Partly disassembled bike shifter showing the broken end of the shifter cable

Broken shifter cable

Following the big washing up last week, I put the wheels back on Kuroko and set about adjusting the rear derailleur. Things seemed to be going OK at first, if not brilliantly. I got everything lined up on the smallest cog, and shifting smoothly between there and the next few cogs down. But the derailleur came to a stop on the third cog from the bottom (largest), and it wouldn’t go further no matter how many times I tried.

I scratched my head and fooled around for a while with the cable tension adjustments — all the while taking care not to let the chain come off into the spokes again. And with some twists and some tugs, I got the derailleur to shift down to the lowest cogs. But then it wouldn’t shift up to the highest (smallest) two anymore.

Dirty bicycle sproket with degreaser, brush and tub of greasy water
Cleaning up the sprockets

I took a break for the evening. When I got back to it the next day, I decided to start by giving the cassette a good cleaning. Was it possible some grit between the cogs was preventing them snugging up together after I’d fixed the broken spoke? It didn’t take long before I had the cogs sparkling like new.

Bicycle cassette showing clean sprockets
Those are clean cogs

I got the wheel back on the bike, but the shiny cogs didn’t help the problem.

She was a fast machine, she kept her sprockets clean …


In fact, the derailleur would only move seven cogs now, and then six. More head-scratching. More cable tension adjustment. And then, with a popping noise, the shifter stopped moving the derailleur at all. It didn’t take me long to figure out what had happened: I peeled back the cover of the shift lever and there was the frayed, broken end of the shifter cable. I went to the shop and got a replacement, brought it home and tried to install it. But it wouldn’t go. And all the while something was nagging at me: where was the other end of the broken cable? At that point I decided to have another break and wait for the weekend.

Partly disassembled bike shifter showing the broken end of the shifter cable
That’s where the other end was hiding

Today I got to work. I’d done some research and confirmed that the screw I’d noticed on the underside of the shifter would allow me to open up a couple of covers and get at the works. There was also a warning about messing with the springs inside, and instructions to remove the shifter from the handlebars first. I was eager not to have to remove and rewrap the handlebar tape, so I figured out I could actually free up the shifter enough (once I’d loosened the brake cable as well) to work on it without unwrapping the tape.

Threading the brake cable through the housing under the handlebar tape
Threading the cable through the housing

And with the covers off, it was easy enough to see the broken cable end and to remove it. I started the new cable into the shifter and made sure the mushroom head caught on the pulley, and then started to thread the cable back through the housing under the handlebar tape. With that done I screwed the shifter back onto the bars, taking some time to line it up with its mate on the other bar, and pulled the hood back into place.

With the shifter reassembled and the cable pulled through to the downtube, I was eager to see if I’d been successful. I quickly threaded the cable under the bottom bracket and then through the remaining housing that guides it to the rear derailleur. I pulled the cable tight and snugged down the pinch bolt with a hex wrench. (I also retightened the brake cable and adjusted the brake position.)

Shift lever hood in place
Shift lever hood in place

Without putting the wheel on quite yet, I gave the lever an experimental flick. The derailleur moved. I clicked again, it moved again. I quickly verified it was clicking through all 11 stops. With that I put the wheel back on and set about adjusting the derailleur. It just took a few twists of the high end stop, and another few twists of the cable tensioner. I gleefully ran through all 11 gears, up and down, several times.

Trimming the shifter cable to length
Trimming the shifter cable to length

The finishing touch was to trim the cable to length, and cap off the cut end. And with that I removed Kuroko from the workstand and proceeded to the next step.

Bicycle saddle shown from above
Goodbye, Brooks!

While I was cleaning up Kuroko, fixing the broken spoke and trying to sort out the shifter, the new saddle arrived. It was time to replace the Brooks, which — although highly rated — probably contributed to the saddle sores which had me wash out of the Lejog ride. I was amused to find when I loosened up the seat post bolts that the English mud had worked itself inside!

Mud inside a disassembled seat post
That’s a dirty seat post

Bicycle leaning against balcony railing
Ready to roll

The new saddle, with additional padding, went on easily enough, and the job was nearly done. I put the saddle bag and cockpit bag on, as well as the tire pump. Kuroko is now ready to ride.

Bicycle bag and work stand
There she isn’t

There’s more cleaning up to do (such as folding the transport bag), but for the first time since I returned from England there’s no bicycle on our balcony. She’s back in the parking spot in B1F, waiting for the next ride. With luck, we’ll go out tomorrow and I’ll have a ride report for you.

If luck is really a lady, I won’t have any additional mechanicals to report … at least until the replacement spokes and brake pads arrive.

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