Cables on bikes control the gears and brakes. They are made from specially wound and tensioned steel which is treated to give smoother operation and help prevent corrosion. Inner cables are the actual steel cables controlling mechanisms and outer cables are the specially designed housing the inner cables pass through. Inner cables are made in pre determined lengths where the user trims the ends after installation and outer cables are bought by the length needed, usually per metre. Outer comes in gear and brake specific design and must not be mixed as this results in poor shifting or braking if used incorrectly.
Gear cables are standard fitting on road and mountain bikes across all manufacturers although some makers apply more coating to cables making them smoother or last longer.
Brake cables are available in two types of fitting which is determined by the brake lever being used. Road bikes use the ‘pear’ shape end whereas mountain bikes use a ‘barrel’ end. Some time trial (aero) brake levers use the ‘barrel’ so check manufacturer’s specifications before ordering.
Cables are another often overlooked component whose condition and use can have a massive impact on your cycling performance so check them regularly and replace when needed.