If you’ve been around mountain biking for as long as we have, you’ve seen many, many changes. Both bikes and components have been transformed by advancements in design and technology. Most of the time, it feels like progression. Sometimes it doesn’t.
We build a lot of bikes and we look at a lot of bike porn on the web. It’s cool to see how different bike builders tackle the same simple problem – how to get the cables and hoses to the right parts of the bike in the best way. It may be hard to profess ourselves as experts in this arena as we’ve never attended a clinic or been to the university for a semester of study in Hose Routing 101. However, we have an ex-bike company founder/owner and a couple of amateur framebuilders on hand, so we know what we think sucks, and from time to time we’ll see or work on a bike with cable and hose routing that leaves us scratching our heads and wondering what happened. Sometimes it seems that designers concentrate on swoopy tube shapes and linkage points and then take an extended lunch break while the janitor comes in and configures the location of the cable stops.
We reflect often on our periodic frustration and have come to the realization that normally, what bothers us about annoying cable and hose routing is usually only aesthetic and doesn’t affect the performance of the bike in the least. Usually. Other times we can’t help but think that it could be done a different way and improve performance. Mountain bikes have become a complex thing, and a plethora of rear suspension designs leave bike designers with options for routing -- down tube or top tube, top or bottom of the tubes, even the side. What to do?
That’s a good question. Component manufacturers are all over the board with no real standard for cable or hose entry to derailleurs and brake calipers. For example, top-routed XTR front derailleurs require a cable entry ranging from 20mm left of seat tube center to 55mm right of center depending on bottom or top swing model configuration. What’s a bike builder to do? If you optimize the placement of the cable stop for one, it won’t work well with the other. Then you commit to a derailleur model and hope that Shimano continues to produce it for the foreseeable life of the current bike design. The only problem is that perhaps your customers want to run SRAM gear. Most likely, a top pull option will leave the cable entry point on the other side of the seat tube than a Shimano, as is the case with the low clamp derailleur.
Bike designers must know this, so they try to solve the issue with a middle-of-the-road cable stop location. Remember what Mr. Miyagi said about being in the middle of the road?
Brake calipers are no better. Some have a hose entry on the outside, some on the inside. Some have banjo fittings which allow us to rotate the angle of the hose to accommodate the specific geometry of each bike. Why have a superfluous loop of hose flopping out in space when it can be tucked in nicely along a fork leg or rear stay? Banjo fittings. Anyone hear us out there?
We’d love to see some changes get made. Here are some examples of things to remember -- bike builders take note.
We’re sure that there may be more cable and hose routing offenses that we can’t think of at the moment. Perhaps later we’ll add to this list. Through this exercise, we’ve remembered a couple other design flaws that we’d like to see go away: