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How To Replace Bike Shifter and Brake Cables

Most mountain bike and road bike cables are easy to replace. Keep in mind that shifter cables and brake cables are different from each other. Shifter cables are thinner and brake cables a little thicker. They're not interchangeable.

 

How to Replace your Shifter Cables

  1. Mount the bike on a repair stand.

  2. Shift to the smallest cog in the rear (standard rear derailleur) or the largest (reverse-pull rear derailleur).

  3. Shift to the smallest chain ring up front.

  4. Cut off the cable ends using cable cutters or high-quality side cutters.

  5. Loosen the shifter cable anchor bolts and pull the cables out of the derailleurs. Reset the rear derailleur barrel adjuster and the shift lever barrel adjusters (turn them all the way in and back them out about two turns). This will give you a broader range for fine-tuning the shifting performance down the road.

  6. Pull the cables out of their housings and remove from the shifters. Most shifters have an access cover or a plug that needs to be removed, before you can pull the cable out of the shifter. Refer to the manufacturer’s website for more information on a specific shifter or call your local Spin Doctor.

  7. Remove the cable housings from the bike if convenient. Blow some WD-40 or Tri-Flow through the housings to remove dirt and grime. Clean the cable stops on the frame.

  8. Reinstall the cable housings. Insert new cables into the shifters and route them to each derailleur. Be sure to include cable-o's if your bike had them.

  9. Pull each cable tight using your fingers only and tighten the cable pinch bolts.

  10. Cut off the excess cable. Leave about two fingers width of extra cable. This will allow you to clean and reuse your old cables and have enough cable to re-crimp it.

  11. Install new cable ends and crimp them to prevent them from fraying. 

  12. Check the shifting performance and fine-adjust if needed.

 

How to Replace your Brake Cables

  1. Mount the bike on a repair stand.

  2. Reset the brake lever barrel adjusters, if your levers have them (turn them all the way in clockwise). This will slacken the cable and make it easier to disconnect from the brake calipers.

  3. Disconnect the brake cable from the caliper. Linear-pull brakes, cantilever brakes, U-brakes, dual-pivot brakes and mechanical disc brakes all have an anchor bolt that secures the cable onto the brake. Make a note of your particular setup before you remove the cable. Refer to the manufacturer’s website for more information on a specific brake or call your local Spin Doctor.

  4. Cut off the cable end using cable cutters or high-quality side cutters.

  5. Pull the cables out of their housings and remove from the brake lever. Align the slots on the barrel adjusters, if your levers have them. This will allow you to remove the cable from the lever easier. Road bike brake levers generally do not have brake barrel adjusters. The cable should pull right out of the lever.

  6. Remove the cable housings from the bike, if convenient. Blow some WD-40 or Tri-Flow through the housing to remove dirt and grime. Clean the cable stops on the frame.

  7. Reinstall cable housings. Insert cables into the brake levers and route them to each brake. Be sure to include cable-o's if your bike had them.

  8. Pull each cable tight using your fingers only and tighten the cable pinch bolt. Pull the brake lever hard to seat the cable and the housing.  Then loosen the bolt slightly and pull the brake lever to adjust the feel of the brake lever. Left and right brake lever should have identical feel. Retighten the bolt. 

  9. Cut off the excess cable. Leave about two fingers width of extra cable. This will allow you to clean and reuse your old cables and have enough cable to re-crimp it.

  10. Install new cable ends and crimp them to prevent them from fraying.

  11. Check braking performance and fine-adjust if needed.

 

By: Mikka A. Eerola
Performance Bicycle Store Associate

 

Bike Parts and Components