Are you having shifting and/or braking issues? A lot of shifting and braking problems can be traced to bad cables. Even Dura-Ace and SRAM Red bikes shift like department store clunkers if they have old, gunked-up cables.
When should you change your shift and brake cables? Probably more often than you think, but there are no hard fast rules. A lot depends on how often you ride, what type of riding you enjoy and the weather conditions you endure. Certainly you should change your cables if your shifting seems to be more sluggish than usual or your braking seems to take more effort than you remember.
Most riders can get by with annual or every two year cable and housing replacement, especially in our Southern California climate. But, if you ride more than 5,000 miles a year or you ride in the dirt or the rain frequently, you may need to change your cables more often. The very last thing you want to do is wait until a cable snaps off in your shifter while you’re out on a ride.
Should you spend extra for polymer-coated shift cables? If your bike configuration requires some really tight cable turns or if you just always wished your shifting was smoother, polymer coated cables are well worth the extra cash. It is not unusual for us to have customers comment after we have changed them to polymer-coated cables that their bike has never shifted better, even when their bike was new.
So don’t ignore your cables and housing when considering your annual bicycle maintenance. Just because they don’t squeak like a worn out chain or clunk like a trashed bottom bracket doesn’t mean they don’t need attention. New cables and housing will make your bike shift and brake like new again, maybe even better.