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Front cantilever brake cable breaks at anchor

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Front cantilever brake cable breaks at anchor

Old 10-18-13, 11:57 PM
  #1  
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Front cantilever brake cable breaks at anchor

The bike is orig. a Gary Fisher mountain "Advance", but converted to commute/utility bike, as shown ...


I replaced the orig (ca. late 1993) brake cable about 3yrs ago (or roughly 800mi every-third-day commuting), with a SUPPOSED top-grade laminated cable (AZTEC PTFE) + new housing (from Performance Bikes). (The orig. rusted off after a whopping 17 yrs or 6k miles, 3k of which in NW Ohio with snow and salt).

Anyway...
Yesterday, during an emerg. hard stop, the front cable snapped, creating a very dangerous (but fortunately recoverable) situation. It snapped CLEANLY right at the anchor bolt.

It looked like a clean cut (like it was made by a pair of dikes). There was no corrosion (I live in LA, Calif. but several mile from ocean, and store bike inside).

I'm assuming the case (other than manuf. defect) was that the orig centering adjustment -- via yoke, etc.-- wasn't perfect, creating too much movement/shear/strain at the anchor point.
How does one minimize cable stress at the anchor bolt? Are there any commercially avail. strain reliefs, etc., or other tricks?

Thx for any input you can provide!

Last edited by hollowman; 10-19-13 at 01:23 AM.
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Old 10-19-13, 02:28 AM
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I think you ask too much from a web forum . is that an actual picture of your brake ,
or did you pull it off the web?

might have had a kink in the cable right there and flexed it once too often ..


just replace the cable earlier , before it fails..

keep an eye out for fraying cables .. Im still using the original transverse Mafac cable
35 years later..

Last edited by fietsbob; 10-19-13 at 02:33 AM.
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Old 10-19-13, 02:29 AM
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It I a bit odd to have such a clean break, but after 3 years of regular use I'd consider it forgiven.
Apart from perhaps checking your clamping torque when you mount the replacement I don't have anything specific to offer.
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Old 10-19-13, 02:38 AM
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A brake cable is a $3-$6 part. Don't expect a lifetime of service. Also, if ride it fully loaded with all that luggage over hilly trrrain, it's added strain.
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Old 10-19-13, 03:19 AM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
I think you ask too much from a web forum . is that an actual picture of your brake ,
or did you pull it off the web?
LOL!! "Too much to ask" ?? Really, dude? I mean you've made 29,906 posts since a only few mos. before my Join Date. I thought with such a YAPPING record , you'd be the last type to make a remark like that?

Speaking of useless remarks ... well, don't feel alone dude ... or OFFENDED by my counter-comments.Because none of the replies thus far has shed any further USEFUL info.

One along the line of ...say ... convert to V-brakes or use a doubled-pulley system to cause them to pull farther (but less hard) than the std. incoming cable pulls.
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Old 10-19-13, 05:01 AM
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Originally Posted by oddjob2 View Post
A brake cable is a $3-$6 part. Don't expect a lifetime of service. Also, if ride it fully loaded with all that luggage over hilly trrrain, it's added strain.
The part you're looking for is actually called a "link wire". They come in sizes so be sure to measure the one that you have.
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Old 10-19-13, 06:03 AM
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Originally Posted by Retro Grouch View Post
The part you're looking for is actually called a "link wire". They come in sizes so be sure to measure the one that you have.
No, the link wire only attaches to the left arm. The anchor bolt on the right arm secures the brake cable.
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Old 10-19-13, 06:24 AM
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"One along the line of ...say ... convert to V-brakes..." I do not see any reason why, after 17 years' service, you would feel a need to replace your brakes with another kind. The ones you have are time-proven by you and countless others.

My recommendation would be to lose the link wire (which I find difficult to adjust) and go with a straddle cable/carrier system. I especially like the Problem Solvers Wide Cable Carrier http://problemsolversbike.com/produc..._cable_carrier
and the DIA-COMPE E-Z-R Braided Straddle Cable. The cable is 2mm diameter which is significantly thicker than most, and it has a nice little handle to ease removing it from the hooked end of the brake.
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Old 10-19-13, 07:58 AM
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Originally Posted by techsensei View Post
No, the link wire only attaches to the left arm. The anchor bolt on the right arm secures the brake cable.
Oops, you're right.

I'm going to disagree with my friend, dsbrantjr, about which is easier to adjust. I'd stick with the link wire.
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Old 10-19-13, 08:11 AM
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Originally Posted by hollowman View Post
LOL!! "Too much to ask" ?? Really, dude? I mean you've made 29,906 posts since a only few mos. before my Join Date. I thought with such a YAPPING record , you'd be the last type to make a remark like that?

