Replace brake cables road bike

Replace brake cables road bike DEFAULT

How to maintain and replace your bike’s brake and gear cables

Never mind fancy electronic shifting and disc brakes – back in the real world that most of us inhabit, mechanical shifting and calliper rim brakes are still the most common gear and brake systems around.

They are also easier – and a fair bit cheaper – to service and replace and, if you look after your bike’s cables, these loyal workhorses should give you years of safe and efficient service.

However, cables do become worn, sticky and frayed with use (especially if you’re not too keen on cleaning your bike), and then it’s time to replace them.

This job is well within the capabilities of any amateur home mechanic – you just need some basic tools, new cables and ferrules and an hour of your time.

Tools you will need:

  • Cable cutter
  • Side cutter
  • File
  • Pointer/awl
  • Scissors
  • Hex keys

In this guide, we’ll cover how to maintain and replace your bike’s brake and gear cables. If you’d prefer to follow our video guides, scroll down to the bottom of this article.

What is a brake and gear cable?

Alex Evans

Brake and gear cables are formed of two parts – the inner and outer. This arrangement is known as a Bowden cable, to give its proper name.

  • A brake inner cable is a thick steel cable capped at one end with either a pear-shaped (road brake levers) or round (flat bar brake levers) nipple that slots into the brake lever.The outer is usually formed of a coiled steel core shrouded with a hard rubber or plastic cover.
  • A gear inner cable is a thinner steel cable that is capped at one end with a small cylindrical nipple.The outer cable is typically formed of a bundle of very thin cables that run as a continuous helix along the length of the housing. This is also coated in rubber or plastic.

Brake and gear cables are absolutely not interchangeable with each other. It should go without saying but to use a thin gear cable for a brake could have disastrous consequences.

How to replace bike brake cables

Step 1. Remove brake cable

We’re going to start with brake cables. The first job is to remove your existing brake cables.

Back off the cable adjusters on the calipers (turn the barrel adjuster clockwise) and undo the cable retention bolt at the caliper and cut off the cable end. If your bike uses V-brakes or another cantilever brake, there almost certainly won’t be a barrel adjuster.

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Once the inner has been released, feed the cable back into the outer. Pull the brake lever so the cable can ‘escape’ and pull the cable through the lever. On most flat bar levers, you will need to unhook the cable end from a hinged slot.

A small screwdriver may help free the end of the cable from its mount within the lever. You can then pull the cable through the top of the lever.

Step 2. Replace the housing

If the cable housing is visibly worn or you suspect it might be contaminated with dirt, you may want to replace it.

The proliferation of internally-routed cables (ie, the cables run inside the frame or handlebars) can complicate things here so, to keep things simple, we’re going to assume you have externally-routed cables. We have a separate guide on how to route internal cables.

Jack Luke / Immediate Media

To replace external cables on a road bike, start by unwrapping the top half of the bar tape from the centre of the handlebar. Cut any tape holding the cable in place remove.

On flat bat bikes, you will only have to unhook the cable from the slotted barrel adjuster on the lever and from the frame.

Continue to each brake, unhooking cables from the stops as you go.

If you were satisfied with the quality of your braking before replacing the cables, retain the old outer and cut new sections to match.

Cutlass Velo

You will likely be left with a rough edge when cutting cables. It is good practice to file/grind these back to a smooth finish or, at minimum, trim off any ragged edges. This makes a significant difference to the feel of your braking.

Once the ends are finished, refit ferrules (usually metal for brake cables) to each end of the cable.

Step 3. Fit the new brake cable

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If using drop bars, start by slotting the cable into to lever. Then run the brake cable along the bar, taping it in place periodically.

Continue refitting cables to the frame and to the front bake. At this stage, pull the brake lever again and begin feeding the inner cable back through the lever body and into the cable.

Ensure any quick release is closed, thread inner through the cable-clamp slot and fasten roughly in place. Turn the cable adjuster one turn anti-clockwise.

At this stage, we recommend you check out our standalone guide on how to set up rim brakes.

How to replace bike gear cables

Step 1. Remove the gear cable

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The process for removing gear cables is largely the same as for brake cables.

However, to remove the inner, you will usually have to shift to the lowest gear to bring the carrier for the cable inline with the opening. This is sometimes hidden beneath a rubber bung or the hood of a lever.

