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  1. #1
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    Shifter Vs. Brake housing confusion

    I've got a mid-90's Barracuda frame I'm building up as a budget beater bike. Relevant components include

    New 3x8 Alivio shifters
    ~'95 XT Deraileurs (front & rear)
    ~'95 Tektro Cantilever Brakes

    I realized last night that I've got everything except the cable housings. Thinking I'd just get a 10 foot or so length and some ferrules and call it done, but it doesn't seem so easy.

    Do I need different types of housing for brakes vs/ shifter?
    What about size? I see reference to 4mm and 5mm

    A quick & dirty education is appreciated. If you want to go as far as to make specific suggestions, I'm considering using "Build Your Bike" vendor on eBay... park tools, pedros items in build your bike store on eBay!

    Thanks...

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by DPDISXR4Ti View Post
    I've got a mid-90's Barracuda frame I'm building up as a budget beater bike. Relevant components include

    New 3x8 Alivio shifters
    ~'95 XT Deraileurs (front & rear)
    ~'95 Tektro Cantilever Brakes

    I realized last night that I've got everything except the cable housings. Thinking I'd just get a 10 foot or so length and some ferrules and call it done, but it doesn't seem so easy.

    Do I need different types of housing for brakes vs/ shifter?
    What about size? I see reference to 4mm and 5mm

    A quick & dirty education is appreciated. If you want to go as far as to make specific suggestions, I'm considering using "Build Your Bike" vendor on eBay... park tools, pedros items in build your bike store on eBay!

    Thanks...
    Yes, brake and shift housing are different.

    Do not worry about diameter except to make the housing and ferrule size.
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  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    Yes, brake and shift housing are different.

    Do not worry about diameter except to make the housing and ferrule size.
    Okay, thanks very much for the clarification.

  4. #4
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    Hey Shiggy, I've noticed that a couple of my pre-built bikes use only the brake cable housing which is noticeably larger. When I asked the LBS about it when building up my Blizzard, they just told me it was because the shifter cables don't like sharp turns or bends and so many mtbs are built with the brake cable housing and not with the shifter housing for the shifter cables. So, my main question is whether or not there is a noticeable difference in shifting when using the larger housing with shifter cables? Also, were the pre-built bikes done this way just to save money?
    No fuss with the MUSS

  5. #5
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    My 1999 Kona Cinder Cone have different housing for brake and shifter. Most gruppos include shifter cables and housing and when I bought a new set of XT shifters, it include cables and housing (easy to spot because there is gold SIS markings on the housing).

    The shifter cable has a smaller diameter vs a brake cable housing (because brake cables is bigger to account for the increased pulling force when braking).

  6. #6
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    IIRC brake housing has an inner metal spiral. vs shifter housing which has longitudinal metal strands runing the length of the housing. This prevents housing compression which is more critical for shifting than for braking. Its easy to tell the difference because shifter housing is way harder to cut.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by dbhammercycle View Post
    Hey Shiggy, I've noticed that a couple of my pre-built bikes use only the brake cable housing which is noticeably larger. When I asked the LBS about it when building up my Blizzard, they just told me it was because the shifter cables don't like sharp turns or bends and so many mtbs are built with the brake cable housing and not with the shifter housing for the shifter cables. So, my main question is whether or not there is a noticeable difference in shifting when using the larger housing with shifter cables? Also, were the pre-built bikes done this way just to save money?
    MTBs are built with brake housing instead of shift housing for derailleurs? That's a new one. I'm not buying it. Derailleur housing is sold in both 4mm and 5mm diameter(even 4.5mm for Jagwire Ripcord).

    FWIW...brake housing does work fine with derailleurs.

  8. #8
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    The housing on my 02 RM Hammer was nondescript black housing and appeared to be the same dia, though I did not taken a caliper to measure it exactly. I also did not cut it apart to look at the internal casing. I replaced both the brake and shifter housing which is when I noticed that the original housing appeared to be the same when the replacement housing was noticeably different. When I asked the LBS and showed them the housing, that's just what they told me.
    No fuss with the MUSS

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve View Post
    IIRC brake housing has an inner metal spiral. vs shifter housing which has longitudinal metal strands runing the length of the housing. This prevents housing compression which is more critical for shifting than for braking. Its easy to tell the difference because shifter housing is way harder to cut.
    Thanks Steve, I will pay attention to that with the next upgrade I do with cable housing.
    No fuss with the MUSS

  10. #10
    dwt
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    Shifter Vs. Brake housing confusion

    Quote Originally Posted by ncfisherman View Post
    FWIW...brake housing does work fine with derailleurs.
    But not vice versa. Shifter housing could fail under braking forces.
    Old enough to know better. And old enough not to care. Best age to be.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwt View Post
    But not vice versa. Shifter housing could fail under braking forces.
    That is hard for me to imagine.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by smilinsteve View Post
    That is hard for me to imagine.

    I've seen it many times. The longitudinal strands on shift housing cannot deal with the compression forces of braking and the housing jacket can split and all the strands accordion together, if that makes any sense. Tried to find a pic but no luck.

  13. #13
    dwt
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    Shifter Vs. Brake housing confusion

    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    I've seen it many times. The longitudinal strands on shift housing cannot deal with the compression forces of braking and the housing jacket can split and all the strands accordion together, if that makes any sense. Tried to find a pic but no luck.
    Sheldon Brown:

    Warning: Since compressionless housing relies on plastic to hold it together, it is not as strong as conventional spiral housing, and should never be used for brakes! The loads applied to brake cables can easily cause compressionless housing to rupture and burst, causing a complete and sudden loss of brake function.
    http://sheldonbrown.com/cables.html
    Old enough to know better. And old enough not to care. Best age to be.

  14. #14
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    Great info thanks guys!

  15. #15
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    Shifter Vs. Brake housing confusion

    Quote Originally Posted by J.B. Weld View Post
    I've seen it many times. The longitudinal strands on shift housing cannot deal with the compression forces of braking and the housing jacket can split and all the strands accordion together, if that makes any sense. Tried to find a pic but no luck.
    Yup, I have seen it happen, more than once. Even seen old housing burst on shifters.

    Should also note there are a few compressionless housings that work for both brakes and shifters. Parallel strands spiral wrapped with steel, or a Kevlar or steel sleeve. Not cheap. A real PITA to cut.
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  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    Yup, I have seen it happen, more than once. Even seen old housing burst on shifters.

    Should also note there are a few compressionless housings that work for both brakes and shifters. Parallel strands spiral wrapped with steel, or a Kevlar or steel sleeve. Not cheap. A real PITA to cut.
    yup.. generally, pretty much anything with the name "ripcord" attached to it are the same housing for brakes and shifters. I actually find them easier to cut also.. the damn spiral wound ribbon style brake housings always seem to un wind a 1/8 inch back from the cut and are very difficult to get straight.. dremil cuts all of them with ease thou
    Going to try and bring Trail Tire TV back. go take a look... http://trailtiretv.blogspot.com/

  17. #17
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    Brake housing may not fit into the cable stops on your frame. I have used brake housing with a step down ferrule with no problem.

  18. #18
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    Thank you all for the info!

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