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Handlebars Hard to Turn

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I have an 06 yz125 and when the bike is on a stand with the front wheel off the ground, the bars don't turn smoothly. It is the same way when riding it but i didn't even notice it until i rode my brother's bike, which is almost brand new. Does this mean that the steering stem nut is overtightened or are my bearings shot?

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Had a similar problem on my 03. Loosen the nut and see what happens. If it's still not moving normally then check the bearings. When we checked mine they weren't in that bad of shape so we just smothered them in lithium grease and shoved 'em back in. Come to think of it, I should probably get around to getting new ones by now...

This guide is pretty useful for suspension adjustment, but he also has a little blurb about steering adjustment that I really like:

With the proper amount of bearing tension (and a well serviced bearing set), the wheel will stay 1"-2" OFF OF CENTER BEFORE IT FALLS TO THE STOP. If the wheel won't stay centered on its own, the bearings are too loose. If the wheel stays more than 2" off of center, without falling to the stop, the head bearings are too tight.

This is a general guideline. Most riders prefer it this way. There is absolutely no bad handling traits associated with the head bearing tension, if they are set using this procedure.

Slightly loose bearings tend to make the bike want to headshake more while braking hard, and it makes the bike feel sloppy. Slightly tight bearings tend to make the steering darty, especially on the face of a jump. Both increase arm-pump!

http://forums.mxtrax.co.uk/showthread.php?t=261095

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Could be one or both. I bought my bike used and the steering felt still so I figured the bearings were probably roached or getting close. Pulled it apart, through some grease in the bearings and put it back together. Steering feels great now. I suspect whatever ratard wrenched on this bike cranked the steering stem nut down.

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As noted about, it's either the nut is too tight or the bearings need some TLC. I'd really be surprised if the bearings are shot and in need of replacement, but I totally do expect that they could use some cleaning and re-greasing.

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Common for the Yamaha's if you power wash constantly and are not careful around the steering stem area. I always repack that area when the bike is new but a friend of mine who sprays every inch of his bike has had two sets go (2007 and 2010 bikes). If you caught it before too much rust has built up you might be able to save everything but my guess is from previous experience you will need bearings/races if the turning is that notchy.

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Regrease them first. I got a bike from a guy that left it outside, uncovered for 2 years through heavy snow winters. The grease basically just got rinsed out. Repacked, good as new.

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Is it a big job to get these bearings out? do I have to take the steering column all apart?

you don't have to remove them but you do have to remove the top and bottom clamp. so basically the whole front end needs to come off the bike.

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