Make sure you also back off adjustment on all cable adjusters – derailleurs, down-tube stop and shifters.

Undo the cable clamp at the derailleur and pull the cable out from the shifter.

If you want to replace the outer gear cable, follow the same advice as for brake cables.

Step 2. Remove the gear cable

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Gear cables are more sensitive to contamination than brake cables and, if dirty or sticky, this can adversely affect shifting performance.

If you think the outer is due a replacement, use the old outers as a cutting guide and follow the same advice for finishing the ends of the cable.

Note that Shimano now recommends the use of a special length of outer cable (OT-RS900) for the final part of the cable run from the frame to the rear derailleur on certain derailleurs.

Step 3. Fit the new gear cable

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Feed the new inner through the shifter lever, housing and first section of outer. Ensure the cable fits tight to the lever body and, if using drop bars, tape to the bar.

Feed inners through the stops, bottom bracket guides and outer cable. Check the ferrules are seated. Feed inners through the correct side of the mech clamps and tighten.

Step 4. Finishing touches

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It is essential to fit end caps to all cables. Trim all but roughly 3cm of inner cable protruding from cable clamps. Taking care not to splay the cable end, slide on an end cap. Crimp it gently with side cutters two or three times, and be careful not to slice through it.Never mind fancy electronic shifting and disc brakes – back in the real world that most of us inhabit, mechanical shifting and calliper rim brakes are still the most common gear and brake systems around.

They are also easier – and a fair bit cheaper – to service and replace and, if you look after your bike’s cables, these loyal workhorses should give you years of safe and efficient service.

However, cables do become worn, sticky and frayed with use (especially if you’re not too keen on cleaning your bike), and then it’s time to replace them.

This job is well within the capabilities of any amateur home mechanic – you just need some basic tools, new cables and ferrules and an hour of your time.

Tools you will need:

  • Cable cutter
  • Side cutter
  • File
  • Pointer/awl
  • Scissors
  • Hex keys

In this guide, we’ll cover how to maintain and replace your bike’s brake and gear cables. If you’d prefer to follow our video guides, scroll down to the bottom of this article.

What is a brake and gear cable?

Alex Evans

Brake and gear cables are formed of two parts – the inner and outer. This arrangement is known as a Bowden cable, to give its proper name.

  • A brake inner cable is a thick steel cable capped at one end with either a pear-shaped (road brake levers) or round (flat bar brake levers) nipple that slots into the brake lever.The outer is usually formed of a coiled steel core shrouded with a hard rubber or plastic cover.
  • A gear inner cable is a thinner steel cable that is capped at one end with a small cylindrical nipple.The outer cable is typically formed of a bundle of very thin cables that run as a continuous helix along the length of the housing. This is also coated in rubber or plastic.

Brake and gear cables are absolutely not interchangeable with each other. It should go without saying but to use a thin gear cable for a brake could have disastrous consequences.

How to replace bike brake cables

Step 1. Remove brake cable

Sours: https://www.bikeradar.com/advice/workshop/how-to-replace-brake-gear-cable/

Brake Housing & Cable Installation: Drop Bars

Jan 04, 2017 /Rim Brake Service and Repair/Disc Brake Service and Repair

This article will review housing and cable installation for drop bar brake levers.

1

Getting Started

The brake lever is connected to the brake caliper with the housing. The housing allows the cable to pass through it, going around the frame and down the fork.

There are certain housings that are appropriate for a brake system as well as certain cables. Never use the smaller shift housing as seen in the image below. This housing is not designed for the load of braking and may fail during use.

housing

In the middle example is traditional brake housing called “wound housing.” The plastic sheath has been cut away to show inside. It is very strong in the direction of the force of braking load at the cable . There are often a subtle line pattern showing through the plastic sheath.

The lower example is a woven or braided housing system. Inside is a similar system to the compressionless housing, but with a Kevlar fiber weave on the outside. It is a more expensive system, but it does provide good, rigid, high-performance brake housing.

2

Sizing Housing

Brake and gear housing allow the wire to be routed around bends and connects the levers to the frame stops. The less drag on the cables, the better the shifting and braking performance. Housing that is too short will kink and bind, creating even more friction. As a rule of thumb, try to size the housing so it is as short as possible but still enters the stops and barrel adjusters in a straight approach.

