Review: Jagwire Ripcord shift cable set

There is nothing that will bring that ‘new bike feel’ to your well-used ride like a new set of cables and housing.  There is something cathartic about pulling out a pair of beefy cable cutters (used on nothing else), cutting away old cables, wiping down a suddenly uncluttered frame, and stringing up a new set.  When my go-to bike’s shifting was feeling a bit laggy last fall, I took a shop owning friend’s advice and threw on a set of Jagwire’s flagship Ripcord semi-sealed cables.  Read on to find out how they’ve fared on that bike and others over the past 13 months.Jagwire’s Ripcord sets are what could be called semi-sealed cable systems.  Unlike Gore and other truly sealed cable sets, the Ripcords aren’t sealed end-to-end.  Fairly standard (but smooth) L3 housing runs where cable housing usually runs.  At the cable stops, special ferrules with little straws that stick out of the stops are used, over which stretches of “sealing liner” fit, covering what would otherwise be bare cables runs .  This system is, in theory, easier to install and less expensive than those using unbroken cable liners while offering much of the same protection.

Using my old cable housing as a template, installation was fairly straightforward.  My particular full suspension frame left me short of an o-ring sealed end ferrule, but beyond that, the only problems were that the little straws didn’t really fit through the slotted cable stops well and that the tubing between stops was a bit stiff from having been coiled up in its package and took a while to relax (cut ‘em shorter than you might think).  The Teflon-coated stainless steel cables were nice and slick and the SID Blue housing (one of several fasihionable color options- I chose white for a second bike) was more flexible than most- and looked pretty darn sharp.

With the cables installed, my bike’s shifting was excellent and but the adjustments necessitated by housing compression were somewhat more than normal.  It may not hurt to get the bike up on a stand a week or two after installation to pull some cable through at the derailleurs to ensure that barrel adjusters don’t overextend and strip the shifters’ threads.  After an initial handful of adjustments, the only problem I noticed within the first 6 months was what seemed to be a tendency of the housings to kink when bent sharply.  It didn’t really seem to affect shifting, but could do just that in the long run.

Now, living in the desert, I don’t do a whole lot of riding in the rain.  Sure, there are the occasional epic days that expose my bikes to a good deal of moisture, but cables generally seem to last about twice as long here as some other places I’ve lived.  I was a bit disappointed, then, when my shifting became noticeably balky after about nine months’ use.  The semi-sealed design of the Jagwires prevents any lubing of the cables, which means that, when things deteriorate there’s not a whole lot to be done.  By the Ripcords’ one year anniversary, it was well past time to replace them.

Given the use that they have seen, a year’s life out of a cable set isn’t too bad- but it isn’t any better than other good quality cable sets with sealed ferrules either.  The second bike didn’t fare nearly as well and needed new housing after six or eight months’ moderate use.  Still, despite more than an inch of metal wire sticking out of the most flexed piece of housing, I’d become attached to the look of Ripcords and decided to buy another set.  When installing that kit, I found that the little straws on the ferrules had shrunk, allowing them to fit into cable stops much more easily and presumably reducing drag.  Unfortunately, while this was a step in the right direction, the failure to shrink the tubing correspondingly represents two steps back.  The revised Ripcord sets now have sizeable gaps where the tube meets straw, with no o-rings or other seals to back them up.  This provides water and grit and easy entrance to the sealed system, something I expect to drastically shorten their useful life.

