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Old 07-23-07, 09:37 AM   #1
madopal
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Broken gear cable in Shimano 105 STI shifter

So, I'm riding yesterday. I feel a nice pop, and the shifter cable housing pops out of my right Shimano 105 STI shifter. I'm gearless in my small set, but I figure I can get home and just replace the cable.

I get home and inspect the shifter, and here's what I find (after pulling out the frayed cable in an attempt to get at it):




My question is this: is the shifter toast? I've looked at the disassembly instructions, and there's nothing for getting at the innards of the shifter, only the brake part. For some reason, it appears the shifter pull has rotated all the way down past where I can get at the metal nub end of the cable. And if I can't get that over, I can't get the remaining cable part out. I've tried pulling at it with some pliers, but it seems like it won't budge. Any advice for getting the remaining cable out of there?

If it is gone, can anyone recommend a path? This was a recent build (I put it together myself about a year and a half ago). The whole drivetrain is Shimano 105, 9-speed, and I'm having trouble finding 9-speed Shimano shifters. What should I do? Switch to 10-speed? Rebuild the whole drive train?
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Old 07-23-07, 10:06 AM   #2
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Downshift all the way, remove cable end, install new cable. Ride on.
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Old 07-23-07, 10:07 PM   #3
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Try to grab the end of the frayed cable and downshift (if you can) then try to extract the cable head with tweezers, picks, anything you can get into it. You really can't disassemble it to get to it (serious design flaw IMO)

I've had 3-4 shimano shifters come in that have broken or break cables inside of them this past month. Check your cable heads regularly (shift up to largest cog, then w/o pedaling, downshift to slack the cable, pop out the cable to inspect)
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Old 07-23-07, 11:37 PM   #4
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Downshift all the way, remove cable end, install new cable. Ride on.
Well put!
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Old 07-24-07, 08:49 AM   #5
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I've taken a hack at it, but I'm seeing two problems. First, it's pretty badly frayed, and downshifting seems to be pulling the cabling in weirdly. I might have exacerbated this by pulling the cabling out the wrong end, but as it was broken so short, I couldn't get to it from the other side.

Second, downshifting appears to be pulling it further INWARD, which doesn't make sense to me.

I'll try holding it with pliers as was suggested.

Any clue why this might have happened? The cable is only a year and a half old, so that seems pretty short to me.

I was looking through the assembly instructions, and I noticed that the frame I bought (Nashbar X-Cross) didn't have any braze on or anything for the outer stopper on the down tube. I just have both of the cables for the shifting going into these small metal routers (they look like sorta cupped off funnels).

Could the lack of the outer stopper be causing undue stress on the cable?
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Old 07-24-07, 08:53 AM   #6
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Oh, and thanks for the advice on how to regularly check the cable. That's good, I'll have to remember that.
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Old 07-24-07, 12:43 PM   #7
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well it looks like from those scratches on the brifter right around where the cable goes in, you may have wrecked it/smacked it on something - that probably has something to do with the break in the cable (like it got kinked, and eventually started fraying at that point)
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Old 07-24-07, 01:26 PM   #8
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Second, downshifting appears to be pulling it further INWARD, which doesn't make sense to me.
Yeah, for the right shifter you need to upshift (small shift lever).
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Old 08-02-07, 09:26 AM   #9
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I bought a Trek 1220 a while back that had a RSX shifter with a stuck cable head. I'm not sure how, but the previous owner had managed to wrap the cable head counter clockwise in the mechanism halfway past the cable entry porthole. I had to use the dremel to get it out and the result wasn't pretty, but it saved an otherwise functional shifter.
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Old 08-02-07, 11:49 PM   #10
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I bought a Trek 1220 a while back that had a RSX shifter with a stuck cable head. I'm not sure how, but the previous owner had managed to wrap the cable head counter clockwise in the mechanism halfway past the cable entry porthole. I had to use the dremel to get it out and the result wasn't pretty, but it saved an otherwise functional shifter.
you realise that you could have just pulled it apart right?

The front cap comes off with a hex key, there's a spring and a little rubber ring under this, spring makes the lever return properly, rubber ring (I'm guessing) is to keep the dirt out.

Pushing the brake/shift lever out as far as it goes, and the smaller shift only lever to halfway or so exposes a screw at the back. This screw is a pain to get at but it takes the brake lever and casing off the brifter, letting you get at the insides.

It's a pain in the arse to get back together though, the spring on the face is especially difficult.

As for the OP, looks like they've done away with the hex nut on the front for the 105 levers, so you're probably out of luck unless you can pull the cable out the hole.
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Old 02-21-09, 02:48 PM   #11
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I had a similar problem with 105 shifters. About 20 minutes of upshifting, downshifting and grabbing at the end with tweezers and holding onto it while shifting eventually sorted it out.

