Upgrading brake cables

Becky learning about handlebar moustaches

The main bug-bear with Becky’s bike, her Birthday Bike Project in the form of a vintage Argos 531c bike, is the brakes being too stiff and awkward.  Our first step was to replace the levers with some well designed Sram levers which are of considerable ergonomic advantage for petite hands.  These new levers were certainly and improvement on the original Shimano 600 levers but still the brakes weren’t easy for Becky to handle.

We talked this over in the LBS who suggested some better cables and this made sense.  We got some KBLE inner cables (they’re French) and some new outers which are lined.  The cables are actually stainless steel and feel considerably smoother than the normal cables.  The plastic lined outer cable made the new KBLEs very smooth, especially with a little dribble of Dry Lube. Click here for this cable on Wiggle.

Carrying out this little upgrade was pretty straight forward and you might remember from previous posts that Becky is expected to learn about bikes as we gradually upgrade the bike.  Our first step was unravelling the handlebar tape in order to access the old cables.  It was at this point Becky acquired her new (handlebar?) moustache and at that point I realised we weren’t going to have a serious bike lesson – but who cares?  Cycling needs to be full of enjoyment for a 14 year old girl who is gaining confidence in her own abilities on the bike; why get her bogged down in the technicalities and end up putting her off cycling?

This upgrade cost less than £10 and has made a real difference to the ease and smoothness of the brakes.  The previous cables , although new, were cheap, rough and unlined which then contributed to the brakes being hard to pull.  I think getting the length of the outer cable is important so the curves in the outer as it bends itself from the handlebars need to be a gradual curve, not too tight.

While this upgrade appears to have been an improvement, it’s still not perfect as the springs in the callipers (Shimano 600) are very strong but I think this is about as good as it gets.  I’d really recommend this as a fairly cheap way of upgrading your brakes.  In any event, the older and drier a cable is, the higher the chance that the nipple will eventually break away so an upgrade like this is almost routine serving.

Peeling off the handlebar tape
threading the new cables through the levers
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