Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Front Brake Cable Routing

Or how eveyone else is mucking it up!

In cyclocross, there are a bunch of compromises you make to get a bike working. It is, after all, a sport forged from road racing with just enough mountain biking thrown in, and a few proprietary goodies for good measure. One of the issues people struggle with is front brake cable routing. A lot of bikes are pretty smooshed for space where the front cable exits the bar tape and gets routed down to the front wheel. While there are plenty of ways that will effectively route a front brake cable, they all are wrong. Either they offend my delicate visual sensibilities, are a shoddy and quick way of dealing with a problem, or they have the potential for imminent death. I'll go through all of these "options", but first I'm going to show you the correct way and give you a little trick to make it even better. Do it this way or you are wrong. (Aren't you glad we got that point established? And by we I mean me.)

First, get yourself one of these from IRD.

You won't need the pinch bolt if your headset is tight, so toss it to save a few grams. Sure there are lighter ones out there, but none are better. Because it's machined from a pretty sizable hunk of aluminum and they leave a fair bit of it intact, it's pretty stiff. Meaning your brakes aren't mushy from your hanger flexing. It's a small step when it comes to eliminating brake shudder.(Another post entirely.) Your brakes may still be mushy because you don't know how to set them up, but not from your hanger flexing.

Route your cable under the stem. I don't care how the TreeFarm does it. By using the LongDrop from IRD you'll have plenty of room for the cable to make a nice smooth bend.

If you want to be extra cool like me, use an old V-brake noodle to guide the cable to the hanger. You can bend it into all sorts of configurations and the cable will slide through it better than plain housing. Plus it will help firm up the feel at the lever. If you don't have any old noodles laying around, go to your local shop. Any shop should have a bin full of the never used but always included 135degree bend ones. You can bend it yourself to any angle you want and if you need to shorten it, just pull the end the housing goes into off and cut the tube with a hacksaw.

Here's where I list all the wrong ways and make fun of them. If you route your cables this way and are offended, then good. You deserve to be. Any idjit that gets offended by teasing and brake cable routing posts on the web needs to pull up their big girl panties and have anther cup of shut the fuck up.

Resist the urge to be "Euro" and route the cable over the stem like this.

It's bad enough that the cable is on the right side, thereby giving the rider "motorcycle" or "Euro" style brake set up, but he's using Nokon housing to make a long loop of housing. Nokon, while a pain in the ass and expensive, does have the sole redeeming virtue of being able to be bent into small arc and still have the cables pass smoothly. This bike looks like he did it this way so he could show off the color matching that Nokons allow just a bit more than if it was tucked away under the handlebar.

The real reason you'll see this routing done on some Pro's bikes is because it's fast and easy to do if you are a mechanic that is replacing housing and cable fairly often. It allows for more latitude in cutting just the right amount of housing. If it's a little long, who cares?

Make certain your hanger is on straight. For the love of God, don't do this.

It makes you look like a fat man with a too short and crooked tie. Think Blimpy from Popeye. Again, if you run the LongDrop and noodle, then you won't have any issues with the stem getting in the way. Show some class and get it on there straight. If it's rotating itself, then your headset isn't adjusted properly.

This next one I just hate because of pure aesthetics.

It's ugly, I don't care how many fast guys do this. When you view the bike from the side, the cable is going dow n to the front brake at a goofy looking angle. Also, there are quite a few stems that don't have the clearance between the face plate and the stem body. If your fork suffers from shudder issues, then this will only make it worse.

If you aren't a fat, chain smoking Belgian professional mechanic, then don't even think about this next little "fix".

Drilling through your stem is stupid. Sure, there are posts on the forums with people claiming "no problems so far", but so what? I'm certain there were Yugo drivers that said the same thing at first. The Pro's bikes will have this sometimes done for special events like Paris-Roubaix. It's designed for a one time use. Not three seasons of Cat 3 mid-pack dominance and summer time adventure rides. Besides, it makes the bike look like it has a "Prince Albert". Turn your filters off on your Google Image search and you'll see what I mean.


