La Vie Velominatus: Cable Obsession

Cable organization perfection: resistance is futile..
Cable organization perfection: resistance is futile.

I’m fluent in three languages: Dutch, English, and Hyperbole. The third is an acquired talent developed by creative and narcissistic tendencies; the narcissism feeds a belief that normal words can’t properly describe the magnitude of my experiences, and the creativity struggles to cope with restrictive paradigms like “facts” and “reality”. I have also been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder which, when taken with everything else, suggests that my darling partner exhibits some questionable judgement.

I have a visceral response to clutter; when I see things out of order, my insides turn about themselves and cause me physical discomfort. If the clutter escalates to becoming a “mess”, my mood changes and I become irritable. This applies to everything from our house, my workshop, my office, desk space, my computer desktop, my briefcase, and my bicycles’ cable organization. I don’t have to tell you that the last one is the only one that really matters.

The tidiness of the cables on a bicycle are one of several key factors that elevate the Velominatus above the Common Cyclist. The old style of STI shifters and their protruding cables were barbaric; they represented a principle reason for my dislike of Shimano’s system. Campagnolo took a few extra years to produce the Ergo shifters, and I am quite convinced they spent that extra time sorting out how to internally route the cables.

The organization of a rider’s cables and the length to which they are trimmed is a critical detail to which we must all pay close attention. No matter how beautiful the bike, disheveled cables will always bring it down. I hereby give you the V Principles of Cable Routing:

  1. It is of paramount importance that the housing exit the bar tape at precisely opposite points on the bars. This extends beyond the cables taken in aggregate, and applies to both the brake and shift housing meaning that if they are routed together, the brake cable must always be below the shift cable, and if they are route front/back on the bars, they must both be routed in the same fashion.
  2. The housing must be organized such that they mimic and mirror each other’s curves to the maximum capability of the frame and application. This is to say that housing intersections and contact points must be minimized and under no circumstances may a shift-brake cable pair be split by another cable running from its mirrored set.
  3. Cable housing must be cut to the shortest length possible while still allowing full movement of the handlebars. It must, however, be cut long enough to allow that the cables run in a smooth curve at all points, minimizing friction. The shift cables should be cut such that they overlap only slightly; the ideal is that they just kiss each other at the apex of their arch to the frame.
  4. Inner cables must be cut to a length not exceeding 2cm. The ideal length is 1.5 times the length of the cable end.
  5. Cable ends will always be crimped using a crimping tool. Extra points awarded for a diagonal double-crimp. Under no circumstances are frayed cables to be tolerated.

Go with Merckx, and do not violate these principles. Vive la Vie Velominatus.

[dmalbum path=”/velominati.com/content/Photo Galleries/[email protected]/Cables/”/]

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150 Replies to “La Vie Velominatus: Cable Obsession”

  1. Also I run my brakes moto-style, and due to the forward most stop for the rear being biased to the non-driveside of the top tube there is a really tight bend in that cable.  It has eaten up the headtube powder coat a bit.

  2. Di2 routing? Where to clip the control box? Should the cable be wrapped around the cable? I’ve seen some people use heat shrink tubing to keep it aligned with the brake cable – is that the best way?

  3. Not my bike, but I like this EPS routing – except the cable looks too long for my liking

  4. @brett

    What, exactly, was the point of posting this? The cabling is going to be completely out of whack as a result of the ridiculous spacer stack height, the bar tape looks fucking awful and to crown it all, it’s got mountain bike pedals.

    Or is that all just and illusion?

  5. @frank

    Whilst i can understand your focus there’s another couple of areas regarding cabling that drives me nuts.

    1. The crossing of gear cables under the downtube. Please no, it just looks dreadful. It’s amazing how many bikes you see it on.

    2. On bikes with curved top tubes, the routing of the rear brake cable can be tricky. The lazy, and wholly unacceptable choice is to be left with a cable that doesn’t follow the contour of the tube. Looks bloody awful. The only real way around this is to go internal, and that has its own set of problems….

  6. Chris, you forgot just the most important. That guy is using the X cable cross below the diagonal tube. As you can see, left housing cross just once, not twive. It’s a sigle kiss, normally is a double kiss. Left housing goes to the right side, and right housing house to the left side.

