How to change a shift cable on a bicycle

Parts of two-wheelers wear out over time, so replacing the shift cable on your bicycle is one of the most common repairs. When you find a breakdown, you don’t have to go to a mechanic. The process of replacing the cable is not time-consuming and does not require professional skills. After reading the material, you will understand how to install the shift cable on the bike without effort.

The purpose of the cable and the jacket

bicycle derailleur cable

The element is responsible for shifting speeds. It is involved in the brake mechanism of two-wheeled vehicles. It directly affects the clarity of the gear shift and how effective the brakes will be. The part is a strong, woven thread of steel. For its protection is responsible jacket, which at the same time changes the direction of the cable. It is important to choose the right cable for shifting speeds, its braiding must be resistant to friction.

Both elements are equally important and cannot function without each other. The sleeves can be solid, uncompressed or spiral. On some models, they are replaced with separate sections, creating a prefabricated structure placed in a cylindrical shape. The cable may remain unprotected only in straight lines, leaving it bare in places of bends is unacceptable. The frame can act as a jacket and is responsible for optimal tension.

What kind of cables and sheaths are used on modern bikes

Most models use steel cables. To prevent tearing over time, manufacturers protect the surface of the part with polymer and Teflon compounds. Stainless steel parts are considered more durable. But any part has its own service life. Sooner or later a replacement will be needed, in which you need to know how to tighten the shift cable on the bike so that the element works properly. Manufacturers offer several variants of cables with different braids:

  • Twisted – the classic version;
  • SIS – spiral protection;
  • SIS-SP – an improved version.
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Twisted braid is a metal wire with layers of plastic. It is twisted into a tight spiral, and its surface is impregnated with a lubricant that reduces friction. Such products are installed on modern bicycles less and less often, as they do not have a long service life. The cost of a twisted braid is the lowest.

drive wire jacket

The best option is to remove the damaged part and replace it with an SIS cable. Instead of thin wire, thin metal sheets are used in the manufacture, which are also twisted into a spiral. The plastic in the models is replaced by durable Teflon, so the part lasts longer.

The SIS-SP braid is an upgrade. The threads are connected in parallel, not in the form of a spring, they are covered with a “long-life” polymer. If you install such a cable, you can provide the optimal balance of tension and exclude the stretching of the jacket. The detail guarantees the efficiency and accuracy of the brakes and cogs. Its internal parts are coated with silicone grease, resistant to moisture.

When the shift cable needs to be replaced

Change a shift cable on your bicycle if it becomes stuck or does not shift correctly. Dirt and water is the main cause of failure. Speed shifters do not work properly if the vehicle is not dried after riding in rain and slush. It is important to thoroughly clean the elements of your two-wheeled “friend” and treat them with spray lubricant. For some time after purchase, the cable on the bicycle for shifting speeds is protected by the factory compounds, but under the influence of moisture the layer thins, and then disappears altogether. As a result, the part needs to be replaced.

frayed cable

Also, bike repair in the form of removing the shift cable on a bicycle will be required if there is rust or tears on its surface. Difficult movement inside the braid, kinked strands, deformed jacket are all reasons to replace the part.

Cable Replacement Steps

velocro replacement

Before you remove the shift cable on the bike, you need to prepare tools. For the work will need pliers, hexes and the part itself. The process of replacement resembles the repair of the derailleur and can vary depending on the type of product. Conventionally, the work can be divided into several steps:

  1. Bite off the end of the cable, using wire cutters. Loosen the screws responsible for clamping the part. It is important to remember immediately the location of the cable, so that later it can be tightened correctly, ensuring optimal tension. The rear derailleur should be almost flush with the small chainring and the cable should be over or under the screw.
  2. Loosen the shifter retainer by taking a 5mm allen key. Next, remove the part and set it aside as you will need it later. You will now have access to the protective cover.
  3. Turn the cover counterclockwise and unscrew the locking element, also set it aside.
  4. Remember how the end of the cable is attached so you can lock it in the same position after replacing it. It is located by the spring, pull it out. You can access the end of the cable after sliding the spring out. When you install the new part, the direction of movement will be similar.
  5. Where an empty space was formed, install the new cable. You can replace the part with a more upgraded model, it is not necessary to install an identical product. To install it accurately, use a screwdriver or awl.
  6. Next, mount the shifter cover. To do this, pull the part as far as it will go in a clockwise direction. It is important to ensure that the part is fully tightened to avoid deforming it later.
  7. Tighten the cable, it should appear to start. It must move freely in the braid, otherwise the wire will not fit.
  8. Check the location of the switch, it should be where it was originally, that is near the small star. If all is well, tighten the fixing screw.
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types of cables on a bicycle

In the last step, cut off the excess pieces by pulling the cable. Instead of wire cutters, it is better to use a bolt cutter, so you will ensure maximum accuracy of the cut. After the work is finished, it is necessary to check the vehicle for performance. This is done on a special stand, although the work of the bike in real life may be different from what you saw at the diagnosis.

What to look for when buying a cable

shimano bicycle derailleur cable

Knowing how to change the shift cable on a bicycle is not all a cyclist should be informed about. Before the repair, it is necessary to choose a quality cable that will last a long time. To do this, it must be:

  • polished;
  • made of stainless steel;
  • coated with low-friction Teflon.

An important point – the price, to save on the purchase of the part responsible for the speed, the quality of their transmission and braking, it is not necessary. The average cost of the part ranges from 100-300 rubles, much depends on the manufacturer. Before replacing the shift cable on the bike, experienced cyclists recommend buying products from well-known brands.


In order to replace the shift cable on the Shimano bike and other models less often, it is important to ensure proper care of the part and its periodic adjustment. When the end of the cable becomes frayed, it should be cut with a pair of half-circle scissors or trimmed with a hacksaw. Once a season, the cable needs to be lubricated. Caps should be used to protect it. If you take the proper precautions for proper use, your wire will last many times longer.

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Comments: 2
  1. David Wilson

    This post was very helpful in explaining how to change a shift cable on a bicycle. It was easy to follow the step-by-step instructions and i am now confident that i can get the job done myself! Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  2. Mary Turner

    Great article! Changing a shift cable on a bicycle is not always an easy task, but this post makes it seem so straightforward. I’m definitely going to give this a try the next time my bike needs some maintenance — thanks for sharing these helpful tips!

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