Cables and hoses are something that are often overlooked when building a bike, not all are created equally. Choosing good quality cables and outers, as well as routing them properly, will massively improve your shifting but also give your bike a tidy, stylish look for those all-important coffee stop Insta pics. This guide will run through how to determine cable outer lengths, cutting and the types of hose/outer. We’ll be covering gear and brake setup or bleeding in other guides but there is some useful information at the bottom of the page.
The key thing to remember for routing cables is not too long, not too short. This might sound obvious but what works on the stand may not work in real life; short tight curves for gear cables coming off the bars look great, but does the cable still move freely? Can you still turn the bars without the cables pulling tight? What about that rear brake, does it rub when you turn left?
The main three types of outer housing you’ll come across are:
Mechanical Brake Outer: Spiral wound steel - coated in plastic - This is designed to resist the large compression forces induced under hard braking. It can still resist high loads even when curved.
Mechanical Gear Outer. Linear steel wires run parallel to the inner, coated in plastic: Gear cable is almost entirely compression resistant - as linear cables won’t compress along their length, ensuring perfect index shifting. Under high loads it can be prone to bursting.
The different load levels between brakes and gears mean that for safe, effective use, you should not mix outers across shifting and braking applications.
Hydraulic Hose – specifically for hydraulic brakes, this airtight woven hose is often specific to a manufacturers brakes and requires specific fittings.
Ferrules – these usually fit each end of a piece of outer and allow the cable to pass through a small hole. As standard they come in 2 sizes; 4mm for gear and 5mm for brake outer. Sometimes a ferrule is not required when the outer goes into a brake/shifter but check your manufacturers fitting instructions on this.
To get started make sure you have all of your cables, outers and ferrules to hand, aswell as some electrical tape, scissors and some good cable cutters, sharp side cutters can be used but may deform the outer and cable.
Starting at the lever put the gear outer into the shifter port and offer up the piece of cable outer to the bar. Trace the curve curve of the bar, then a line down to the cable stop in the frame, make sure to allow a slight curve in this routing to allow for steering.
Lay this piece out flat on a bench and cut another piece the same length, this will be used for the other shifter and will allow for pro-looking symmetrical routing.
The only other gear outer cable you’ll need to cut on the PalaceR is for the rear derailleur, put one end of the outer in the stop on the chainstay and form a loop around to the barrel adjuster on the rear derailleur. Follow the mantra of not too long, not too short.
Next thread your inner gear cables into the shifters, if they didn’t come preinstalled, this can be a bit tricky on some shifters so check the manufacturer’s instructions on how to install for your shifter:
Thread the inner cables through the outer housing adding ferrules to the outer as you go (it will be easier to thread the cable through them). Seat the outer into the shifter and the stop on the frame. If the ends of the outer are pinched closed from cutting make sure to open them back up with a bradawl or a small Philips screwdriver.
Thread the inner cables through the BB mounted cable guide. You can change the position of this guide to give you a good cable route for your front derailleur.
Thread the rear derailleur inner cable through the outer housing and ferrules then seat each end into the derailleur and the frame's cable stop on the chainstay. At this point leave the inner cables at full length, it will help when setting up the gears.
Make sure the end of the outer is seated properly into the shifter, then hold the outer housing firmly so it follows the shape of the handlebar and use electrical tape to secure it tidily in place.
Next you’ll need to cut the brake outer to length, follow the same steps as for the gear outer, tracing the curve of the bar from the lever to the stop on the frame or the front brake barrel adjuster. Make sure to leave a slight curve in the routing to allow for steering, by holding the cable in position and turning the bars to 'full lock', this will also help you see if the brake outer routing binds on the gear outers.
As well as the 2 lengths from the levers you’ll need another piece of outer from the top tube cable stop to the rear caliper, cut it to length leaving a slight curve in the outer to allow for the caliper to move (The distance between the frame stop and the barrel adjuster gets slightly longer as the brake is pulled).
Once you have the outer cut, thread the brake inner cables through the lever and into the brake outer, adding ferrules as you go. If the cable feels rough or won’t go into the outer use a bradawl or screwdriver to open the ends of the outer. (Remember: Brake ferrules are a different size to gear ferrules.)
Hold the brake outers in place on the bar and secure them with electrical tape like the gear outers. Leave the cables uncut for now as this will help with setting up the brakes.
You’re done! Time to get the gears indexed and the brakes setup, we’ll be covering this in further guides but for now check out these great links for more help:
Front and rear derailleur setup