Tech Tip: Broken Cable Quick Fix

Usually due to a lack of maintenance or regular cable replacement, a broken cable can be a big problem, especially if you’re stuck at the bottom of a climb! However, you don’t have to let a broken, frayed, or damaged cable or housing get the best of you. Cables will commonly break where they are most bent, usually at the shifter or under the bottom bracket. However, worn out cable housings can also fail and collapse if they are worn or corroded. This repair will lock your derailleur into one gear and is a bit more advanced; your multi-tool will really come in handy.

  • Get to a safe place on the trail or road that will provide you enough room to work. It works well to use a tree to hang the bike from.
  • Locate the break in the cable and remove it from the cable housing by pulling it away from the break. Be careful not to poke yourself with the frayed ends of the cable, they are very sharp and can cause an annoying prick to your finger.
  • Using your multi tool loosen up the 5mm Allen bolt that retains the cable at the derailleur end. You don’t need to remove it all the way, just loosen it enough to get the cable out. Remove and stash any remaining cable housing so it does not get caught in any moving parts.
  • Next, you’ll be using that broken section of cable to create a tensioning system for your derailleur which is now sprung itself to the hardest gear.
  • Find a good section of cable, about a foot or so long, and tie the tightest knot you can in the cable and thread the untied end of the cable back through the barrel adjuster where the housing was threaded. Give it a tug to make sure it is seated.
  • Now comes the tricky part. You need to manually shift the bike into an easier gear, probably 2nd or 3rd cog from the top, and hold it there long enough to re-attach the cable to the binder. This is where it would be helpful to have a bit of help from your riding buddy.
  • You’ll need to hold the derailleur in position, attach the cable under the binder, and turn the Allen bolt all at the same time to get this to work. However, once it is attached the broken cable will serve as a tensioner and align the derailleur into a more functional gear.
  • Once the cable is attached, you’ll need to align the derailleur so that the idler pulleys are in a nice straight line under the cog when looking from the back. This will keep the chain in position here and allow you to finish out the ride!