This time of year, with nasty weather and road grime, shifting performance can degrade quickly due to contaminated shifter cables and housing. As the shifter housing gets clogged up, the cables don’t slide as freely. As a result, at the lever, it feels harder to move the shifter, and at the derailleur, the springs pulling the mechanism into position don’t have the tension to overcome the cable friction. The only solution is to replace the shifter cables and housing, probably my number one maintenance procedure for improving the feel and function of any bicycle.
Over the course of the past season I’ve tried several shifter cable and housing sets. All of them have standout features and would make great choices depending on your needs.
The non-metallic, ultra-light Power Cordz are just that: very, very light, and very slippery and smooth to boot. But they’re a little more sensitive to perfect adjustment. Later in the spring I tried the Yokozuna Reaction cable system, which relies on standard (but very high quality) stainless steel cables and very stiff housing. They offer very smooth feel and a very positive feel at the lever, due to the stout housing.
But after a few months on the new GORE RideOn Professional system cable set, I don’t think I want to go back. It’s easily the smoothest, most slippery cable system yet, and also much easier to install than I remembered from older GORE cable systems. And as a bonus, it provides significant sealing against contamination from gritty conditions.
The Professional system kit is pared down to just the essential elements. It includes:
- A length of pre lubed 4 mm shifter housing,
- Two ultra-slick, coated shifter cables, with Shimano and Campy compatibility,
- Two ultra long-nosed ferrules, to seal the cables from housing exit to derailleur entry
- Three standard ferrules
- One short nosed ferrule
- Two grub seals
- And two cable crimps with Gore covers.
Key to the performance of the system is an almost invisible, super thin, newly formulated cable coating. It’s super slick and matched with proprietary lubrication inside the shifter housing. It’s also more durable than the PTFE coatings on older GORE systems.
The installation instructions are limited to a diagram on the box, but they’re easy to interpret and follow. Basically, you cut sections of shifter housing to length as normal. Normal ferrules go on the housing ends that fit into the shifter and derailleur.
But the fundamental sealing elements of the system are the ultra-long-nosed ferrules, which have a long sheath to run from the upper cable stop on the frame, down through the bottom bracket cable guide, and to the front derailleur or the rear derailleur shifter housing loop. At the front derailleur, a grub seal seals the sheath. At the rear derailleur, a short nose ferrule extends to meet the long sheath, and a grub seal covers their interface.
Installation takes only a few minutes longer than a standard cable installation, so there’s no reason to avoid this system due to complexity. It’s surprisingly simple.
As simple as the Professional System is to install, it’s fantastic to ride. Of all the cable systems I’ve used, only the Power Cordz were in the ballpark in terms of smooth, slippery feel, and I would still give an edge to the GORE system. It’s got an amazingly smooth and silky feel.
In over four months of riding, I’ve had to perform one small readjustment at the barrel adjuster, and shifting performance has remained outstanding. I even swapped the cables and housing from one bike to another (they were identical frames, so housing and seal length were not an issue). Shifting has stayed as smooth and crisp as the day I installed the system.
The system is not totally sealed. Potential contamination points include the ferrules that meet the shifters, and the ferrule that meets the rear derailleur. But I didn’t have any problems, and I was also pleased that the cable coating didn’t abrade and peel off at the derailleur entry points.
Note the Professional System is available for road bikes only, due to the way in which the long nose ferrule meets the derailleurs. Kits are available for SRAM, Shimano, and Campagnolo shifters. In fact, SRAM Red groups now come standard with this cable set, and SRAM is partnering with GORE to offer their own branded Professional System cable set.
I’ve yet to try the other GORE systems, like the Sealed Low Friction system or Low Friction system, but I’m impressed by the Professional system, and I’d recommend it for any road rider.
(More photos of the cables below the video player)