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Preemptively replace brake/shifters cables?

Old 06-18-21, 07:43 AM
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gauvins
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Preemptively replace brake/shifters cables?

Just about to leave for a tour that'll take me to places where servicing a bike is not possible. I'll replace the (rim) brake pads, cassette and chain; tires are in good shape. The bike is sturdy and components are still in reasonable shape (XT with less than 20 000 kms).

I really don't feel like replacing brakes and shifters cables, but there's this saying about better be sorry than OCD (or is it "better safe than sorry" ...).

One argument is that if you see that a cable is beginning to fray, replace it. Another is that fraying may occur in places that you don't see, or casing may wear out, and cables should be replaced at some interval (I read somewhere 10 000kms (!?))

What's the word here?
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Old 06-18-21, 08:02 AM
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Salut, it's not an easy answer, but depends on the bike, ie the shifter types, is the bike left out in the rain a lot, how many years, kilometers ridden, fully covered cables (my troll has full length housings)

so no easy answer, plus doing it RIGHT before a trip isn't a god idea either, as things may loosen etc, or if you made a mistake. I once changed a fd cable on one of my kids bike, and soon after it frayed and broke, I had made a mistake putting it through the fd.....

so yes, it's a good idea, but also depends on if you've done this before and know how to deal with an issue on the trail.

re shifters, sti shifters bend the cable more near the paddle area, so more chances of fraying. Trigger shifters are a lot better in general, but it depends on how long they've been there.

If you were here, I'd invite you over to change them all, but I guess try to judge the kms they have on them and carefully inspect both ends for rust, fraying.
your shifters may be the ones that you remove a cover and can see the condition of the end near the little ball thing , that usually where they fray and get weak.
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Old 06-18-21, 11:22 AM
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I worked in a bike shop, I built up most of my bikes from parts. I keep an eye on things so I rarely am surprised by a mechanical problem. And a frayed cable, I replace pretty soon after I see that.

On a tour I bring a spare brake cable, spare gear cable, a roll of electrical tape, a few nuts and bolts, etc.

I have had two cables go bad in the past decade and a half. One cable I replaced when there were a few strands left. The second cable (rear derailleur) snapped after four years, and that surprised me. The one that snapped looked like it was galvanized. And it was a bar end shifter so sweat on my hand could easily get to the cable. I really thought that all of my shifter cables were stainless, but somehow a non-stainless cable got into the mix. The snapped corroded cable, below:




I had a cable ferrule go bad on a brake cable on my last tour. The metal part of the brake cable housing shoved through the ferrule, that created a high friction point in my brake cable.



I have one or two broken strands right now at my front derailleur on my rando bike. Will replace that pretty soon.

Based on the above, I would say that if your cables look good and you do not have any weird looking cable ferrules, you are probably good to go. But I assume you are bringing a spare brake and shifter cable. My spares are not pre-cut to length (except on my Rohloff shifter cable is cut to length), so if I replace a cable I will need my roll of electrical tape or something else to keep the excess cable out of the way.

I know a guy that replaces his cables every year, but he rides a lot and does a lot of posting of his rides on strava, mostly for bragging purposes, bought a new set of carbon wheels a couple months ago. If you want a bike that is maintained like a pro bike racer, I would say set up a schedule to replace all your cables but otherwise I do not see any great need for that.

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Old 06-18-21, 12:57 PM
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Pre-trip inspection should include complete cable inspection. Push the cable ends out of the shifters and brake levers. And as mentioned, pull the ferrules and inspect the cut housing ends. Run each piece of housing over the cable, check for friction. Add a drop of light oil. If there's no sign of fraying, corrosion, or kinking, don't replace.

And you don't have to remove or even loosen the cable for the above. Shift into the tightest cable position (usually low in rear, high in front) while pedaling, stop pedaling, then shift into the loosest position. This should give enough slack to remove one piece of housing from a slotted frame stop, if your bike is so equipped.

And if your tour is quite extended, you can easily repeat that inspection in the field if you get to a place that sells bike parts. No tools needed.

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Old 06-18-21, 04:08 PM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
Shift into the tightest cable position (usually low in rear, high in front) while pedaling, stop pedaling, then shift into the loosest position. This should give enough slack to remove one piece of housing from a slotted frame stop, if your bike is so equipped.
Interesting tip. Thanks
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Old 06-18-21, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
And you don't have to remove or even loosen the cable for the above. Shift into the tightest cable position (usually low in rear, high in front) while pedaling, stop pedaling, then shift into the loosest position. This should give enough slack to remove one piece of housing from a slotted frame stop, if your bike is so equipped.

And if your tour is quite extended, you can easily repeat that inspection in the field if you get to a place that sells bike parts. No tools needed.
ya, thanks also for that tip.
I'm going to have to try it.

funnily enough, last week I fixed a friends bike where the plastic ferrule had disappeared (I suspect bars were twisted and yanked cable and smashed the plastic) and so the fd housinghad been pulled through the frame stop, schmusing the end all up. Luckily there was enough extra housing to cut off a cm and it was fine.
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Old 06-18-21, 08:59 PM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
ya, thanks also for that tip.
I'm going to have to try it.

funnily enough, last week I fixed a friends bike where the plastic ferrule had disappeared (I suspect bars were twisted and yanked cable and smashed the plastic) and so the fd housinghad been pulled through the frame stop, schmusing the end all up. Luckily there was enough extra housing to cut off a cm and it was fine.
Just passing the tip on. You're welcome.

