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  1. #1
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    How do you cut a cable?

    Okay, you're out on tour, 50 miles from the nearest bike shop and you snap a shift or brake cable. You have a lot of up and down ahead so riding single speed or without both sets of brakes is not a viable or safe option. You pull out your spare cable (you have a spare cable, right?) and proceed to make your road side repair. Everything is going great until you have to trim the extra two feet from the end of the cable because you don't want it wrapping around your axle or crank. How do you do this?

    I've broken a brake cable coming down the east side of Trail Ridge Road, no spare. But if I had a spare I wouldn't have had the tool to trim it to length. Fortunately I wasn't loaded (me or my bike) and I was able to make it down safely with frequent stops to cool my front rim.

    I've also broken shift cables twice on my commute, first time no spare, so I used the stop screws on the derailure to select a reasonable rear cog and I three-speeded it home using my three chain rings. Second time I had a spare cable and I did a field repair. All went well until it came time trim the excess length. Guess what, nail clippers don't do squat and I almost committed hara-kiri with my swiss army knife, talk about a cultural faux pas!

    I guess I could carry four spare cables all precut to length. I could even solder the strands, but who's that prepared? Let's say you carry universal cables for spares, you know the ones with a brake nub thingy on one end and a shifter nub thingy on the other. How do you cut the cable to make your field repairs? I really don't want to carry my Park cable cutting tool everywhere. The bicycle multi tools I've looked at don't have anything capable of cutting through one of these. Any ideas?

    Thanks,

    Tom Moritz

  2. #2
    Nobody, et al.
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    I carry a set of needle-nose pliers in my seatbag-toolkit. There's a wire cutter integrated.

    But... since you don't want to carry a cable-cutting tool, you probably don't want to carry needle-nose pliers either.
    My belt buckle has my name on it: "DAD"

  3. #3
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    Upon front derailer cable replacement I've taped the excess into a coil and then taped that (with room for cable travel) behind my bottle cage.

    I always take a small roll of electrical tape (or whatever tape I happen to have a small, mostly used roll of) with me.
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Lemond Buenos Aires Triple

  4. #4
    <riding now> BigAura's Avatar
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nobodyetal View Post
    I carry a set of needle-nose pliers in my seatbag-toolkit. There's a wire cutter integrated.

    But... since you don't want to carry a cable-cutting tool, you probably don't want to carry needle-nose pliers either.
    I don't want to carry the heavy Park cable cutter I use at home. I have't had much success with the anvil type cutters you find on needle nose or dikes when cutting the newer stainless steel cables. Have they worked for you? Maybe if I use a new/sharp pair. I wouldn't have any objection to carrying a small set of needle nose pliers.

  6. #6
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    1. Check your cables very carefully before you ride places like Trail Ridge Road, and replace them every year or two. Stay away from the cheap double ended cables, they don't last as long as good single ended cables and they are hard to cut without fraying.

    2. Wind the excess into a coil and wrap the last bit of coil around itself to hold it all together, then cut the cable and crimp on a cable end with a good quality cable cutting tool.

    3. Even if you did carry four pre-cut cables, they really don't weigh that much.

  7. #7
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    If I have my leatherman it cuts them fine. If I am not carrying it, I'd just roll up the excess and trim it off the next bike shop I passed. Worst case I can't imagine being unable to borrow some kind of cutter in just about any town.

  8. #8
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    I carry the needle nose pliers with me on longer/remote tours...but the one time I have had a cable break on me was on a short 3-day tour, where I wasn't carrying the pliers (I did have an extra cable though. Go figure). Fortunately, the break occurred near a town, and I was able to borrow some side cutters from a guy who happened to be out mowing his lawn.

  9. #9
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    just crimp and roll it and tie a modified stopper knot, cut it the next time you're at a place with a cutter. duct tape and zip ties if you can't tie a knot in a cable. barring that, although i haven't done it by hand, you should be able to repeatedly bend a cable to break it, given enough persistence.

    i no longer carry leatherman type tools.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 04-26-11 at 06:41 PM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  10. #10
    Senior Member mulveyr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tmoritz View Post
    Okay, you're out on tour, 50 miles from the nearest bike shop and you snap a shift or brake cable. You have a lot of up and down ahead so riding single speed or without both sets of brakes is not a viable or safe option. You pull out your spare cable (you have a spare cable, right?) and proceed to make your road side repair. Everything is going great until you have to trim the extra two feet from the end of the cable because you don't want it wrapping around your axle or crank. How do you do this?

