The steering head bearings are roller bearings. But, roller bearings rely on the roller rotating to keep distributing grease between the roller and the outer race to prevent metal-on-metal contact. However, the front forks spend most of their time in one position and are subject to shock loads as the front end goes over bumps. This means grease gets extruded from between the rollers in the inner race and the outer race allowing metal-to-metal contact, and the shock loads pound the roller against the outer race creating grooves in the race. This creates notchy steering, and when it’s really bad, you can feel resistance when trying to turn the forks from the center position.
When I removed the steering head bearings, they showed the distinctive vertical stripes indicating the outer race has Brinelling, which is the groove pounded into the outer race.
A best practice when you stop the engine is to sweep the handlebars lock-to-lock which helps distribute grease between the rollers and the outer race.
I purchased these parts from Euro MotoElectrics.
|31 42 7 663 941||TAPERED ROLLER BEARING – 28X52X16||2|
|31 42 1 234 509||RING, Bottom Bearing Grease Cup||1|
I use the Cycle Works tools for removing and installing the steering head bearings. See the “Replace Steering Head Bearings” section below for a link that shows the Cycle Works tools are assembled and used.
Here is a video summarizing how I remove and install the steering head bearings.
Steering Head Outer Races
You can see all the details of how I replaced the steering head bearings on my 1977 R100RS here: the procedure is the same for the 1983 RS. This document contains information about rebuilding the front forks which you can disregard.
Rather than repeat what I already published in the document link above, I’m just going to summarize what I found with this bike.
The outer races on this bike are not as Brinelled as others I’ve seen. Since this bike has over 83,000 miles, I assume the steering head bearings got replaced at some point.
Here’s the link to the section about how to remove the outer bearing races from the steering head:
Here’s the link to the description of how to use the Cycle Works tool to install the new outer bearing races in the steering head.
Steering Stem Lower Inner Race
This race was very tight against the triple clamp and I used a large blade screw driver to move the race a bit so I could install the Cycle Works race puller under the grease cup beneath the bearing.
The inner steering head lower bearing is installed on the steering stem. It looks like someone used wheel bearing grease on the bearings. It melts at a low temperature and leaked out of the roller bearing.
The bottom of the lower triple clamp attaches to the steering damper.
I cleaned up the grunge on the triple clamp. You can see the grease cap mounted underneath the lower inner race. The Cycle Works bearing puller stand slides inbetween the grease cap and the face of the triple clamp.
Here’s the link to using the Cycle Works tool to removing the lower inner bearing race from the steering stem.
I had to reposition the puller as I used up all the puller bolt length but hadn’t gotten the inner race completely past the top wide spot.
Here’s the link to how to install the new inner bearing race on the lower part of the steering stem. I cleaned and polished the lower triple clamp as described below before installing the new inner race on the bottom of the steering stem.
I was able to drop the inner race down to the bottom of the steering stem using the same technique of heating the bearing to about 225 F and freezing the steering stem.
Refinish Lower Fork Brace
The aluminum was dirty, but not corroded. I used the parts washer to clean the grunge off. I followed up with AutoSol aluminum cleaner and a toothbrush. Next I used “0000” steel wool with the aluminum cleaner to remove the surface oxidation. I finished up with AutoSol metal polish to bring back the shine from the polished aluminum.
Install Steering Stem In Steering Head
The steering stem is secured inside the steering head with a special slotted top nut. The slots fit a wrench in the bike tool kit that tightens the nut. The nut has two different faces, one that is flat that goes on top and the bottom face has a bevel and narrow flat. The narrow flat exactly fits on the top bearing inner race. Tightening the nut pre-loads the roller bearings and keeps the steering stem in the steering head.
I pack both the lower and upper steering head inner races with red waterproof grease. I put a lot of grease on the rollers and roll the race around to distribute it to the inside of the bearing and repeat until the rollers are packed in grease. I also put a healthy smear of grease on the outer races too. I want a lot of grease to surround the rollers so they won’t Brinell.
I insert the steering stem into the steering head and put the top inner race over the threads on the top of the stem. Then I install the top nut to hold the steering stem in the steering head.
