How to Repair a Bicycle Gear Cable

Written by matthew ferguson
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How to Repair a Bicycle Gear Cable
Gear cables connect the shift lever to a derailleur. (Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

A bicycle gear cable links the gear lever to its derailleur. During operation of the gear lever, the cable forces the spring-loaded derailleur to shift the chain to a chosen sprocket. Gear cables are partly covered by plastic housing, and over time sweat and dirt can enter the housing and corrode the cable, resulting in poor shifting. Cleaning and lubricating both the cable and cable housing allow the gear-shifting process to operate more smoothly

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Allen wrench, 5mm
  • Needle-nosed pliers
  • Flat-blade screwdriver
  • Light aerosol solvent
  • Bicycle cable lubricant
  • Rag
  • Wire cutters
  • Cable ferrule

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  1. 1

    Shift the bicycle into the gear that gives the gear cable maximum slack. Increasing slack can be felt in the cable.

  2. 2

    Use a 5-mm Allen wrench to loosen the bolt that attaches the gear cable to the derailleur. The cable is connected to the gear lever at one end, and to the derailleur at the other.

  3. 3

    Use needle-nosed pliers to remove the metal cap, called a "ferrule," at the end of the gear cable. The cap should slide off. If it does not, use the cable cutters to cut the cap off.

  4. 4

    Use a flat-blade screwdriver to open the rubber cable hatch on the gear lever lever. The head of the gear cable lies just inside.

  5. 5

    Grab the head of the gear cable. Pull the cable from the bicycle.

  6. 6

    Use a light aerosol solvent to flush any grime from the cable housing. Angle the housing toward the ground afterward to allow the solvent, and any dirt, to drip free.

  7. 7

    Wipe the cable clean with a rag.

  8. 8

    Apply a light layer of bicycle cable lubricant over the length of the cable. Wipe away any excess.

  9. 9

    Install the gear cable back into the gear lever lever. Push the cable all the way in until the head of the cable is seated inside the shift lever.

  10. 10

    Route the gear cable back to its derailleur.

  11. 11

    Pull the end of the cable taught. Use the 5-mm Allen wrench to tighten the bolt onto the gear cable, securing the cable to the derailleur.

  12. 12

    Use wire cutters and give the end of the cable a fresh cut.

  13. 13

    Slide a new ferrule onto the end of the cable. Use needle-nosed pliers to mash the ferrule onto the cable.

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