This brake housing is too long. It bends far past the housing stop and has to double back

This brake housing is too long. It bends far past the housing stop and has to double back

This brake housing is a good length. It arrives at the housing stop in a smooth arc

This brake housing is a good length. It arrives at the housing stop in a smooth arc

In the left image above, the housing bends immediately upon leaving the barrel adjuster. This can actually bend the housing end cap. The image to the right shows how longer housing in this case allows the housing to enter straight.

Remember the rider might rotate the bars up, they might flip the stem to get a little bit more height, so from ideal you may want to add just a little bit, but not so much that it creates a difficult path of travel for the brake cable.

3

Cut and Prep Housing

To cut the wound housing, use the diagonal cutters and reach to the end of the jaws there where there’s the most leverage. A little bit of flex opens up the coils and can help achieve a cleaner cut. Sometimes there will be a sharp burr. Use diagonal cutters to trim being careful not to let a piece of metal fly off.

Figure 12-11

If there’s still a closed end for our plastic liner, it can be opened up with a seal pick. It can now be lubricated with some oil. It is possible to also use a cable cutter, but these are really intended for multi-wire, not the single wire cuts.

Use a seal pick opening liner inside of housing

The braided or woven housing does use the cable cutter. Cut cut, hold the housing square to the tool, and squeeze.

Figure 9-4

After cutting, the housing may flatten a bit. Use these to CN-10 crimpers to open up the end. Use a seal pick if it’s necessary to open up the inner liner.

Use the crimper part of the tool to round the housing

Because of the design of the housing wire, it is not always possible to get a flat, clean cut. It is best to finish any burr with a file. Lightly grinding the end will also improve the housing and reduce friction. NOTE: Compressionless housing does not require finishing.

If there is a burr or sharp end, it can be filed out. When possible, use axle vise such as the AV-5. Use the 5 millimeter opening, have the housing barely stick up and gently snug down the vice. Trim up the burr, and make a nice smooth, level, flat end out of our wound housing.

Figure 12-12

Lubricate inside the liner to provide for the displacement of water.

Whenever an end cap can be used, it should be used. The end cap slides on our housing and provides a very nice end to go into our brake.

However, some models and some brands the end cap simply does not go in. The barrel adjuster a smaller diameter. Effectively the fitting it is its own end cap.

Housing end cap
4

Install Cable and Housing

Drop bar brake levers use the mushroom or teardrop end on a brake cable, not the disc or circular end. Cut off the correct end with cable cutters, and feed the cable through the brake lever into the cable anchor, out the back. Pull it through and make sure the head is properly engaged.

Engage cable end through brake lever

Next, install the housing, cut to length, into the lever body. The housing has stopped inside the body. Route the housing to the brake where a small hole in the barrel adjuster allows the cable to pass through, but it will stop the housing. Hold the housing where our handlebar tape would end and see if the housing is a good length.

Install housing over cable

Sours: https://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help/brake-housing-cable-installation-drop-bars
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Video: how to replace a brake cable on a road bike

Replacing a brake cable is an essential task to prevent lasting damage to the shifter. 

Shifting with worn or corroded cables will place additional strain on the shifter’s internal mechanism. A cable that splits while in situ can be extremely difficult to remove.

We caught up with Jon Hayes, mechanic at independent bike shop, Ride, for the latest in our series of video guides to bicycle maintenance.

Jon begins by cutting the end cap from the existing cable, and loosening the 5mm allen bolt that holds it in place.

Once the handlebar tape has been removed (see our video on wrapping bar tape here), cut through the PVC tape that holds the cable outer to the bar. Discard the outer if worn, and pull the inner from it for inspection.

Discard the worn inner, and feed its replacement through the lever. “Good quality cables will make a massive difference to how the whole system feels,” Jon says. He uses those from the original manufacturer.

Jon opts to use a new section of outer cable, as well as a new inner. He judges the length of the outer by holding it against the handlebar, and ensures he has enough to create a smooth curve to prevent unnecessary friction. Having judged the required length to the brake caliper’s adjustment barrel, he marks the outer with his finger nail, and trims it accordingly, using sharp cutters to avoid creating a ‘burr’ at the end of the outer.

