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I was going to buy some super cheap - I mean barely more than 50 cents per meter - brake cable.

Am I in any danger of sudden failure? I don't mind replacing the cable after a year or something, but I'm sort of worried about it outright breaking and then trying to kill me.

  • I see no problem buying budget brake cables. I might think again if I were racing, riding in the mountains, or a heavy rider. What is your context? – Christian Lindig Mar 28 '17 at 8:04
  • The problems you might encounter would be friction, stretch (dynamically, as tension is applied), and weather-resistance. – Daniel R Hicks Mar 28 '17 at 11:37
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Steel wire is cheap (if it's not stainless). Even the outers aren't very sophisticated. So it's possible to meet the basic requirements for very little cost. For more money you get a lower friction lining and better tolerances, which are worth having in many cases (including beater bikes and BSOs with marginal brakes).

On the other hand if you need to keep taking up slack in the cable, something is wrong. I'd expect to set them up, ride a bit, tweak and then get hundreds of miles before needing to tighten again (unless your pads wear very fast). If that's not the case, something is creeping, stretching, fraying or otherwise letting you down.

After any work on the brakes, ride cautiously for a bit. Test for emergency stop rather than relying on it. For major work (like new cables or unfamiliar new pads) I like to do one brake and give it a good test before doing the other.

  • 1
    It looks like saving at the wrong end. Most quality brake cables are stainless and teflon coated against rust and sticking being more reliable therefore. – Carel Mar 28 '17 at 12:49
  • @Carel I'm inclined to agree with you, as stainless plus Teflon cables aren't expensive. But I don't think cheap cables are inherently risky. – Chris H Mar 28 '17 at 15:26
  • I'd say this applies as long as it's being sold as "bicycle brake cable" -- which at $0.50 /m this might still be. I would be wary of sourcing generic steel cable for many reasons. – JP May Mar 28 '17 at 19:16
  • @JPMay I wouldn't consider buying generic cable. Dimensions might be tricky to match if nothing else. But that generic cable is essentially what the brake cable vendors buy, so the fact it's cheap is indicative. – Chris H Mar 28 '17 at 20:57
  • @Chris H: The quality, or the lack thereof, of the junction between nipple and cable is crucial. I remember a test in a cycling magazine where many non-branded cheap cables failed on that point – Carel Mar 29 '17 at 7:04

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