Bicycle cable rub


Peugeot Scorpion ATB circa 1987

When I loaded my Giant Escape Disc onto the car rack the evening before a Big Sky Bike Ride with Chris in March I noticed how the brake cable outers had rubbed together and worn through to the wire spirals. I went on my touring bike instead. I've also had to change all the outer cables on Mrs Taylor's Peugeot Scorpion ATB (pictured above). Outer cables rubbing each other to pieces and scratching paint off bicycle frames is taken for granted I suppose, but a rub-free system seems an invention waiting to be invented.

My son's Boardman CompFS is only a few weeks old and already the head tube paint (a nice paint job) is scratched by the outer gear cables. The gear cable outers on my Giant have actually rubbed grooves into the suspension fork crown. My Ridgeback Panorama touring bike is now fitted with small pieces of plastic and rubber tube, plus self-adhesive patches, to protect the head tube paint. And my Peugeot Black Mamba looks a mess with the brake cable outers rubbing as well (click pics below to enlarge).


(pics open in same new window)

That's just the head tube. The outer cables on all of our road bikes have rubbed through the paint on the chain stays as they pass to the rear derailleur, except when more sticky patches have been put on. But eventually these patches wear through or slip out of place, then you have to clean up the mess of sticky residue on the paintwork before putting new ones on. 😡

I assume there is no solution to this. It seems one of the few weaknesses in the design of the bicycle. The other weakness is the tendency for the front wheel to swing round when the bike is leaned against something, causing the bike to crash to the ground (more scratches). If someone invented a simple device to steady the fork when the bike is stopped they would become very rich. But the device would need to be very simple and require no conscious action on the part of the cyclist. Bits of elastic that connect each side of the bars to the top tube would not be acceptable as they would rub off even more paint!

14 comments on “Bicycle cable rub”

  1. Chris wrote:

    I put the little clear stickers on the headtube of my Ridgeback MX5 to prevent cable rub. The area around the stickers now look rather grubby, and I'm not sure if the stickers have done their job anyway.

    I noticed the other day that the rear brake cable on my Kinesis T2 has worn through after contact with – I assume – my Altura handlebar bag.

    As for a way of stopping the front wheel from swinging around when the rear wheel is immobilised – perhaps when the saddle/rear pannier is leant against a wall – well, there has been nothing simpler than the Blackburn Stop Block for non-STI levers on 'road' bikes. With STI levers on the Kinesis I make do with an old toe clip strap when I remember. And yes, I do carry a spare strap in my handlebar bag 🙂

  2. Hilary wrote:

    My Roberts came with clear plastic 'framesaver' stickers on all the places that cables might rub. These are still going strong with no scratches on my pride and joy.
    My handlebar bag has worn through the plastic coating on one gear cable outer but not through the metal inner casing.

  3. Patrick wrote:

    Rubbing between bags and cables does wear off the outer casing. According to Chris Juden "when the plastic gets too thin, the casing reinforcement wires explode out of it." Mine wore through just by rubbing each other.

    It wouldn't take much to manufacture the rear derailleur cable braze-on a couple of millimetres off the chainstay – just enough to lift the cable outer off the paint.

  4. Keith Edwards wrote:

    I try to clamp the cables together with either small cable ties or insulation tape. By crossing the cables or just holding then together and watching how they move I have cut down on the rubbing.
    I do however tend to have my cables quite long when I fit them to avoid the tight turn around the frame.
    I also use a piece of Velcro cut from about 2/3 the length of the distance around the front lever and the handle bars. Just separate the two parts then rejoin one end about 1/3 overlap. The other section is then closed when needed to hold the brake on.

  5. Chris wrote:

    Keith, I shall fish out my Velcro strips and try to understand what you've done when I'm more awake 🙂 Cheers!

  6. Garry wrote:

    What I've done in the past is cut bits of leather and glued them onto the frame where the cables rub. This works. I've also ziptied cables together where they cross.
    I used to have a Peugeot MTB with the exact same colour scheme as that! Unfortunately the rear driveside dropout cracked after some years.
    A handy trick for parking is to have rings of used inner tubes on your handlebars, and to use these to lock the brakes when you park your bike. Especially handy for parking on a hill.

  7. Chris wrote:

    Apparently, when I fit my handlebar bag I push one of the cables on to the front brake.

    That doesn't look good:

    brake cable rub

  8. Patrick wrote:

    No it doesn't (look good). This is what happened to my suspension fork crown. I've also had to put a sticky protective pad on Sandra's new bike frame until I can shorten the front hydraulic brake hose. It's so annoying. Soft metal is vulnerable.

    A good photo though Chris. The cable outer just behind the head tube is badly worn through.

  9. Kingerz wrote:

    I noticed on my Giant within the first 100km that this was happening, it had already exposed some aluminium on the fork head and was slicing into the head tube paint. Luckily I saw. I use cable ties to keep the cables joined to each other where they then ride higher up and I got some free plastic stckers, clear ones, from my bike shop. I may need to make a little sleeve from a pvc tube later though.

  10. David McCabe wrote:

    Velo Orange sells a spring that attaches to the down tube and the fork. It makes the front wheel less prone to rotating out. There are also types of two-legged kickstands that prop the bike up on the front wheel only, which then has too much load to rotate.

  11. Alan Wheatley wrote:

    Hi ,recently purchased a Giant "Roam" XR2 , and a packet of clear plastic stickers was supplied in with the Owners manual . I fitted these as soon as I had ridden it home from the shop (about 2 1/2 miles), because and even after that short distance I could see witness marks from cable rub . Still only covered minimal mileage so far ,but will keep my eye those cables to ensure no damage occurs ,will also see if the dealer can supply a spare set just in case they begin to wear through . Just love the bike though !!

  12. Heather Deutsch wrote:

    Having had the same issue, I created a simple product to keep the front tire straight when parked (I have a basket on my bike and the weight creates even more of an issue). Drop me a line and I'll mail you one.

  13. Yo wrote:

    Some designs reduce cable rub. I have seen cable housing stops mounted on the head tube instead of top/down tube — good: reduces housing weight and cable rub; bad: reduces freedom turning handlebars due to shorter "free" cable.

    Also, hidden-cable runs sometimes exit the frame at a slight angle and so hold the housing away from the frame unless the handlebars are turned sharply, which is almost never.

    I have seen some "show" bikes with stainless steel "patches" on the sides of the head tube. You used to be able to buy stainless-steel chainstay protectors with adhesive backing. Seems like a similar idea could be used instead of the plastic patches and would last much longer.

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