Five minutes to change a rear derailleur cable?

Well, not exactly, at least not me! But I get ahead of myself, so let me back track a little. During my weekend rides I noticed some really unpredictable shifting in the 4, 5, 6 & 7th cogs. At times no shift, at others jumping a cog and so on. I checked the derailleur, which was perfectly aligned, the chain measured up perfectly and I couldn’t see anything unusual on the teeth of the cogs. So, I stood there for a bit scratching my hairless head, not coming to any conclusions.

On Monday I rode my bike down to my LBS and asked the head wrench for advice. It took him all but 10 seconds to check the derailleur cable at the hood, and sure enough, the darn thing was frayed halfway through.

Wrench: “I can fix it for you, it’ll be $40 for labor and small parts!”

Me: “Um, that’s a lot of money, remember, I don’t have a job!”

Wrench: “Oh, yeah, forgot about that, no luck, hu? Well, I am about to change cables on another bike, why don’t you watch and then do it yourself? You’ll only pay for the parts?

Me: “Awesome!”

The ease and speed of him stripping that rear derailleur cable was incredible, but not as much as installing the new one. Even with him pausing once in a while to explain something to me, the

Rear derailleur anatomy

Rear derailleur anatomy

new cable was in in five minutes flat. He then had me watch the change of the front derailleur as well, but advised me not to change mine yet, because it was in perfect condition (the front cable

does not get nearly as much abuse as the rear cable).

My LBS has a ‘guest work-stand’ and he instructed me to setup my bike there, then to purchase the cable and housing. I thought it was really great that he had my workstation all set up with grease, oil, all the tools and the little ferrules when I returned with my little pouch of things. I got the job done, took me at least three times as long as him, but in the process learned how to change derailleur cables and adjust the rear derailleur after cable change while only spending $5 on small parts. I did slide him a $10 bill as a thank you for the lesson and the DIY option.


About GT in LA

Road cycling enthusiast
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6 Responses to Five minutes to change a rear derailleur cable?

  1. Doug says:

    If it took you 3 times longer, that’s only 15 minutes. Not bad for swapping out a cable. It’s great to be able to work on your own bike, and other people’s for that matter. I’ve been collecting the proper tools for a while and have a pretty decent set now. I even started my own little tune-up business last year between jobs just for the hell of it. No money in it, but plenty of enjoyment. In addition to the LBS’s, which are almost always helpful with tips at little or no charge, I found that YouTube is a great resource for DIY bike repair videos. There’s tons of videos with step by step instructions. Have a look… I’ll bet you’ll find a vid on cable replacement. Cheers.

  2. jeff says:

    Sounds like a great LBS. I’m kind of limited to cleaning my chain and fixing flats. When I see a wrench do their thing, even if I’m watching, it’s like they’re doing magic. I just can’t seem to learn the tricks!

  3. tubetone says:

    Having a tidy, well-adjusted machine is one of my favorite parts of riding. And hey, the fun continues even after you’re in the saddle. I say buy at least some of the frequently used tools, even if it’s piecemeal. They’re worth the extra pride you’ll have. (To say nothing of the frustration you’ll avoid.) I really like Park’s stuff, and they’ve got some great recommendations on what to buy for what jobs and level of proficiency:

    • gtinla says:

      Hi Tube – nice to see you on the blog. Your recommendations are right on and I have started getting a piece here and there. Like you, I love tinkering with my toys 😉

  4. tracywilkins says:

    That’s pretty cool that they’re willing to forego the labor charges to let you learn. As you’ve learned, the rear cable isn’t too difficult to change. The biggest concern I always have is snipping off the extra after it’s done. With the wrong tool that end can get unraveled before you can get an end-cap on it to keep it tidy.

    Good job!

    • gtinla says:

      Tracy, you bring up a very good point about the tools. Since I was allowed to use the shop tools I had all the right ones at my disposal. If I had to buy them, my final bill would have been considerably higher. Here is an excellent link for those interested in the subject;
      Bicycle Repair

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