STEERING CLEAR OF DRAMA
Dear Mr. Know-It-All,
I think I have a touch of play in my steering stem. I can hear it click when I’m just rocking back and forth. My bike is a 2018 KTM 450XC. It has fewer than 30 hours and was never abused. Do you think I’m in need of new bearings and races?
Well, I must tell you, Mr. Bertram, 30 hours on a four-year-old machine means that your fabulously equipped, high-end off-road weapon sits a lot! I do not believe that the bearings need replacing, just a tightening of the belt so to speak. You need to add a few turns onto the steering head nut, which will remove the play that you feel. It’s important to do this in the proper order!
First, place your machine on a stand so the front wheel is off the ground. Next, loosen your top triple-clamp bolts and the top steering-stem pinch bolt and fit a 17mm box-end wrench to the steering stem nut to tighten. It’s not uncommon on a newer bike for this to loosen up as everything is settling in during break in.
Tighten the steering-stem nut, then turn the bars and feel if there’s excess drag. They should swing easily and not bind. Then, with someone holding the back of the machine down, grab the bottom of the fork and wiggle it, trying to feel movement in the steering head. If there is movement, tighten the stem nut a bit more.
Once there is no drag or movement through the steering head, tighten the triple-clamp bolts first, then the steering-stem nut, followed by the steering-stem pinch bolt.
Now go ride that sucker!