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Shift vs brake cables

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AndrewB Offline
Senior Member

San Jose, California
Posts: 105
Joined: Jul 2010
Post: #1
Shift vs brake cables
I was at the LBS today ordering some parts, and cables and housing were on my list for work later this year, as I want to raise my handlebar 1-2cm for better riding position.

I thought they suggested two sets of Shimano shift cable sets, but it looks like they put a Shimano standard cable set (SIS-SP40) and a PTFE full coating set (SIS-SP41) on the counter. I didn't realize the difference, and got both pairs.

Can shift cables be used as brake cables? Or, what's the difference? Does the PTFE coating really justify a 4x price differential between the SIS-SP40 and the SIS-SP41? Seems high.

This is for a road bike that I put 1500-2000 miles on a year - lot of hills, so a fair amount of shifting.
Apr 24, 2011 09:51 PM
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dave_sd Offline
Senior Member


Posts: 109
Joined: Aug 2010
Post: #2
RE: Shift vs brake cables
Brake cables see higher tension forces in operation over shift cables, thus they are thicker to keep from breaking. You are asking for trouble if you try to swap them.

I use plain ol' stainless cables for everything, and they work fine as long as I keep them fairly clean. Every once in a while I drip some triflow into the cable housing to lube them up, but that's after several months of riding after I put them on
Apr 24, 2011 10:20 PM
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AndrewB Offline
Senior Member

San Jose, California
Posts: 105
Joined: Jul 2010
Post: #3
RE: Shift vs brake cables
Ah!! I never thought of that (brakes being thicker), but that goes made sense!

I'll probably be taking them back. Thanks!

I also put drips of Triflow on my cables - got that idea from Alex in one of his videos.
Apr 24, 2011 11:04 PM
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Bill Offline
Veteran Member

NY,USA
Posts: 2,766
Joined: Sep 2009
Post: #4
RE: Shift vs brake cables
If you can afford the ones with the PTFE coating and you do that many miles a year, with a lot of shifting then stay with those ones. Something else is convenience, if you do not like doing the maintenance yourself, like adding the triflow, then you would want those.

But if you are on a budget, don't mind maintaining your bike, and have the time take the PTFE ones back Wink .

Good maintenance to your Bike, can make it like the wheels are, true and smooth!
Apr 25, 2011 03:44 AM
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painkiller Online
Veteran Member

Peoria, IL. USA
Posts: 1,440
Joined: Mar 2011
Post: #5
RE: Shift vs brake cables
If you have at least two bikes in your stable or friends to split the cost I recommend using ProMax brand cable housing. It has the inner slick lining and comes in a 95 foot spool box.
Brake housing is around 25 US Dollars and dérailleur housing cost around 40 us dollars
The average bike will use around 9 feet.doing 10 bikes for that price up front is pretty cheap. The shops in illinois around me ask around 2 to 4 dollars a foot for good housing. So, do two bikes you got your money worth and you can hook your buddies up for a deal.
bulk bottle of cable housing end caps around 10 bucks at nashbar.com
The average mtn bike will use around 16 caps at 50 to 75 cents per cap where I come from


There are two kinds of people in the world, "Those who help themselves to people, and those who help people!"
Apr 25, 2011 08:01 PM
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iloj Offline
New Member


Posts: 1
Joined: May 2013
Post: #6
RE: Shift vs brake cables
(Apr 25, 2011 08:01 PM)painkiller Wrote:  bulk bottle of cable housing end caps around 10 bucks at nashbar.com
The average mtn bike will use around 16 caps at 50 to 75 cents per cap where I come from

Where exactly do you come from that has 16 cables on a mtn bike ? One cap per cable, that would be 2 for a bike with hydraulic disc brakes, 4 for a hybrid or cable disc brake, and maybe 1 additional if you have an adjsutable seat post ???
May 27, 2013 10:37 AM
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