The non-profit shop where I volunteer just got a shipment of aluminum 4 mm shift cable ferrules. That's nice for a change. I suppose the steel housing wires will still poke through those, but they should last a bit longer.
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Old 06-18-21, 09:12 PM
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It depends on a lot of factors but if you have plenty of time to ride the bike and readjust as needed and make sure everything is as close to 100% as possible do it. If you haven't replaced stuff in a while it is not a bad idea to replace stuff especially for a long tour. However again you need time to ride the bike if you are replacing. Nothing worse than setting off on a long trip and you have fresh stuff and it isn't properly adjusted or settles in during the ride and your shifting is off and just gets worse and something bad happens and yada yada.

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Old 06-19-21, 06:17 AM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
...
funnily enough, last week I fixed a friends bike where the plastic ferrule had disappeared (I suspect bars were twisted and yanked cable and smashed the plastic) and so the fd housinghad been pulled through the frame stop, schmusing the end all up. Luckily there was enough extra housing to cut off a cm and it was fine.
A friend of mine could not keep his derailleur in adjustment on GAP and C&O, same thing, his ferrule was gone and the end of his shifter outer cable was ... not sure of the correct word here, fraying or exploding or something like that. The bike shop that runs the bunkhouse fixed it.
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Old 06-19-21, 06:44 AM
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Gauvins, have you ever changed cables and housings? Do you have a cable and housing cutter? This tool is actually one tool that I really really appreciate buying a good one, just because it makes these jobs go so much easier.
You also want a file, and some sort of awl, a pointy comes to a sharp,narrow end tool. Really handy after you cut housing to open up the squished bits inside.

my park tool cable housing cutter wasn't cheap, but has paid for itself many times by not paying a mechanic to do this sort of work.

also, in my experience, after changing a rd cable, after riding for a while, days, weeks, it usually just needs a tiny barrel adjuster turn to correct for cable and housing "settling" in.
but does help if you are good at recognizing and making the pretty simple adjustment.
If everything is properly tightened, it will usually go years and years never having to be adjusted again.
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Old 06-19-21, 07:21 AM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
Gauvins, have you ever changed cables and housings? Do you have a cable and housing cutter? This tool is actually one tool that I really really appreciate buying a good one, just because it makes these jobs go so much easier.
You also want a file, and some sort of awl, ....
My Sram cable cutter has an awl built in at the end of the handle. It is the only cable cutter I have used in decades, so can't comment on others. But the Sram works great.

I also keep a small bottle of cable ferrules, both 4mm and 5mm.
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Old 06-19-21, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by djb View Post
Gauvins, have you ever changed cables and housings? Do you have a cable and housing cutter?
Yes, and yes. And I have plenty of spares as well. I "think" I've decided to carry spares with me (there's no point changing cables that are working perfectly after all).
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Old 06-19-21, 10:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
My Sram cable cutter has an awl built in at the end of the handle. It is the only cable cutter I have used in decades, so can't comment on others. But the Sram works great.

I also keep a small bottle of cable ferrules, both 4mm and 5mm.
It is the same one as the Jagwire Pro Housing cutter just FYI in case you are interested in the tool but can't find the SRAM version or vice versa. I have one in the box because the awl is quite nice,
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Old 06-19-21, 11:07 AM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
Yes, and yes. And I have plenty of spares as well. I "think" I've decided to carry spares with me (there's no point changing cables that are working perfectly after all).
I have a set of xt 9 spd trigger shifters that used to be on my troll, but they've been off so many years I can't remember if it's easy to do a visual check of the end bit of the cable.
I'm really curious to try that trick the fellow mentioned.

it's funny how some shifter designs will not bend or overly force a cable, and cables will stay in great shape for years and years.
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Old 06-19-21, 11:11 PM
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it's cheap, it's easy, it's fast, it's foolproof. if it makes you feel better to know you've got fresh cables on tour, go for it.

but remember, new cables will "stretch" and need adjusting once or twice soon after replacement, so plan accordingly.

and if you inspect and decide cables/housings are all good, you still should take a spare of each type cable....long enough for the rear mechanism. if your spares are "universal" type with thingies at both ends, remember to cut the correct end off BEFORE you leave......
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Old 06-20-21, 07:06 AM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
it's cheap, it's easy, it's fast, it's foolproof. if it makes you feel better to know you've got fresh cables on tour, go for it.

but remember, new cables will "stretch" and need adjusting once or twice soon after replacement, so plan accordingly.

and if you inspect and decide cables/housings are all good, you still should take a spare of each type cable....long enough for the rear mechanism. if your spares are "universal" type with thingies at both ends, remember to cut the correct end off BEFORE you leave......
holy doodles, you know it's been a while since I've thought of this, but you know what, I think I've mostly forgotten about this aspect, and just chucked a spare in my stuff as is.

thanks for the reminder
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Old 06-20-21, 09:00 AM
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Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
And you don't have to remove or even loosen the cable for the above. Shift into the tightest cable position (usually low in rear, high in front) while pedaling, stop pedaling, then shift into the loosest position. This should give enough slack to remove one piece of housing from a slotted frame stop, if your bike is so equipped.
Visual version on a mountain bike but the concept is the same. Shift into the lowest gear on the back (highest cable tension)

Library - 3391 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

And the highest gear on the front

IMG_1153 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

Upshift on the back and downshift on the front without pedaling.

