Upgrading Your Bike III: Cable Replacement

A few weeks ago we began a thread of posts looking at those incremental piecemeal changes which can be made to any bike and will enable a sustained improvement in both its performance and aesthetics. Taking a top down approach means that we’ve already looked at both bar tape/grips and the for ever subjective issue of saddle choice.  What then for week 3? 

While the matching of your beautiful new bar tape and your uber cool saddle have attracted a fair amount of attention this weeks upgrade is unlikely to gain so much as even a snif. The task in question is about as unglamorous as an upgrade can be, yet requires a good deal of focused attention to get right. In our humble opinion it is however one of the most important of incremental upgrades you can make. 

Bring on cable replacement. 

Your bikes cables graft away on your behalf ride after ride after ride, hour after hour, for ever stretching and wearing, forever being caked in the worst the weather can throw at them, for ever becoming a little less pleasant in appearance and a lot less efficient in their task. 

Why Bother?

The simple answer is that your cables face some of the most excessive wear on your whole bike and this has a big impact on their performance. Fail to invest in your cables and you increase the chances of them failing when you need them most; that is never a good thing. 

What Exactly Is Involved?

Replacing your cables is a little more complicated than it first sounds and should include the following.

  • Replacement inner cable; the inner steel cable stretches, corrodes, snags and proves an all round pain in the ass. 
  • Replacement outer cable (housing); less important but check those ends for signs of splitting or wear before you try to short cut. Either way now is a good time to remove the outer cable and give a good clean to the frame beneath.
  • Replacement Ferrules: covering the end of your cables and thus preventing snagging. If you’re paying for this job make sure the shop have replaced them. If you’re looking to add a little bling then remember you have multiple colour options. 
  • Replacement Noodles: Usually rubber and significantly prone to splitting. 
  • Replacement: V Pipe: We hardly ever see one which isn’t showing signs of corrosion.  
  • Lubrication: If you or your bike shop don’t do this bit then you’ll be repeating everything outlined above in the not too distant future.  

So Where’s The Upgrade?

Upgrades can be attained in many areas.

If upgrade means adding bling or maybe just a little intelligent coordination then remember most of the parts described are available in a variety of colours. Make sure that whatever colour you choose ties into your saddle and bar tape. 

Steel braided outer cable such as that manufactured by Hope will make a significant dent in your purse but look amazing and it last a whole lot longer. 

In terms of outer cabling (housing) most reputable bike shops will use something similar to Shimano’s SIS compassionless cable housing for your gear cables. 

Better quality inner cables are not only woven from a stronger steel but also include a Teflon coating helping to resist corosion and avoid snagging. 

NB: Be sure you know exactly what you’re getting if you’re paying to get the job done by someone else. 

How Much Will It Cost?

Well I’ve just done a quick (and slightly cheeky) ring around the big stores (sounds like Devon’s) and they’re quoting roughly £30 per pair. (YIKES!!!)


You’ll often save money by getting this job done as part of a bigger service. We'd include full cable replacement within any Silver or Winter Service

Always know the detail of exactly what you’re paying for before you agree to the works.

Be warned

Brake and Gear cabling are fundamentally different to each other, don’t get them confused. 

If you’re doing this upgrade yourself:

Be sure to use good clean tools. A bad cut will cause you endless headaches. 

Be sure to get your measurements exact.

Be sure to lubricate the work you have done.