He feeds the inner cable inside the outer casing and seats the newly-trimmed outer into the housing inside the STI lever. Jon cautions against pulling the inner cable roughly into place, which risks creating unnecessary kinks in the cable.

With the new cable in place, it’s time to add a wrap of PVC tape to hold the brake cable outer tight against the handlebar. “Just a couple of turns over is all it takes,” he advises.

He holds the brake pads against the wheel rim and tightens the pinch bolt before checking the function of the cable. Jon rectifies the short lever travel caused by having ‘unwound’ the barrel adjuster when removing the old cable by winding it back ‘in’.

“All that’s left to do now is cut the cable and cap the end,” says Jon, before doing just that, trimming the cable with sharp cutters and crimping the cap to hold it in place.

Sours: https://roadcyclinguk.com/how-to/maintenance/video-how-to-replace-a-brake-cable-on-a-road-bike.html
Replacing the brake cable on a road bike

What tools do I absolutely need to replace brake cables?

Well the first question is if they need replacing. You would be astounded that even an old rusted cable works fine after it has been oiled, freed and cleaned.New or old, they all need regular oiling to stay free.

Eventually the core strands break, usually at the cast lump, which is fatal. The core can also break a strand inside the sheath, which also means replacing the core. Replacing the core is easy.

Cracked/worn plastic on the sheath should be repaired since it is letting water in. Wrapping with stretched insulation tape works.

But no, you don't need special tools to replace or adjust.

Inner cable can be cut with heavy sidecutters, pliers, or cold chisel or grinding wheel on a drill/dremel. You cut it off AFTER it is installed and adjusted, and you wrap the strands or heatshrink before cutting.

Old square nose pliers have a shearing notch/grove in the hinge joint, separate from the wire cutter in the jaws, which is for exactly this.

enter image description here

Outer can be cut on a grindstone/drill/dremel, but you can also take the old ones to your bikeshop with you, and they will cut some exactly the same length.

Cables are hardened steel. Only use big, blunt cutters - never fine sidecutters or tools.

Sours: https://bicycles.stackexchange.com/questions/55732/what-tools-do-i-absolutely-need-to-replace-brake-cables

Bike replace road brake cables

No bike rider wants to be brought up short when the brake cable fails, so being in the know about what to look for and when equals preventative maintenance so that failure doesn’t happen.Bikes are certainly not complicated machines.  Or at least that’s what we all thought when first learning to ride a bike.  Maintenance wasn’t an issue, but complicated or not, bikes and the mechanisms that make them go do need regular care. 

Cables should be replaced when they are worn causing the bike functionality to react to that wear and tear.  This is every 2,000 to 3,000 miles. Specific damage to the cables or housing is also cause for replacement.

The bike needs to be safe in its working parts that make your biking adventures happen the way you expect for the way you ride.  Being safe includes identifying when your cables need replacing.  Below is information on recognizing why and when cable replacement is needed.

It’s Time for Bike Cable Replacement

Routine frequency of replacing cables varies among cyclists and bike mechanics, usually based on previous experience or range of miles or years.  The most common answers are:

  • Every 2,000-3,000 miles
  • Once a year
  • Every 2-3 years

Bottom line though is when there is evidence of wear, cables are replaced.  That goes for brake cables and shifter cables. Replacing the housing for both brake and shifter cables at the same time either is replaced is recommended to make replacement less complicated down the line.

Cables wear most often because of breakdowns, or microtears, in the cable filaments.  Some of the physical signs of cable wear are:

  • Fraying
  • Cracks in the cable
  • Discolorations

The Factors That Contribute to Bike Cable Replacement

You won’t have a good ride if your bike has cable issues. We all can guess that weather and environmental conditions, as well as road conditions, do affect the life of bike cables. For example, this should be obvious for those living in hot, sun-drenched climates: basically, your bike needs a sunscreen.  Sunlight damage is a factor in cables deteriorating, so store your bike inside.

If it’s not possible to keep your bike inside, having some sort of cover available will protect not only cables, but your paint job.  A cover will also help the buildup of rust due to rain and damp conditions.

A good indication that it’s time to replace cables is performance, it will suffer and you will know it! Some indications include?

