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Internal cables -- repairable on the road?

Old 06-26-12, 04:51 PM
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Internal cables -- repairable on the road?

Greetings everyone.

I'm contemplating a new bike that has internal cables and I have a dumb/basic question about repairs if/when a cable or brifter gets honked up.

My sense is that it is a bit of a PITA to fish a new cable through when in the shop. But what about on the road?

Brifters break & bind up, as do cables. On an external-cable bike, you can always bind the cable on a bottle cage or other protrusion. I'm not sure that could be a fix for an internal cable bike.

Carrying a spare cable is easy and light; I'm just not sure how I'd use it with internal cable runs.

If the cable/brifter is bound up, I can always adjust the derailler to be in a doable gear and ride home. If the cable breaks I suppose I could wedge something into the mech to get the same result... but I'm not sure how doable that would be in the real world.

So any thoughts are appreciated! I ride solo 99% of the time so won't usually have the luxury of having a mate ride home and come get me. I am usually in cell-phone range so could probably find somebody to get me, but would prefer to be self-sufficient.

-Tom in SoCal
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Old 06-26-12, 05:24 PM
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The internal cable should not that much of a problem. To make it easier I would degrease the cable end, run some solder onto it (just the very tip) to prevent fraying, and then grind to a soft point, so that it will easily slide around curves without catching. Some higher end cables are already prepped to allow smooth insertion. The cable housing should last for a long time, and if you need to replace it you can just push the old housing out with the new housing, using the cable as a guide.

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Old 06-26-12, 05:34 PM
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I don't know what you are doing that causes cables to get 'honked up' so often that you need to worry about this. I actually don't know what you mean by 'honked up.'

For what problem is 'binding the cable' on a bottle cage a fix?

I have a feeling you may be overthinking this. The phrase 'the answer to a question nobody asked' comes to mind.

Internal cables are easy to re-route as long as you don't remove the inner wire and housing at the same time... as long as you leave either the inner cable or housing in place you can use it to route the other through when you need to.
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Old 06-26-12, 05:35 PM
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Internal cable routing has been in the market for very long time, and when I mean long i mean back far to the 70's or even way earlier than that. If they were a problem nobody would use them.

I don't know why you say that a cable can snap and have all those problems u mean... in 30 plus years I have not seen a cable to snap ever. Is not something that could not happen because i have read about it in the forums but so far never happened to me or any of my friends or guys who raced with me now neither back 25 years ago. So pretty much cables don't snap, the tension is not that big for the cable to snap unless you are using stuff that has been used for 20 years and heavily oxidized, and you apply like 2432276492874627527233287643843 newtons per squared meter and to do that pretty much HULK has to adjust the cables. If your name is not David Banner I wouldn't worry about the cables, nothing it will happen unless you suck setting up bicycles, had really bad luck or jinked since you bought your 1st bike
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Old 06-26-12, 05:40 PM
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Bikes vary in how they handle internal cables. Some have continuous tubes inside so threading a new wire is a snap. Others have holes at each end and need some fishing, or creative alternatives to thread a wire. Some, like my commuter, don't have continuous tubes inside, but have a sort of funnel where the threaded wire would emerge making threading, if not super easy, not a fishing expedition either.

Over thousands of miles of riding and touring, I've never carried spare cables, except for multi-day tours of a week or more in ares where buying a wire would be difficult. Gear wires last a long time, and usually begin to announce that you're near the end well in advance.

I understand your concern, but I wouldn't rank it higher than a possible tie breaker when deciding on a bike.
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Old 06-26-12, 06:03 PM
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Originally Posted by LarDasse74
I don't know what you are doing that causes cables to get 'honked up' so often that you need to worry about this. I actually don't know what you mean by 'honked up.'

For what problem is 'binding the cable' on a bottle cage a fix?

I have a feeling you may be overthinking this. The phrase 'the answer to a question nobody asked' comes to mind.

Internal cables are easy to re-route as long as you don't remove the inner wire and housing at the same time... as long as you leave either the inner cable or housing in place you can use it to route the other through when you need to.
Thanks to all for your thoughts.

I recently had a brifter mechanism bind up on me -- leaving the FD on the middle chain wheel with no way to shift it. Fortunately I was on the trainer so it was no big deal... but it got me to thinking about what I'd do if it happened on the road. As I mentioned I usually ride solo so I like to be as self-sufficient as I can be.

