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I've decided to change a number of brake cables on my family's fleet of bikes. I'm overwhelmed by the number of possible inners and outers.

What features should I prioritize? Stainless? Teflon-lined? Cost?

If it matters, I commute (ride ~five miles, daily, all weathers, urban), live in the UK, and have (or will buy) all relevant tools.

  • Cost is always going to be a factor but it can't be the priority when your and your family's safety is at stake. – David Richerby Apr 11 at 9:29
  • @DavidRicherby: I’d expect all brake cables and housings you can get at a reputable shop to be safe. – Michael Apr 11 at 10:25
  • Pre-stretched cables are nice if you can get them, saves on having to adjust them later – Andy P Apr 11 at 10:55
  • @Michael Agreed. – David Richerby Apr 11 at 11:05
  • I'd aim for the ones that cause you the fewest problems. The UK uses road salt right? Stainless sounds reasonable. Teflon slides easier, so which are the important features for you? Consider a box of 50 rather than buying singles. – Criggie Apr 11 at 11:17
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I usually get the cheapest stainless steel cables and housings from a reputable manufacturer like Shimano, SRAM, BBB, Jagwire, Avid etc.

I very much doubt that expensive cables for >10€/piece will significantly improve braking performance. Especially if you are already happy with braking performance.

Proper cable installation&routing, matching brake lever to brake arm ratios and high quality brake pads will have a greater impact than SuperUltraSlick™ cables.

Edit: As Rider_X points out in the comments, some brakes work better with stiff cable housings. In such a case stiff housing like Shimano SLR or even Nokons (expensive) are a good idea.

  • Thanks for the suggested manufacturers. How do you feel about Clarks, B'Twin? – Steve Almond Apr 11 at 12:59
  • If you are using short throw road mechanical disc brakes, then cable housing (i.e., “compressionless”) can make a large difference in braking performance. That said, for most rim brakes (e.g., caliper, cantilever) cable housing flex had less of an affect. – Rider_X Apr 11 at 21:02
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I try to use stainless cables exclusively. Outer housings with a liner provide more consistent shifts and brake activation. The stainless cables don't rust when used in wet weather or if left outside. On the sections of the frame where the bare cable is exposed, I install a 1/8" plastic tube to protect the cable and the paint. Cycle specific tubing of this type seems to come only on premium cable sets. I purchased a 300ft (100 meter) coil of generic 1/8" plastic tubing for about $12 on Amazon. It has an inside diameter large enough to pass a brake cable through. Also don't forget the brake noodles they tend to wear inside the tube where the damaged liner is not visible.

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