Fix the Click
by Ray Birks
One of the keys to having fun riding a bike is that the bike operates as it should. You step on the pedals, the chain engages with the gears, the wheels turn and the fun begins. Then you try to shift gears and often your results may vary. When I got my first mountain bike I was afraid to touch the derailleur to tweak the shifting or to mess with the barrel adjuster and cables to get things finely tuned because I thought it was mechanical sorcery and I didn’t take the time to learn how to do it. It was something that eluded me for years until I started getting more serious about my bike maintenance and couldn’t stand poor shifting or the click, click, click of a chain skipping around on the cassette.
An often-overlooked aspect to smooth shifting is the cable housing. The plastic piece that comes out of your shifter that contains the metal cable which in turn does the dirty work of pulling on or relaxing the derailleur to change gears. Most older bikes have these routed externally while some new bikes have them routed inside the frame to make things look neat and keep them away from the gunk. If that housing gets gummed up from dirt and grime it can slow down or completely stop your ability to change gears. You can replace the housing yourself by taking it off your bike and taking it to your local bike shop so they can cut you new ones to size or you reuse the old ones by lubing the inside of the housing, so the cable moves free and easy.
I used to lube a new derailleur cable first and drip some lube into the housing itself until I came across a more glorious solution, the Motion Pro 08-0182 Cable Luber. Its main use is to lube motorcycle cable housings but it works for bikes as well, even lawnmowers!
It’s a simple and pragmatic tool designed to hold your cable housing and direct the flow of lubricant straight into the housing until it’s completely lubricated top to bottom. There are three keys to its design that make it easy and super useful. First, simply stick the housing into the open end of the luber and snug down the tightening bolts. Second, insert the straw from your lube into the hole on the side of the tool, you know the little red straw that comes with your cans of WD-40. Third, spray the lube, and the design of the tool forces the lube into the housing and out the other end. The operation works best for me when the cable is not in the housing because otherwise some overspray might come out the wrong end. In a pinch though you could use it with the cable installed and most instructional videos and photos show the cable still intact.
This is a tool that I don’t use more than a few times a year but with its cheap price and ease of use it’s a great one to have on the workbench and helps make your riding experience include more fun and less worry.