15

Before you answer with "Don't." I would like to preface things by saying that I just really need a slightly longer shifter (and brake) cable but I can't find any on my local area and I don't want to order overseas just to get some cables.

The only place I found selling longer cables are overseas and it's about 15x the price than if I were to buy the slightly shorter one locally. So I'd rather hack around and figure out a way to combine 2 cables together instead.

Thank you for understanding.

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    How long do you need? Is it for a tandem or something?
    – MaplePanda
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 18:15
  • @MaplePanda, no I was just trying alt bar and the new position of the shifter and brake meant that the standard cable length of 2m comes up a bit short by about a few inches to reach the derailleur Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 19:00
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    The absolute price probably matters more than the relative 15-fold increase. Since cables are relatively cheap even 15x the local price might still compare favorably to a risky hack that requires tools and work. Is it annoying to pay such a premium? Yes, of course! But sometimes in life we have to choose the least bad option... Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 22:27
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    @user2705196 I do understand and agree with all your points and I would go this route if I'm installing these on a more expensive bike, however, if I go with the longer premium priced cables, they would cost about ¼ of this particular bike's total cost already Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 13:35

4 Answers 4

11

Using ferrules and a swaging tool you can do a side by side connection or you can make loops in the ends of each cable. There are lifting and non-lifting ferrules. Be sure to get the lifting ferrules.

enter image description here

or

enter image description here
How to Install a Wire Rope Ferrule & End Stop

You'll need a crimper
enter image description here

According to the article:

Installing a ferrule and end stop -- using a process called swaging -- is one of the best methods to accomplish this task for light duty projects. The swaged connection will exceed the rated breaking strength of the wire rope or cable when properly applied. Available in a variety of materials, ferrules and stops can be purchased separately or in convenient kits complete with specifications and the appropriate number of required components for selected applications.

Extensively destruct test your work. When braking your life may depend on it.

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    Nice work! I'd consider adding some heatshrink over the whole thing, or some of those round rubber doughnuts to the wire before crimping. That should help reduce the noise of clattering against the frame.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 19:16
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    Are those methods really going to work for shifter cables? The parallel splice is going to give you some weird twisting action, and the loop is going to add dynamics as you change tension, both of which will be detrimental to shifting performance.
    – RLH
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 0:24
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    @RLH Could it work? In some situations it will work. There are many situations will this will not work. Is it something I'd recommend - No. Does it answer the question? Yes.
    – David D
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 12:55
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    I'd wonder if the cost of tools and parts exceeds that of just buying the longer cable.
    – Reid
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 16:33
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    @DavidD On further reflection, I’m going to posit that these methods will not work for either shift or brake cables, and so do not answer the full question of “how do I link cables together into longer working shift and brake cables?”: The twisting from the parallel splice and the reduced stiffness and slack-disconnection from the loop will make the shift behavior nonlinear to the point of not working and the brake performance poor to the point of being unsafe.
    – RLH
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 22:58
21

Some travel bikes were designed with frame couplings. This was in the era where airlines were stricter with luggage size requirements, and a coupled frame could fit in a box that wouldn’t incur oversize charges.

If you break the frame, you also need to break the cables. Hence, cable splitters. S&S and Ritchey are two companies that make these. The Ritchey ones are below. They use small grub screws that clamp down on the cables. In my experience with both brands, this is enough to hold the cables securely. (On one end of the Ritchey clamp, I think you're supposed to put a cable head in there, and there’s one grub screw for the other end. I recall that the S&S one has dual grub screws on one end.) I can attest that both these brands of splitters hold the cables securely enough, even though one end is just secured by 1-2 small grub screws.

enter image description here

These splitters should cost about US $15. I saw an Amazon listing for at least the Ritchey splitters, so there's that option. They are a niche item, but there's a decent chance a US bike store could get them from Quality Bicycle Products (a gigantic supplier for LBSes, basically every LBS will have an account with them). I don't know your full situation, so I don't know if this is more than you wanted to spend. However, US$15 seems like a not ruinous price, and it does produce a tested solution.

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    Don't forget tandems, but it's also easy to buy cables that aren't quite long enough for the rear of my tourer but are excessive for the front
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 14, 2022 at 15:24
  • 1
    If one insists on combining two cables, I'd expect a purpose-built solution to be better than the hack in the currently accepted answer.
    – Reid
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 16:36
13

Don't

Personally I'd shop around and find a source of longer cables. Tandem brake/gear cables are exactly the same just longer, and shouldn't be 15x the price. I got some from Wiggle years ago and need them for my recumbents.

https://www.wiggle.co.nz/lifeline-essential-inner-brake-cable-tandem $6.01 NZ

https://www.wiggle.co.nz/lifeline-essential-inner-gear-cable-tandem $6.00 NZ

Although freight can be a stinger.

At the bare minimum, use longer brake cables. Brakes are a safety critical component and you do not want them slipping. A slipped gear cable is an merely an inconvenience.


Make some new ones

If you're handy and have access to a workshop and tools, it may be reasonable to make your own cables. The wire diameter has to be the same, so you'll need a spool of stainless wire rope for each of brake and gear, and depending on your brake/gear ends some older terminators.

You'll need to drill out the old cable, leaving a hole just big enough for the new wire, and also drill a countersink on the far side. You put the wire through, hard-solder or braze it in place, with the the tail splayed out inside the countersink cone. This makes it much harder to pull through.

Downside - all this faffing will cost you more than buying some pre-made cables.


Joints are failure points. Eliminate them as much as possible.

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    Even though I've already picked an answer as my immediate solution, I'm interested with the idea of making my own cables so I don't have to deal with this problem in the future if the need arises. I believe I can source a spool of the right thickness of the wire but I don't know how they attach the stops at the end. If you could point me to a tutorial or something on how these cables are made, I'd be grateful. I tried searching but almost all results are telling me how to replace the cables, not how to make them DIY style. Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 13:30
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    This really should be the accepted answer IMO.
    – Reid
    Commented Sep 15, 2022 at 16:36
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    @user9564371: Did you notice later comments on the answer suggesting crimping ferrules? If you did end up trying this, did stretchability of the cable due to twisting or the loop idea end up making shifting non-linear? If so, you might want to unaccept it. If not, I'm sure other readers would be curious how well it worked in practice. (i.e. reply to \@RLH in that comment thread, not here.) Commented Sep 16, 2022 at 20:09
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    @PeterCordes I have seen it and I am waiting for the ferrules to arrive so I can test it out and update with how well it works, IRL stuff prevented me from tackling it sooner Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 3:37
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    @user9564371 It seems to be more of a vintage motorbike thing. hondatwins.net/threads/… looks good in general. The barrel end is already formed, and they're splaying the wire inside a countersink then soldering that in place, which looks great. I also found youtube.com/watch?v=F-gY27LTU2c but that looks janky-as, but covers the splaying idea a bit more. 49ccscoot.proboards.com/thread/1073/soldering-on-cable-ends seems fair. If soldering stainless steel you need the correct flux and solder.
    – Criggie
    Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 7:24
9

For joining steel cables in general you can get a variety of screw clamps (as well as crimps, but I wouldn't recommend those for safety-critical use without the expensive proper tool and testing). Some screw clamps are small enough for bike cables. I'd look for ones that use two screws per cable.

Other clamps are designed to form loops, and you could make a join from a loop in each cable.

You also need to make the join where there's a good straight run of cable.

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