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  1. #1
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    Brake cable for derailleur

    I've searched the forums to find an answer for this question, but haven't had any success.

    I know cable and derailleur housings aren't interchangeable, but what about the cables?

    I'm replacing all the cables/housing on an early 90s mtb with Suntour components. None of the cable at the LBS had the right kind of end, and they said it would be very hard to find. It looks like a smaller version of the flat button on a brake cable, made to fit a Suntour XPress trigger shifter.

    So they suggested I use 5mm derailleur housing with metal ferrules (worked out to the same diameter as 4mm with plastic), and they ground down the button on some brake cable to fit the shifter.

    Since this cable is thicker (and presumably less flexible) Should I consider this a temporary fix and keep an eye out for derailleur-specific cable, or is this a necessary tradeoff considering the age of the bike, or will there not be any noticeable difference in shifting?

    Thanks for your help!

  2. #2
    Senior Member bikeman715's Avatar
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    It will be a trade off than you will have to make.And you should not notice any difference.You might find some NOS of cables you are looking for on Ebay .

  3. #3
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    As long as it shifts fine, why worry?

  4. #4
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    i guess it will be fine. keep trying to find the right cables though. thicker cable may not give you as crisp of shifts and make sure you use the appropriate housing too.

    i think it is the other way around (shifter cables for brakes) that would not be advised as braking should never get substandard parts.

  5. #5
    Great State of Varmint Panthers007's Avatar
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    Using a brake-cable for a derailleur is doable - though it's overkill. Brake-cables are thicker and stronger than shifter-cables. They have a much stronger job to do. So - yes. You can, but it's a waste of metal/money.

    Just don't use shift-cables for the brakes. They can snap and get you killed in an emergency stop or otherwise.
    How do you keep an idiot in suspense?

  6. #6
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    Thanks, everyone!

    I'll be installing them tomorrow. The shifters are new to me, so I won't really know how they're supposed to feel. But as long as they move the chain without too much effort, I'll count it a success.

  7. #7
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    Grrr. Went ahead and put them on. The front one is fine, but the back one is...

    too short by a few inches.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by makeitwork View Post
    Grrr. Went ahead and put them on. The front one is fine, but the back one is...

    too short by a few inches.
    Darn, shoulda saw that coming.

    The average rear brake cable typically only has to make it back to the front of the rear wheel. Using this as a rear der cable would have to reach almost to the rear of the wheel (including the U-turn to the der).

    Might try to find some tandem bike cables ... they're longer than the average cable set.

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by tippy View Post
    Darn, shoulda saw that coming.

    The average rear brake cable typically only has to make it back to the front of the rear wheel. Using this as a rear der cable would have to reach almost to the rear of the wheel (including the U-turn to the der).

    Might try to find some tandem bike cables ... they're longer than the average cable set.
    Yep. Back to the bike shop on Monday. I don't feel too bad about not realizing this would happen -- it didn't occur to them, either

  10. #10
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    I like thick deraileur cables, especially for my rear deraileur. They are less springy and give a more positive shift.

  11. #11
    meb
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panthers007 View Post
    Using a brake-cable for a derailleur is doable - though it's overkill. Brake-cables are thicker and stronger than shifter-cables. They have a much stronger job to do. So - yes. You can, but it's a waste of metal/money.

    Just don't use shift-cables for the brakes. They can snap and get you killed in an emergency stop or otherwise.
    This sounds logical for the loads these cables need handle.

    In the pre-indexed days it was common to buy cables that had brake ferrules on one end and shifters on the others, you cut off the one you didn't need. So what changed-did brake cables get thicker or shifter cables get thinner?

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by meb View Post
    In the pre-indexed days it was common to buy cables that had brake ferrules on one end and shifters on the others, you cut off the one you didn't need. So what changed-did brake cables get thicker or shifter cables get thinner?
    I'm wondering about that, too. There's not a big difference in cable size, and brake cables are only a few inches shorter. Is it a cost-cutting measure? Weight? A greater variety of ends?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by meb View Post
    In the pre-indexed days it was common to buy cables that had brake ferrules on one end and shifters on the others, you cut off the one you didn't need. So what changed-did brake cables get thicker or shifter cables get thinner?
    I don't remember it as being that way. I remember there being a distinction between a brake cable and a shift cable.

    I remember brake cables having two different ends. One was for brake levers on a ten speed. The other was for levers on flat handle bars.

    I also remember two different ends on shift cables, too. One end was a small cylinder coaxially mounted on the cable. The other was a small cylinder mounted perpendicular to the cable axis. These cylinders were much smaller than the brake cable ends.

  14. #14
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    Never use housing for shifting (SIS housing) with brake cable, installed on brakes.

    Housing for shifting may not withstand the pressure build up by brake cable; it may burst when you're doing an emergency stop.

  15. #15
    Senior Member badmother's Avatar
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    I found out when I built a longtail bike that different brands is of different lenght. I had two types lying around the house. One was long enough, one was not.

  16. #16
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    I have an old Schwinn with the same types of shifting ends. I believe you can get those cables with the ends needed from Harris cycle.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Berre View Post
    Never use housing for shifting (SIS housing) with brake cable, installed on brakes.

    Housing for shifting may not withstand the pressure build up by brake cable; it may burst when you're doing an emergency stop.
    Did you even bother reading post #1 or just decided to insert random irrelevant facts which the op already knows
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by planyourfate View Post
    I have an old Schwinn with the same types of shifting ends. I believe you can get those cables with the ends needed from Harris cycle.
    They look like what I need, but would it make more sense to use better quality brake cables and modify the end or use lower quality shift cables? (The Huret/Simplex here: http://sheldonbrown.com/harris/cables.html )

    There's not a huge difference in price, so it seems like a small investment for a big increase in quality.

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