How to Install a Headset on a BMX Bike

Written by matthew ferguson
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How to Install a Headset on a BMX Bike
A headset attaches the steering to the BMX frame (bmx image by Claudio Calcagno from

What appears to be a single unit when still in its packaging, a BMX headset actually is composed of several individual parts. These parts include two sealed bearing cartridges, a crown race, wedge race, dust cap, top cap and compression bolt. Once installed on the bike, these parts are distributed over the length of the steering column, allowing for the attachment of the fork and handlebar stem to the bicycle while also permitting them to swivel independently of the frame.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Bicycle grease
  • Allen wrench

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  1. 1

    Place a greased bearing cartridge from the headset at each end of the headtube of the BMX bike frame. Each end of the headtube contains a built-in cup, or shelf, which allows for the placement of these cartridges. Make sure the bevelled edge of each cartridge is facing into the frame.

  2. 2

    Lower the crown race over the fork tube. The crown race will be an enclosed aluminium disk with a bevelled edge. Once installed, the race will sit flush against the crown, or top of the fork, with the bevelled edge facing up. If your fork features a built-in crown race, disregard this step.

  3. 3

    Pass the tube of the fork through the headtube of the BMX frame. The fork and headtube should mesh perfectly.

  4. 4

    Install the upper wedge race. This race resembles the crown race, except it will be open-ended. Once installed, the bevelled edge will face down toward the headtube.

  5. 5

    Place the plastic dust cap over the wedge race. The dust cap is cone-shaped. The cone will point up.

  6. 6

    Place any necessary spacers over the dust cap. These spacers will take up any excess space between the dust cap and handlebar stem.

  7. 7

    Loosen the handlebar stem clamp bolts on either side of the handlebar stem with the Allen wrench. Once installed, the bottom of the stem will be resting on your top spacer. With the spacers in place, there should no more than 2 to 3mm of space between the top of your stem and the top of the fork tube.

  8. 8

    Place the top cap and its compression bolt on top of the stem and fork tube. Align the stem with the front wheel and tighten the compression bolt with your Allen wrench.

  9. 9

    Check that the steering turns without binding. If the steering binds, loosen your compression bolt adjustment, and recheck.

  10. 10

    Tighten both the stem clamp bolts once you have finished adjusting your compression bolt.

Tips and warnings

  • BMX stem clamp bolts normally require a 6mm Allen wrench, but some models do not. Check your bolts beforehand to determine the right size wrench.

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