First Impressions: Gore Ultra Lite “Fiber Optic” Shift Cables
Gore Ride-On’s new Ultra Lite cables seemed to cause a bit of a stir over their “fiber optic” construction. Shortly after our original post, I got a set in to try out.
UPDATE: MSRP will be the same as their regular set, $64.99 USD.
First, I’ll state the obvious. They don’t use light to perform or enhance the shifting in any way. I asked Gore’s rep what exactly was “fiber optic” about them to help clarify and got something about “trade secrets” and them being able to find new uses for technologies, etc. Honestly, it could be made from alien poop and it wouldn’t matter. As long as it’s not radioactive, if it makes my bike lighter and/or perform better, it has a home here. Fortunately, these new cables did both.
WHAT’S IN THE BOX?
Technically, I didn’t get a production box, just the innards, which is fine. Less packaging I have to haul to the recycling bin. Like the other Gore Ride-On Sealed Systems, you get housing, two cables, two liner sleeves, all the necessary ferrules, caps and grub seals and instructions.
The Ultra Lite system uses their fully sealed design, meaning the inner sleeves run all the way from the shifter to the derailleur. It gets the new lube inside the liner sleeves, which was previously only on the road-oriented Professional system and not the fully sealed system. For comparison, the Professional system starts the liner sleeves after the first section of housing rather then starting at the shifters. I’ve used all of their systems and will compare performance below.
Their standard housing on left came in at 65g. Ultra lite was 38g. Same length, and the rubber band didn’t affect the outcome. Savings = 27g.
I installed the cables on my Niner Jet 9, size Large, which had their old sealed cable system. Old housing for the front derailleur on the left (33g) versus new (15g). All were cut to the same length for weighing.
Old rear cable housing (42g) versus new (18g). Total bike weight savings = 18 + 24 = 42g!
DO THEY WORK?
I’ve used Gore’s Ride-On Cables for years, since before starting Bikerumor. This latest set was on my Niner for just over a year. They were installed during the initial build, connecting a full SRAM XX group. This was also my first long-term experience with XX. I’d ridden XX before on demo bikes and it seemed to work quite well, but on my bike it always felt a little harder to push. I had just chalked it up to the 1:1 ratio and heavy handed return springs.
But, as I spent more time on other bikes and XX kept shifting easily on every bike but mine, I started to get suspicious. I’ve reviewed Gore’s cables quite positively in the past, but that was on a different bike, so it took a while to realize I was fighting more friction in the cables. I was planning to swap the cables out for regular, non-sealed ones, so the timing on these new cables was perfect.
From an internal friction standpoint, the only difference between these new cables and the old ones is the introduction of lube in the liner sleeves. The difference was immediately noticeable with much, much lighter lever feel and crisp shifting action. This is what XX is supposed to feel like!
Gore hasn’t provided numbers comparing compression of the old cables and the new ones, but compression is really more of a concern on brake cable housing. It bends and flexes easily, making install a snap. It’s worth mentioning that after I weighed the new housing at the same length as the old, I trimmed a bit more off to create slightly shorter, more direct runs, but no more than 3.5″ total. Certainly not enough to change the shifting performance.
So, short term impressions are good. Very good. My bike’s lighter and shifting better than ever. Are they worth switching to? As any good lawyer will tell you, it depends. If you’ve got a fresh set of cables on your bike, no. If you’re ready to put new cables and housing on your bike anyway, then hell yeah. Despite the added friction of the old set, I can tell you this with absolute honesty: Once the initial cable stretch was adjusted out of my system, I didn’t touch my drivetrain for the entire year. Not one. single. adjustment. The sealed system works, and with the addition of factory injected lube, the friction issue seems to have been resolved.
Of course, this is short term. I’ll likely have these cables on my bike for another year and will report back in the future with any wear issues and how well the lube holds up.