    Very radcial, and very neat. mine are like that too. Only real fanatics do the X cable. Frank: you are not so obsessed as you though, here i´m way worse. so congratulations. but still your cable housing is just not there. and btw that brake housing you are using is damn ugly.

  7. @brett

    Jesus, you know you can cut those cables, right? Fucking hell, those are way too fucking long. And your finishing job on the tape is atrocious. I expect much more from a Keeper.

    Per Rule #73, the crossover is optional, not to mention impossible with internally routed cables. Regarding all your other bullshit, I’ll say again: internally routed cables.

  8. @936adl

    @frank

    Whilst i can understand your focus there’s another couple of areas regarding cabling that drives me nuts.

    1. The crossing of gear cables under the downtube. Please no, it just looks dreadful. It’s amazing how many bikes you see it on.

    2. On bikes with curved top tubes, the routing of the rear brake cable can be tricky. The lazy, and wholly unacceptable choice is to be left with a cable that doesn’t follow the contour of the tube. Looks bloody awful. The only real way around this is to go internal, and that has its own set of problems….

    Per #2: never buy a bike with a curved top tube.

  9. @The Grande Fondue

    Di2 routing? Where to clip the control box? Should the cable be wrapped around the cable? I’ve seen some people use heat shrink tubing to keep it aligned with the brake cable – is that the best way?

    Di2 routing and storage of the battery can best be remedied by not running electronic gears.

    That said, SKY appear to have the market cornered on doing the best possible job with that.

    http://www.cyclingnews.com/features/pro-bike-ian-stannards-pinarello-dogma-65-1-think-2

  10. @roger

    when building up the c59, i went about the cable housings a bit differently. i scored the outer covering and removed about 2-3mm of it, with the interior of the cable guide exposed. it kept the cable from being pinched and subsequently needing an awl to re-open. might not be the fastest method, but i’ll be damned if it isnt clean.

    what is the robotic looking housing? is it supposed to be stiffer than plastic housing? lighter?

    I think its heavier, but compresses less. Make a difference, especially on the cross bike where there is so much more slop in the brake action.

    They are Yokozuna Reactions.

  11. @roger

    @brett where is the bit of lore regarding front brake cable to the very very front? i run my rear brake cable in a nice gentle swoop around all others, and have the front and rear mech share a slight embrace…so many nuances, so many reason and ideologies to back them up…love these arbitrary articles

    Its bullshit created by people who run (a) short stems and (b) right-front. The cable pair should take the shortest, smoothest, and most direct trip to their destinations, which on my bikes is underneath the the rear.

  12. Impeccable timing, Frank!

    Just getting ready to recable my cx race bike and put on some new TRP CX8.4 brakes. See ya cantilevers! The VMH recently bought a Dremel tool so she can grind down the doggie’s nails. I’m hoping this will be an improvement over filing the housing ends. Can anyone confirm this?

    Also, was going to use a Jagwire Racer Pro cable kit. Anyone using Yokozuna or Nokon cables on their cross bike? (this is the gravel bike, I think, Frank?). A few friends said stainless cables and a decent kit on the cross bike is the way to go, the price of the sealed kits not being worth is on cross bikes when recabling so frequently.

    And, have heard some say sealed is the way to go on RD cables on a cross bike. My cable stops won’t permit this unless I bore them out, something I don’t want to do. I thought I might use a piece of internal routing housing on the TT between the stops and on the right seatstay where the cable is exposed. A good idea or unnecessary/it’ll trap mud and grit?

  13. @frank

    @RedRanger

    I think we should add that the correct brake lever should go to the correct caliper

    and I will probably be whipped for this but I am not a huge fan of The V cogs on the handle bars.

    Me neither, they are gone already, to be replaced with matte black ones. Its just the only photo I had on hand with the correct routing.

    ok, I didnt see what it said on the picture itself.

  14. Does anyone else make the rubber housing sleeves aside from Jagwire? I think those are the only ones I’ve seen and a set of four is like $8-$10 USD. Seems crazy for a few pieces of rubber.

  15. the purpose of those sleeves is to protect the headtube but i still had gunk collect behind it and rub the HT.  i am trying the park tool patch kit pieces and it works a charm.  maybe give that a go ron?