Speaking of useless remarks ... well, don't feel alone dude ... or OFFENDED by my counter-comments.Because none of the replies thus far has shed any further USEFUL info.

One along the line of ...say ... convert to V-brakes or use a doubled-pulley system to cause them to pull farther (but less hard) than the std. incoming cable pulls.
LOL! Made me chuckle
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Old 10-19-13, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by dsbrantjr View Post
"One along the line of ...say ... convert to V-brakes..." I do not see any reason why, after 17 years' service, you would feel a need to replace your brakes with another kind. The ones you have are time-proven by you and countless others.
Yeah, I kinda agree ... but I dunno what it was about the ORIGINAL cable (and/or its adjustment) that kept it going for so long. BION, the rear brake cable (and all components except pads) are STILL orig. The orig. cable is from that relatively cheap Gary Fisher mountain bike. I do notice that the rear link-wire button thing is very well centered.
My recommendation would be to lose the link wire (which I find difficult to adjust) and go with a straddle cable/carrier system. I especially like the Problem Solvers Wide Cable Carrier http://problemsolversbike.com/produc..._cable_carrier
and the DIA-COMPE E-Z-R Braided Straddle Cable. The cable is 2mm diameter which is significantly thicker than most, and it has a nice little handle to ease removing it from the hooked end of the brake.
Your suggestions are good. For the link-wire button, I did adjust them based on the alignment of the marker line. The point where the cable snapped was at the anchor clamp (A) ...


...so if I can find an anchor bolt/clamp that pivots (turns), that'd work, too.

Last edited by hollowman; 10-19-13 at 08:20 AM.
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Old 10-19-13, 08:19 AM
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I suspect your problem is that you are tightening the anchor too tightly. Although I hate the Shimano link wire system, I've not seen problems with it putting too much stress on the cable itself. You could also be experiencing corrosion and salt cracking due to your proximity to the ocean. This would be worse with a mild steel...i.e. cheap...cable than with a stainless steel cable.

Replace the cable with a stainless one and watch it.
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Old 10-19-13, 08:27 AM
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Someone once wrote "Methinks the lady doth protest too much."

Normally, that part of the cable experiences very little flex. Since your photos don't show your actual brake, I suspect a non standard installation and/or something fouling the cable. [Cue protests.]
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Old 10-19-13, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I suspect your problem is that you are tightening the anchor too tightly . . .
Also very likely.
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Old 10-19-13, 12:06 PM
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Blind guessing can be an amusement for the guesser.. + I can do this and drink .

and listen to the more educational things I can find over the web at the same time..
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Old 10-19-13, 03:22 PM
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Originally Posted by fietsbob View Post
Blind guessing can be an amusement for the guesser.. + I can do this and drink .

and listen to the more educational things I can find over the web at the same time..
Your comment is confusing, but then again your are (a) a bikeforums.net LIFER (with 29k Jesus-H-Christ posts in three yrs -- i.e., nothing better to do); and (b) from Or-ee-gun ... a Strange Piece of Paradise ... and home of Dirk Duran. But he never was charged and so thx to Or-ee-gun statute of limitations the axe-wielder -- who nearly did in two young bike-touring girls in 1977 -- roams free. Some good may come outta that tragedy: Maybe he'll do us all a favor by ... well, if I were you, beerbellybob, I'd stay off the Bikecentennial
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Old 10-19-13, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I suspect your problem is that you are tightening the anchor too tightly. Although I hate the Shimano link wire system, I've not seen problems with it putting too much stress on the cable itself. You could also be experiencing corrosion and salt cracking due to your proximity to the ocean. This would be worse with a mild steel...i.e. cheap...cable than with a stainless steel cable.

Replace the cable with a stainless one and watch it.
The tightening issue may indeed be part of it. Not likely for corrosion ... there would be discoloration...see OP. As far as SS cable ... I thought the Aztec PTFE I use was SS???
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Old 10-19-13, 04:23 PM
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Brake and gear cables break for the same reason as spokes --- Metal fatigue.

Every time you apply your brake the angle of the cable to the arm changes slightly, causing it to bend back and forth where it meets the pinch bolts. It's the same as when you bend a paper clip back and forth until it hardens, then fatigues and breaks. Cables have a useful life after which they need to be replaced before fatigue kills them. All cables that move suffer this, including elevator cables, and I replace my elevator cables on a legally mandated schedule, at a cost of over $5K per shot.

The problem with your canti cable is compounded by modern quality cable construction and the link system.

Today's better brake cables are die drawn to make the outside smoother so there's less friction in the housing. That's good, but the process also makes them less supple and more prone to fatigue. The levers are carefully designed to avoid flex at the head, but using the link system brings that die drawn wire down to the bolt where it gets bent back and forth. I prefer a traditional cable carrier where the main cable ends at the carrier and a separate straddle cable is used. That allows the straddle to be heavier, and not die drawn so it has more fatigue resistance.

