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Discussion Starter #1
Let's talk about, someone school me on loose balls as they apply to steering head bearings.

Switched out the head bearings in my/my nephew's FZ a few weeks ago. Was a little surprised that I couldn't readily see the damage or wear to the old bearings as bad as it steered. Didn't spend much time looking at them though.

Picked up a bike today that I know has had an easy life. It steers like a friggin' dumptruck.

So is it an adjustment, lubrication thing? Or will a minute amount of wear make them notchy?

I've heard, read on here, that loose balls are actually superior to tapered bearings.

Theorizing to myself, I've come up with that if the races are cherry loose balls will take force equally well in all planes. Whereas caged bearings are something of a tradeoff. Is this the deal?
 

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I've read in many places that ball bearings are superior to tapered rollers for steering heads.......... not by a long shot.

If the steering head was a high speed load that needed to wind up fast

we'd be talking a different story

but the steering head is the most highly loaded point on a motorcycle

the speed is slow and the shock/impact loadings are very high

so the much larger load bearing area of tapereds make them ideal for steering heads and several other similar applications


even if they weren't much less of a pita to fool with
 

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Your problem could be an adjustment thing, or they could be stuffed. If it's lumpy but not terribly sloppy it's probably dented races. If it's just sloppy, try adjustment first.

Scott
 

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My Ducati 160 handled for shit, the bars always felt heavy and the front wheel wanted to flop over. Upon advice given here I took the forks off to find the steering head bearings were all broken up, grease gone, etc.

Replaced the bearing (be sure to put a white sheet under the bike so you can find the bearings that fall out) and it rode like a dream.

But, now the front end shakes when using the front brake hard, and the bearing probably need to be retightened. 200 miles in the spring giro must have loosened things up.

Jack
 

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I think that new properly adjusted balls work well within the load designs of a steering head. Unfortunately, that is not the case most of the time. Even on a bike that has had a known easy life, if the bearings were run loose at all, they will hammer dents in the races in very short order. If it was used in a straight line most of the time it will want to go straight after the steering head is tightened up and will be very notchy in turning. I would replace them with a set of tapered rollers.

Ken
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks for the replies.

It's just an academic question anyhow, try to learn something. When I get the chance I'll put in tapered bearings. It just surprised me how good the bearings that came out of the FZ looked compared to how badly it steered.
 

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did the FZR have loose balls?

seems even some of the UJM types did have loose balls even in the mid/late 80's but

I'm not aware of any late real motorcycles that are assembled these days with loose balls in the head stock
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Yes the 86-88 FZs(dunno about FZRs) did.

What's funny is that the bearings in my GT550 are hammered, with the front wheel off the ground moving the triple clamp feels like a ratchet. It's never caused any riding problem so I haven't gotten around to switching them out.

The FZs are damn near unridable with bearings that feel smoother checking them. I suppose it's the 16" front wheel.
 
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