It’s been a while since I’ve written anything about this bike. SB4059 is my original bike, number #1 in the collection, the bike that started the blog and the search for SBDU knowledge! One day I hope to say SB4059 is finally finished and today, it takes one step closer.
This build started in December 2011 when the frame turned up in a box and a lot has happened since then. I first blogged about it in January 2012. During the last 4 years, as I’ve found new replacement kit that matches the Team spec, I’ve swapped several bits over. From the initial build back in December 2013, I’ve replaced the saddle, freewheel, chain, tubs, gear cables, spokes, toe clips and straps, handlebar finishing tape and end plugs, and now it is the turn of the brake cable outer. It has been 90-99% complete and perfect since I wrote a blog post about Gerald O’Donovan’s description of the ‘Team 80’ specification last year, but there were still a couple of things that needed attention. At the moment it looks like this…
As far as component specification goes, it is complete. This bike features everything you would see on a TI-Raleigh Team bike of the early 1980s. Every single specification detail is correct. This bike has been built to the details supplied in letters and interviews from Gerald O’Donovan. Individual riders would maybe ‘tune’ this spec to their own personal requirements with gear ratios, saddles, stem etc, but the details of the Campagnolo, Mavic, Clement and Cinelli components are correct. This also extends down to the Sturmey Archer toe clips and straps and even a TA Contrex bottle.
But there are two areas of this bike that bug me every time I look at it. The one I am correcting today is the brake cable outer. The Campagnolo Super Record brake set on SB4059 came as a complete ‘New Old Stock’ (NOS) set. NOS means different things to different people but these brakes are the definition of NOS, they came in the original packaging and with the original cables, even the original instructions, and although they are perfect in every respect, the cable outer is grey, probably the standard colour on brake sets, but with the odd exception of white and red, every single TI team bike I have seen has black outer brake cable. Maybe they used black to keep in with the red, black and yellow TI scheme?
Because I never thought of the original cables on SB4059 as the perfect final choice, I never trimmed them to the length that I would normally fit, in my head always thinking that I would be changing them one day.
When you get the cables right, you should have just enough cable to turn the bar fully to the side without causing the cables to catch or snag; too much cable means extra drag, unnecessarily long cable loops means extra drag. The cables on SB6398 are an example of what I’m looking to achieve when I fit cables to a bike.
The colour of the cable is probably such an insignificant detail to some but important to me to be able to come closer to calling this bike finished. I could have fitted any number of generic replacement black outer cables; I could even have sourced some later Campagnolo outer which started to come with the Campagnolo script logo stamped onto the outer surface, but I wanted authentic black, and period Campagnolo outer. It has taken some time to find that black outer in NOS condition…
… but now I have some…
Replacing cables on a bike is straight forward, if you are happy with the length of the old cables you just cut the new outer to the same length, job done! But what if you are fitting cables to a new frame? How do you know what is right? I thought I would take a little time during this cable swap to show how I size up and fit brake outer.
I see lots of bikes built and displayed using beautiful frames, with parts that have never been ridden, but some of these bikes are let down by the finishing details and the number one area letting them down is cabling. Typically they have too much cable, cables with loops of different lengths, cables often so long you could probably kit out two bikes, sometimes cables are fitted travelling in front and behind the stem. Generally a bit of a mess and spoiling what are otherwise nice builds.
When I was taught to build a bike there were certain methods and principles that were followed to complete and setup a bike; building a bike isn’t just about bolting bits to a frame.
SBDU frames were built with slotted cable stops which allow for rapid and easy cable removal, all you need to do is release the cable clamp bolt on the caliper, unhook the end from the lever and the cables come off quickly.
If this was a new build I would set the height of the stem and the position of the brake levers before I fit cables, both of these could affect the cable length and cable run. So if you have a turbo trainer or just happy to lean against a wall, sit on the bike and get your position and levers sorted. This step is already done on SB4059.
The rear cable is fitted first. This cable sets the size of the loop that the front cable should follow.
