Broken Cable   Leave a comment

Cable HeadI was wrapping up a ride. I had one more stop light, a block-and-a-half, then my home. The challenge is that after the stop light, the road turns near-vertical. As I eased up to the stop light, I went to shift into a lower gear, to help accelerate from the stop light and make it up the hill.

However, instead of shifting down, I felt the lever give, and my rear derailleur went to my highest gear in the rear. I got off the bike, and took a look–the derailleur cable broke. I thought it was not a big deal–I’ve replaced derailleur cables before. It was a cheap fix. Since I was a block-and-a-half from home, it was near-perfect timing. I wouldn’t have to call someone to pick me up. If anything, I had an excuse to be lazy, walking up the last hill.

While running errands, I popped into a bike store–one I typically don’t go to but was on the way–and bought a cable. Later, I went to put it in the shifter, and it simply wouldn’t work. I could shift three times in either direction, but not beyond that. Something was wrong.

I decided to run to a bike store to see if they could take a look. My hope was that the mechanic would take a look at it, say I was an idiot, and show me I was putting the cable in wrong. It’s a straight-foward process, and, as I said, I’ve replaced these cables before. But, the alternative was more frightening. Shimano, the manufacturer of the shifter, tends to take “replace not repair” approach. Something small broken inside the shifter could require replacement. The shifters are six years old–out of warranty, and not even the current version of my group. The worst case scenario was replacing both shifters–a prospect that could cost several hundred dollars.

The mechanic was awesome! He took a look, and, as it turns out, I’m not totally an idiot. The “head” of the cable was stuck in the shifter, preventing me from seating the new cable properly. I was not totally out of the woods–he had to get it out. My particular shifters were notorious for this getting stuck, and having to replace them over a cable head that would not come out was far from unprecedented.

He fought my shifter for ten minutes. He triumphantly pulled out the head! He installed a new cable, tuned the shifting, and charged me $25. Given what I feared when I left the house, I was grateful for fast service.

My take away: check my cable heads for wear more often. If I can catch it soon enough, it’s a cheap fix.

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Posted 2012-09-03 by Mr. Guilt in Cycling

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