If you want to increase the cable life you can slide it into about 3/4" of stainless tubing (model airplane fuel line) And trap that under the pinch bolt with about 1/4" sticking out on the business end. That acts like the reinforcement on many electrical cords to spread the flex out over some distance and prevent breakage.

I do this for a piece of machinery where cable replacement is a PIA, but don't bother for my bikes because the housing life tends to be shorter than the wire's life and I simply replace everything every few years based on housing friction.
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Old 10-19-13, 10:35 PM
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Originally Posted by hollowman View Post
The tightening issue may indeed be part of it. Not likely for corrosion ... there would be discoloration...see OP. As far as SS cable ... I thought the Aztec PTFE I use was SS???
Chloride cracking doesn't necessarily result in discoloration of stainless. The compounds formed are water soluble chlorides of iron and chromium. The chloride salts are yellow and green, respectively. They get flushed away and may not result in the formation of iron oxides that are red in color.
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Old 10-25-13, 06:52 PM
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Some images of the genuine article at bottom ... (Note + ATTN. Aztec, other cable manufs. ! These images and descriptions are GRAPHIC and damning. Hence, in the future, you could get sued ... so address the problem or have well-paid lawyers! Too bad bike manuf's are not STRICTLY govt. regulated like automotive (NBSN is a joke!), or NHTSA would have a product-recall field day. They love this kinda stuff !! )

NOTE: The rust on some components -- none on cable, as clearly absent in the first photo -- is over 10 years old (from my Ohio days, but has not "grown" since my move to SoCal).

IAC ...I did manage to re-use the same AZTEC PTFE cable, but the slack is now real slim ... i.e., just barely clearing the clamp.

FBinNY ... yes, I DIY in electronics/electrical and use strain reliefs often. Like you, those came almost immediately to mind after this incident. (I still have to install them after finding and fashioning some steel sheeting).

Another thing I did was adjust (minimize) the cable deflection/movement (at anchor clamp) to as little as possible, by "tightening up" gaps/tolerances. Hence minimizing the metal fatigue (paper clip effect).

Didn't know how cable manuf. had changed -- so, if as you describe, I'll have to either find the PROPER cable or find it good+used or NOS (new-old stock) on eBay, etc.





Last edited by hollowman; 10-25-13 at 07:15 PM.
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Old 10-25-13, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by hollowman View Post
Some images of the genuine article...



FBinNY ... yes, I DIY in electronics/electrical and use strain reliefs often. Like you, those came almost immediately to mind after this incident. (I still have to install them after finding and fashioning some steel sheeting).
Looking at what's readily available, this 3/32" copper tube may be the best bet for stain relief. But as I said, switching from the link which runs the main cable to the anchor, to the traditional system where the main cables ends at the yoke cable carrier, and a more flexible cable is used for the yoke, gives you the benefit od die drawn cable for low friction, with the better fatigue resistance on the yoke cable.
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Old 10-25-13, 07:55 PM
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Originally Posted by hollowman View Post
Some images of the genuine article at bottom ... (Note + ATTN. Aztec, other cable manufs. ! These images and descriptions are GRAPHIC and damning. Hence, in the future, you could get sued ... so address the problem or have well-paid lawyers! Too bad bike manuf's are not STRICTLY govt. regulated like automotive (NBSN is a joke!), or NHTSA would have a product-recall field day. They love this kinda stuff !! ) . . .
No doubt the CPSC will immediately initiate a world wide mandatory recall enforced by armed federal SWAT teams based on your ONE report. Lenin called you "useful."
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Old 10-25-13, 08:13 PM
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Originally Posted by hollowman View Post
Didn't know how cable manuf. had changed -- so, if as you describe, I'll have to either find the PROPER cable or find it good+used or NOS (new-old stock) on eBay, etc.
Purely supposition on my part, but I would think PTFE coated cable would not be die-drawn, in order to give more surface area/purchase for the PTFE.
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Old 10-25-13, 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by AnkleWork View Post
Lenin called you "useful."
Of course. Can't pass one up on you, huh? Darn!
Yeah ... it's all about under-the-table rewards (usually precious metals), better housing units in the tower blocks, etc. for only a few common-citizen-based sentences and easily-engineered photos, in their topical milieu ... IOW, this thread any my posted photos
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Old 10-25-13, 08:46 PM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
Looking at what's readily available, this 3/32" copper tube may be the best bet for stain relief. But as I said, switching from the link which runs the main cable to the anchor, to the traditional system where the main cables ends at the yoke cable carrier, and a more flexible cable is used for the yoke, gives you the benefit od die drawn cable for low friction, with the better fatigue resistance on the yoke cable.
I assume mine is NOT a "yoke" but a "link wire"?
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