- Clarks Pre-Lube cables
- Clarks Cycle Systems
There is, you’d think, not a great deal to cables. But for such a notionally simple bit of kit there’s a huge range of options from straightforward and inexpensive to armoured/sealed/other featured and expensive.
Clarks’s Pre-Lube kit falls between the two extremes. You don’t get a full-length weatherproof liner or PTFE linings, so on the face of it it’s a conventional wire-in-a-housing arrangement. But the wire has hidden depths. The clue is in the name – the Pre-Lube cable has a core of grease in the middle. As you use the gears or brakes the tiny amount of heat generated by friction in the housings softens the grease just enough to let it migrate out through the strands to lubricate the cable/housing interface.
It’s a different approach to maintaining free-running cables and has the benefit that the Pre-Lube kit is no harder to fit than ordinary cables. Sealed systems like Ride-On or Avid’s Flak Jackets aren’t exactly difficult to put together but there’s considerably more fiddling around and cutting things to length involved. The Pre-Lube system is also considerably more tolerant to being taken apart and put back together again – replacing your shifters if you run Ride-Ons or similar is a test of anyone’s patience.
The emphasis is on keeping things lubricated rather than keeping dirt out, although the ferrules feature O-rings to keep the worst at bay. The housings are braided Kevlar-reinforced items, and you get loads of it – even the most convoluted full-sus cable routing will leave you with some left over. The package includes a more than ample supply of ferrules and anti-scratch donuts, too, so even if you bike needs six or seven separate bits of outer you won’t run short.
Pre-Lube cables are available in brake or gear versions. We’ve always struggled a bit to justify flash cables for brakes – usually the runs are pretty straight and there’s not much housing in them so even basic cables stay fairly free-running – but if you’ve got cable discs then you’ll probably feel a benefit. Gears are a bigger deal – the amount of movement is smaller, the cable runs are usually more scenic and it doesn’t take much dirt to send the indexing way off kilter.
Our various test cables have had several months of use and neglect now and are still running smooth. Can’t ask for more, really…
Positives: As close to maintenance-free as anything else, generous supplies of bits in the package, cheaper than fully-sealed kits
Negatives: Still pricey for cables
Verdict: We’ve always been fans of basic cables. They’re cheap, they don’t take much looking after and if you’re really plagued by dirt getting in you can just run full-length housings for an extra couple of quid. Pre-Lubes are considerably more money than a basic set but a bit less than a fully-sealed set. For our money they’re better value than posh sealed ones, and if you’re seriously maintenance-averse then the premium over basic cables is probably worth it. With a set of Clarks’s own simple stainless cables coming it at about a tenner, though, you’ve got to ask yourself how much you really object to cleaning and lubing cables…