Shortening Hydraulic Brake Cables

Author: Mark | Filed under: Bicycle Workshop

I though I’d put up a quick post about this because it’s quite expensive to have you bike shop do it but having just done it it can be a piece of cake.

Hydraulic brakes are often confined to the too-hard box of home bicycle maintenance but in reality with a bit of time spent on preparation, the right kit and a calm mind they’re nothing complicated… just remember that your simply squeezing some oily fluid in a pipe in order to push a brake pad against a brake disc.

The brake fluid needs to stay in the pipe and as it’s easier to compress air than oil you need the air to stay out… if either goes wrong everything will get a bit spongy when your pull on the brake levers and stopping will a bit touch-and-go… complete failure of either will result in complete failure in brake induced deceleration.

Anyway – those long, flappy cables that came on my new Avid Juicy brakes… My local bike shop wanted £30 + parts for the cable shortening and another £35 all-in for bleeding them afterwards.  Now this is probably a fair price for them to charge but it was more than I expected to pay so I decided to see how hard it would be for me to do it myself.

Shortening: I checked this videos from SRAM / Avid:

I got the olives and brake barbs for £6 online and the job took me 5 minutes – No need to drain the system just go straight at it.

I’d love to give you some additional tips but it really is as simple as he makes it look. £30 to me!

Next the bleeding of the brakes… here’s where it gets a bit strange.

I had bought the appropriate kit from ebay for £8 – it looked like a good copy of the £35 Avid kit and on receipt I really couldn’t see where they’d scrimped. It had 2 threaded syringes, fluid, gloves, torx wrench, elastic band and written instructions… all very good.

So I pumped the newly shortened brakes and they bit the discs hard… tried again.. same. Took the bike out on the street and they felt great, took them up the woods, expecting them to ‘sponge-up’ at any moment and they didn’t. Got my son to try and make them fail and he couldn’t.

So the whole thing cost me £6 and 5 minutes.

Now I’m sure the bike mechanic, for very good reasons, would have bled the brakes – it would be quicker than doing the riding that we did and it’s the right thing to do to protect your customer but I didn’t need to so £65 and a spare brake bleed kit to me!!

So if you’ve got the time and the inclination it’s always worth having a go…

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