16 September 2009

bikefix Initial Review: Jagwire Ripcord cable set

I'd be lying if I said I didn't like my bikes to look good. That said, I've historically avoided making my bikes look too good, as nobody wants to look like they're trying too hard. Besides, doing so limits the outfits that can be worn with a particular bike. Still, when Dan at Bikeworks mentioned that he liked Jagwire's Ripcord cables as much as my favorite XTR cables, and I noticed that they came in a fetching SID Blue, I knew exactly what my next cable set would look like.

To be honest, my previous experiences with Jagwire cable had mainly been at the OEM level- the company makes cables that come stock on many bikes, and their replacement (especially after a year or so) can be one of the best and cheapest ways to make an old bike feel new again. Jagwire also make a very cool hydraulic cable cutter, should you ever be in the market. Like many companies, however, they're working their way upmarket and the Ripcord set is Jagwire's "flagship" product. Providing "legendary performance" is a tall order, but here's how Jagwire go about it:
  • Teflon-coated (and very flexible) inner wires
  • Continuously-lubricated (L3) 4.5mm housing (Shimano only squirt a blob of grease into their housing ends)
  • "Nosed" ferrules on to which a sealing liner slips, keeping the inner from being directly exposed to the elements
  • Sealed ferrules for the derailleur and shifter housing ends
  • Color (blue, black, pink, green, orange, red or white)
When swapping some parts on to and off of my main mountain bike, I decided it was time to pull the Jagwire cable set off of the wall and start fresh. Given the full suspension bike's long stretches of housing, I was worried that I wouldn't have enough housing to complete the bike. I cut the topmost housing stretches a bit shorter than usual (but still long enough) and was pleased to have about 4cm left over from the 180cm (70in) I started with. A few more inches would certainly have been nice, but I made it nonetheless. I can't help but think that a nice round 200cm wouldn't add too much to the price, though.

Getting the nosed ferrules (ferrules with little straws sticking out of them) into my cable stops was a bit of a fight- they seemed to need a bit of convincing. While they weren't crushed enough to cause noticeable cable drag, one nose did pop out of the ferrule proper, something that doesn't suggest great sealing. Because the Maverick has a guide of sorts for the front shift cable at the bottom bracket, I ended up using one of the three sealed ferrules there, trimming the straw and using the "raincoat" (a short boot that slides over the ferrule nose) at the rear derailleur, much like the little guy that goes on the end of Gore's Ride-On cables. I have to wonder if it's worth using the raincoat, which didn't fit particularly snugly, at all- a fourth sealed ferrule would have been more versatile and the added drag all but un-noticeable at the front shifter. After all of the housing and ferrules were in place, trimming the sealing liner to the length between the cable stops was quick & easy- it seemed like a good idea to cut them a bit short to allow them to relax from their packaging-induced arc without buckling.

So far? After a couple of weeks' big rides, the Ripcords feel good, as new cables should. The inability to lube the cables, thanks to the sealing liner, means that they'll be harder to freshen up when the time comes- but also that that time should be further off. At $35, they're about $10 cheaper than XTR (and $25 less than Gore's Ride-On cables). Not having pre-cut sections makes for less waste and gives full suspension owners the chance of completing a bike without a second trip to the store. Most importantly, I've had many compliments on the look. Despite the unconvincing seal between the nose and ferrules, I'm hoping to get a year out of my set- I'll let you know...



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