My best guess as to what is causing it is if the cable isn't moving freely (e.g. the cable outer near the derailleur is rusted or something like that) then when you upshift, the cable bunches up in the shifter and gets damaged over time.

You can get exploded diagrams on the Shimano website if you need to take it apart to get the cable out.
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Old 05-25-09, 11:38 AM   #12
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Broken 105 shifter cable

Hi. I commute about 9.5 miles Croydon to London UK on a condor fratello. Very nice to ride, except the rear derailleur cable breaks about every 3 months. So far, condor have replaced it at minimal or zero cost.

It's just happened again after their free replacement in February. Thanks for all the tips etc; but trying for 2 hours could not get the 105 shifter to rotate back to get the stuck cable head out.

So it's back to Condors when I get to work tomorrow.

Oh well, at least I know a route to work with minimal hills (used to use it when I commuted on my brompton)! Tomorrow I will again be experiencing single-speed riding, except when I change down on the 2-speed front derailleur!

I do wonder if it's my riding style that's doing it. I read with interest comments about changing gear gently etc. It'd be nice if condor could give me some idea, though.
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Old 05-25-09, 02:45 PM   #13
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I've seen this before twice, once on my Ultegra brifters. Just keep picking at it. Mine was worse. Most of the cable was gone. You may need to remove it from the bike so you can shake it and such. But it IS fixable
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Old 05-26-09, 11:54 AM   #14
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Well, today Condor excelled and did the repair - turns out it was a defective right shifter from the start! Very pleased all done under warranty - those things aren't cheap! They admitted the defective part had been stressing the cable, hence the 3-mothly cable replacements. Had a more confident ride home this evening.
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Old 06-08-09, 10:09 AM   #15
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alternate fix

I just had a bad break inside DA shifters.... and found a great way to recover cable end.
Drilling extraction hole in shifter to remove broken cable head stuck inside
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Old 12-13-15, 10:47 PM   #16
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I'm reviving this thread b/c I've had two instances of broken cable ends in the past few years and I did a search on "shimano inspect shifter cable" and came up with nothing. Someone says here above, "shift up to largest cog, then without pedaling, downshift to slack the cable, pop out the cable to inspect." They meant upshift, not downshift, but I figured that out. The problem is, I can't get the cable end to pop out. So here's my question:

Do I have to release the rear derailleur cable completely in order to slacken it enough to pop it out?


I'd rather not do that b/c then I'd have to adjust it all over again. (I don't have room in my apartment for a repair stand so it's a bother). I have Shimano Flight Deck Ultegra shifters, don't know specifically what vintage they are. The bike was hand built by a local mechanic using spare parts sometime around 2007, so the shifters may be older than 2007.

As always, thoughtful, well informed replies are most appreciated!...

Last edited by dglevy; 12-14-15 at 03:57 PM. Reason: wrong date on bike build
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Old 12-14-15, 12:02 AM   #17
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I'll shift the rear der into it's largest cog then WITHOUT pedaling trigger the shifter back to it's other end (meaning if it's a 9 spd shifter and after shifting into the lowest gear I'll work the release lever 8 clicks). I'll tug lightly on an exposed cable or casing to help the shifter through it's range. Now the der and chain are hung up in the lowest (largest cog) gear and the shifter is at the other end of the range. So there's a lot of cable slack. On an external routed cable then I'll detach the der casing from the chainstay stop. now there's a whole bunch of cable slack, enough to feed the inner cable out of the shifter body. A small amount of lever movement inwards will expose the cable entry port and allow the slack inner to get pushed out the port enough to look at the last inch of the inner. This last inch is where the stress and fraying will be. If you have internally routed cables then you might have to actually loosen the der cable anchor bolt to get enough cable slack to do this. The more current versions of Shimano levers with under the bar tape routing can be harder to see as the fraying in up high in the body where the tape covers things. But the principle is the same. make enough slack to push the inner out of the lever and take a look.

Or just replace the cable every year or so, before it frays, and ride. Andy.
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Old 12-14-15, 12:12 AM   #18
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My cable broke the weekend before Thanksgiving last year and December 6th this year, about 6,500 miles. This time one of the broken strands prevented the mechanism from rotating when I pushed the small lever. Had to play with it for about 30 minutes, using a pick to try to bend the offending strand out of the way. Finally got it. I think I should just plan on replacing this cable next summer.



I think I'll just start replacing it every 9 months or so now.
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Old 12-14-15, 02:03 PM   #19
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Been there, done that. It takes a lot of time and eye strain.
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Old 12-14-15, 02:24 PM   #20
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Yep...