From what I've read here on BF Shimano brifters don't have a stellar reputation for reliability (just ask Kimmo! <grin>)

I've recently read a post here on BF from a fellow that had a shift cables break inside the brifter mechanism. Several folks replied with "it happened to me too" so that got me thinking. Rather than focus on a specific gotcha I just combined into a catch-all phrase "honked up" may not have been clear to some.

I'm not suggesting it is happens frequently, and perhaps I am "over thinking" the issue. But it seemed like a reasonable question to me. Sorry if it rubbed some of you the wrong way.

-Tom in SoCal
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Old 06-26-12, 06:05 PM
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I hope you have a big list of things to worry about while solo touring in the boonies, and have checked off solutions to the top 500 or so, because broken cables will be somewhere south of that.

Only happened to me once, a brake cable and it was right at the pinch bolt - if I'd had an extra cable I could've gotten it through. More importantly, I should've noticed long before it happened because it gave obvious signs that I just didn't look for. Brifter cables do break inside the hood, but they always give you plenty of warning if you're paying attention.
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Old 06-26-12, 06:13 PM
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Cables breaking at the shifter is a real and not uncommon problem. Apparently mostly with Shimano 10 speed. In the past 3 years I have used the cable-under- bottle cage bolt fix at least 7 times for others on club rides. With internal cables, just pull the broken inner cable out and tie it off in the usual way. For your own situation, just change your cables annually.
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Old 06-26-12, 06:22 PM
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I recommend buying nice quality cables to begin with ( I always stick with Shimano Dura-Ace), and to also change every year or depending on your road mileage. I have never broken a cable using this method.
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Old 06-26-12, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Hendo252
Thanks to all for your thoughts.

I recently had a brifter mechanism bind up on me -- leaving the FD on the middle chain wheel with no way to shift it. Fortunately I was on the trainer so it was no big deal... but it got me to thinking about what I'd do if it happened on the road. As I mentioned I usually ride solo so I like to be as self-sufficient as I can be.

From what I've read here on BF Shimano brifters don't have a stellar reputation for reliability (just ask Kimmo! <grin>)

I've recently read a post here on BF from a fellow that had a shift cables break inside the brifter mechanism. Several folks replied with "it happened to me too" so that got me thinking. Rather than focus on a specific gotcha I just combined into a catch-all phrase "honked up" may not have been clear to some.

I'm not suggesting it is happens frequently, and perhaps I am "over thinking" the issue. But it seemed like a reasonable question to me. Sorry if it rubbed some of you the wrong way.

-Tom in SoCal
I appologize for the attitude conveyed by my post. Isn't it interesting how a 'funny' tone in a posting is very hard to accomplish, but you can accomplish a 'dickish' tone by accident?

As discussed, there have been a couple of products that are known to damage cables. I am lucky enough to not own any of those products. In general, cables should be lasting years. If I couldn't expect to get three years out of a set of cables (brake or shift) I would be disappointed. As such, the need to re-cable a bike seldom comes up outside of the shop.

And my experience with internal cable routing has been that, if you don't have a cable or housing left in the frame, it takes about five minutes to insert the cable. Sometimes more. SOMetimes, less.

I agree with your premise that internally routed cables are somewhat harder to work on, and thus have disadvantages, and are not the best choice for bikes that are likely to require roadside maintenance - as in a long-distance touring bike.
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Old 06-26-12, 06:50 PM
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"I recently had a brifter mechanism bind up on me"

If you perceive brifters to be unreliable, ditch them and put on some nice bar end shifters. Or go retro and put on some downtube shifters. Not a lot to go wrong with either, they're simple and time-tested.
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Old 06-26-12, 06:55 PM
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If you are Prudent , You replace cables before they break,,
which I never see happen in the Middle , trouble is usually on the end.
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Old 06-26-12, 08:53 PM
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Originally Posted by LarDasse74
I appologize for the attitude conveyed by my post. Isn't it interesting how a 'funny' tone in a posting is very hard to accomplish, but you can accomplish a 'dickish' tone by accident?
No worris LD -- I need to have thicker skin on internet forums, and give board members the benefit of the doubt!

Thanks to all -- this has been a good airing of the issue and I very much appreciate all the diverse views.

