Friday, September 21, 2007

Q&A: Cable stuck inside Shimano STI shifter

Good morning Jim,
I have a problem with my Shimano Ultegra shifter-10 speed, triple crankset. The cable broke inside the shifter and the end piece that holds the cable fell below the cam. Now I can not turn the levers and can not get the piece out. I know the piece is in there because I can see the frayed end of the cable. There are very limited diagrams on the shifter assembly.

Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

Hi Bob,
Well, it can be tricky to get the cable out if it breaks like that, however, if you can see the frayed end, you should be able to persevere. Unfortunately you can't take the lever apart. So, what you have to do is try to reach inside the lever with some type of thin pointy probe like an awl or pick and try to poke the frayed end of the cable to try to get the other end, the lead end (or the head of the cable), to start to come out of its holder in the lever. If you can do that you can then reach inside with a small needle nose pliers, grab the head and extract the cable.

I know you mentioned that a piece fell below the cam. You may need to invert the bike and/or wiggle or shake the bars, or poke or pull with your probe to get things lined up again. If it moved one way it can move back with the right amount of trial and error. And, then it'll take some patience and experimentation but you should be able to get the cable out.

Now, if you don't want to mess with it, you could also pay a shop mechanic to get it out. This isn't a rare problem so the right mechanic who has dealt with this before should be able to help you. However, it'll be more fun to get it out yourself, I'm sure,

Good luck,


John said...

Seems to be a design fault with these things; too much load is applied where the cable curls around the mechanism. The cable has broken at this point every time for me, and as often as the chain needs changing. I've learnt to accept that the gear shifts getting imprecise is not only the sign of a stretched out chain, but the cable about to break at this point.

The fact that the end falls into a completely inaccessible place is frustratingly tragic.

Jim Langley said...

Thanks for the feedback, John. Are you using brand name cables, like Shimano? Are you installing them carefully and lubricating the heads before installation? I ask because while all cables can break, STI levers aren't any more likely to break cables than other shifters in my experience. Though it's entirely possible to get defective cables from any company. But a good cable, properly installed and maintained should last for many years.

Thanks again,

Mark said...

I just had a similar experience and wrote up my lessons learned here:

Jim Langley said...

Thanks, Mark!

Anonymous said...

Drill a pilot hole in shifter to remove head, works like a charm. See

posts 26 and 28

Jim Langley said...

Thanks for that link! That's an ingenious fix and it would be great if Shimano would take the guy's advice and incorporate that improvement into their levers.

Henry said...

Almost 10 years later and this is still really useful! I had a similar situation: My nameplate screw worked loose and fell into the shifting mechanism, so I couldn't shift into the little ring at the front. This was the top result when I Googled the problem, and although the gear cable is fine, turning the bike upside down and using a small allen key to free the screw did the job. Probably would have binned the brifter if I hadn't found this page, so thanks Jim and commenters!

Jim Langley said...

Happy to hear it helped you save your lever, Henry. Yours is the first time I've heard of that screw making its way inside the lever. Thanks for sharing the information. Good job figuring out what was wrong and fixing it!