Can you convert a bike with internal cabling to external cabling?

Replacement is often a faff
I recently bought a bike with internal cabling. The gears stopped working properly while out riding. I wasn’t able to replace the gunked-up, rusty cable at the roadside, and had no success getting a new cable through at home, where I normally do all of my own maintenance. I took it to the bike shop,
where the staff are not fans of internal cables. They did eventually get it in but had a real struggle. Is it possible to convert the bike to external cabling? How?

Miriam Porter

The short answer is yes. All you need on almost any Bowden cable-operated brake or rear gear mech is to run the housing in one length from the operating lever to the mechanism, rather than having a break along the way with bare inner wire visible. Life may be a bit harder with a front gear mech, since few, if any, made today have an integral outer casing stop. Ingenuity will be needed to provide a rigid stop for the housing. You’ll also need to find some way to keep the cable neatly secured to the frame – zip ties or similar will do the job. It may be tricky to find a suitable length of housing; the bike shop will have reels of housing, which will make life easier.

Richard Hallett

Technical Editor, Cycle magazine

This Q&A was published in 'Cycle' the magazine for members of Cycling UK. To contact the experts, email your technical, health, legal or policy questions to or write to Cycle Q&A, PO Box 313, Scarborough, YO12 6WZ