I have recently decided to replace my brake cables before a particularly long ride, since they haven't been replaced in a number of years.

The problem I have is that the stock rear cable on my bike has an exposed section and, as such, the new cable I have purchased (which has an outer casing running the whole length) will not fit in the groove.

What is my best option? Is there a preferred way to cut the casing on the cable? I.e. should I cut just enough off to pass the obstructions, or should I cut off a long section so the new cable is similar in appearance to the one I am replacing - an elongated exposed section.

Or better yet, are there cables available to purchase which will fit right out of the box?

Thanks in advance!

  • Note that it may not be necessary to replace the housings, if they're not too rusted inside. You can buy the bare cable as a replacement part. Mar 21, 2014 at 22:56
  • Might not be necessary, but why bother with not replacing the housings? The cost is not too much more, you don't replace your brake housing very often, and eliminates one potential source of problems in the future.
    – Batman
    Mar 22, 2014 at 13:53

1 Answer 1


Cutting cables and housing is a bit of a pain in the ass (especially regular spiral housing for brakes). A Dremel with cutting disc or something like the Park Tool CN-10 is useful to cut the housing, along with a small file / punch to make sure that the hole is clear and smooth.

The rules for running cables are here and here, along with some directions for cutting. Even if you do get a kit (e.g. this), you will still need to do some cutting, since bikes are of different sizes. Assuming your housings were sized appropriately before though, you just need to use them to size the new ones.

Note that bad cable installation can drastically degrade performance / be dangerous if its on your brake systems.

The cable cutting tools may not be a worthy investment if you don't use them often enough, so you may want to borrow them from a bike co-op or just get a shop to do it for you.

  • This is excellent - thanks, Batman! I don't think I'll be doing this myself, especially since it'll be a 'one off' task. I'll most likely get a shop to do it for me, though I have enjoyed reading about the theory. Mar 21, 2014 at 20:05
  • My vice grips have a small cutter on the innermost part of the jaw. Set the vice grips to the smallest setting, and they work great for cutting brake cables.
    – Kibbee
    Mar 21, 2014 at 20:42
  • 1
    You definitely want the Park Tool style cable cutter if you do it yourself. Ordinary wire cutters will not give the cable a clean cut and the end will be messed up and a PITA to deal with. Mar 21, 2014 at 22:55
  • With a good cutter it should never be a problem to cut an outer.
    – Alexander
    Mar 22, 2014 at 17:47
  • I've had the park tool one not give a clean cut a few times, but the main issue is the price of the thing - last I checked, it was retailing at around 40 bucks (though it seems like Performance sells some cheaper ones, which are more palatable in cost).
    – Batman
    Mar 22, 2014 at 20:23

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