Cable frays and Shimano 11-speed levers

While pursuing the twelve-day, 282-kilometer Heavy Metal Truants “Eighth of Spades” virtual charity ride challenge on the indoor trainer, the mechanical shifting gubbins of Hyro’s right STI lever decided to chew on its shift cables. Judging from how empty and devoid of weight each click of the inner lever felt, and how the top four cogs of the rear cassette were sealed away, I immediately knew the head of the shift cable had frayed, and it would be a right bother to get it out and replace with a fresh one.

One thing I did NOT miss with my ST-5700 levers was dealing with this mess.

Shimano’s STI shift and brake levers are modern marvels, but it’s no secret that they can bite you in the ass by carelessly mangling shift cable heads and making a mess of things. When Hyro still had his 105 ST-5700 levers, I had to resort to a bike shop and its mechanics to fish out the frayed cable end from the shifting mechanism with picks and pliers. After the upgrade to ST-RS685 levers, would I be facing the same quandary again?

Fortunately, as with Shimano’s other 11-speed STI levers, dealing with frayed shift cable heads is quite a bit easier on the ST-RS685s. Key to this is a Philips-head screw holding the bottom panel of the lever’s plastic bracket body in place. This is normally hidden by the rubber of the brake hood.

The small black panel is nested inside the larger one. The gray flap on the right is the cable cover on the inboard side.

Loosening this screw releases two vertically stacked panels. Taking them apart reveals much easier access to the shifting mechanism, practically half of it exposed to the air. Instead of cursing my fate while picking out the chewed-up shift cable via teeny tiny orifices, I could do the job much more quickly and easily, with better potential purchase on the bad cable.

Whew. Still not ideal, but much less of a penalty than it used to be. Look how exposed the shifting mechanism is now.

Once the troublesome frayed cable is out, it’s all just a matter of reinstalling everything in reverse order. Note that the gray cable cover on the side also comes apart with these two underside panels, as there’s nothing left anchoring it, so it too needs to go back a certain way.

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