  16. I have to admit that as I was going for a quick spin and I started taking more detailed shots of the cabling awesomeness, that indeed my front cable was preposterously long. Naturally, I had to correct the situation before I could head out on the ride.

    [dmalbum: path=”/velominati.com/wp-content/uploads/readers/frank/2013.09.24.11.35.20/1//”/]

  17. Interesting realization on the routing of the CCX; the cables run a little wonky due to the cable routing being designed for the typical CX setup, which is right-front braking. I’ve wired mine right-rear, which means the cables run in reverse order, which is something that puzzled me when I was threading them through.

    [dmalbum: path=”/velominati.com/wp-content/uploads/readers/frank/2013.09.24.11.41.54/1//”/]

  18. @Ron

    Also, was going to use a Jagwire Racer Pro cable kit. Anyone using Yokozuna or Nokon cables on their cross bike? (this is the gravel bike, I think, Frank?). A few friends said stainless cables and a decent kit on the cross bike is the way to go, the price of the sealed kits not being worth is on cross bikes when recabling so frequently.

    I’m using Yokozuna on mine. There is no difference between a Graveur and a CX bike in this case, its just down to tire choice and position. This same bike will be used to race cross after I get back from doing the Heck of the North this weekend.

    And, have heard some say sealed is the way to go on RD cables on a cross bike. My cable stops won’t permit this unless I bore them out, something I don’t want to do. I thought I might use a piece of internal routing housing on the TT between the stops and on the right seatstay where the cable is exposed. A good idea or unnecessary/it’ll trap mud and grit?

    I would stay away from sealed; I’ve heard they add a lot of friction, and that’s something you want to reduce as much as possible – especially with SRAM. Switching to Yokos significantly improved shifting performance.

  19. @frank

    Interesting realization on the routing of the CCX; the cables run a little wonky due to the cable routing being designed for the typical CX setup, which is right-front braking. I’ve wired mine right-rear, which means the cables run in reverse order, which is something that puzzled me when I was threading them through.

    2 / 3
    Smooth curves along the rear as well

    Slideshow:
    Fullscreen:
    Download:

    Would the rear shift cable run smoothly if you used the right hand routing? Then the brake cable could run round the front of the head tub nicely.

    Looking at all these pictures and my bike, I think I need to ditch the mid cable barrel adjusters for a set that sit in the cable stops. It would make for a much neater curve.

  20. Front brake cable goes in front of everything else. Ask any mechanic.

    130mm is not a “short stem.”

    Yep, that’s the double-wrap tape job from KT12 and I haven’t re-wrapped since! Must get onto that… but at least the tape is wrapped in the right direction.

  21. @brett

    Front brake cable goes in front of everything else. Ask any mechanic.

    130mm is not a “short stem.”

    Yep, that’s the double-wrap tape job from KT12 and I haven’t re-wrapped since! Must get onto that… but at least the tape is wrapped in the right direction.

    Why would I do that when the photos speak for themselves. Go cut your shift cables down, rewrap your bars and then maybe we can talk.

    Ferfucksakes.

  22. @Chris

    @frank

    Interesting realization on the routing of the CCX; the cables run a little wonky due to the cable routing being designed for the typical CX setup, which is right-front braking. I’ve wired mine right-rear, which means the cables run in reverse order, which is something that puzzled me when I was threading them through.

    2 / 3
    Smooth curves along the rear as well
    Slideshow:
    Fullscreen:
    Download:

    Would the rear shift cable run smoothly if you used the right hand routing? Then the brake cable could run round the front of the head tub nicely.

    Looking at all these pictures and my bike, I think I need to ditch the mid cable barrel adjusters for a set that sit in the cable stops. It would make for a much neater curve.

    The shift cable boss is offset and angled towards the left cable exit making an impeccable line to the FD and giving absolutely fantastic shifting performance. Both Veloformas have a small detail on the FD setup that seem to improve front shifting beyond anything else I’ve used. On the road machine, the boss is angled just a tad so the arch of the derailleur follows the arch of the chain wheels perfectly. Its fuckin’ awesome.

