I have a Trek 5200 – the exact same model and components (with the exception of a triple crank set) that Lance won (or is that didn’t win now?) the Tour de France on in 1999.
I went for more than a year thinking I had the cat’s meow when it came to rides – technically, for as old as my bike is, it’s quite mechanically sound even if it is beat up a bit. The thing that I really held in high regard was the Shimano Ultegra drivetrain – the shifting is impeccable. I wasn’t used to a bike that didn’t require constant tinkering to get the shifting indexed right, and I certainly didn’t have to tinker with anything – the bike shifted like a dream (or so I thought).
Fast forward to this spring and I began the season happy as can be. Then some time about mid-April I ran into a problem with the rear derailleur cable sticking – it actually made an odd creaking sound coming from the frame when I shifted. I took the bike in to the shop to have it looked at and the tech took all of my standard issue 4mm cable housing off and swapped it for 5mm housing. The problem was not actually with the housing (though it was definitely showing signs of wear) but rather than worry about problems later on he recommended switching them while I had the bike under the knife anyway.
My word, it’s nothing short of amazing! Now, Walter, my favorite Mechanic other than Matt (who actually apprenticed in England – dude, the guy knows bikes), said that the shifting should improve and that the higher end bikes have been going with the 4mm cable housing for some time but he always liked the 5mm because the cable is a lot freer to move inside the 5 (even properly lubed).
So, if you feel your bike is shifting sluggishly, first try lubing the cable, but if that doesn’t work, try switching to 5mm cable housing. It made my bike even better (and my pseudo love affair with my Treks should be fairly well-known).
My wife’s bike will go in, needed or not, as soon as we can get it in (without effecting our riding schedule)… While the change isn’t necessary on her bike yet, as far as I’m concerned, I want my wife to get the most out of her bike, and that’s a very easy and inexpensive way to improve it.