If Jagwire were able to close the very visible gaps in their system, they might have in the Ripcord a reasonably priced, attractive cable set that could compete with other high-quality non-sealed cables and housings.  As much as I like the look, the price ($30, about the same as Shimano’s excellent XTR level SP41 kit), prevention of cable lubing, and (slightly) more complicated installation are not supported by their performance or durability.

marc

www.jagwireusa.com

Comments

indiefab - 12/28/10 - 10:24am

I’ve enjoyed using Ripcord cable sets for several years. Yes, I said “enjoyed”. When you have used lesser cables, a good cable set is a joy. I find the Ripcord’s durability, color options and easy setup are hard to beat. Plus they have Kevlar!!
To address the loose tubing that covers the exposed cable, I just cut it longer so that it basically touches the cable stops on both ends. I think you should do this anyway to prevent dirt intrusion. Ripcord cables really shine when you don’t cut the housing at all and run straight housing all the way to the derailleurs and brakes. Now it IS a sealed system. I don’t think I’ll buy another frame with traditional cable stops.
I haven’t encountered the author’s durability problems. I’m sure Marc rides more than I do, probably a LOT more, but I find my cables last a good year and I only replace them yearly out of habit, not necessity.

Budget Bicycle Center - 12/28/10 - 10:55am

One of the best sealed cable system on the market, although i dont live in the desert to confirm its durability, but ill take the authors words. They work flawless in snow!

elangelo - 12/28/10 - 1:41pm

After the second failure with jagwire L3 hose this weekend (within 6 months) i’m no longer considering jagwire cabling, i’ll just go with the el-cheapo sis hose of shimano…

ohioguy - 12/28/10 - 6:29pm

I had the jagwire cables on my newest mtb and my cross bike last season.
Both did not hold up great long term… although…when they were new they were flawless for many months. Until the weather, rain, water and mud came into the equation.
I have found more luck with Shimano DA/XTR and gotten the most use and length out of the last set of XTR cables I installed on my previous hardtail bike.

Could we get a long term review on the Alligator and Nokon cable sets please?
they are weight weenie parts, yes, but very popular among the endurance mtb and race groups.

Marc - 12/28/10 - 9:15pm

All,

It sounds like people’s experiences have been pretty mixed… I will say that my newer sets (with the bigger gaps) haven’t lasted as long as the first set. If they had, I’d be a lot more enthusiastic. As Ohioguy mentions, they are wonderfully smooth at the beginning, though you really need to stay on top of the housing compression to keep shifting good.

As far as the Alligator cables go, it looks like they’re not being distributed in the US on account of some patent issues, so I don’t know that we’d be able to get a set. If anyone from Nokon is reading, though, I’d be happy to give their cables a go. Don’t forget Gore, either- their cables (included as stock with SRAM Red shifters) have been shifting very well for me on a bike that gets ridden hard and put away dirty…

marc

bc - 12/29/10 - 12:47am

Gore sealed- love em.

JohnH - 12/30/10 - 3:51am

Good review. Nice to see someone who doesn’t sugar coat their evaluation. In a world of 4 out of 5 or better, I got a lot of respect for reviewers who can do a fair review and have the courage to hand out 2′s and 3′s when it’s the truth.

Marc - 12/30/10 - 9:08pm

John,

Thanks! Nobody likes a mean reviewer and there’s certainly potential in Jagwire’s system. A bit more time spent on the details and I could imagine them working considerably longer. If our feedback can help our readers make educated purchases and manufacturers improve their products, then everybody wins!

marc

Jason Baker - 07/02/11 - 11:01am

I realize this is an old review but I feel compelled to leave a comment regarding Jagwire cableing systems. I have used Jagwire Racer on my road bike, Jagwire Hyper and Jagwire Ripcord on my MTbs so I do believe in Jagwire products. I can’t comment on how you all install them but I have found that spraying lubricant in the housing prior to installing the cable makes for very slick, frictionless and long lasting performance. I do not ride in the rain..intentionally and I do not ride when it’s too muddy to preserve the trails. I also split time with road riding and trail running so I probably don’t ride as much as a lot of people but I have never had any of the Jagwire products I’ve used need replacing before I’ve sold the bike. I buy a bike, replace the cables and usually keep them atleast a couple of years,then repeat the process. Of course adjustments need to be made during that time for cable stretch but that would be the case with any cable system. For the money, Jagwire products can’t be beat IMO.

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.