Ask Dave: ABR’s resident expert of everything bikes answers your questions

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ABR’s resident expert of everything bikes answers your questions…


Hi Dave, recently on a little trip out to do some green laning my clutch cable broke leaving me stranded for a few hours while I waited for a mate with a van to come and collect me! While I had some time to kill I wondered what’s the best way to deal with a broken clutch cable so that you can get straight back on your bike and not have to faff around?

James, Aberystwyth


Good question James. As is the case for avoiding most problems on the road, planning is everything! Before leaving on a trip your bike’s gonna need a good service. Part of that spannering requires lubing or replacing the clutch and throttle cables to prevent wear. If it’s been some time since the cables have been replaced then now is the time to do so.

A clutch cable will cost you about 15 quid and most modern ones are nylon lined because they can be prone to snapping at the wear point where it has to have an acute angle around the bike. With extended use the inner can wear through the nylon liner and start blading against the outer, causing a heavier pull. So, when installing a new cable I route it alongside the old one, attached with a couple of zip ties. If you do this when the worst-case scenario happens (i.e. braking your clutch cable) it’s quick and easy to connect the old one back up and you can be away in minutes!

Clamp on Lubricator
A clamp-on Lubricator makes it an easy process

Prevent future damage by taking care of your cable. They like to be lubed. Do this with a small clamp on lubricator, they use an aerosol to force oil all the way through the cable. To install, simply disconnect the cable at the lever end, attach the clamp carefully and squirt away. Do this until you see lube coming out the other end, job done, your cable is now nicely lubricated.

What lube should you use? I’ve used 3-IN-ONE for years but you can also use a light machine oil and some of the modern Teflon sprays are good. Not WD-40 though, it’s undoubtedly a great product but it’s not intended for use as a lubricant.

A small aside, many of us fit bar risers to make for a more comfortable riding position, it’s important that this doesn’t stretch the cables unduly. Reroute the cable or replace it with one that’s a little longer, there are specialist suppliers that can make up longer ones at good prices, such as Venhill and T Johnson’s Cables.

What do you do if you’ve ignored the above advice, spent the money on beer and are now on a back lane with a snapped cable?

Solderless Nipples in your tool kit
Keep a few solderless nipples in your tool kit

Most breakages occur at the end that gets the most strain, that being the clutch lever end. Pack a few solderless nipples of various sizes in your riding tool kit and you’ll be able to use these to replace the damaged one. Just trim the broken cable with that multitool you got for Christmas years ago and if necessary shorten the outer sheaf a little to aid the fit.

If your cable breaks and you have no solderless nipple an electrical terminal strip can be very useful in an emergency and they can be picked up for pennies online or in a hardware store.

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