Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Compulsive Mechanic's Best Friend

I have one very small Puritanical streak, and it has to do with cables. I don't like to see naked cable ends. Brake, derailleur, whatever... cover up those frayed, wanton strands! Nobody needs to see that!

That's why this is the best thing I ever added to my home workshop:

Mine are a different brand, but a cable end is a cable end is a cable end. They all work the same. And at under ten bucks for 500, how can you go wrong? That's... (counts on fingers)... less than two pennies each. You can even get them in anodized colors (for more money) if you want to get fancy and/or re-live the anodized excesses of your early-90s mountain biking youth (guilty). Note that they supposedly come in "derailleur" (skinny) or "brake" (fatter, with a rim around the open end making them look like tiny hats), but I've found that when applied carefully, the sleeker "derailleur" style fits just fine on brake cables too.

Here's why I love the paradoxically overindulgent-yet-trivial jar of 500 cable ends enough to waste this many words on it. You're working on a project. It's Sunday night, and you plan to ride the bike the next day. All the shops are closed, obviously. You just put on some fresh cables, snipped the ends, and now there they are, hanging out bare, just waiting to fray into a hundred little finger-poking strands (which are guaranteed to break off under the skin and annoy you for weeks before they finally work their way out). So now what?

Before I had the Big Jar, I'd have to scrounge around my parts drawer and/or the floor just hoping that maybe I'd dropped a cable end somewhere along the way. With the Big Jar, I don't worry. I know I have enough to last me until the end of days. There are hacks (from hot glue to solder to spoke nipples to duct tape) but it just feels right to reach into the jar, pull out a shiny new cable end, and gently crimp it over that fresh cut. Perfection. A shop wrench I used to work with actually crimped a pattern into the ends on bikes he assembled so he could tell "his" bikes when they came back for tuneups. I'm not going to admit to being that nuts, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't cross my mind with every crimp.

I'm almost tempted to stick a few of these little buggers in my seat bag and cover up the naked cables I find on other people's bikes around town. Is that wrong?

(The only thing that would make these better is if they were knarps, just because I really like that word. Unfortunately, that's a cable doo-dad for an entirely different purpose. Knarps. Knarps. It should be an onomatopoeia for something... the sound of a spoke breaking? Or that noise when you flick your finger against a tire to see how much air it has? I dunno. If anyone has a good idea, I'll use it and see if we can make it "happen" through the Power of Blog.)


Pondero said...

YES! I'm always with one less than I need. That is a must have, for sure.

Jeremy said...

I really need to do this. Ferrules, too.

I did by a ten-pack of the proprietary ferrules for the Dia-Compe AGC levers on my touring bike, I figure that should last me a decade or two.

Anonymous said...

"heat shrink tubing"

much better than a glob of RTV or hot melt, and more removable than the crimp on doohickey. It does help if you already have a soldering iron or other hot gadget that will be needed to actually shrink the tubing. As an electrical engineering, this seems like an obvious choice. :)

Can I nominate a Mechanic's Best Friend??? I just love the heavy clear tape that protects the paint. Mine was purchased years ago from Colorado Cyclist. Man, it is great to save the paint in places where the cables rubs!

Steve in Peoria

Dingbat said...

My cables are "tipped" with nail polish; I have a green that matches my green bike and a sparkly orange that goes on the white bike. Best part of nail-polishing? you can withdraw and re-run the cables without clipping a half-centimeter or more from the cable every time.

Steve Fuller said...

@dingbat - Not sure why you feel the need to clip the cable shorter when re-running cables. I've always just removed the cable ends, did whatever I needed to do, re-ran the cable, then put a new end on.