Thursday, October 28, 2010

Internal Cable Routing

Internal cable routing has been around for a while now - some executions better than others...  And in today's reality of electronic shifting and increasingly more "organic" designs it is surely here to stay.  As great as it looks - and as much of a benefit as it may be for keeping grit out of your cable systems - internal routing presents some unique challenges and requires extra care.  We took some extra pictures of the new 2011 Roubaix Expert (one of the best executions of internal routing we've seen yet) to help illustrate our points.

1. Initial set up and subsequent cable replacement is best left to a patient, experienced pro. Even the best executions of internal routing present a certain degree of difficulty; including the Roubaix Expert that we've already heralded for it's excellence multiple times on our blog. A great example is the Bottom Bracket cable guide in this photo.  This guide works beautifully - but requires careful attention when initially installing the cables.  One lapse of attention can result in a mis-routed cable (wrong channel, over the guide bridge instead of under, etc.) which will yield poor shifting due to high friction or improper cable pull.

A rookie, less-experienced mechanic, or even a seasoned; but hurried pro will be up to their elbows in a cable routing mess in a hurry.  Removable cable stops and access to sleeves which run over the original inner cable before removal to leave a "pathway" for the new cables through the inside of the frame are a huge help, but require extra time, attention, and resources (we always have 2 out of 3 of those - but time is sometimes a rare commodity around here). Patience therefore is the key!  One mis-step can mean starting over at the beginning.  Forget a sleeve, mis-route a cable, or drop a cable inside the frame and you're back to square one.

2. There is no such thing as unnecessary parts or steps. Example: The in-line barrel adjusters in this photo.  These little gems are often under-appreciated.  Conventional cable routing usually allows for barrel adjusters in several locations to make for easy adjustment of cable tension without re-clamping the cable at it's pinch bolt.  The stops for internal routing do not accommodate these - necessitating the in-line adjuster (the new Shimano one is pictured: we love it!).  Cable stops, inserts, sleeves, ferrules - all necessary.  You can't skip or omit any of these and end up with proper, serviceable results.  There are no short cuts to this process (which is usually true of anything on your bike...contrary to what some may believe...).

3. Extra patience and an expectation of potential extra cost is helpful. An experienced mechanic can often replace a conventional shifter cable in 5 to 10 minutes without interruptions and it can cost you about $12-$15 plus the cable.  An internally routed cable is hard to do in less than 10 minutes and is likely to run over 15 minutes due to the extra steps.  Throw in Shimano Ultegra 6700 (or 5700/7900) shifters like the ones on the 2011 Roubaix Expert - which may require re-wrapping of your handlebar tape and you're up to almost 30 minutes and a potential for new bar tape if the original tape didn't un-wrap well.  You may see a bill for $30 or more in labor plus bar tape and shift cable.  This isn't unjust enrichment if the job is done correctly and proper function is restored - it's a professional completing a complex and difficult job in a reasonable period of time and being rewarded in like fashion (and still a bargain compared to most auto repair bills).

And, if your mechanic exemplifies the above characteristics - stick with him; but remember that most people have an "off" day from time-to-time.  If something is not right - most mechanics appreciate a chance to solve the problem before you cut loose and shop the job to another mechanic.  A complex job like this one - in the interruption-riddled environment that many exceptional mechanics operate in - occasionally falls slightly short on the results scale. Then cables stretch, housing and stops settle into place and stuff feels weird after a while.  Let us tweak it for you and keep you running smoothly.

Ultimately, the moral of the story is: high-performance bicycles and components are becoming more complex in order to deliver the features people are seeking.  More complex items require a higher level of experience and professionalism in order to deliver their intended performance benefits.  Don't leave your high-performance components to a rookie or any old schmoe - seek a qualified professional and you're less likely to experience the difference...

What are your thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment...


  1. I got my first internal cable bike two years ago. Love it, love how clean everything is on the outside, but I am just waiting for the day when i need to do major repairs. Also worry about what happens when I get rain or moisture in the holes and can't really dry it out.

    1. Jimmy-

      Valid concern. I think it is wise to treat it like a steel frame and be sure to wipe it down after a wet ride and then hang it in a fashion that lets the water drain - even if that means removing one of the rubber plugs from where the cables enter the frame from time to time.

      The difficult thing about modern carbon frames is that it is nearly impossible to discern which tube sections are closed and which ones flow openly from tube to tube thereby allowing water to move as well. You take your chances for sure. Thankfully, water has a less detrimental effect on carbon than on steel - so your main concern becomes the added weight from water sloshing around in there. Eventually; left long enough in a dry area, the water will evaporate though.

      (Hmmmm, now there's an idea; a dehumidified and climate-controlled storage room for your bikes... Wonder how many of those I can sell...???) :-)

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.



All content - except where otherwise noted - copyright 2006 - 2013 Matthew Magee. Do not use without permission.

Google Analytics