wikiHow to Change a Bicycle Brake Cable

This is suitable for a bike with straight handle-bars.

Steps

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    Inspect the cable. Change a bike cable if it is frayed or it is getting stiff. When either of these two indicators are present, there may be damage on the inner wire, or often on the outer wire. Any friction in the cable will stop your brakes from returning properly. Check for damage to the outer casing, the cranks, and for any bends in the wires. You'll need to replace both the cable and its outer casing if it is damaged.
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    Obtain the correct cable. It is important to ensure that you have the correct cable. Check the nipple at the end of the cable and see that it matches the cable you are replacing. Brake cables are different for straight handle-bars and drop handle-bars.
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    Undo the pinch bolt. Locate the pinch bolt that clamps the cable. Undo it with an Allen key. Don't lose the piece of rubber that slides off the cable or the metal "noodle" - you'll need to put these back on later.
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    Unscrew the adjuster. Find the adjuster next to the brake lever on the handlebar. It is a small barrel that can be turned. Unscrew the adjuster with your fingers.
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    Remove the cable. Align the two slots on the adjuster where the brake cable goes through on top of the brake lever. The cable will gently fall out if you ease it.
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    Replace the outer casing. Hold up the new outer casing against the old one so you know the correct length.
    • Use the wire cutters to make a clean cut. Check that there is a smooth hole at the incision for the cable to run in and out. Then attach a metal ferrule.
    • Slide the cable into the hole. Check that it fits well. Slide the rest of the cable into the outer casing.
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    Hook the nipple back in. Hook the nipple into the end of the brake lever, and ease into the brake lever and into the two slots in the barrel adjuster. At the other end, thread the cable through the metal "noodle" and push the outer casing into it. Slide on the piece of rubber, placing on the larger end first. This stops dirt getting into your cable. Slide under the cable clamp bolt and thread through.
    • Clamp it temporarily with the Allen key. Reconnect the brake by pulling it across and slotting it into the hole. Make sure the metal noodle is bedded down in place.
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    Tighten. Loosen the Allen key bolt and pull the cable through. Hold the cable, loosen the Allen key, pull the cable tight and tighten up again.
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    Perform checks.
    • Pull firmly on the brake lever multiple times to stretch out the new cable. Readjust the tension as necessary.
    • Check that the outer casing is properly located into the cable adjuster and into the noodle.
    • Check that the other end of the noodle is in the final slot.
    • Pull on the brake lever several times. This will make sure everything is in place. This helps to bed the cable in. If it feels loose, you'll need to tighten it a bit more. When finished, make sure you have tightened the bolt up firmly.
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    Cut the cable. Now is a good time to cut the end of the cable.
    • Leave about 3 inches (7.6 cm) of cable poking out from the brake clamp.
    • Attach a cable end cap to stop the end fraying. Squash it into place with either pliers or the end of the cable cutters.
    • Hook around by the brake.
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    Do a final check. Make sure your brakes work properly before you go riding.

Warnings

  • Be sure to check the brakes before going on a ride - you don't want to discover something is malfunctioning as you are speeding downhill!

Things You'll Need

  • A set of Allen keys - Metric! not English. At minimum you will need a 5mm allen key
  • A new brake cable
  • A length of outer casing for the cable, this is commonly referred to as Cable Housing and is very difficult to cut/size without a proper cable cutting tool.
  • A good pair of wire cutters - (Shimano)

or Park tool cable cutters are recommended)

  • A metal ferrule (ask for one at the bike shop when you buy your cable)
  • An end cap (ask for one at the bike shop when you buy your cable)

Sources and Citations

  • Videos provided by 3V
  • VideoJug. A video demonstration of changing a brake cable on a bicycle. Shared with permission.

Article Info

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