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I have a Specialized mtb that has been changed over from V-brakes to disc brakes (by previous owner). After using it for a while, I've noticed binding in the brakes which I think is due to the way the cable ends attach to the levers. Both L+R levers have the cylindrical cable end sitting in a weird way inside the lever that makes it look like a part is missing.

First lever enter image description here]2 What is missing here, and/or how can I get the cable end to sit correctly in the lever and not be twisted? Thanks

  • That doesn't look right to me, and I've worked on dozens of brake levers. The cable end should not be twisting. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 18 '16 at 13:42
  • Thanks. That's the way that I feel, but I suppose it is an inexpensive brake and they didn't provide a good bearing surface for cable rotation. I'm thinking of trying to fit a plastic sleeve in there if I can find something appropriately sized. – girolamous Jan 20 '16 at 16:30
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Those look standard to me. The saddle you're looking at is designed to pivot as the lever moves to the cable itself isn't bent (because it would fray quickly). The smaller hole on the top is there so you can see what's happening, and on the underside is a larger hole with a slot so that you can get the cable end in and out. How the cable end its once the brakes are set up isn't really important, the system is designed so that the cable/cable end can rotate and your brakes still work.

A wikihow page on changing brake cables has this photo that shows the slot a little more clearly:

changing brake cable

I find that sometimes when fitting new cables the saddle will jam on the lever, but once there's tension on the brake cable that will vanish - it's the saddle being out of position that causes the problem.

It's more likely that there's muck around the calipers jamming them up, or the cables need replacing. The brake cable and outer should last at least a year or 5000km (they wear out as well as get old), but it's also possible that especially cheap ones, or ones exposed to salt water, won't last that long. But the bike in those photos looks very clean and new, so it shouldn't be that.

I suggest releasing the cables either from the frame, or if that's not possible, undoing the cable at caliper, and running some chain lube down inside the housing. If you don't know what you're doing this can make your brakes not work, so find some instructions online and follow them if you're not sure. There are a lot of options, and if you can find a set of instructions that match your exact brake it'll be easier.

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    That photo you found does show what I am seeing with my brake levers. Is it really supposed to allow the cylinder to rotate? That would seem to create wear; typically these contact areas are cylinder against planar curve, or as in derailleur cables, they are cylinders rotating in a hole with a flat bottom. I'll wait to see if any other suggestions come up, but I believe you have supplied an answer. Perhaps someone can suggest a modification? – girolamous Jan 18 '16 at 1:29
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    Yes they need to allow rotation because the cable will twist and wind/unwind in use, and the other end is clamped in to the caliper. Some cheaper levers use that cylinder as the pivot and just have a slot cast in, but they also tend to break cables or fail. – Móż Jan 18 '16 at 1:34
  • @Mσᶎ - There are many setups that do not allow cable ends to twist while in use. I've never seen any indication that the cables need to dynamically twist. – Daniel R Hicks Jan 20 '16 at 20:49
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I have the same problem, and the problem is Shimano. Shimano shift/brake lever combo use a larger cable end, if the small style(most aftermarket ones) is used, you can experience brake binding and lock up and result in a no brake situation. The best solution is to replace the cable with the proper Shimano one. The Shimano (doesn't need to be Shimano brand, just the larger barrel size) cable will work fine with the disk brake. Just one other comment. The cable does not need to rotate and the cable will never unwind because of the end not rotating. Always lube your cables and if you can afford it, use coated ones, they're slick. Happy cycling

  • There are three different types of cable ends for bike brake levers: the big puck is used for mountain/flat bar levers, while the small nub is used for road brakes (one nub size for shimano+sram+everyone but campagnolo and one for campagnolo). It shouldn't matter which cable you buy for this, but you can't stick in the road brake end in a mountain lever and expect it to work. Plenty of companies make the mountain end cables (mine are from Novara which is through Jagwire, I think). – Batman Jan 30 '16 at 17:48

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