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A New Take (for me) on Internally Routed Cables; There’s Something to be said for the Old-style External Cables

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Back a few years ago, I wrote a glowing post about the awesomeness of internal cable routing. First, my attitude toward internal routing hasn’t changed, it’s the cat’s pajamas, with a few caveats.

First, internal routing can be noisy if the cables rattle around inside the frame. I’ve got a friend with a Fuji rain bike that is notoriously noisy over bumpy roads. This being Michigan, it’s always noisy.

Second, internal routing is a lot more difficult to work on. Getting all of the cables run through the frame, and correctly, can be a challenge.

Those are the big downsides.

External cable routing, on the other hand, while less refined and certainly less asthetically pleasing to the eye, is easy to work with. Simple, really.

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It takes a couple of hours to get the cables changed on the Venge. I can get the Trek done in a fraction of the time, and because everything’s exposed, I can clearly see if there are any hang-ups.

On the other hand, the externally routed cables corrode over a season or two where the protected cables can last for years. That friend with the Fuji rain bike still has the original cables six seasons on, and that bike gets all of his nasty miles. As I go, I always change the Venge’s cables every couple of years – I simply don’t want to have to bother with a broken cable on the road.

With the recent upgrades to the Trek, the new/used 105 drivetrain from the Venge, I’ve come to appreciate the simplicity of the external cable system. For the longest time I was put off by the gangly cables all over – with the wide arching loops running to the tops of the shifter hoods. With the newer 10sp. system (and subsequent shifter systems) that have the cables running under the bar tape, the front end of the bike is cleaned up entirely and looks quite fantastic, if I do say so myself. Most important, the 105 components never worked as well on the Venge as they do the Trek. Shifting is crisp and right on, every time. No lag, no drag.

Also, with the upgrades, the Trek is only three pounds heavier than the Specialized… it’ll be a lot easier to take the Trek on tours as well as it’s acting – and if something should go wrong, stripping that bike down is simple and fast next to the Venge with it’s internal cable routing.

So, while I still stand by my previous stance on internally routed bikes, I can’t get beyond the simplicity of external routing. I can’t choose one over the other, so having both is perfect.

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2 Comments

  1. I’m a big fan of external cables when I’m actually working on a bike! When looking at one though, internal routing is oh so clean. I especially love the look of internally routed aero topped handlebars!

    Just out of interest, do you have your front brake cabled to your left or right shifter over there in the States? (can’t quite make it out on your photos on my mobile device).

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