Anonymous said...

the reason that eurogoofball has a a hole drilled in his stem; and you have a stupid v brake noodle hung like a limp dick hanging out of your upside down stem and serotta forum 50mms of spacer special is because;

a) you are riding a hybrid and couldn't find v brakes.

b) you are going for the fasterbackwards!!!! look


c) you will never, ever finish top ten at the oklahoma cyclo-cross women's c race.

look at sven nys' bike for the grace of god.

Thom Kneeland said...

First; that "eurogoofball" is George Hincapie. An American.

Second; punctuation, spaces, capitaliztion, grammer meet Anonymous. Anonymous meet punctuation, spaces, capitaliztion. It's obvious you two aren't acquainted and really need to get to know each other.

Third; What does Sven Nys' bike have to do with racing women in Oklahoma?

Anonymous said...

replace "eurogoofball" with "growthhormonedgoofball with an iq defecit".

apologies for any confusion. oh, and sven nys has nothing to do with oklahoman(Sp???) women. he has potato faced west flandrian dirtfarm broads to fullfill his needs.

Colin R said...

wait, the only thing wrong with over-the-stem cable routing is that it's "euro," and it gives you the ability to be sloppier with the housing length? not exactly a scathing condemnation you've got, there.

Thom Kneeland said...

No, it's not exactly scathing. I just think it looks wrong. I understand the practical reasons, it bugs me for a very "non-practical" reason. The only slightly practical reason I have for disliking it it that the brake housing is at a different position on the bar under the tape. It kinda bugs me to feel the difference when I'm riding.

pvd said...


You are more interested in fashion than function. It is obvious that all your reasons have soley to do with astetics and nothing to do with performance.

I want the best functioning brakes I can get and will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Thom Kneeland said...

Partially true. I also think the way I have it routed with the noodle makes the cleanest routing and best working brake. But functionally were splitting hares. Besides, it's more fun to gripe about ugly versus pretty any day of the week.

pvd said...

In case you haven't noticed, those stupid hanger things that you like so much flex like bloody murder when in use. They are utter garbage. Just grab a ton of front and watch that thing move. Bla.

Many other options exist that work far, far better.

Colin R said...

Besides, it's more fun to gripe about ugly versus pretty any day of the week.

Uhh... maybe if you're one of those rich wankers with the blingin bike who can't ride it for shit...

Thom Kneeland said...

How did you know that's me?

Thom Kneeland said...

Oh yeah, I'm not rich, just a wanker!

Thom Kneeland said...

PVD- I've never had a problem with the IRD flexing, but I have had the tektro and Diacompe ones flex quite a bit.

Thom P. said...

I think part of the issue here is that Georgie boy ain't a 'Cross racer, he probably rides that thing to get his Starbucks Latte on his rest day. It's set up like a comfort bike.

Not sure why that Ritchey you have pictured has the hanger all cock-eyed, plenty of stack on that glorified Specialized Crossroads to run the thing straight.

The issue with cable routing arises when you have a stem with no spacers and o° rise, then things get awkward, requiring creative yet possibly non-aesthetically pleasing solutions.

I have to take issue with a V-brake noodle being somehow more attractive than housing running over the stem. There is nothing, I say nothing sexy about a V-brake noodle.

If you're not racing UCI races you should do the smart thing and put Disc brakes on your bike. Then the cable routing issue is moot. Byah!

pvd said...

Also, adding a v-brake noodle is one of the worst things you can do in this case. Those things a crapola. They fill with mud and grime. One more needless brake in the line.

Should be housing to the end, then cap with a Shimano Sealed End Cap (Y-6AM98080)

Thom Kneeland said...

Thom P.
I can't argue with you too much. Any one who spells their first name that way must be of high intelligence and fine moral standards!

Unotache said...

Is that a Camelback water bottle in the first picture?

gwadzilla said...

drilling the stem?

I had not thought of that

it makes good sense

Anonymous said...

Pretty nice blog you've got here. Thanx for it. I like such topics and anything that is connected to them. BTW, why don't you change design :).