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How to Remove a Frayed, Broken Shifter Cable End From A Shifter Body (It Takes Longer to Watch the Video)…

I should have done the video on “How To” remove a broken shift cable end. It would have lasted two minutes, if, and you’d be well on your way to wrapping your bar tape. If, however, you want a decently funny read in my normal wit, this is the post for you! If not, click on the video below and fix your shifter. It’s easy.

Unfortunately, you’re going to have to sit through this one if my written description and photos aren’t enough. This fella is boring. But his video has some decent tips in it and actually deals with modern shifters, not the shifters of old in which the cables stuck out the top of the hood – which were terribly ugly, by the way. I thank God Campagnolo figured out how to route the cables/housings on the handlebar!

Anyway, I digress. This is the video:

First, don’t panic. This is really simple. I removed my shifter because I had a single strand of wire sticking out of the cable hole and it wasn’t enough to grab with needle-nose pliers. I was petrified… and searching the interwebz for a new Ultegra 10-speed right side shifter. Guess what? There are none, other than a couple of old beat up sets on eBay. See, back in the good old days, if you broke a cable end off inside a shift lever, there was a 62.847% chance you were buying a new shifter. If the shop couldn’t fish the old end out, or if you’d shifted too many times so the end was lost inside the body, you were screwed. Absolutely pooched. Hang your head and pull out your credit card.

Then I started thinking about how I was going to justify a new eTap system to my wife… uh, no. I’d be better off trying to go back in time to justify a new bike to Attila the Hun. Going out on a limb, heh, I don’t think that’d go well… if I remember my history.

Then I scoured the web for how to fix my problem. A simple search won’t do because the first video that pops up will be a guy fixing one of the old-style shifters in the lucky, unlikely scenario in which you’ve got enough cable to fish the end out. The video above deals with newer, modern shifters.

So, I’d taken my shifter off to take it to the shop, hoping someone there might be able to work some magic. Under normal circumstances, this isn’t necessary, but you can’t just roll the hood cover up, either. You have to pop the top of the cover and lift the whole hood up so you have enough room.

On the inside of the shifter, you’ll have a little phillips head screw that gets removed (02) and set off to the side. Pull the access panel off (03). With that panel off, you’ll have access to the cable hole (04). Pull the end out (make sure you’re shifted to the smallest cog position for easiest access to the cable end).

Replace the panel. You’re done. It’s that easy.

Now, on those last two photos, looke through the cable port… if you see the grooves on the left photo, this is bad. Finish shifting to what would be the smallest cog (the little lever, not the big one). You want to see no grooves, as in the last photo.

Then go through the arduous process of putting all that $#!+ back together… but look at the bright side! In the old days, you’d be down one bike while your shifter was in the shop for three weeks while they tried to fix it, then ordered a new shifter so you’d wait for that, because they couldn’t fix it… then you’d still have to put all that $#!+ back together.

So, remember this little gem: while some things are made more difficult as they’re engineered, most things get better with newer generations. Modern shifters are a fantastic example. Rather than engineering them to be more difficult to extricate a cable end, thus ensuring Shimano would sell more shifters, they made it easier to get the little bastards out.

Anyway, happy riding, folks.

The Noob’s Guide to Cycling: Fixing a Shifter Cable in Minutes and Reasons to Take Up the Task In the First Place

There are few things that will affect a bicycle’s mechanical shifting as much as the cables. Get one little thing wrong and your bike can shift horribly until that tiny mistake is fixed. In many cases, the affect may be worse; it’ll be minor. Not enough to bother with changing the cable, but the bike just doesn’t quite shift as well as it should. Even something as simple as a frayed cable end can pooch your shifting. Relax, though, even the vaunted internally routed shifting cable is fixable in minutes with the right tools, equipment and knowhow.

