There’s not many things more disconcerting than having play in your headset. That tiny knocking sound and slight movement in the bars can really put you off as you’re trying to psyche yourself up for a descent.
Thankfully fixing it is one of the easiest things you can do on a bike – you don’t even need any specialist tools, just a set of alan keys (or a torque wrench if you have one) will do.
The best way to check if you have play in your headset is to turn the bars until they are parallel to the top tube, pull the front brake and try and rock the handlebars, you should be able to feel the play quite easily.
To remove the play undo your stem bolts until the handlebar can rotate freely on the fork, nip up the top bolt using your finger and thumb until slack is out of the system and then re tighten your stem bolts (ensuring your handlebars are straight).
If there’s still play when you’ve done this you’ll want to wind in the top bolt a bit more, if the fork is binding and the bars are difficult to turn you’ll have to wind it out a little bit.
When you’re happy with the adjustment you can return to the trails confident that your headset is secure.