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.