This has been the year of small wonders at Bicycle Therapy. In an industry full of innovation and expensive upgrades three products have stood out and allowed us to offer notable upgrades to discerning customers at a low price. What more could you ask for in an economic recession? The first of these items was Francis Bolag’s Chain-L high mileage lubricant, which lives up to its 1000 mile claim and leaves even a thoroughly used drive train feeling new. Swiss Stop Black Flash brake pads followed shortly after. For $25 a cyclist can upgrade the contents of their brake cartridges and experience greater stopping power, improved modulation, and decreased rim wear, no joke! Rounding out the trio are Yokozuna derailleur cables and housing, bringing us to the topic of this post.
In 2009 Shimano introduced the Dura Ace 7900 group with hidden shift cables. 2010 witnessed the beginning of the trickle down through Shimano’s road line and has signaled the end of exterior shift cable housing on performance road bikes. While this has aesthetic and aerodynamic advantages the distinct drawback to derailleur cables that run under the handlebar tape is friction. Friction is a problem to which SRAM has been exploring solutions since the introduction of their Force and Rival road groups in 2007. Early users complained that it was difficult to actuate the shift lever, especially corresponding to the front derailleur. Having developed a simple and robust shift mechanism SRAM determined that the issue was due to friction in the cable, housing, and contact points that link the lever to the derailleur. About two years ago Bicycle Therapy received and excited call from SRAM guru Ed Nasjleti with a directive: Purchase Yokozuna derailleur cables and housing and use them on all of your SRAM equipped bicycles. The result was buttery smooth shifting and minimal input needed to move the lever.
The Yokozuna system employs a mated cable and housing. The cables are thicker than other high-end offerings, which seems to contradict their purpose. The reason for the larger gauge is that Yokozuna uses a greater number of individual strands in its tightly woven cables. This creates a more flexible cable, in the manner of higher thread-count casings makes for more supple and better handling tires. The cables are resistant to binding at tight bends, and when paired with Yokozuna’s “jet-lubed” housing the improvements to shifting are phenomenal.
After having used the cable system exclusively on SRAM equipped bicycles for a couple years, I decided to give it a try on a new Specialized Roubaix with Shimano Ultegra shifters. Many people, ourselves included, have complained that despite excellent braking and a quick front derailleur the new Shimano shifting is cumbersome and muddy. Observing that increased cable friction was not being countered by a stronger derailleur spring, I decided to change out the stock cables and housing for Yokozuna. I also chose to replace plastic housing caps with aluminum to reduce compression. The result was quicker, snappier shifting and lighter lever action. This leads me to the following conclusion: Yokozuna is not just for SRAM anymore and is a worthwhile upgrade to any bicycle!
If you search online for Yokozuna you will often find the expensive Reaction Cable Kit for brakes and derailleurs (typically retailing for $65). As perfect as the shift kit is, the brake system is tragically over-engineered and heavy. Save yourself some money and stop by for a Yokozuna shift system upgrade for $25 in parts and about $30 in labor. With a professional install you will not be disappointed.