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The Jury’s In: What Bike Mechanics Really Think About Internal Cable Routing Headsets

internal cable routing headset enve prototype road bike
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Love them or hate them, internal cable routing headsets are ripping through the bike industry like wild-fire. It is one of a series of steps brands have taken toward full integration. Goals include improved aerodynamics, improved aesthetics and, the holy grail, “clean lines”. For some, however, it is a step too far.

Running cables and brake hoses through the headset does, undoubtedly, tidy things up in the cockpit. However, headset-dependent, it does come with additional time spent in the work stand, and the increased labor costs associated with that. Some riders with deep pockets will, I’m sure, be happy to pay the premium, but others are in for a shock.

fsa acros internal cable headset routing mtb road ebikes
Various levels of integration are possible for road, mountain and eBikes with a variety of headsets from Acros, FSA, Deda, First Components, Token and others

For most riders, it’s their bike mechanic that has to deal with the added complexity of internally routed cables. These folks have put up with years of ever-changing “standards” within the bike industry, so how much will this really bother them? We contacted mechanics from Europe and the US to get their viewpoint on internal headset cable routing, and while some of them did reply with a sense of diplomacy, others were rather more firm in their opinion.

We sent them the following:

“It’s you, the mechanic, who has to deal with the advent of internal headset cable routing that is sweeping across the industry. So, what are your thoughts on it? Is it a good thing, or a bad thing? Are you having to charge your customers more for headset bearing replacements, brake bleeds, cable replacements, and so on? Is it really that much more hassle, or is it easy enough once you’ve done one or two? Would you have it on your personal bike if, in some parallel universe, you weren’t responsible for the maintenance of your own bike?”

Bike Mechanics’ Take On Internal Headset Cable Routing

Joergen at Parallel Handbuilt – Netherlands

What are your thoughts on fully internal, integrated cabling?

I think it’s mostly fine. Often enough it does complicate wrenching on a bike, if the “wrenching” to be done involves getting deeper into the bike, the frame specifically. Some designs on the market require partial or complete disassembly of a bike to do regular (albeit not often done) maintenance such as replacing headset bearings. Some bikes with fully internal and integrated cabling that are ridden in places in conditions that like to eat headset bearings regularly, like cyclocross or mountain bike, should be avoided if you’re asking this mechanic.

Is it a good thing, or a bad thing?
I don’t think it’s either. If a customer is particularly enthused about having all their cables, or in all reality, just two hydraulic hoses, tucked away neatly in their frames, then it’s a great thing! If a client likes DIY maintenance, maintaining their bike more often, or just affordable maintenance, then it is not a good thing. When a bike is sold to a customer and the potential €1000 extra per year on integrated cabling-related maintenance has not been communicated clearly, that is very much a bad thing.

Are you having to charge customers extra?
I don’t charge customers “extra”, but I am definitely forced to charge customers more labour when servicing a bike with this type of cabling and doing repair or maintenance related to, or behind the internal routing. That may be me being pedantic, but it’s an important detail.

A simple headset bearing replacement, something that may be as cheap as € 50-70, can be four to five times as expensive on some internal cable designs because of the necessity to de-cable the bike and re-bleed the brakes after the install.

Is it really that much more hassle, or is it easy enough once you’ve done one or two?
I mean, I’m a bike mechanic, it’s my job to fix the bike in front of me. I wouldn’t describe the repairs done on these more complicated bikes as a bigger “hassle”, it’s just much more work and therefore more cost for the client. To be completely transparent, there are plenty of bikes on the market today with much simpler cabling that are a huge headache for other reasons. Component design and integration is everything.

Is it more difficult that so many bikes use slightly different solutions?
Annoying. Annoying is the word you’re looking for. When a brand “develops” a new solution for better Cable Integration™ but does not, or cannot provide good, independent after-sales support, a relatively simple and painless (albeit expensive) repair turns into a complete headache for me and my client. I’m not naming names, but y’all know who I’m talking about. Some brands have very weak documentation as after-sales support, and in these cases, it is much more difficult, but that is just because you need specific, proprietary components but can’t find an article number for example.

