Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Tidying Up Cables: Why Bother?

During a ride a while back a friend approached me and asked about the cable routing on my Pias Peregrine. "Why do you have to make it so symmetrical? What's the fuss about it?" My answer at the time was, "Why not?"
Not a great answer, that is. But tidying up your cable routing, why bother?

For me, bicycle cables should be like a good one night stand: short, smooth, and don't be kinky. Although my wife wouldn't approve of this analogy (I love you, dear), there are a couple logical explanations regarding that matter.

One night stand. Made by Ikea.
Unless you're riding a brakeless bicycle, you're depending much on cables for your brakes and/or derailers. Simply switching to better inner cable and outer cable casing would greatly improve the feel of your ride. Left them neglected and you'll render your expensive groupset worthless when they cannot shift properly, or even more dangerous, you may have brake malfunction.

But even good inner cable and outer casing combo will do nothing if you didn't route them correctly. You see, to get better cable performance you must reduce the friction between the inner cable and outer cable casing. You can obtain this by lubing your cable, switching to inner cables and outer cable casing with friction-reducing coating, make the cable routing as short as possible without affecting other functions such as steering, or better yet, do all of them.

While shortening your cables, take note as not to create kinks or bends that will increase friction between your inner cable and outer casing, that may leads to premature cable wear. Every time I work on my builds, the cabling job is always done at the end, because any changes with the handlebar/shifter/brake lever position will affect the cable length measurement.

Before: crossed shifter cable routing, speed sensor cable wrapped around front brake hose.
Not tidy.
After: trimmed all the cables and hoses (including speed sensor cable),
tucked the sensor cable along with front brake hose. Yes, you can trim speed sensor cables, too.
Sometimes the frame cable stop is on the opposing side of owner's brake preference,
so cross-routing is allowed as long as you still keep it short.
Speaking of measurement, here's how I do it. After handlebar/shifter/brake lever position are fixed, I turned the handlebar 180 degrees on both directions, or until the dropbar touched the toptube. Unless you do barspins all the time, this position dictates the maximum length of the cables after exiting the shifter/brake lever before stopping at the frame. Make sure that the cable didn't kink too much at this point, if it happens it means that your outer casing was too short.

At the risk of being mocked by one and only Josh Estey, trimming your cables will also increase aerodynamic advantage and reduce weight off your bicycle, while at the same time giving your bicycle a neater appearance and letting people know that as a bicycle mechanic, you really know what you're doing.
Need more inspirations? Check out the #cablegasm tag on Instagram.

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