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I'm changing my brake cables and I'm just thinking that it's such a big waste of cable since I only need a tiny bit and the cables are two meters long. Is there any way they can be used or anything? Edit: To be clear I mean the part that is left after cutting the piece I need, which has no head on it.

Thanks

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    I've had the same thought - I've kept the cut-off lengths of unused brake cable in my "this must come in useful one day" box for at least 15 years, but I haven't found a use for it yet! Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 11:22
  • This isn't a serious answer, so I am posting as a comment. You could collect the excess, and ship it to Forager Cycles for them to use in packaging for their cable cherries - those are fancy replacements for cable crimps.
    – Weiwen Ng
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 19:44
  • if you have a weed eater that uses the head where you push the string into the head you could in theory use brake cable for the string, but I would imagine there may be some potential safety issues there lol
    – Nate W
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 20:39
  • @NateW yeah - not a great idea because the strands of metal are dangerous when flying out at high speed. For a string-trimmer, biodegradable plastic is a safer plan.
    – Criggie
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 3:11

6 Answers 6

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You can use one of those headless cables to pull the chain out of hot wax (if you use this kind of lubrication).

Pinch it with a nut and a bolt at one end, and maybe solder the other end to prevent fraying.

Before sinking the chain into hot wax, thread the cable through one of the links (at the middle of the chain works best). The nut and bolt at the other end will lock the cable onto the chain.

Now you have a handle to pull the chain out without getting wax on your hands.

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I've never found a good use for offcuts of inner cable.

I did try untwisting one and using the fine wire as a reinforcement in a 3D print, but it wasn't much of a success.

It is possible to make a new end on the wire, but given its a brake cable I wouldn't personally take the risk.


It is possible to join two wires to make a longer one. I had to do this when I had a tandem but the bike shop had no long brake or gear cables.
I installed the short cable which reached to about the chainstay, and then laid a second piece of inner cable. I set the overlap so it would not reach a piece of outer at either end of its travel, and added some small heatshrink tube. Then I used some electrical screw block terminals to clamp down hard on the wires near the end of overlaps, and finally I fed the heatshrink back over the ends and closed it down.
This worked and did not slip, but the weight of the joiners meant the wire tapped on the chainstay.

Of course I replaced this when the correct longer cable came available.

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    Pinching them with a bolt and nut at the ends makes them more useful for various diy stuff, as they can then hold onto something.
    – Robert
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 22:40
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    I keep meaning to get some cable crimp sleeves (wire rope sleeves) sized for bike cables. They'd allow joining cables by making a loop in each, and such small sizes could be crimped without the proper tools.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 10:58
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You can buy shorter cables, though they're normally found in sets with a long back and short front. Jagwire do this, but the front cable is still rather long.

I've also seen cables with a mountain-style head on one end, and a road-style one on the other. The idea is that you'll cut off and discard the head you're not using, along with a little cable. But if you have both a drop bar bike and a flat bar bike, you can get 2 fronts from 1 cable. I've even seen ones with road heads on both ends (Jagwire again I think). These aren't my preferred cables - I'd rather use ones with welded cut ends as they're easier to thread without snagging.

The housings are in some ways worse, as they're a mix of metal and plastic, and harder to recycle. But at least you don't have to worry about having the head on one end, and offcuts can often do for the front.

I keep a bin for scrap metal in the garage, and take it to be recycled once or twice a year. Cable scraps go straight in there, though I've managed to re-use some other scrapped bike consumables.

I've thought about what I could make from old cables but never managed to come up with really useful ideas even making loops using wire rope crimp sleeves.

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  • Alright thanks, I saw those Jagwire kits but then when I went to buy my cables the guy in the store told me they stretch and that the Shimano equivalent was better, so I guess it's the scrap metal pile then! Just wish there was a way to attach a new head
    – Cedric
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 12:53
  • I went for the Jagwire (again) because I was having trouble getting black compressionless housing. If (which I doubt) the inner stretches it's by a tiny amount compared to pad wear, which is adjusted in the same way. I'm sure we've had a question about fitting new heads - and fairly sure the answer was "you can't"
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 13:05
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To close a quicklink thread old cable through the two surrounding links and pull together.

Supposedly - at least the cheap cables - are uncoated steel so not toxic to the soil if used outdoors - garden, shack. For example tomatoes and cucumbers require wire between stakes to grow.

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    Only the very cheapest are plain steel. Most cheap cables are galvanised, so zinc coated. So is fence wire, so you could use it in the garden. More expensive cables are stainless steel. A few have a low-friction plastic coating on them. The ones I've had look shiny blue, rather than like metal, but I wouldn't be concerned about toxicity, just microplastic pollution
    – Chris H
    Commented Jun 20, 2023 at 15:47
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If most of the cable is still good, and only the ends are frayed (i.e. no rust or such), you can still use a rear brake cable for a front brake.

Other than that, you can create all kinds of ornaments, if you are so inclined.

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    My understanding is that it is a new cable and Cedric is asking how to use the rest that remains after cutting away a part of the cable after the brake cable clamp. It won't be long enough and will not have the required head for use as a break cable. Commented Jun 14, 2023 at 12:20
  • You may be right. I was assuming he meant the old cable, rather than the end he cut off.
    – Burki
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 13:03
  • +1 for the ornament Idea. Wearables, Keychains, earrings. Also hang loops for tools. Zipper handle replacements. My sister used to make necklaces out of unusual materials, bike cable scraps where among those.
    – Jahaziel
    Commented Jun 15, 2023 at 19:46
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Depending on how much spare cable you have you could attemp to use it as a protector for your chainstay (or other framepart) by wrapping it around.
If you're feeling adventurous you could weave it around the chainstay as a protective layer.

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