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Brake cables are cheap to change and can have a significant improvement on your braking system. Depending on how much you ride and brake, brake cables’ lifespan can vary from 6 months to a few years. It can be hard to tell, but at least when your cables are turning to orange, rusty colored or the brake lever won’t fully recover from braking, it’s time to change them.
You might want to consider investing a bit more to get better cables.
Make sure you use good plyers to cut the cable end, otherwise you cable might start unraveling. If you ask, they'll cut it for you at the local bike shop.
What you need
- 5mm hex key
-new brake cable(s)
Change mountain bike brake cables (made by Bicycle Magazine) - includes also good stuff about cables and housing in general
Change road bike brake cables (made by Halfords)
You might also want to change your brake cable housing, because it might have rust or other crap from old cables inside of it, which creates friction and you'll have less sensitive brakes. The cable prices vary from just a few bucks to twenty dollars. You can buy just a cable, cable with housing or just the housing. As the higher end of the price range is not very high, it might be a good idea to invest some extra and take the better one. There are differences in cable performances, better brake cables give you a better feeling on the brakes.
Brake cables are usually universal. You have to cut of one of the ends before you can pull it through the housing. One end is usually for mountain bikes, while the other is for road bikes. Make sure you cut off the end you don't need, and leave the one you will need. You can check your old cable to make sure which end fits in your bike. Brake cables are thicker than shifter cables, so you can't mix those together.