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I bought this lube some time back when I cleaned the bearings in my rear wheel:

enter image description here

Now I am replacing all the cables on my bike and the instructions say to use white lithium grease. While I was at the bike shop yesterday, I asked the guy if the above ParkTool grease would suffice and he said it would. However, someone online said that this grease would not work as it would introduce friction within the cable housing.

So what is the correct answer? If I already put that lube on my cables, should I clean it off (if that's even possible) and apply the proper grease?

Edit: For anyone wondering, here's the cable kit I bought:

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00L8NDVD6

enter image description here

And here are the instructions:

enter image description here

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  • 3
    The new Teflon coated cables used with dedicated housings should not be greased, as recommended by Shimano. This said when replacing cables you should give them new housings.
    – Carel
    Sep 12, 2019 at 17:42
  • 1
    @Carel In looking inside these housings, it seems there is a Teflon lining. In that case, it's curious that the directions for this Schwinn cable replacement kit specifically advise to use white lithium grease. Sep 12, 2019 at 18:19
  • 1
    @RobertLee Luckily, I've only replaced one cable so far, so I think I will leave it and just see what happens since it's easy to replace cables/housing now that I know how to do it. Sep 12, 2019 at 18:22
  • 1
    @Carel Shimano cables housing simply comes pre-greased, even with their coated cables. The polymer coated cables (i.e., Ultegra/Dura ace) are explicitly designed to capture grease. Shimano even offers cable housing grease as a separate product. The restrictions are that they want you to use the appropriate grease.
    – Rider_X
    Sep 12, 2019 at 20:53
  • 3
    For the purposes of a bicycle, grease is grease, Polyurea typically has a longer life and better water resistance making ideal for bikes. Polyurea should be considered incompatible with Lithium, but for a bicycle, hell will not freeze over if you mix them.
    – mattnz
    Sep 12, 2019 at 21:54

5 Answers 5

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A heavy grease may introduce drag between the cable and housing, so a light lithium grease is preferable.

Lubricants can trap dirt and grit, meaning a greased cable would work better than a dry cable initially, but soon become contaminated such that the greased cable is worse.

Using a teflon-coated cable will avoid the need for lubrication and prevent water from being in contact with the steel strands.

1

I use a dry-type chain lube. Mainly because that is what I use on chains. Any type of wet lube can cause dirt to stick to the cable and be drawn into the outer housing as the cable moves in and out. Drip a few drops on your fingers and wipe the cable. It leaves a thin film that doesn't transfer to your arms, legs or whatever you rub against where the exposed cable crosses the toptube.

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Greasing cables does a couple things: - It reduces friction, which can make shifting a smidge easier. For this purpose, anything will work. Grease will stick around longer, but oil can help too. Simple paraffin (or bee's!) wax will even work. - It can help reduce corrosion. If you ride in a wet place, water can get into the cable housing and corrode cables. The corrosion can be straight up rust, but other types of corrosion are possible as well. The corrosion can increase the friction between the cable and the housing (as well as weaken the cable). Grease will help keep water off the cable and prevent this. Best bet here is to use stainless cables, even though they're more expensive. Barring that, a thin coat of grease will help make the cable last longer

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I strongly recommend Shimano Cable Grease Y04180000. Four years ago I toured 3500 miles over the Appalachian Chain, from Quebec-CA to Key West-FL. I made a stop near Atlanta-GA at a bike shop for tightening my hydraulic brakes. After doing that, the technician greased the shifter cables with this special grease. The effect on shifting was sensational. Shifter cables were new at the start of the tour! Back home I bought a 50 gram jar and re-grease the cables of all my bikes at the start of the season.

1

According to this matrix, a grease with polyurea thickener is not ideal for wet conditions.

enter image description here
Source:

So if your ride a lot in wet conditions or leave your bike standing in the rain a lot: the mentioned grease PPL-1 might not be ideal.

I’d like to add some background to the other answers:

The time transition of oil/grease to resin, called curing.

Every mineral (and plant-based) oil/grease cures/polymerises over time. It get’s increasingly more harder and more sticky, and in the end it becomes resin. Depending on the grease and its additives, this can happen quite fast (within 5 years), average grease in shimano shifters (about 5-10 years).

So if you are one of the people who want the lubricant to last for at least 10 years, I recommend a lubricant which does not cure.

Examples are:

  • every kind of oil/grease based on silicone
  • several dry lubricants like PTFE/teflon and graphite, though I have the feeling it’s not well suited for rough surfaces like brake cables and uncoated housings

The fact that it does not cure is a reason, why graphite is used to lubricate locks. Also dry lubricants do not attract dirt.
Because dirt acts like a thickener for oil/grease. Actually some greases use clay as thickener.

2
  • Grease can deteriorate over time due to a variety of reasons, but it does not cure as thermosets do.
    – Paweł
    Feb 12, 2023 at 16:51
  • @Paweł polymerization/curing also happens with mineral oil, it's caused by oxidation. No heat needed. But heat accelerates the process, as does high oxygen levels.
    – juwens
    Feb 14, 2023 at 19:07

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