How dead is this fork/is the frame a write-off?

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  • Acquired a beautiful Bob J frame from @Pancake a year and a bit ago, and have been riding it daily ever since. Recently decided to take it to Paris (23mm front clearance was not happy) and it thankfully survived the trip.. all the way until we hit our destination. Literally 2.5km out from the Eiffel I ran into a pothole a riding buddy pointed out too late, and while comforting myself that the tires seemed to have held up, soon noticed the steering felt funny. A couple more cobblestoned streets later and I noticed a noticeable rocking in the cockpit, and sure enough it seemed like the headset was off at a cant. Unscrewed the headset and tried to hand tighten it, and quickly found out it (and the locknut) had stopped being able to tighten up.

    My suspicion is that the pothole knocked it off-centre and the subsequent riding around Paris jarred the bike enough to screw up my headset threads.. but that seems like a best case scenario, where I only need to replace the headset and call it a day.

    The worst case is that the fork threads themselves are dead.. there is loads of debris I’m seeing but they don’t look too stripped to me (I hear the flat part is normal); does anyone have any idea whether this fork has become unusable? I’m also scared the pothole might have knocked the steerer tube off centre but don’t know how to check this.

    If the fork is gone, I’m highly doubting I’m going to find another Reynolds 753 fork and definitely not in this paint scheme; what would people recommend as a replacement - should I chuck on a 531 and call it a day? Will need 13cm of steerer; how do people find replacement threaded forks given the massive disparity in fork tube lengths? Do I just write the frame off if I can’t find a matching fork? Was always meaning to swap the fork so I could run wider tires, but this wasn’t how I wanted it to end!

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  • Yes those threads look goosed. New fork and headset time.

    If you’re looking for a fork on eBay etc then the decent listings will say something like “150mm steerer with 50mm of thread”, if your steerer is say, 140mm and you can figure out that you are only using the top 40mm off thread then you can get that fork and chop 10mm off the steerer and be fine. You could also just add a 10mm spacer between the cup and locknut.

    Steerer cutting is best done with either a thread on guide or screw a (preferably steel) headset cup/lockring down the steerer first so it cleans the thread up as you take it back off after cutting.

  • I dunno, they’re full of shite but they don’t look damaged. Ideally I’d get the fork to either a LBS which would be able to check the alignment on the fork (I’m not sure that exists any more) or to a frame builder to check.

    Take the lock nut off and let’s see the threads on that.

    The flat part is normal, you’re right.

  • I bought a bike like this before, turned out the headset threads had stripped. Clean the fork threads up and try a different locknut. May find it will fix it. You don’t really want any grease on those threads, just a small amount, not the amount currently on there.

  • Thanks all for the really helpful comments. Am really hoping the fork isn’t dead because I’d think it’s an integral part of the frame! I’ve heard that rethreading the fork with brass is also a solution..?

    More pictures as requested; interestingly I think the locknut cap seems to still screw down fine (without the headset) and it’s just the main headset that is the problem? Which makes me now wonder if the steerer is too short because the locknut doesn’t go all the way down. Am fairly sure the main headset threads are stripped because the headset turns freely on the fork..

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  • And a few more - last one shows the headset on at a wonk, which was how I found it post-pothole..

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  • The fork threads certainly do look flattened off on the peaks. I'd see if someone can run a die over them to freshen them up, then I'd replace the headset and see how you get on

  • It looks like a headset has been put on cross threaded at some point and chomped up the threads.

    You can get it covered in braze and the threads re cut. Would be the best way to save the fork for sure. As a quick home effort you could get an old steel headset and try to clean up the threads with that as a makeshift die, so long as you can get it to screw on straight and true.

    As the Campagnolo headset is aluminium you could clean the threads by running them up and down another steel fork with a good thread. Just clean all the dirt off the threads first so it doesn’t bind up on anything.

    You probably know this already but you need to lubricate the thread with some oil and wind one turn and wind it back and just go bit by bit to keep it from binding up on any swarf.

  • 2nd this.

    And if it doesn't solve you problem, take your fork to a decent frame builder and they van certainly fix it. Worst case they'll have to braze a new steerer tube in.

  • Thanks again for all the kind advice! If that doesn't solve my problem.. who would be a decent frame builder in London who won't be charging me the cost of the frame to fix the fork threads?

    Also, @Dogtemple it feels like the campag headset is completely not biting on the fork threads, would cleaning the threads make any difference? Completely didn't realise that there was a way to put a headset on other than 'screw it down' so thank you for that advice as well!

  • I think there is a mixture of both the fork threads and headset threads being a bit chewed up and therefore not seating in the thread properly.

    If you can get the grot out of it all and try getting the headset to seat in the threads correctly, you may have a chance of saving it. Would be worth a go, I personally really like those headsets on an old steel frame so think it’s worth the effort.

    If you’re happy to send to a frame builder to redo the threads, you may well be able to use the headset again, and if not you may only need a new locknut to make it usable.

    Don’t worry too much about it all. It’s totally fixable. Just get it thoroughly clean and have a go at carefully fixing it yourself first.

  • Ah - it feels like both the threads have been flattened to the extent that they now slide past each other, so even when I've 'screwed' the headset down one knock and it comes loose. Have gone over the threads with degreaser and a rag, will probably have to leave the headset parts soaking for a bit; still trying to avoid having to remove the whole fork and soak that too but am beginning to think I have no choice..

    Any recommendations re. affordable frame builders in London?

  • Varonha frameworks is the go to for repairs

  • So I've found an old steel headset and ascertained that it will screw onto my fork, and that my current headset will screw onto an undamaged fork.. but there is not enough thread on my fork and my headset for either of them to engage with each other. It also appears that the bottom few threads of my top locknut are not engaging on the fork either.

    On the basis that another headset will screw down on my fork fine, would it be safe to swap out just the headset cup and locknut, notwithstanding the fact that my fork threads seem to have been worn down?

  • Even if a less worn out headset (or one with slightly different manufacturing tolerances) screws onto your steerer, the steerer threads do look tired as others have pointed out. That headset may also slip under stress / shock at some point, and you may not be able to tight it properly to start with.
    If you're London based, Winston @ Varonha can sort out your forks (unless there's more damage other than the threads, though it doesn't seem the case), he's reasonable cost wise, and will do a great job. If you're after greater clearance you can also discuss whether your current forks can be modified and look into improving clearance at your frame's rear triangle if needed.
    Looks like a nice frame worth keeping...

  • Also your Parisian misfortune on the cobbles gives it great history!

  • Sent you a PM, but on reflection - you can have this fork for nought if you gonna need a replacement, although IMO your is easily salvageable.

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  • Have popped by Vahrona to see if that can be sorted but many thanks for the very kind generosity!

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How dead is this fork/is the frame a write-off?

Posted by Avatar for youClown @youClown