Free Shipping US Orders $99+

Cane Creek Logo

Integrated Headset
Installation Guide

For IS (Integrated) Headsets

Required Tools

  • Crown Race Installation Tools. Cane Creek crown races should be installed with Cane Creek Crown Race Installation Tools
  • Crown Race Setter
  • Star Nut Setter
  • Dead Blow Hammer
  • Metric Allen Wrenches (3mm-6mm are the most common for this installation)
  • Torx Head Wrenches
  • Grease

Recommendations and Warnings

Integrated headsets are compatible with Integrated Style head tubes (IS). There are molded integrated races that are a part of your bicycle’s head tube, and you simply rest the headset bearings onto these integrated races. See images to the right.

Ensure that you have the correct size headset for your bike’s head tube dimensions. If you are unsure, you can read our article, Everything You Need To Know About Headsets or you can ask your local bike shop.

Glossary of Terms

  • Preload Bolt – The bolt that passes through the top cap and threads into the fixed insert (star-nut or compression plug) inside the fork steerer tube.
  • Top Cap – The top cap is the cap that rests above the stem or upper spacer. It has a hole in the middle that the preload bolt goes through that allows you to tighten and secure (preload) the headset together.
  • Preload – To preload the headset simply means to apply load to the headset bearings in order to keep the system snug and secure. If the bearings are loose, the bearings and headset parts could wear prematurely.
  • Star Nut – A fixed insert that is installed inside the fork steerer tube. The star nut is what allows the headset components to be pulled into place inside the head tube.
  • Compression Plug – A compression plug is an expandable insert or wedge that is installed on the inside of carbon steerer tubes – this compression plug is what the preload bolt will thread into.
  • Upper Bearing Cover Assembly – Below the stem or spacers, there is a bearing cover assembly – a cover and seal for the upper bearing, and a split compression ring.
  • Compression Ring – The compression ring interfaces with the upper bearing and steerer tube, which helps keep the steerer tube centered in the headtube.
  • Steerer Tube – The steerer tube is the tube that is attached above the fork lowers or fork blades. The steerer tube goes through the head tube and headset and is what the handlebar stem clamps onto. 
  • Crown RaceThe crown race is an angled surface, or race, that interfaces with the bottom bearing.


Prep The Frame

  • Make sure the headtube is free from any debris, and wipe a layer of grease around the top and bottom races of the headtube where the bearings will rest.

Install The Crown Race

In some cases, your fork may have an integrated crown race, where no press-on crown race would be needed. Integrated crown race forks will have a molded race on the base of the steerer tube. If this is the case you can skip this step.

If you need to remove the old crown race, you should use a Crown Race removal tool. Park Tool makes a great Crown Race removal tool and they have detailed instructions on how you can remove your old crown race.

Integrated Crown Race

Integrated Crown Race

  • Make sure the fork’s crown race seat is free from any debris, and apply a layer of grease around the crown race seat.
  • Slide the crown race down to the fork’s crown race seat, and place the appropriate crown race installation tool on top of the crown race in the proper orientation.
  • Take the crown race setter and slider it over the fork steerer tube and place it on top of the crown race and crown race tool.  Make sure the crown race is sitting straight on the crown race seat.
  • Take the dead blow hammer and pound down on the crown race setter until your crown race sits flush with the base of your fork. Ensure there is no gap between the crown race and the bottom of the steerer tube.

Install The Star Nut (For Alloy Steerer Tube)

If your fork steerer tube is already cut to length, and has a star-nut or a compression plug installed inside, then you can skip this step.  If you need to cut your fork steerer tube to length, you can consult Park Tool’s Fork Steering Column Length And Sizing Guide

  • Take the star nut and line it up with the start nut setter tool to be installed in the steerer tube.
  • Take the dead blow hammer, and pound down the start nut setter tool until you can’t pound it down any further. Check the inside of the steerer tube to make sure the star nut went in straight.

