On all of the bikes I've ridden, the brake hoses and shifting cables make an X-shape in front of the head tube.

That makes sense if:

  • Front brake lever is on the right side (hose goes from non-drive-side caliper to drive-side part of handlebar)
  • Internal routing hole for rear derailleur cable is on the NDS and goes to DS shifter
  • Your hoses are too long and you want them to bow out in the middle of your bike instead of on the sides of your bike

If none of these apply to a bike, is there a reason one can't just trim the lines (with enough slack to turn the handlebars 180°) and run them directly from a hose guide to the brake lever/shifter?

I've just done a mock-up on my bike and it looks clean, but I'm afraid to break with convention because there's usually a good reason for it. And then again, maybe not crossing them is more common than I realize.

To note, I have hydraulic brakes AND shifters so maybe I'm seeing more flexibility in the hose than you'd get with cable housing.

  • Hydraulic shifters? You mean, electronic?
    – SamA
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 11:28
  • 1
    @SamA They're hydraulic. It's for an internal gear hub. Commented May 3, 2022 at 13:56
  • @SamA In addition, there is the Rotor 13 speed hydraulic groupset.
    – MaplePanda
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 15:46
  • Thanks, I learned something new today!
    – SamA
    Commented May 4, 2022 at 1:39
  • 1
    Also note that some frames (mostly high-end carbon ones) have tubes inside the frame to guide the housing, so you have no choice as to which port accepts which line.
    – MaplePanda
    Commented May 5, 2022 at 3:29

1 Answer 1


It's far from universal that they cross. Many bikes have a configuration where, for example, the right shifter goes to a port or stop on the right side of the downtube or top tube.

There are several major reasons why it's good to have housings and houses cross over the front of the head tube:

  • It's the routing type least likely to allow rub against the head tube, especially in the forward-pointing orientation (where you spend the most time). Having it the other way on many bikes or designs makes it difficult or impossible to avoid continuous contact with the frame, which can do real damage (sometimes to the frame and not just the paint) and necessitate protection stickers, which often aren't applied until the damage is done.
  • In many cases it allows the bends in the housing to be smoother and more gradual, which reduces friction with the cable inside. This tends to be a larger factor the smaller the bike is. This factor is immaterial to hydraulic systems.

Some bikes allow the choice in whether to cross the housings/hoses in front of the headtube and some do not. In the past this was largely a question of whether the cables would hit the downtube if you crossed the housings in front of the head tube. In recent years it often comes down to whether the routing ports are integral or use removable/swappable bits and how the routing grooves in the BB area are configured on non-full-housing bikes.

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