Blaming the Tools

Frayed brake and gear cables are the bane of my bike maintenance life. I’ve lost count of how many times a five minute task has turned into a two day ordeal after a cable end has frayed during initial cutting, meaning that re-threading through the outer is impossible without going back to the bike shop for another replacement. 

I’ve blamed nearly everything; my cutting technique and my tendency to rush things; the tension I’ve put the cable under and the pressure I’ve applied. I’ve even blamed the air temperature before. In short I’ve blamed everything except my tools. Only bad workman do that, right?

At the weekend I had something of an epiphany. As yet another cable bent and then unravelled as I tried to force my way through it I thought of all the time I had spent being frustrated by this problem and about all the wasted time that I could have spent actually riding, instead of going back to the bike shop for yet another bloody cable. I thought about how I’d blamed myself and the other factors that had come into play at the various times. And then I looked at my cable cutter. I looked at its inappropriately widely curved cutting surface, across which the cables always jittered before eventually snagging and succumbing to the enclosing jaws. I looked at the myriad nicks and dings on the blades themselves. Finally I turned the cutters on their side and looked at the slender slice of sunlight coming through between the misaligned blades. And I threw them straight in the bin. I might as well have been trying to do it with scissors.


The Park Tool CN10C cutters arrived this morning. I’ve just stepped out into the back garden and snipped an inch off a cable with no more effort or anxiety than cutting a piece of string. It’s miraculous! They do exactly what they are supposed to do! Nothing more, nothing less. The cutting blade is tightly curved so the cable stays in place from the start, the blades are tight and unblemished and – oh joy of unexpected joys – they are internally sprung so they reopen without me having to change my grip and bash them apart every time the cable gets stuck. Except with these the cables don’t get stuck, the jaws just open to release a neatly cut, un-frayed cable end. Imagine that!

Now all those little cable fettling jobs that I’ve been putting off because I knew how much of a ball-ache they would be, are right back on the table. I feel liberated. I feel excited. I may even get some time for riding afterwards.

So, what have we learned? 

1. Park Tools make cable cutters that work as you would expect them to. 

2. It is not always wrong to blame your tools. 

Keep Riding

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