I use the hook wrench from the bike tool kit to tighten the nut to force the top inner bearing all the way down the steering stem and to seat both bearing inner races tight against the outer races.
There is chrome top dust cap the fits on top of the steering head bearing. The slotted nut fits on top of the dust cap.
The top plate fits on top of the slotted nut and the acorn nut fits in a hole in the top plate and is tightened on the steering stem threads to secure the top plate. I plan to install the Toaster Tan top brace and redesigned acorn nut. When I do that work, I’ll install the Toaster Tan top brace and acorn nut.
2020-04-10 Correction to assemble order of top dust cap, slotted nut.
Brook, another fantastic tutorial. Thank you.
You’re welcome Saunders. Stay well.
Well done! Thank you! One hint: Heating up the lower inner race makes it easier to remove it.
Thanks. As to heating the lower race, It’s steel and so is the steering stem. I suspect the temperature difference between the bearing race and the stem is not very big when heating the race since the stem gets heated as well, so there isn’t much net temperature difference. But I suppose it may help a bit when you remove the lower race. That said, the Cycle Works tool pulls it off easily.
Yes, you are riight, but the lower race is outside where your heater (hot air gun) is, so it becomes a little more bigger as the steering stem. I heat it up to approx. 80 °C = 176 °F. But as I can see the cycle works tool did a good job!
Hi Brook! I am going to a different R75/5 project, a LWB model, so I wish to remove the steering head bearings prior to removing the races. These are brand new so I don’t want to damage them. Do you have an instruction on how to do this without damaging the bearings? I have the outer race removal tool from Cycle Works, but I think there is another one for removing the bearing. I would appreciate any tips you may have to offer!
The top inner bearing comes off when you remove the steering stem. But the bottom bearing requires a tool, that I show in the article, that I also got from Cycle Works.
–> STEERING HEAD INNER RACE PULLER – 1970-1995 AIRHEADS
The dust cup under the bearing usually gets damaged when I remove the tool, so I get a new one. I show that in the Parts list.
The lower bearing tool can also be used to install the lower inner bearing race, but I’ve had good luck freezing the bearing and it drops right on, as I mention in this document.
I hope this helps.
Very helpful information throughout. Much appreciated. One thing of note. According to the Cycle Works literature and instructions, the beveled washer as part of the outer race removal tool is oriented upside down in your video. The Cycle Works instructions clearly show in their illustration and dictate in their instructions that the bevel tapers inward at the bottom while yours tapers toward the top. Was this intentional and if so did you determine that the Cycle Works literature was incorrect?
Yes, I showed it backwards.
Even so, it worked and I suppose that’s what counts. In my case, when assembling the puller as you did, the lower plain nut bottomed out against the bottom side of the large top washer/nut assembly and I was forced to get creative to fully remove the race. I had no such issue on the lower race as it came out without necessary modification. I wasn’t however able to get the tool installed the “correct” way so I’m still a bit confused about the exact procedure.
Do you have a recommended torque setting for the castle nut? Or is it just snug tight?
If you mean part# 31 42 1 230 478, the cap nut that goes on the steering stem, it’s 80 FT-Lbs.
I followed these steps when tearing down and rebuilding the front-end on my 1984 R80 G/S. Everything seemingly went together correctly and I set my bearing tension for a “slow drop” from center. That said in the first 250 miles I have developed steering head bearing play multiple times. I have then removed the handlebars and acorn nut, reset the bearing adjustment and re-torqued all fasteners to spec. As each instance seems to draw the races/bearings deeper into the headstock I’m under the impression that the cycle works draw bar only pulled the races flush with the outer surface instead of into a recessed position. I can’t think of any other explanation for the continued movement and loosening of my steering bearing adjustment as acorn is not coming loose.
Perhaps it is time to consider the Toastertan upgrades. At any rate I’m presently puzzled and thought you might have some thoughts on this issue.
Indeed, it sounds like the outer bearing races were not driven all the way to the shoulder inside the steering stem. I visually look to be sure they are seated and if not, I drive them all the way.