Riders Write: A cable tie saves the day

Originally posted on August 11, 2014 at 22:11 pm

Editor’s note: We love hearing from readers. This is, of course, The Mountain Bike Forum. Gary sent us this great story of how he saved his hide from a looooong walk with a little bit of MacGyver ingenuity. Have a story you’d like to share? Send it to [email protected].


By Gary Bolton

Last Sunday we were riding one of the most remote cross country trails, off the map at Monte Sano State Park and Land Trust in Huntsville, Alabama. Monte Sano and the surrounding Land Trust offer miles and miles of technical, rocky single track. At pretty much the furthest point from civilization, I snap my rear derailleur cable.

This is not good. Hiking out is not a good option as we are at the bottom of the mountain and it would be an incredibly challenging bushwhacking climb without a bike, let alone lugging a mountain bike. The only option is to attempt to ride out the remaining 10 miles on a challenging cross country single track with the rear derailleur stuck in the smallest (i.e. hardest) gear.

I quickly rummage through my Camelbak to see what my MacGyver options are. Giving that these trails precipitate broken chains, broken spokes, broken derailleur hangers, flats and all kinds of mechanicals, our packs are typically well equipped with spare parts. That said, I am not carrying a spare shift cable.

Feeling a little like an Apollo 13 “failure is not an option” mission, I rummage through my pack and spy some cable ties. Bingo! As with duct tape, cable ties can fix just about anything!

I take the cable tie and thread it through the cable guide on the derailleur arm and then loop the cable tie around the fixed part of the derailleur housing that attached to my bike frame. I can now tighten the cable tie so that the derailleur arm selects the desired gear on my cassette. I decide to go with the third biggest gear on my cassette so that I can still conquer the technical climbs but not have to spin my granny gear for the next 10 miles.

My gear selection turns out to be perfect. I do have to take some of the take some of the technical sections with a little more pace and effort but I am very happy with the gearing I selected for my “single speed”.

Just as I’m thinking about how great my cable tie fix is working, we hit the fast and flowy part of the trail and it immediately occurs to me that I actually have a wonderful “2 speed” as I shift into my big chain ring on the front. This works perfectly! The gearing in the big ring is perfectly dialed in for the trail.

Normally my big ring is pretty much reserved for “mountain bike” races where race directors seem to like lots of fire roads and double track. At Monte Sano and the surrounding Land Trust, you are constantly shifting down to the granny to power over rocks so the big ring becomes dead weight (or in my case, a bash guard to bang on rocks and logs).

As I’m fully enjoying the rest of the ride with my 2 speed cable tie set up, I realize that I have found the first use case for a “2 by” over an 1X set up. Most of buddies changed over to the 1X and they have been ragging me about being a “2 by” hold out. I would love to pull the trigger on an 1X setup but it’s been hard to part with all that money when my next big upgrade needs to be a nice set of carbon rims. I finally have found a use case where a “2 by” outperforms the 1X. This is the ammo I need to continue to justify my “2 by” set up.

Hopefully this cable tie trick will help save your ride the next time you have a shift cable snap during a ride. I also hope this “2 by” use case will help other hold outs like me hang on to their perfectly good drivetrain just a little longer, so they can spend their hard earned money on other unnecessary upgrades like shaving a few grams off their wheel set…

See you on the trails.

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