Steering stem bearings are very similar to wheel bearings to remove or service. The main culprits of bearing failure are lack of grease from lack of service or corrosion because water has gotten into the bearing from power washers. The good news is that steering stem bearings are easy to keep maintained. We suggest you check and grease the steering stem bearings on your bike at least twice a season.
You will need:
· Wrenches and sockets
· Steering Stem wench or channel locks
· Torque Wrench
· Waterproof grease
Start Your Inspection:
1. Set up your bike on a stand and block the front wheel;
2. Remove the bars, then loosen the bolts that hold the top triple clamps onto the forks;
3. Next loosen the steering head bolt. Remove it and the washer and set them aside. You should use a steering stem wrench for this but channel locks will also work. The bolt can be easily damaged so be careful;
4. Use a rubber mallet and tap on the top triple clamp on both sides to slide it up off the forks;
5. Loosen the spindle bolt that is under the triple clamp. When you loosen this bolt, the front wheel assembly will start to slide down and forward. That block of wood you put in front of your wheel will prevent your forks from dropping to the ground;
6. With the bolt off, remove the top steering stem bearing. The bottom steering stem bearing is pressed onto the stem so you will not be able to slide it off;
7. Inspect both bearings for dirt, corrosion, nicks, etc. If there’s corrosion then you’ll have to replace it. But if there is only some dirt and grime you can clean the bearings.
a. To clean them use a solvent or rinse them out with mineral spirits.
b. Be careful not to spin the bearings when they don’t have grease in them. This will ruin them for sure!
c. Once they are dry you can re-grease them.
To Re-Grease the bearings:
1. Put a good amount of grease in the palm of one of your hands;
2. Hold the clean bearing in your other hand with the large diameter side facing the grease;
3. ‘Scrape’ the bearing across the palm of your hand spinning it a little in order to fully pack it with the grease;
4. Get a dollop of grease on your fingers and work it into the face of the bottom bearing that is pressed onto the stem and work it all around;
5. Make sure the races are clean;
6. Add some grease to the steering spindle for good measure;
7. Re-insert the steering assembly into the frame head. Set the top bearing in place, drop the washer on and put the first steering head bolt on hand tight. Your manual will have instructions on how tight to make this bolt but just keep in mind that you do not want to torque it down super tight;
8. Re-assemble the rest of the triple clamp assembly per your manual.
If, however, you find you have to replace your bearings:
Steering stem bearing kits are not really that expensive. The repair is really not that tricky. However, there are tools and methods for removing that bottom bearing that you might find yourself lacking in (its OK – it happens to all of us!). You don’t want to damage your steering stem, so take the forks and the bearing kit to your mechanic and let them press it in for you!