What features are recommended for gear cabling to suit Shimano Tiagra front & rear derailleurs?

I'm pretty happy with the performance of the cabling the bike came with, I haven't had any issues shifting. I don't have any information on what components were used though.

I've found PTFE coated stainless steel inner cables, non-PTFE coated stainless steel inner cables, and non-lubricated outer housings all sold separately. I've also found pre-lubricated & sheathed outers included with kits that come with the complete set of inner / outer / ferrules / endcaps.

Would I run into any shifting issues if I used a less expensive inner or outer that didn't come pre-lubricated, and if so could I apply a 3-in-1 chain lube or teflon grease to the inner cable to improve shifting? Or would I really notice a difference with shifting on a 2x10 Tiagra groupset by installing a higher end kit that came with all components included and pre-lubricated? Would there be any issues with replacing the inner cable only?

Edit: Bike is a 2019 Giant Fastroad SL-1 with Tiagra 4700 groupset.

  • 1
    When the cabling wears out and shifting suffers, THEN replace the cabling inners and outers. Until then, just ride it.
    – Criggie
    Apr 5, 2020 at 0:48
  • Good advice @Criggie :) I've frayed a cable or two attempting maintenance, it's been a learning experience.
    – Scottmeup
    Apr 5, 2020 at 4:26

2 Answers 2


For better or for worse, Shimano has been pushing coated cables as the default option for their road groups for a while now. There are two 10-speed Tiagras; 4600 came with normal uncoated stainless cables and the more current 4700 comes with Optislick cables, their more basic coated option. All the 11-speed groups come with some type of coated cable.

Coated cables aren't strictly necessary but are more a response to the fact that with smaller cable pull numbers comes increased sensitivity to friction. The same is true for lubricated housings, which are a mixed bag in that compared to running cables dry, they will tend to make things work really well up front with the downside that over time the lubricant can attract and hold in contamination.

One of the compounding factors, which also prevents a universal answer, is that a lot of bikes have bad cable routing and need all the help they can get to have functional shifting. Coated cables absolutely help in these cases. STIs with under-the-tape shift routing always have some extra friction to contend with, and depending on the bar and mounting position it can get pretty ugly, another reason for coated as de facto.

If you're working on your own bikes then there's little harm in trying basic stainless slick and seeing how you like it. If you need to maximize performance up front then coated is basically how you do that.

Putting a new cable in an old housing in a pinch is fine if you need to replace it because of fraying or a kink or something like that, but housing is cheap, has a major impact on performance, and the philosophy of pre-lubed modern housings is pretty much to replace it liberally to keep performance up.

  • 1
    Thanks for the informative answer! I just confirmed the bike has 4700 series Tiagra components. It's a flat bar road bike and I think the routing seems fine. Do you think in this case it's a good idea to get a OT-SP41 kit? I'd like to add a spare inner or two also as I've frayed the cable before. Perhaps a PTFE coated off-brand or a non-lubricated Shimano inner?
    – Scottmeup
    Apr 4, 2020 at 6:16
  • V helpful. Interesting to think about how and when to use certain products, not to simply stick to one item for all uses (sorry for the thank you comment, it's just another one where my single upvote doesn't feel enough)
    – Swifty
    Apr 4, 2020 at 10:07
  • 1
    That kit is good as long as the housings will work. Kits of that sort have picked up the disadvantage that a lot of bikes now have full housing runs, and they don't necessarily provide enough housing for that (often don't). For a flat bar, which doesn't have the friction spots under the tape, I think going basic stainless slick is also totally reasonable. Apr 4, 2020 at 14:54

Usually you don't really need to lube cables unless specified. I've applied a minuscule amount of lithium grease to cables before, and I'm not sure if it was an improvement. If there was an improvement it was marginal. Your best bet is to get a cable set made by a reputable company that doesn't require lube, then you wont have to worry about them needing re-lubed as it wears off or becoming gunked up. The less maintenance you need to do with your cables, the less likely you will need to readjust your shifters or brakes and overall everything will be a little more trouble free. If you invest in a set of Shimano cables, they ought to work fantastically with your components. If you want to try lubricating them, it probably wont hurt, I just don't recommend bothering. I always buy a brake cable/ shifter cable and housing set and replace all four cables and housings in one shot.

  • 1
    Basically I change the cables and housings each other year on the roadbike that I use during winter. On any other each third year. Maybe not entirely necessary but a good maintenance exercise.
    – Carel
    Apr 4, 2020 at 11:34
  • I oftenput a blob of grease at both ends of the last length of rear housing, to keep road moisture out of that curve. Doesn't really make any difference to performance, but slows the entry of dirt.
    – Criggie
    Apr 5, 2020 at 0:50

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