    I've broken a brake cable coming down the east side of Trail Ridge Road, no spare. But if I had a spare I wouldn't have had the tool to trim it to length. Fortunately I wasn't loaded (me or my bike) and I was able to make it down safely with frequent stops to cool my front rim.

    I've also broken shift cables twice on my commute, first time no spare, so I used the stop screws on the derailure to select a reasonable rear cog and I three-speeded it home using my three chain rings. Second time I had a spare cable and I did a field repair. All went well until it came time trim the excess length. Guess what, nail clippers don't do squat and I almost committed hara-kiri with my swiss army knife, talk about a cultural faux pas!

    I guess I could carry four spare cables all precut to length. I could even solder the strands, but who's that prepared? Let's say you carry universal cables for spares, you know the ones with a brake nub thingy on one end and a shifter nub thingy on the other. How do you cut the cable to make your field repairs? I really don't want to carry my Park cable cutting tool everywhere. The bicycle multi tools I've looked at don't have anything capable of cutting through one of these. Any ideas?

    Thanks,

    Tom Moritz
    I've cut a cable with the saw on my swiss army knife. It was a gawd-awful frayed mess by the time I was done, but at least I was able to make it to a bike shop without further incident.
    Knows the weight of my bike to the nearest 10 pounds.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    just crimp and roll it and tie a modified stopper knot, cut it the next time you're at a place with a cutter. duct tape and zip ties if you can't tie a knot in a cable. barring that, although i haven't done it by hand, you should be able to repeatedly bend a cable to break it, given enough persistence.

    i no longer carry leatherman type tools.
    I am not so sure about tying stainless cables into a knot. You might have been able to with galvanised wire.

    I broke a rear derailleur cable on the way in from LA Airport to the central railway station. I carried (and still do carry) a small pair of folding scissors. I also had a spare shifter cable.

    I didn't have much to do waiting the 18 hours for the train, so I just set about cutting the cable as best I could after threading it and adjusting. It took a while, but strand-by-strand I got through it with a reasonably neat array at the end of the cable.

    The scissors survived quite well, and lasted me for many nights' camping until I lost them and the attached pocketknife on a LD ride several years later.

    I've only ever had three shifter cables break, both at the mushroom end in the shifter, one an MTB shifter, the other two in STIs. It pays to replace cables at least once a year, in my estimation.
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan View Post
    I am not so sure about tying stainless cables into a knot. You might have been able to with galvanised wire.
    I have not tried to tie a bike cable into a knot but a friend had a cable failure on his kayak rudder. That cable was about the same thickness as a bike brake cable. It was not easy but we managed to tie a bowline in the end of the cable and fix his rudder.

    I also do not have a cable cutter that actually works very well on any of my small multi-tools but I carry a small roll of electrical tape on bike touring. For that reason for my spares, I make sure that I cut off the unwanted end of the double ended cables with a good clean cut before I leave home.

  13. #13
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    Hmm, I guess I thought my Gerber MultiTool's cutter would work, food for thought.

    Descending TRR with one brake.... hope it was the back one that broke!
    ...

  14. #14
    Senior Member BigBlueToe's Avatar
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    I make a mini-coil with the extra cable and cut it when I get home.

  15. #15
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    Two Feet,? so you got a tandem gear cable? the single bike spare cables
    are not so long.

    Proper cable cutters close a <> around the cable from both sides..
    so strands don't spread out. insta fray

    I'm in the coil up the excess camp, then stop by a bike shop on the route,
    and they will cut it and crimp on the cap to keep it from fraying, as a solution,
    though I did find a simple cable cutter, the tool is not weightless.

    a triangular needle file can do the job, too... given Patience..
    Last edited by fietsbob; 04-27-11 at 11:43 AM.

  16. #16
    cyclopath vik's Avatar
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    If you are carrying a spare brake cable with one end for road bike use and the other for MTB use you'll have to cut the unneeded end off prior to installing it.
    safe riding - Vik
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  17. #17
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    Cables are so light and cheap, I precut and carry all four.

  18. #18
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rowan
    I am not so sure about tying stainless cables into a knot.
    like i said, if you can't tie a knot in a cable. taking up slack by tying a knot in a cable is quite easy.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 04-27-11 at 05:26 PM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

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