A front derailleur’s main cable problems that will require a new cable are:

  • The cable was installed/looped incorrectly at the derailleur bolt which can cause the cable to fray when it’s tightened down, among other problems. If the cable is frayed at the bolt this can/will cause the pull to be slightly off when the shifter is engaged and this will cause problems in shifting and adjusting the derailleur. A frayed cable can even affect the trim feature in your shift levers, meaning you’ll get chain rub on the derailleur cage at the big and/or little cogs of the cassette (you’ll likely think this is a set screw problem… check for a frayed cable where the cable is clamped to the derailleur, first).
  • A kinked cable… if your shift cable is kinked, shift quality will be affected – and the cable can also kink inside the shift lever if cables aren’t changed every couple of years or so (the end can also break off inside the shifter which is not good).
  • The cable/housing is old, rusted, dirty, grimy, etc. etc. Dirt, grim or rust will cause the cable to develop friction in the housing which will ruin shift quality.
  • As a bonus, if the housings are too long or too short, this can adversely affect shift quality, but this gets a little tricky in that the shifting problems aren’t glaring. A bit slow going up the cassette, or maybe down… often just enough to make you wonder what’s going on.

A rear derailleur’s cable issues are a little more diverse. They are:

  • See 1 through 4 above.
  • The housing loop at the rear of the bike is too big or too small.
  • The cable guide(s) are gummed up underneath the bottom bracket (sports drink leakage and sweat are the main culprits here).
  • Item 1 is particularly daunting with the rear derailleur. The cable must be on the correct side of the screw for the derailleur to work properly. Typically, look for a little groove for the cable to rest in on the derailleur nub where the bolt goes into. Look up your derailleur type and download the setup instructions if you’re not sure. I searched “Shimano 105 10sp Rear Derailleur installation instructions”:

Now all that’s left is to complete the switch of an offending cable. First, if you can afford a few extra bucks for better cables, I recommend the stainless steel cables. They’re the cat’s pajamas and improve shifting immensely. To me, they’re well worth the money. Second, for interior cable routing I like to use cable liner (not cable housing, cable liner) to make the process painless and simple (amazingly so). I’ve got a 10 meter roll of the stuff and use it often.

First, we’re going to undo the bar tape down to just under the hood. There’s no need to unwrap any further – all you’re looking for is access to the bottom of the hood, where the cable housing enters the hood lever body. This is easier if you’ve got access and can see what you’re doing. Next, undo the cable from the derailleur and if there’s a frayed end, snip it off far enough up that you hit good cable. Then, slide the cable liner over the cable and keep feeding it till the liner comes out the other hole in the frame. If the liner won’t easily feed over the cable, you can fasten the liner to the cable with a piece of electrical tape and pull the cable and liner through that way. Tape the liner to both holes where it enters and exits the frame to secure it. Next, with your hood rolled up from the bottom, feed the cable out paying attention to the hole where the cable will go back in. This step will vary between shifters – if you run into questions, search online for the owner’s manual for your shifters.

With the old cable out, take some light lube on your fingers and wipe down the new cable (this step can be skipped if using stainless cables – most manufacturers actually recommend not using a light lube on the cable with new housing – this might need its own post and a pro interview it’s so controversial). Feed the end into the lever hole until it pops up by the cable housing end. This can be a touch on the tricky side getting the angle right. Then, carefully guide the cable end into the housing – I like to use an ultra-thin pair of needle-nosed pliers, they guide the end of the cable perfectly into the housing so I don’t have to mess with pulling the housing from the hood to guide the cable in by hand (a 2 mm hex key works well, also). Once your cable is through the first section of housing, you simply run the cable through the liner you ran through the frame earlier. You don’t have to worry about fishing for the wire or using magnets (and good luck with a magnet and stainless steel btw). Properly connect your cable to the derailleur and adjust the barrel or in-line adjuster. Wrap your bar back up, clean up, and Bob shall be your uncle.

Changing a cable is a daunting task when you’re new to bike repair. It’s a scary undertaking. You will improve with practice, though. New cables used to take me hours – it was a task reserved for a rainy weekend day when I had a clear stretch of time. After years of practice, I can change a shifter cable after work and before my regular evening ride.