  23. @frank

    Do you stick your sunglass arms under your straps, put your arm warmers over your jersey sleeves and wear socks with your Crocs too?

  24. @frank

    @Ron

    And, have heard some say sealed is the way to go on RD cables on a cross bike. My cable stops won’t permit this unless I bore them out, something I don’t want to do. I thought I might use a piece of internal routing housing on the TT between the stops and on the right seatstay where the cable is exposed. A good idea or unnecessary/it’ll trap mud and grit?

    I would stay away from sealed; I’ve heard they add a lot of friction, and that’s something you want to reduce as much as possible – especially with SRAM. Switching to Yokos significantly improved shifting performance.

    I run sealed on my MTB. Up to you, but I find it shifts better sealed than filled with shit while riding…

  25. @brett

    Recable please ASAP.

    You can stick a fucking pillow on each side between the cable and a head tube and fall asleep.Too dangerous.

    @brett

    Front brake cable goes in front of everything else. Ask any mechanic.

    130mm is not a “short stem.”

    Yep, that’s the double-wrap tape job from KT12 and I haven’t re-wrapped since! Must get onto that… but at least the tape is wrapped in the right direction.

    You don’t have to ask any mechanic. No such rule exists.You should have looked at some bikes while you were in Belgium.

  26. Top route cross bikes are easy to run. Any real reason to run moto on a cross bike? I have mine set up standard and haven’t had any issues.

    Also, running front brake all the way in the front will put a kink in the line to get into the brake if you run a super low stack on a short head tube bike.

  27. @frank

    It’s a shame your obsession doesn’t include ditching these ugly barrel adjusters.They are hardly used on pro bikes including the frames with ICR and ICS.

  28. Don’t wanna hear about the steerer. I know it has to be done, but my excuse is I ride to much to have the bike down at the shop.

    If i run my front brake cable all the way forward, it kinks and pulls the derailleur cable up.

  29. @roger

    Nice bars. Almost as good as Rotundos. I use them on one bike.

    Your rear brake cable looks too long and front brake cable too short.

  30. Dremels are great for cable finishing; those little cutting discs give you perfect ends on your outers and the other grinding bits can square off any burrs from using cable cutters. This level of attention to detail should be matched by soldering the ends of the inners and then you can rest easy knowing everything is just so.

    However, where I think there is a worrying trend with people thinking that running your brakes front-left is somehow correct. It isn’t. My Ducati has it’s front brake on the right, running the front brake on the left on my other bikes would result in an unpleasant accident on one or the other. I don’t fancy taking my chances, especially with a muscle memory that can’t even cope with SRAM Double Tap shifters. Added to that my Look has the entry for the rear brake cable on the right hand side of the top tube, rendering it impossible to route the cable tidily from the right hand side whilst retaining the ability to turn left without ripping the cable out. If Look have designed it to be like this, it simply must be correct. No further correspondence will be entered into.

  31. @mouse

    Lovely work mate.

    Yeah shit solder just doesn’t want to stick to the ends nicely.Worth the investment though when I look at your cables.

  32. @brett

    @frank

    Do you stick your sunglass arms under your straps, put your arm warmers over your jersey sleeves and wear socks with your Crocs too?

    My minds eye just went blind thinking of someone wearing Crocs with socks. Brilliant!

    But, no, I don’t. And just like with all those things, whenever something is functionally equivalent, I choose the one that looks better.

  33. @The Grande Fondue

    Di2 routing? Where to clip the control box? Should the cable be wrapped around the cable? I’ve seen some people use heat shrink tubing to keep it aligned with the brake cable – is that the best way?

    Brake cables are still mechanical so you’d have to replace them at some point so I’d recommend you installing the control box alongside the front brake cable and attach it using small plastic zip ties provided with the set.Control box cable is short and you can’t wrap it around.If you need to replace brake cables just cut the zip ties carefully and that’s it.

  34. @Weldertron

    Top route cross bikes are easy to run. Any real reason to run moto on a cross bike? I have mine set up standard and haven’t had any issues.

    When you dismount, you have the rear brake in your left hand, not the front. Some people feel like it helps in not going all Joey’s OK at the barriers. Although Joey was dismounting on the right for some reason.

