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Shifter Cables

jpack's picture

By jpack - Posted on 28 June 2010

Hey All,
I need to invest in some decent shifter cables. I have successfully destroyed an alligator "bullet proof" set, followed by an XTR set.

I run full length housing, but i find that the housing usually splits through the end caps. The housing fray at the ends.

What can you recommend for me?

PS- don't want to break the bank (Nokon is out of my price range)

Gore Ride On?
Avid Flak jacket? got bad reviews on MTBR


hawkeye's picture

Yep, it's a PITA. I change my outers several times a year. I use XTR.

Interesting about the Avids - I was thinking seriously about those.

BT's picture

I've never had that before. Why is it splitting? Maybe you need to suss that issue out rather than continually replacing the outers?

hawkeye's picture

It's not so much splitting than the plastic sheath over the wires shrinks back, exposing them..

I whinged about it at the place I bought from (CBD) and the head mechanic shrugged his shoulders and muttered darkly about crap quality and XTR outer was still the product pick unless you wanted to pay an arm and a leg.

I've dealt with it to some extent by scrounging metal end caps (where do you buy them from anyway?), but I have to say it's not ideal.

BT's picture

I'll check what mine are at lunch and let you know...

Brian's picture

I have used just the stuff off the roll from my lbs for both my bikes and never had an issue. I imagine its only XT or less.

muvro's picture

Yep, I just use the generic teflon lined stuff from a roll at LBS. I have noticed the slight shrink back of about 2-3mm of the plastic sheathing. But the plastic covers that go over the ends, that insert into the mechs cover it by a long shot, the outers onmy Norco have been there just under a year and are sweet.

Having said that, the rear shifter outer on my Rush has warn through the outer sheathing on the lower clamping point on the main frame (the last one before the cable goes into the trailing arm).

Supagav's picture

First question what dérailleur are you running? Because of the design of the shimano cable pull they dont tend to do so well with full length cables SRAM work a bit better for longer.

Running full length cable will always over time produce movement of the wire within the outer cable. When it is cut into shorter pieces it has end caps on each end thus helping to slow down the movement of the inner wires preventing fraying.

Cables are one of those things you just need to replace often no matter how you have them set up, at on of the 24 hr races I was supporting at one of the riders got 3 fresh sets of cables on there bike during the race. they are a consumable part. I put Nokon cables on a couple of bike recently and yes while they are not going to suffer from mud and dirt etc they will having the fraying issues either. For a cost of $65 or there abouts you will get some cables that will last a lot longer at the end of the day.....

BUT because Nokon is a full sealed system they still do not ever feel as good as a fresh set of XTR cables because of the extra friction within then system.

It all comes down to what you want really, Fit and forget I would say go with Nokon. Best possible feel and shifting but require maintenance go with XTR.

oh yeah one little tip, if running full cable always bend the cable into the position it sits on the bike (use cable tie to hold it) and then bend it a bit more BEFORE you cut the cable. this will help make sure you have a square contact patch between the inner wire of the housing and the endcaps.... generally fraying will start on the inner edge on the cable because it was not cut square relative to the endcap once installed on the bike.
cable tie it in place before to cut the cable

LadyToast's picture

As others have said, pay a visit to your LBS and ask them what they use. They are installing this stuff every day of the week, we are only reading reviews and installing what we know from past experience. My guess is they will suggest you get some Shimano outers, probably XTR or whatever the part number is. I use that with XTR "coated" inners and they last as long as expected. Not sure if the XTR inners are any better to be honest, they look like they should be, and they feel lush when new.

Do I think it's reasonable for a set of cables to last more than a year? Not at all... if you ride off road anyway. I would be happy to get 4 months.

As SuperGav says, just as important is how it's installed and making sure the ferules are installed proper like.

Hawkeye: CRC sell metal ferules -

Doesn't say what diameter they are though.

BT's picture

I just checked mine and there doesn't seem to be any marking on them so I assume it's just from the big roll down at the LBS. As I said previously I've never has any fraying ends though so I find that a bit strange. Fraying ends of the wire from impacts, yes, but split or fraying outer, no. I'm using an XT rapid rise RD if that makes any difference...

Slowpup's picture

KOM also sell the metal ferrules. Must be made of gold though at the $.......

Wow, I really need to ride more. I gauge I get a couple of years out of a set of cables off road. In fact the old bike had 4 years without replacing a cable, and no shifting issues. Shimano inners and outers on the good bikes, and odyssey linear slick brake cable outers on the shit bikes for shifter duty and v-brakes.

I am a bit anal with my bike cleaning Eye-wink

Just put new cables on the scummer, don't know what they were, they came with the groupset, but teflon coated SS inners, and light shifting.

Andy Bloot's picture

But I just got this Goodridge gear from CRC

I had a terrible time with cable from the LBS
They would last like a month before the individual strands of wire would start unraveling from the cable
And the outer was very poor quality in my opinion

The exposed cables run under the bottom tube which doesn't help

The Goodridge kit from CRC is a closed system
But the cable running under the bottom tube (previously exposed) is blue and relatively thin
This is relative to the main outer which can't be cut without proper cable cutters
This straight run down the tube is not an area requiring a bullet (rock?) proof outer
The ferrules are metal and the best quality

A clean and beautiful system

delicious's picture

Gav is spot on. Choose any Shimano system and replace it often.
As a guide, I ride about as much as the next bloke and replace all cables, inner and outer, about every six months or so. Those with cable operated brakes, then a good system to use is replace the cable and housing when you replace the pads.
Want longer life out of your equipment? Stay of the brakes and don't change gear so frequently! I mean it. Carry your speed. Why slow down? You're only going to have to speed up again anyway. Stay in a slightly taller gear and pedal harder...

jpack's picture

I was also looking at the goodridge set from CRC.
My front derailleur doesn't really suffer the same issues as the rear.

rear derailleur is XTR (not shadow). turramurra cyclery installed the cables that came off the roll, i think it was XTR according to them??

i found some metal end caps off an old bike, will trim the outer and try the metal end caps.

thanks all

pikey's picture

My tip.......stop using your belt sander to wash the dirt off your housing!

Anon Eye-wink

novomongoose's picture

I am surprised you have had bad results with the Alligator Bulletproof cables. Have used these quite regularly on several bikes and results have been generally good.

Am having some troubles now but this is due to the outer housing actually wearing through after 12 months of regular riding.

I have favoured using full cable housing but it is important to get the length pretty right as frame rubbing can result.


Supagav's picture

I doubt it very much,
I cant imagine many if any bike shops actually using XTR cable eg (code SP41) it costs an arm and a leg....
Some will use the M system cables(pre-greased) (I think they are brake only) while most will use basic cable.
Go check your cable and see what they actually put on the bike....

hawkeye's picture

When I buy from there it's a big roll that came out of an XTR box at one point, subsequent purchases the outer has been the same even though it was just on a spool. When new it has a white teflony grease inside.

And yes, not cheap.

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