Install The Compression Plug (For Carbon Steerer Tube)

If your fork steerer tube is already cut to length, and has a star-nut or a compression plug installed inside, then you can skip this step.  If you need to cut your fork steerer tube to length, you can consult Park Tool’s Fork Steering Column Length And Sizing Guide

  • Apply grease or carbon paste to the compression plug based on the manufacturer’s instructions. For the Cane Creek Ancora, use grease on the non knurled surfaces. (You do not need to apply carbon paste to Ancora’s knurled surface).
  • Insert the compression plug into the carbon steerer tube.
  • Thread the expansion bolt clockwise until the compression plug begins to get snug and stay in place.
  • If specified, torque the expansion bolt to the correct rate.

Install The Headset Bearings

  • Make sure the headset bearings are free from any debris, and apply a layer of grease around the entirety of both bearings. In general, it is good practice to apply grease to any surface that will contact any part of the bearings.
  • Drop the upper bearing onto the upper bearing race in the headtube, while making sure you place it in the right orientation.
  • Apply a thin layer of grease to the crown race contact surface. Take the lower bearing and slide it over the fork steerer tube and onto the crown race. Make sure the bearing is placed in the right orientation.
  • If the fork has an integrated crown race, apply grease to the integrated crown race surface and simply slide the bearing down to the base of the steerer tube. Make sure the bearing is placed in the right orientation. 

Install The Fork

Now that the lower bearing is ready to be installed, set the fork aside and get your upper bearing cover assembly, headset spacers, and handlebar stem within arm’s reach.

  • Take the fork with the lower bearing, and slide the steerer tube up through the lower headtube and upper headset bearing. Do not let go of the fork.
  • With your other hand, take the upper bearing cover assembly and slide it over the top of the steerer tube until it contacts the upper bearing. It helps to apply a thin layer of grease on the inside of the bearing cover assembly to get it to slide down easily.
  • Slide the spacers and stem over the steerer tube in your desired orientation. You must ensure, depending on your desired spacer and stem orientation, that your stem or upper spacer sit slightly taller than the length of the steerer tube – about 3-5mm.
  • Before letting go of the fork, tighten the steerer tube clamp bolts tight enough to keep the fork from falling to the floor.

Preload The Headset

  • Take the top cap, slide the preload bolt through it and prep the lower threads of the bolt with a little grease.
  • Hold onto the fork with one hand, and with the other hand loosen the stem clamp bolts you tightened earlier to keep the fork in place. Do not let go of the fork.
  • Take the top cap with the preload bolt and rest it on top of the upper spacer or stem and begin threading the bolt into the star nut or compression plug until everything starts to snug together and there is no lateral play that is easily detected.
  • Important! This bolt is the bolt that will adjust the amount of preload that is applied.
  • A good rule to practice is when you reach down to your handlebar spacers, then you should not be able to turn them easily by hand.
  • Line up the stem so the handlebars will point straight, and make sure to torque down the steerer tube clamp bolts according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

How Much Preload Should Be Applied?

  • There is not always an exact torque rating for the preload bolt, so it’s sometimes hard to know if you have applied enough preload.
  • If there is too much preload, then your handlebars will not turn easily. If your bike is in the repair stand with the front wheel positioned lower than the rear wheel, and you turn the handlebars to one side and they do not return to center on their own, there is too much preload
  • If there is not enough preload, then you will have play between the steerer tube and the headtube – you can check this by setting your bike on the ground, grabbing the front brake, and rocking the bike back and forth. If there is play, you should definitely feel it, and you can also visibly see the play in the gap between the bearing cover and the headtube when you rock the bike back and forth.

Sign Up To Get 15% Off Your First Order!


* indicates required
/ ( mm / dd )
What do you want to receive updates about?

Product Search

Reed Mann

Design Engineer
Name: Reed Mann
Position: Design Engineer
Year started: 2022
Best part of being a part of the Cane Creek family:  It’s very refreshing to work for a small, tight-knit company where we all share the same passions and to develop new products that make cycling better for everyone.
What you’ll find me doing on the weekends: Obviously riding bikes, but also wrenching on bikes or cars, exploring the mountains, and watching F1 races.
How I got here (at Cane Creek): Feeling pretty unfulfilled with a corporate engineering job, I happened to see that Cane Creek was hiring. I jumped at the opportunity to get my hands dirty working on the latest bike tech and was fortunate enough to be offered the position.