Please keep in mind that this question is specific to mountain bikes which roll through lots of dirt and mud. I heard stories of bikes that had their cable housing last for years, but I doubt that this applies to mountain bikes (or maybe it does).

How would I know when the housing needs to be replaced? Several options occur to me:

  1. As a rule of thumb, always replace the housing together with the cable. The reasoning is probably mostly the low cost of materials which is a few dollars.
  2. To the other extreme, do not replace the housing unless you get some indication that it needs replacement. For example, visual inspection finds some wear and tear or the cable won't move freely while tugging it.

  3. Something else.

My current practice is to follow option 1 but I would be interested in knowing if there is perhaps a more efficient option backed by the experience of the masses.

  • I replace the housings (gears and brakes) after two years whereas the cables go after one year. On any bike, mountain/cyclo-cross or road!
    – Carel
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 15:03
  • Why not 2? Replace once there is damage or shifting gets bad. It’s not like brake cables/housing where your life is on the line.
    – Michael
    Commented Sep 28, 2015 at 20:48

2 Answers 2


Most quality cable housings now have a plastic lining. This allows the cable to slide freely and prevents binding and rust formation. If you use stainless steel cables they don't rust. My local shop has plain steel cables for $2.99 or stainless for $4.99. I am a big fan of Jagwire cable sets. The mountain sets include a small plastic sleeve for the exposed sections of cable. The housing ends are sealed by a small rubber section that extends into the above mentioned plastic sleeve. There is no way for any grit to enter easily. I change the cables only when there is evidence of fraying or breakage. I have had the same housings for 3 years and they seem to work like the day I put them on.


Nice cable set is like $15 more than the cable and is bit of work to cut and install housing. If the housing is in good shape I keep it. And yes I get years out of cables on even a mountain bike. Clean and lube your cables at least once a year.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.