful!!
 

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integrated HS??

seeborough said:
Installing a headset is one of the few things best be done with a proper tool. That's assuming you are installing a traditional, non-integrated headset. Integrated headsets can be installed without tools.
A block of wood and a hammer always worked for me. But I know what I'm doing and didn't have to ask......BTW, how do you install the crown race for an integrated HS without some kind of tool?? And some integrated(internal) HS have cups that need to be pressed in.
 

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Slide Hammer

For the crown race you can usually find an appropriately sized slide hammer at auto tools stores for under $20 USD. Alternatively, you can just buy a length of steel pipe (Steel is real ;-) )with an inside diameter juster larger than the steerer. Having said all that, I am one of those guys that prefers tools designed for the job, and I've bought them.

Rusty Coggs said:
A block of wood and a hammer always worked for me. But I know what I'm doing and didn't have to ask......BTW, how do you install the crown race for an integrated HS without some kind of tool?? And some integrated(internal) HS have cups that need to be pressed in.
 

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follow this at your own risk

noavg55 said:
building up first bike,whats the best way to install a threadless headset, do u use a rubber mallet??? thanks scott
I use 2 blocks of wood (to protect the headset) and a big "C" clamp. I go slow & careful & haven't had a problem. I've done a few Chris Kings this way so my $$$ is where my mouth is.

It is not optimal, but it has worked for me.

As far as pressing the the crown race on the steerer tube, I use a section of an aluminum steerer tube I cut off a fork & a hammer. I figure the crown race is steel & won't be marred by the soft aluminum. Again, not optimal, but effective.
 

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cmgauch said:
I use 2 blocks of wood (to protect the headset) and a big "C" clamp. I go slow & careful & haven't had a problem. I've done a few Chris Kings this way so my $$$ is where my mouth is.

It is not optimal, but it has worked for me.

As far as pressing the the crown race on the steerer tube, I use a section of an aluminum steerer tube I cut off a fork & a hammer. I figure the crown race is steel & won't be marred by the soft aluminum. Again, not optimal, but effective.
The last two headsets I installed had a split ring for the crown race. The race just pops on. This was done to prevent damage to carbon steerers. I don't know why they didn't do that years ago. Once the headset is tight, the race stays in place.
If it doesn't have a split ring, I use an steel tube slightly larger than the steerer and pound the race on.
 

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not steel pipe...

There is no size of common schedule 40 steel pipe that's just a bit larger that a 1-1/8" steerer. The closest is 1-1/4 with an actual ID of 1.380.

PVC pipe won't damage the crown race. If you can find 1-1/4" schedule 80 PVC pipe, it's a lot closer, with an ID of 1.278.

In the days of 1" steerers the perfect pipe was 1" copper tubing which will just slip over the steerer and not contact the bearing surface of the crown race.
 

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Thanks

torquecal said:
For the crown race you can usually find an appropriately sized slide hammer at auto tools stores for under $20 USD. Alternatively, you can just buy a length of steel pipe (Steel is real ;-) )with an inside diameter juster larger than the steerer. Having said all that, I am one of those guys that prefers tools designed for the job, and I've bought them.
But, yeah I know that. I was asking the guy that said it could be done without tools. Maybe there is some voodo or black art I don't know about.
 

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Hmmmm

Got a two foot section of steel pipe right here that's just about perfect.... I don't doubt that you're right about the standard sizes, but now I'm wondering if I can remember where I got this. Let you know if my memory clears up :)

C-40 said:
There is no size of common schedule 40 steel pipe that's just a bit larger that a 1-1/8" steerer. The closest is 1-1/4 with an actual ID of 1.380.

PVC pipe won't damage the crown race. If you can find 1-1/4" schedule 80 PVC pipe, it's a lot closer, with an ID of 1.278.

In the days of 1" steerers the perfect pipe was 1" copper tubing which will just slip over the steerer and not contact the bearing surface of the crown race.
 

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i installed my first headset a couple days ago....ok, well actaully it was 1.5 reducer cups, then installed the bearings from an integrated headset (which had to be pressed, due to design).

my method of choice was the threaded rod and bolts. however, something i did that i didn't see mentioned was using a couple neoprene washers between the bearings/headset and the large washer. steel washer vs. bearing/headset doesn't seem like a good idea, to me.
 

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I like the right tools

Dave Hickey said:
The last two headsets I installed had a split ring for the crown race. The race just pops on. This was done to prevent damage to carbon steerers. I don't know why they didn't do that years ago. Once the headset is tight, the race stays in place.
If it doesn't have a split ring, I use an steel tube slightly larger than the steerer and pound the race on.
When I work on my car, would I jury rig something to compress springs for a McPherson strut? No way. Do enough and you pay for the cost of the tool versus tool rental or heaven forbid, shop labor.

I've done headsets with the rubber mallet, wood blocks in various configurations, bolts and washers, plastic headed hammer, etc. but nothing beats a headset press for ease and confidence. The crown race setter is not as essential although the a headset cup remover rates highly on my list. Park makes great tools but they're extremely expensive. The only one that has a unique attribute is their fork crown race remover. Otherwise, I'd shop around. I like Cyclus tools for value.

BTW- Split ring only if you're using sealed bearing cups. Ball and needle bearing set ups are going to need a race so the split ring won't work.
 
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