  • Sluggishness in the brakes
  • Poor or jumping shifting
  • Reaction time has slowed down when braking, and
  • Damage to the cable connections, e.g., hitting a curb or rock,

These are all signs that it’s time to do that periodic check or full-on replacement of the cables.

When It’s Time to Shop for Cables

There are several product names you’ll hear most often when you get ready to replace the bike’s cables and housings. For both brake and shifter cables, you’ll hear and read recommendations for:

They each get high marks in all areas important to maintaining high performance, quality, and long wear.

Universal replacement kits are available instead of a separate, specific kit for each type of bike.  For example, mountain bike and road bike or mountain bike, road bike, and gravel bike.  Universal replacement kits may need some tweaking to make them truly universal.

Of course, there are less expensive brands out there.  Preferences and budgets differ.  Consider your investment in your bike and the performance and safety standards you expect when making your purchasing decision.

Do Bike Cables Stretch?

Cables do stretch and that factors into replacement.  Cables are made of either stainless or galvanized steel to withstand the tension of braking and metal will stretch.Shifting and braking are the actions that cause the stretching, so stretching isn’t preventable.

It’s preferable to look for “pre-stretched” in the product info when buying your bike because it would save a lot of time and hassle and cost for the do-it-yourselfers out there or for bike shop repairs.

How Long Do Bike Cables Last?

Bike cables last until performance isn’t what it should be.  How long cables last varies depending on MTB or road bike and conditions your bike is exposed to. It’s not uncommon for mountain bike cables to wear out and be replaced more often than a road bike’s cables.  Pay attention to the bike’s change in performance, do the periodic check, and you’ll get the good performance you expect.

There Are Differences in Bicycle Brakes

If you’re a dedicated cyclist, you will probably have a few different bikes in your backyard shed.  There might be a road bike, a mountain bike, and the latest bike of interest; the gravel bike.  And, each one has a brake cable system to be maintained.

Bikes and the Brakes They Come With

  • Road bike:  Most common are rim (caliper) brakes, but disc brakes are moving in.
  • Mountain bike:  Disc brakes
  • Gravel bike:  Disc brakes

With disc brakes as a possible choice for road bikes, there are points to consider.  For example, disc brakes are more expensive then rim brakes yet need less pressure for braking.  And, disc brakes are heavier than rim brakes but give a faster ride.

The choice for disc brakes is between mechanical and hydraulic.  The choice lies in your preference for the best ride and the easiest maintenance.  The support for hydraulic brakes among riders comes from the fact that cables on the mechanical disc brakes will stretch, but hydraulic fluid won’t.   

Road Bikes

We all know when you’re buying a road bike, you’re buying a bike to get you safely where you want to go on a paved road, not off-road adventure riding.  The brakes commonly used on road bikes are rim or caliper brakes.  It’s true, disc brakes are becoming more popular for use on the road bike, but there are still advantages to the rim breaks, including cheaper than disc brakes and easier to maintain.

Mountain Bikes

The mountain bike is formerly known as the “all terrain” bike. The mountain bike is designed to take on challenging mountain trails with:

  • Snow
  • Sand
  • Mud
  • Any other riding surface

Disc brakes are the standard for mountain bikes whether mechanical or hydraulic. They give better braking performance in all weather and road conditions than rim brakes especially on the steep climb and descent of more rugged mountain terrain.

Gravel Bikes

The gravel bike is a spin on the adventure bike of old.  It takes on the rougher gravel backroads but stills does the job of a road bike. Gravel bikes do use disc brakes.  Because disc brakes have been a staple on mountain bikes for many years, they are best for rough biking terrain, such as the graveled areas like wilderness roads and the old farm roads that would be a little hard to maneuver with the standard road bike.

Conclusion

As a bike owner, the time will come when your bike’s cables will need to be replaced.  How often isn’t necessarily a set time in months or years.  The signs will be in how your bike is responding to the demands you put on it and the eventual wear of its parts.  Or, you might decide preventive maintenance is the path for you and set a specific date to replace cables and housing. Scheduling regular checkups can prevent the surprise of a cable snapping.

Other articles you may find interesting:

Do Bike Brake Pads Get Old?

Sours: https://cyclingvitality.com/how-often-should-bike-cables-be-replaced/
How To Change Your Brake Cables

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