We’ve already covered how to clean and lube your bike after a dirty weekend, but there’s one area left that you’ll need to pay particular attention too after every ride. Unless you look after your cables you’ll be heading for big gearing and brake grief after only a few hours of riding.
The trouble is that all the water and mud and grit from your ride is pulled into the cable outers by the cable inners themselves every time you brake or shift. Once it’s there it just sits and corrodes, rapidly seizing up the very small space the cables have to run in. Unless you clean out the crap and re-lubricate your cables rapidly you could have to replace all your cables after just one ride, which makes it a very expensive day out!.
1. To get the cables unclipped you have to get some slack into the system. Using your gears, shift into the largest sprocket at the back.
2. Now shift ‘down’ a gear but without turning the pedals or chain.
This leaves the chain on the largest sprocket, but creates cable slack in the system.
3. Now unplug the cable outer from the stops. Do this with every piece of outer along the cable run. Then slide the outer along the inner to expose the bits of dirty inner cable.
4. Clean off the crap with an old rag. Use a degreaser too if it’s really filthy or sticky.
5. Make sure you check dirt traps like the cable stops themselves, otherwise you’ll be putting your clean cable straight back into a seizure situation.
6. Now the cables are clean it’s time to re-lube them. Don’t go using your heavy sticky winter chain oil for this, as it’ll just collect dirt and turn into black gunk in double quick time. What you need is a lightweight oil or ‘dry’ lube that leaves a waxy or Teflon deposit for the cable to slide on, without picking up dirt.
Our current favourites include the spray on dry lubes from Makt or Finesse, or the dropper bottle Finish Line ‘Teflon Plus’, ‘Orginal White Lightning’, and ‘Cablemagic’ from Rock’n’Roll Lubricants.
Slide the outer sections along the inner, lubricating as you go, until the whole inner cable is covered.
7. Once the cable has a healthy coating you need to flush the lube through the system.
Pop the outer sections back in their slots (making sure all the ends are tucked properly into the cable stops) and run shifters up and down the range a few times (and pull the brakes too) to flush the lube through.
Now your bike will be happy, healthy and ready to ride whenever you need it.Top Tips Don’t want to go through all this too often?
If you’re looking for more running time between strip-downs there are several weatherproof cables sets on the market.
Ride-On Gore Tex cables were the original fully-sheathed cable. They use a silky Gore Tex liner running all the way from shifter to clamp bolt to keep water and grime out, and if you install them correctly they’re great.
Avid Flakjackets use an external plastic sheath between the sections of outer to stop filth getting in, and we’ve had no problems at all after nearly 200 winter miles on our long term Trek STP testbed (see this article. Shimano XTR cables also have a superb weather-beating reputation thanks to pre-greased internals and O-ring seals at each end of the outer to stop grit getting in.
Now we’ve covered all the immediate after ride maintenance issues, it’s time to hit some slightly bigger DIY projects. So next week we’ll be looking at overhauling your squeaking, creaking chain.