Six months ago, I picked up cycling after an almost 20-year hiatus. I've learned a ton from all of you and enjoy my cycling more because of it.

-Tom in SoCal
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Old 06-26-12, 09:09 PM
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Internal cable routing increases cable friction (in every case I have seen), reduces the ease to maintain and monitor said cables, increases the cost and complexibility of frame building (not a wrong thing though), makes replacing the cable a more involved job at the least and is a solution for asethitics at best. That said some internal designs work better then others. So do your homework.

Broken cables are almost always the result of neglect and penny pinching (not replacing them sooner). I do see some people have a far greater incidient of cable breakage then others. Shifting frequency, shifting harshness and playing with the shift lever during nonshifting riding are the reasons that come to my mind first. Another situation of increased cable stress (and leading to failure) is when you have a shifter with more range then the cog count needs. As you shift into the last cog it's hard to not try to over move the lever. This puts a lot of tension on the cable. Andy.
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Old 06-27-12, 04:30 AM
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Originally Posted by Hendo252
From what I've read here on BF Shimano brifters don't have a stellar reputation for reliability (just ask Kimmo! <grin>)
Well, to give Shimano their due, STIs (at least the ones with exposed cables) actually are pretty reliable; their ugly, over-complicated mechanism is just about wear-proof, and usually only fails (without damage) because the little hair springs on the pawls are too weak when the pawl pivots get a bit stiff. This failure mode usually gives you a fair bit of warning before the shifter craps out entirely; flicking the levers and generally fiddling about should continue to make it shift for a while. Then there were the notorious 105 triple shifters that kept breaking, but I think Shimano did offer replacements. And now we have the new STI design, which is more complicated again, but does a better job of hiding the ugly mechanism, at least until part of it breaks and pokes out (as I've seen posted twice on here in recent months).

I keep banging on about how Ergo is a far superior design thanks to its elegance and simplicity, but the Ergo mechanism is more susceptible to wear than STI; the index springs get softer and softer, until eventually the lever feels quite sloppy. However, it's pretty easy to take them apart and simply bend the springs a bit to tighten them up enough for another year or two. I gather Campy went a bit overboard lightening the nicer ones for a couple of years there; some Record models are prone to breakages IIRC... Campy used to offer a lot of small spares, which was pretty awesome, but AFAIK they've wound a lot of that up... I only have experience with a couple of pairs of 8spd Veloce levers; they were pretty bulletproof and never needed parts, but the design has been messed around with a bit since then (I think they now incorporate countersprings, along with the change to the indexing, Ultrashift or whatever it's called).

As for Doubletap, I have NFI. Could be a design I'd approve of, but with shifting force coming from only one direction, it'd have to be pretty clever to be elegant; I suspect it has a lot in common with STI. Doubletap and STI are a kind of ratchet system; the cable is pulled in much the same way a downtube lever does, but shifts the other way are a button-press affair, triggering the release of the cable with no solid connection between input and ouput. Whereas Ergo has that solid connection going both ways, because it has levers directly actuating the mechanism from each direction. Hence Ergo's superior front shifting, where it's possible to engage the lever and the mouse ear at the same time, and move the FD back/forth in realtime, rather than waiting to see what a click did. Ergos have more in common with downtube levers than they do with STI or Doubletap; in fact I'd say it's possible for a talented machinist to graft any DT lever's guts into Ergolevers. You could have 6spd Suntour indexing, retrofriction, or sweet, sweet countersprung SIS, whatever.
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Old 06-27-12, 08:58 AM
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For self sufficiency and road repairs I'd rank cable and shifter failure lower than other potentially catastrophic failures. You can tie off the remaining cable to a fixed position (or crank the lower limit screw, or such) to keep the bike riding with limited gearing. Losing a crank bolt, tangling a rear derailer into the spokes, stripping pedal threads, losing wheel hub bolts/bearings, headsets, chains, spokes, tires, ...all more important than a damaged shifter.
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Old 06-27-12, 09:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Andrew R Stewart
Internal cable routing increases cable friction (in every case I have seen), .
Do you have some way of measuring this?
And, "increases cable friction" over what baseline?