Library - 3392 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

Now you can pull the cable out of the stops

Library - 3394 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

Although not shown, you can even pull the ferrules off to inspect the end of the housing.

Library - 3395 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

You can also pull the cable housing away from the shifter and push inner cable out of the end of the shifter to inspect it. You canít Inspect the ends of the housing under the tape, however.


Library - 3396 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

This method can also be used to grease cables if they get sticky. Just put a bit of grease between your thumb and forefinger then slide it up and down the cable. When you are done lubricating and inspecting, just remember to shift everything back to where it was.
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Old 06-20-21, 11:01 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Visual version on a mountain bike but the concept is the same. Shift into the lowest gear on the back (highest cable tension)

Library - 3391 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

And the highest gear on the front

IMG_1153 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

Upshift on the back and downshift on the front without pedaling.

Library - 3392 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

Now you can pull the cable out of the stops

Library - 3394 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

Although not shown, you can even pull the ferrules off to inspect the end of the housing.

Library - 3395 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

You can also pull the cable housing away from the shifter and push inner cable out of the end of the shifter to inspect it. You canít Inspect the ends of the housing under the tape, however.


Library - 3396 by Stuart Black, on Flickr

This method can also be used to grease cables if they get sticky. Just put a bit of grease between your thumb and forefinger then slide it up and down the cable. When you are done lubricating and inspecting, just remember to shift everything back to where it was.
again, thanks to both of you for the tips, the visuals, and the desticky trick.
a neighbors bike is being finicky in a few gears and I did the basics, cleaning up crud and triflowing the fd pivot points, but the damn bike has internal cabling and I don't feel like screwing around with a pain in the keester recabling job, so will try this trick Stuart.
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Old 06-20-21, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
... if your spares are "universal" type with thingies at both ends, remember to cut the correct end off BEFORE you leave......
This being the touring forum, probably almost everybody uses Shimano pattern cables for shifter or brake. But for the rare few out there that have Campy brifters, the cable ends are different for Campy than they are for Shimano. You really do not want to put a Shimano pattern cable end into a Campy brifter. Some manufacturers are referring to the Shimano pattern as universal but their "universal" cable in a Campy brifter could be quite troublesome.

I just did a google search for an image, found this graphic for cable ends:
https://www.bikeman.com/bicycle-repa...bles-a-housing

Interesting that my rando bike that has a Huret friction downtube shifter for front derailleur has yet another cable type not shown on that graphic.
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Old 06-20-21, 01:09 PM
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FWIW -- spent the morning replacing cables. Upon inspection, the front derailleur cable was starting to fray under the bottom bracket, and the front brake cable had something of a kink. Reading about maintenance schedules, it seems that (1) the recommended interval is once a year; and (2) cables have been known to rupture even though they didn't show obvious wear signs.

Oh, well.... Fresh cables make me feel good

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Old 06-20-21, 07:44 PM
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Cool. How long until you leave?
hopefully you can do a bunch of rides and make sure all is well.
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Old 06-21-21, 08:31 AM
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I've done my own cables & treated myself to having a pro do some as well. regardless, new cables offer significant peace of mind, especially if one can't remember the last time a bike's cables were done. also new cables & housings can provide better performance. I wouldn't change them immediately before a long ride because I have had to make adjustments over the duration of several rides to get them just right. another reason for having a pro do them
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Old 06-21-21, 09:06 AM
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@djb planning to leave this week. Won't have time to ride extensively, but (1) brakes work better; (2) after a couple of tweaks, FD works like a charm; (3) RD, not sure yet, but minor adjustments can easily be done while riding by turning the tension knob (or whatever this thing is called.
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Old 06-21-21, 08:26 PM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
@djb planning to leave this week. Won't have time to ride extensively, but (1) brakes work better; (2) after a couple of tweaks, FD works like a charm; (3) RD, not sure yet, but minor adjustments can easily be done while riding by turning the tension knob (or whatever this thing is called.
a while after I put the Jones bars on one of my bikes a few weeks ago, I had to do a quarter turn for the rd and that was it.
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Old 06-22-21, 04:54 AM
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Originally Posted by gauvins View Post
... Reading about maintenance schedules, it seems that (1) the recommended interval is once a year; ...
I can see that for a high distance rider that predominantly rides one bike. I have several bikes, other than bike tours none of my bikes get the majority of the distance that I ride.

I probably replace one cable a year when I see one starting to fray. Or like the rare event like a few months ago when a cable snapped while I am riding. I probably replace more chains than cables.
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