16 hours ago
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
A while back I remarked on how I replaced the headset on my Elephant. I mentioned how the headset had a weirdo pinch bolt thing that made getting the perfect adjustment basically impossible. Too loose and you get that unsettling rocker-motion when you brake. Too tight and everything binds up. But if you have to choose, you should err on the side of tight.
So for nearly 3 months, I've been annoyed at the stiffness of the steering in the Elephant. What's worse, is that I also got super sick and always tired at about the same time I swapped out the headset.
So for the last few months, every time I rode the Elephant, it sucked. Which is NOT how it's supposed to be on any of my bikes, let alone the Elephant. I internalized this and was secretly afraid that maybe the magic had left the Elephant. Every time I rode it, it just sucked the life out of me. It was almost as bad as Pat's tamper.
A couple months ago, a guy in Seattle bought a big box of NOS Stronglight roller bearing headsets. They were made for tandems (hence the 1 1/8"). He was selling them on the Rawland google list. They're perfect for standard-gauge tubing bikes where you want to haul stuff in the front. Such bikes like to light up a bit (that is, shimmy) under certain conditions and roller bearings make a big fat difference.
Incidentally, the guy I bought the head set from is name Fred (a perfect name for any cyclist). I met him at my Ebey hang last month. He's one of those slightly nuts young guys that rides everywhere on any bike with silly loads at any hour of the day. He's also deeply nerded out in his exotic knowledge of technical bike minutia. He's got that look in his eye. A perfect storm of good Fredliness.
Anyway, the point: I finally got Glen to swap out the headset (I only change flats now). He said it was a non-standard, slightly screwy set-up, but he approved of the design.
And the bike rides like new. I took it on our S24O the other night and I could tell already it was way better. No hands with a load at normal speeds was easy and shimmy-free. But it took a standard commute to work this morning to reveal just how wonderful that bike is to ride (again). Bunny hops, jumps, descents, climbing, easy track standing. It's all back.
The lesson here is that these little seemingly inconsequential tweaks matter a lot. A properly adjusted headset totally matters. Here endeth the lesson.