Nothing personal, just me being skeptical.
In my experience, cable friction problems are usually caused by grime in the housing.
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Old 06-27-12, 04:02 PM
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My favorite benefit of internal cable routing comes when I pop the bike on a rear rack and don't have to worry about catching the cable or damaging cable stops, etc. Not a very biggie, but I do kinda like that aspect.
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Old 06-27-12, 07:19 PM
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott
Do you have some way of measuring this?
And, "increases cable friction" over what baseline?

Nothing personal, just me being skeptical.
In my experience, cable friction problems are usually caused by grime in the housing.
The base line is how things work when all is new and "the way it's supose to be". As the miles add up a degridation starts. From grit/grime, loss of lube, roughening of the casing liner surface, or what ever else. The more casing/liner length, the more casing curves the worse it gets sooner. So I think we agree. But where I take pause (no, where I take offense some times) is when i can't do much about these factors, easily, quickly and TO THE SATISFACTION OF THE CUSTOMER WHO JUST BOUGHT AN FANCY EXPENSIVE BIKE THAT PROMICED A HIGHER PERFORMANCR FOR THE HIGHER PRICE. Do i have some kind of cable friction measuring device? Actually I do. It's called index responce. When you move the lever one clice how far does the der. move?

When a bike with segmented casing (external routing) and slotted stops comes in i can quickly access, sand/steel wool, lube the cables and make a big difference in cable movement. I can also replace the cable/casing without hassle. I call this good cost effective service.

But when a bike comes in with internal routing the equation shifts (bad pun) to a longer service time with more costs. Access to the cable is less and the ability to lube is more diffeculte. (How many of you out there know of the device that allows you to spray lube into a casing with out pulling the cable out? I've used one for a few decades and still many times it's a hasle to lube cables that don't have slotted stops). I call this less efficient service.

My job as the shop wrench, viewed by the customer, is to make the bike work like new at no cost if possible. This is, of course, not going to happen. But to have to spend two to four times the time and often need to replace the cable to get it to move freely enough so that the der's parallelagram's spring (made weak by Shimano as a marketing point years ago) can pull the cable is a job that many customers don't think is their cost. After all it's a more expensive and recent bike and should work better always.

My job, viewed by the shop owner is to keep the customer happy and turn around the repairs quickly. Don't forget about making a profet.

Who here can see the contradictions stated above? For what? So you can claim your bike is more aero or more stylish? The vast majority of those who buy these carbon bikes with internal routing are not dependent on their race results for their kids college fund. Or their health insurance. They want a bike that gives them good sensations and the dream that they are as good as Andy/Alberto/Lance pick your hero.

This is not wrong but the bikes that that are being pushed make acomplishing all this harder and more costly. Yet as I said there's a push back from the costomer to carry this cost.

So what does a wrench like me do? We curse the new designs that cost more time and parts. We make the customer happy at the expence of the shops bottom line, and hope the owner won't take us to task. We wish our job was easier so that we could help more people. And we try to educate the masses in how their choices do effect their long term satisfaction and cost. We know we buck the sales side of this business. We know we are thought as grouchy. But we want to the best job each time and not have the bike come back too soon.

In my hobby frame building the cable routing and it service ability is one of my focuses. After all all cables get grungy and I'm not goint to blame some one else for how my bikes work. Andy.
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Old 06-28-12, 09:30 PM
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So today at work i had a lot of time to think about my above rant. I had two vastly different repair jobs that both included internal gear cable routing. The first was a specialized roubaix, carbon, 2011. It was getting new STI units due to the Ultegras that were rattling over a rough road. (Shimano said that it was not a warranty item but we could send the shifters back for evaluation, any replacements would be charged to the shop then if a warranty was approved credit would be issued. I said this was not service but sales...) Any way the job went well. By now Specialized has gotten most of the details of internal routing down. The fittings that stop the casing and pass the wire into the frame are mostly removeable. The internal wire linings were quick to find and fish out then slide back in over the wires. The BB guide is removeable and the access port is not too small. The BB guide has a tube that goes through the frame up to the ft der. The rear wire found the path at the drop out end with typical playing with the cable end's angle and rotation. With the fishing out of the cables along the way, making sure the two der cables were not interwoven (I hate it when I shift one der and the other moves as well!), fitting all the frame guides in place, cutting the front casing for an inline adjuster, running the rear brake cable (did last, usually the first I do but as gear cable is more sensitive to routing I learned that the brake comes second) the bike was ready to do the usual gear shifting adjustments/checking, brake caliper tweaking and bar taping. I had about 2.5 to 3 hours of real time into it at this point.