    @TommyTubolare

    @frank

    It’s a shame your obsession doesn’t include ditching these ugly barrel adjusters.They are hardly used on pro bikes including the frames with ICR and ICS.

    I was just thinking about that today. I haven’t had to use them on the Veloforma. Why I used to have to fiddle with my cable tension constantly on the R3 but never on the Strada iR, I will probably never know, but I’ve not had to make any adjustments whatsoever since.

    That said, I have used the barrel adjuster on the CCX for the FD which I neatly tucked in by the seat tube, but mostly just the initial cable stretch adjustment.

  35. @Weldertron

    Don’t wanna hear about the steerer. I know it has to be done, but my excuse is I ride to much to have the bike down at the shop.

    If i run my front brake cable all the way forward, it kinks and pulls the derailleur cable up.

    Buy a steerer guide and carbon saw, or call ahead, find out a time the shop is quiet, bring the mechanic a six pack of good beer, and they’ll cut it for you while you wait.

    Alternatively, buy a second bike which you can ride while this one sits at the shop, waiting to be cut.

  36. @Fausto

    However, where I think there is a worrying trend with people thinking that running your brakes front-left is somehow correct. It isn’t. My Ducati has it’s front brake on the right, running the front brake on the left on my other bikes would result in an unpleasant accident on one or the other. I don’t fancy taking my chances, especially with a muscle memory that can’t even cope with SRAM Double Tap shifters. Added to that my Look has the entry for the rear brake cable on the right hand side of the top tube, rendering it impossible to route the cable tidily from the right hand side whilst retaining the ability to turn left without ripping the cable out. If Look have designed it to be like this, it simply must be correct. No further correspondence will be entered into.

    While we’re at it, shall we move the rear brake to the foot peg and put a clutch in the right lever? You may have stumble upon Velominati by accident while you were looking for BRMC.

  37. @Ron

    Does anyone else make the rubber housing sleeves aside from Jagwire? I think those are the only ones I’ve seen and a set of four is like $8-$10 USD. Seems crazy for a few pieces of rubber.

    BBB also do them.

  38. @Nate Your method of cutting housing with sacrificial cable bit, brilliant. That never occurred to me.

    @frank Your CX bike with all that orange paint, dogs bollocks man, need that orange on all the Veloformas. Too much black and not enough orange makes a man weak.

    @mouse  So that’s why it no longer worked! I was trying acid core solder and all kinds of shit, different torches, nothing stuck, thanks for the hint. I’ll search for that. What is the % silver? WIll plumbing flux work or is that shiet too?

  39. @Chris

    @Ron

    Does anyone else make the rubber housing sleeves aside from Jagwire? I think those are the only ones I’ve seen and a set of four is like $8-$10 USD. Seems crazy for a few pieces of rubber.

    BBB also do them.

    Roger’s suggestion of clear Park tube patches is good. Just protect the frame with those, and they are semi-permanent. Or a section of clear vinyl tubing of the correct (or smaller) ID would work, just slit it and slide it over the housing.

  40. @Gianni

    I’ve also seen cables with a small rubber o-ring threaded on to prevent cable/frame contact. Very tidy. I’ve had difficulty finding a supply of ones that are small enough though.

  41. @TommyTubolare

    *From a conversation today with a former pro mechanic…

    “Pro mechanics are just as capable of being wrong as Frank. Plus they rarely have time to worry about exact cable lengths or routing – close enough is good enough. Most (pro) riders just want their position and gears dialled and they couldn’t give a shit about the rest, so the mechanics get lazier about the OCD details too…”

    And we know Pros also run EPMSs, so you can’t use that to justify them either.

  42. @mouse

    @Gianni

    I’ve also seen cables with a small rubber o-ring threaded on to prevent cable/frame contact. Very tidy. I’ve had difficulty finding a supply of ones that are small enough though.

    problem with those small rubber O-rings is that you normally have to buy them in packets of 1,000,000,000

    After youve used the initial 4 rings what the fck to do with the rest ?

    Maybe sell them back to Guinea Pig farmers as castration rings for the males ?

  43. A neat cable end fix is….. shrink tubing. Easy on (still have your old Zippo?), easy off (fingernails), comes in colors (should you be so inclined) and weighs less than nothing….

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