The cable exits the lever and goes behind the bar, making its way to the first cable stop. You can fit the inner and pull on the end to make sure that the outer is seated correctly in the ends. Don’t cut huge amounts off the outer, trim it a little at a time. Use good quality sharp cable cutters and make sure the cut end is not going to foul the inner; remove any sharp edges that might catch and fray the inner cable.
There are lots of stepped ferrules available but not all will fit. Not every stepped ferrule you have in your spares box will work. They can differ on both ends, the end that fits the frame stop and the end that fits over the outer cable. Sometimes it’s necessary to trim back the outer casing slightly with a knife to fit the outer into the ferrule. My new cables fitted the stepped ferrules perfectly without any modification.
The rear section of the outer is a fixed length, it moves up and down ever so slightly when the brake is applied and the caliper opens and closes. All I try and do is follow the lines of the top tube and seat stay. These frames are awkward in this area because of the low position of the cable stop and the large seat stay cap that is in the path of the cable’s route to the caliper Frames with a top routed brake cable are much easier to fit and the cable should just pass over the top of the seat lug at the base of the visible part of the seat pin.
The final position of the rear section of cable on this style of frame is going to end up just rubbing against the lower part of the seat stay cap. If it was longer it would be too much of a bend, if it was shorter it would catch on the lip of the seat stay cap.
The front cable is straightforward. It should exit the lever, pass behind the bar and run in front of the rear outer cable. Running the cable in front of the rear outer will support the rear cable. Trim the front outer cable a little at a time until the loop it forms is the same size as the rear. The crossing point of the cables should be neatly just above the stem.
Make sure the loops are the same size.
The final thing to do is fasten the cable, adjust the brakes and cut the inner to length.
I screw the adjuster fully into the brake caliper and hold the brake blocks tight against the rim. You can use a 3rd or 4th hand tool to do this task, or just hold the caliper closed. Calipers like this are easy to hold closed, you just grip together the wheel guides attached to the brake blocks.
- Screw the adjuster fully into the caliper
- Hold the caliper closed
- Pull the cable through
- Nip up the retaining bolt
This should leave the brake blocks binding on the rim. Finally, pull hard on each brake lever… Most people don’t do this but I do this on every new cable I fit, that also includes gear cables.
I’ve built many race bikes over the years for road and mountain bike racing and occasionally these bikes don’t get any ‘ride in’ time, they are taken from the work stand and raced the next day. You don’t want the brake cable to stretch just before a decent; you don’t want your gear cable to stretch after a couple of miles and spend the rest of the race continually adjusting the indexing. So always pre-stretch cables!
Pulling hard on the lever will do several things. It will ensure that everything is seated properly, the cable end will seat properly in the lever and the outer cable will pull fully into the cable ferrules. It will also stretch the inner cable – as I said, it is better to stretch the cables in the workshop rather than on the road on your first ride. Stretching the cable like this will also release the brake block slightly from the rim and will usually give you the perfect amount of lever travel. Because the adjuster was initially fully screwed into the caliper, that small amount of stretch will leave you with the maximum amount of adjustment remaining on the caliper.
When you finally cut the inner, don’t leave too much cable; all you need is enough cable to grab with your fingers or grips, 1″ or 1.5″ max, just keep it short and keep it equal. I’ve cut my cables to approx 1″ and they end just below the QR lever on both calipers. Fit a cable end and give it a soft squeeze with your cable cutters, most cutters have a section for dealing with cable ends. Don’t crimp the end too hard, a squeeze is all it needs.
The final look of the handlebars should be clean and simple. Clean and simple bar tape with the ends of the tape cut and finished correctly, use a single wrap of finishing tape to secure it. Cables should flow neatly and cleanly over and behind the bar, tight against the stem. Every part of the bar should be accessible for your hands, every part of the levers should be accessible. The cables only need to be long enough to turn the bars and allow the brakes to function without any issues.
Now that the cables are correct, there is only one more thing left to do on SB4059 to finally complete it… and that involves taking it all apart………!