Granted there were distractions, phone calls, walk ins. The usual Summer shop stuff. My co mechanic and I dealt with all this collectively. But with a traditionally cabled frame this time would have been more like 1 hour (remember I had to replace the levers too.) including the hand full of distractions for that period of time.


Job two was a German Biria (sp?) bike with a gear cable replacement. This is a low frame/step through bike using a Nexus 7 spd hub and an internal gear cable route. This one took about 1 hour. About 2/3 of that time was the Nexus cable anchor bolt placement on the cable and gettint it on and off the hub's rotating part with the correct initial placement (on the cable) so the shift lever barrel adjuster can make the fine tuning correct. Again there was some distraction, more porportionally then before as it was later in the day by now.


So I spent about half my day on two jobs. That's only two service customers needs. In shop rate that should have been about $200+ (at $60 per hour). It was less then half that in real billing. Now some would say that we should charge the full time. Some would say that we should only charge the amount of time actually spent (after 38 years doing this job I know that's impossible to really figure out to the minute, but one does get a good feel for this).

As a shop wrench this thread touches on a sensitive topic for me. As a hobby builder I want my bikes to be well working with simple effort. Internal routing make this goal harder.

BTW the recreactional Biria was the far easier job to do. The access ports were larger and at the corners of the frame members where redirection was needed. The full length casing was easier to push through the frame with an inner wire acting as the connecting link between the old and new casing. Andy.
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Old 06-29-12, 02:47 AM
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Why the fuss over cables? you have four of them. shifter cables are not nice if they snap but you adjust the limit screws on the shifter to fit a comfortable cog, or chainring and run it with the remaining speeds (or if both break - > single speed till the nearest bike shop)
For the brakes, you have two of them, if either one breaks you still have the other brake that will stop you just fine any time, minor penalty for braking only rear, as well a minor concern of braking only front on loose ground, on bends etc, but one brake works fine either way still ride-able till you get to repair that broken cable - or even ride-able for ever like many SSP city bikes with only coaster brake)

Anyway, cables don't break too often. I managed to break only one cable by improper tightening the cable on the yoke bolt (it slipped back and forth until it frayed and cut some of the strands (but still not full break, I saw that before shearing the cable completely)
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Old 06-29-12, 07:16 AM
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Originally Posted by dbg
For self sufficiency and road repairs I'd rank cable and shifter failure lower than other potentially catastrophic failures.
+1 Worst come to worst, you no longer can shift. Adjust the limits and single speed til you can do the repair. Compared to a flat tire, or a brake issue (not being able to stop), or a broken chain, its minor.

Now do I like internally routed cables? No, as I pick up a lot of neglected bikes, the last one was a 1989 Trek 1000, it had been sitting in a dirt floor basement for about five years. So steel parts were all rusty, and the rear brake cable (routed through the top tube) was seized inside the housing. Now that was a major PITA to repair. I also had a Klein, where someone had removed the cable entirely. Fishing the rear brake cable through the top tube took some doing.

Just another "simple" flip. Lets see: rear wheel taco'd, FD rusty and crusty, brake cables seized, bb toast, pedals toast, HS toast, chain, freewheel, etc.

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Old 06-29-12, 04:40 PM
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P-B-P, 2007. A Dutch man with a carbon racing bicycle of some sort breaks a shift cable. The service guy at the next checkpoint spends an hour trying to route a new cable through (at night, in the rain, with hundreds of other riders wanting things done) then gives up, apologetic that he can't get it done. The Dutch guy abandons the event he's spent two years training for, and ends up in a hotel in Brest waiting for the next day's train. I'm also in a hotel in Brest, waiting for the next day's train, having abandoned due to injury. I asked him "why didn't the guy just put a full outer on and zip tie it to the outside of the frame?" ...

Realisation, frustration and profanity follows.

- Joel
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Old 06-29-12, 04:46 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by tomacropod
P-B-P, 2007. Realisation, frustration and profanity follows.

- Joel
Cool story, bro.
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Old 06-29-12, 04:50 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by DiabloScott
Cool story, bro.
Just providing another solution for replacing internal cables in a pinch. I'm not your bro, buddy.

Joel
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