Consider this illustrative picture:

cable routing

The cables are routed "across" the heatube. Id est the cable leaves the shifter, crosses the headtube and then curves back under the top or bootom tube.

I often see bikes set up like that, but not always. Sometimes, the cable leaves the shifter, makes a large curve in front and then returns under the top or bottom tube, without crossing the headtube.

Is there a right or wrong way? I have observed loss of paint and even frame damage from cables, rubbing against the head tube (on a Specialized hardrock).

2 Answers 2


My assumption is that the best route would be the one which involves the least bending of the cable, so in most cases it seems like it should cross the head tube. It may depend on where the cables need to go at the back of the bike.

However you do it, most bikes have at least one cable which rubs on the head tube a bit. To prevent damage you can either avoid turning the handlebars (!), or put some helicopter tape or small plastic/teflon disc where it touches. Some new bikes come with similar things already installed.

These are available in leather or "clear". Maybe not teflon.

  • Although I love the first solution (avoid turning the handlebars), I would like to ask you form an example of those protectors you mention later - I have never seen "a small teflon disc".
    – Vorac
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 9:15
  • Also, I think, the rubbing was happening because of vibrations - the wire was pressing firmly against the headtube, and road bumps jerked it up and down, scraping away aluminum.
    – Vorac
    Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 9:16
  • The cables may also move when you pull on the breaks/change gear. So my flippant advice may be even worse than I thought. Commented Oct 28, 2013 at 15:46

There is no right or wrong way but it is designed to ensure that shifters work efficiently with the derailleurs. The route of shifter cable is determined by the cable routing and stops on the bike.

Using the Hardrock as the example there are two cable routes and a brake line route under the top tube. The shifter cables sits to the right of the the brake line and the order from the right is FD-RD-RB. The FD cable needs to sit on the right to allow the correct angle to run down the back of the seat tube. As the front shifter is on the left side and rear on the right in order to correctly seat in the stops the cables must cross the headtube from the handlebars. The FD and RD cables also cross where the top tube and seat tube meet.

By default the brake line is on the left, in many right hand of the road driving countries the rear brake will be on the right hand side and therefore you have no choice but to cross the head tube.

I have a bike that has no crossing at the head tube apart from the front brake line which doesn't rub. The cable set up from the right is RD-RB-FD. This actually causes more cable rub on the headtube than one that crosses.

I don't worry about cable rub, I own bikes to ride, not look good or retain resale value.

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