I did a 30 mile ride today and the shifter was just not working well no matter how many times I adjusted the cable tension. Finally, on the way home, the shifter momentarily locked up. That told me to NOT shift anymore, get home and inspect the cable right away. It's shot after 4700 miles.

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My cable broke the weekend before Thanksgiving last year and December 6th this year, about 6,500 miles. This time one of the broken strands prevented the mechanism from rotating when I pushed the small lever. Had to play with it for about 30 minutes, using a pick to try to bend the offending strand out of the way. Finally got it. I think I should just plan on replacing this cable next summer.
I think I'll just start replacing it every 9 months or so now.
Yeah, one can replace it before it frays. But I suspect that one usually gets ample warning before it breaks completely. This is the second time where I started getting unreliable shifting -- death knells -- well before it was too late. The first time was with the front der cable a few months ago, so one can notice the warning signs for both front and back. (Didn't catch the last one in time: lesson learned...)

If you got 6500 miles on yours and I got only 4700 miles on mine, either your shifter mechanism is smoother or you lube your cable often, or both. I never lubed my cable. It may've been lubed a couple of times when I brought it into the my local bike shop (LBS), but not in a regular way. That may be why.

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I'll shift the rear der into its largest cog then WITHOUT pedaling trigger the shifter back to its other end (meaning if it's a 9 spd shifter and after shifting into the lowest gear I'll work the release lever 8 clicks). [...]
Thanks, Andy. This is the most complete and detailed guidance I have ever gotten on a forum. It shows the Internet at its best! I didn't get a chance to follow your advice, since it was very clear to me that I had a dying shifter cable, so I just released it completely. But I've copied your advice into my bicycling notes file and will use it the next time I hear some faint 'death knells' coming from the cable...

Cheers, and thanks again ever so much. Awesome post!

Last edited by dglevy; 12-14-15 at 03:55 PM.
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Old 12-14-15, 07:01 PM   #21
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Yeah, one can replace it before it frays. But I suspect that one usually gets ample warning before it breaks completely. This is the second time where I started getting unreliable shifting -- death knells -- well before it was too late. The first time was with the front der cable a few months ago, so one can notice the warning signs for both front and back. (Didn't catch the last one in time: lesson learned...)

If you got 6500 miles on yours and I got only 4700 miles on mine, either your shifter mechanism is smoother or you lube your cable often, or both. I never lubed my cable. It may've been lubed a couple of times when I brought it into the my local bike shop (LBS), but not in a regular way. That may be why!
First time it broke last year it was giving wonky shifts for a couple days, I just didn't realize what was going on. This last time I noticed one wonky shift and the very next one it broke.

I lube the cable where it will be inside the housing with a thin coat of synthetic grease, I lube the brifters with trifoil every 2 or 3 months. I imagine there are higher and lower quality cables too. This last one I bought at my LBS for maybe $3 or $4, the one I just installed I ordered online somewhere so I'd have a spare in inventory. One of those double ended campy/shimano universal cables. I was online a few days ago and saw a cable listed for $24. Hard to imagine a cable is worth that much of a premium.

Anyway I've got to order a new spare, any recommendations on the best mix of price, performance and longevity?
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Old 12-14-15, 10:07 PM   #22
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I don't know what to recommend. But I'll be going in to my LBS tomorrow or the day after and will ask about the pros and cons of various cables. You'd think there would be something stronger that wouldn't break so often...

And, while I'm on my high horse, wouldn't it be nice if a manufacturer like Shimano warned people that they must replace the cable before it breaks--and why they must do so? Oh. Yeah. Sorry, I was dreaming.
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Old 12-16-15, 06:28 PM   #23
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Anyway I've got to order a new spare, any recommendations on the best mix of price, performance and longevity?
I went to my LBS, talked with the mechanics and replaced the cable. The 'chief tech' said there is no significant difference b/w cables and there is nothing fancier one can get to reduce the frequency of failures, it's just the nature of STI shifters, how they're configured and one just has to put up with it.

He recommended against regularly applying lube, didn't think it would extend the life of the cable and it would "probably just end up making the mechanism gummy".

I normally would take his advice with a grain of salt, but he's a former pro downhiller, and cat 2 road racer, now a USA Cycling certified race mechanic. So, yeah, I think he's worth listening carefully to. I'm not saying he's right, but definitely worth taking his advice very seriously.
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Old 12-16-15, 06:42 PM   #24
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I use SRAM shift cables. Inexpensive, they seem a little more flexible than Shimano cables though I've not any gear cable failures with either brand.
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Old 12-16-15, 06:52 PM   #25
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Thanks for the report. I agree that lube will not likely extend the cable life. From what I can see it is a function of metal fatigue, not lack of lube.

I agree gummy brifters are not desirable. But anything mechanical like this usually works better with some lubrication. Maybe Tri-flow is not the right stuff to use.
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