My local Wal-Mart’s bicycle accessory selection has grown in the last few years and occasionlly I see something there and think, hey that may actually work. I’m usually wrong. Take the cheap Zefal floor pump that worked great for a few months until the shaft folded over mid-pump. Wal-Mart bikes and accessories have a bad reputation for a reason. They suck.
I was surprised when I saw a complete cableset at Wal-Mart. I was even more surprised by the $6.96 price. At a bike shop 4 inner wires and cable housing would cost around 40 bucks and I know these aren’t going to be bike shop quality but I figured for the price I’d give them a shot.
In the set you get 2 derailleur cables and 2 brake along with some ferrules and end crimps. The set has both long and short cables for front and back. The cables are universal, meaning they have the appropriate end for both mountain and road. The cables also have ferrules crimped onto both ends.
My enthusiasm for the cable housing was dampened when I cut one and saw their inner construction. The derailleur cable housings are actually brake housings, they are constructed of coiled metal surrounded by plastic. There is no inner sheath for the cables to slide against. The brake and derailleur housings in this set are identically made. Without something slick to slide in the cables are sliding against the metal coils inside the cable housings, which as you can imagine creates alot of friction.
I cut three pieces of cable and installed them on a mountain bike with very old and contaminated cables. I knew immediately I had wasted my time because there was more friction with the new cables then there was with the old. New quality cables make the shifting on a bike feel brand new, smooth, crisp and effortless. This felt, rough, soft, and difficult. Tuning the shifting was almost impossible, there was so much friction in the cable that the derailleur spring had a hard time shifting down the cassette. I removed the inner wire and dripped oil into the cable housing, which may have helped a bit, but they still sucked.
A close inspection of metal inner wire reveals that it is a little thicker and definitely rougher than a bike shop quality wire. They are definitely not stainless, but probably galvanized so they might not rust but I don’t think they would be smooth even with quality housing.
I have yet to install the brake cables, and I probably won’t. Brakes are much less finicky to cable friction and usually have less bending so they might work better, but the friction will still be felt in the system.
So the final verdict. If you need new cables go to a bike shop, or order a quality Shimano set which is going to cost about 4 times as much but will actually work.