Would you have it on your personal bike if you were not the mechanic?
No. Quite honestly, I don’t like the aesthetics of completely integrated cabling. I love a well-cabled bike, tight curves in good proportions to the other cable(s) and length of the headtube, with a smooth entrance into the downtube or onto the underside of the downtube. I love the ease of maintenance, whether I’m doing it myself or paying someone else to do it. Let me be clear here, I hate a rat’s nest on the front of a bike just like the rest of y’all, but two neat and tidy cables poking out from under the bar tape, snaking into the frame… It just reminds me that a bicycle can be a work of art and design, but also very much a tool and a means to an end.

Cables enter the headset of Lukas Flückiger’s Thömus Lightrider via the headset top cap

Watts Dixon at Revolution Cycles

I ******* hate it. I get that it looks clean, but so many companies make it such a massive pain to route. Even though we have our many tricks, it’s still too easy to waste an hour trying to get one damn cable through a bike.

Nick Tanner, Bspoke Cycles – Scotland

Marmite. Sums it up for me.

There’s something smart, refined and ‘up-to-date’ about integrated headsets and cabling, but I think this only really applies to the consumer. We have customers curious about the lack of visible cables and which have traditionally been there for decades, and they do, almost without fail, ask ‘is it harder or more expensive to look after’.

Integration lends itself to more expensive component replacement; if you’re paying double the time for a headset service, it makes sense to pay for a more durable headset/bearings, which may be 3 times what you’d normally pay, but if looked after will sometimes outlast the bike. This also encourages some experienced customers to take more care of their bike as they become aware of the increased service costs. Those buying for the first time have no benchmark against which to judge the newer, more expensive costs.

Yes, I’d have full integration on my bike as I like the clean look, and ease of mounting lights, GPS etc, but I don’t charge myself for my time involved in putting my bikes together. Having said that, as an ex-SRAM technician I have very high standards in product and service expectation, and in my opinion the design of many integrated headset components isn’t where it could be; spacers don’t line up, there are gaps between stems and stem caps; if like me you have a bit of bike build OCD it’s frustrating when parts just don’t fit well.

We have customers bring us bikes to assemble that they’ve bought online or elsewhere, and often corners have been cut with factory assembly or lack of QC; no lubrication, cables/hoses too short etc. This adds extra time to a boxed bike build, and yes, we charge more as a result. We always quote a price before starting any work so that the customer has no surprises. We sometimes absorb the cost of an extra barb or compression fitting when swapping brakes from Euro to UK setup, as these are rarely supplied in the range of bikes we see. It depends on the scale of the job and what the bike is in for.

In my opinion the worst aspect of integrated headsets is the default Euro setup; hoses and cables take on ‘memory’ from the factory and boxing, and are often damaged where there isn’t enough clearance within the headset. Carbon frames are generally OK as the tube joints are much larger voids, but alloy frames have such small holes at the joints that the cables or hoses often jam up. I’ve had one severed brake hose, in the box! From my point of view as a mechanic when building a new bike, I would prefer the cables and hoses supplied pre-cut, but left out of the frame. There are a few secret workshop tricks I use to make replacing integrated cables easier and quicker than adjusting and/or replacing those poorly installed at the factory.

As for aero on road bike headsets, how many average riders will experience the watt-saving benefits of hidden cables? How many will find the bar/stem integration size is wrong and require a change? How many small IBDs would absorb the cost of a £500+ one-piece bar/stem combo swap? Will the customer pay another £500 on top of the bike cost? Sadly, the pandemic is still affecting product supply, and in some cases integrated headset components are unavailable until next year, meaning a bike that needs for example a 10mm stem change either doesn’t sell, or will be a sub-optimal fit for the customer for months to come.

Headset integration is clearly here to stay, and I think in time the designs will improve, and with luck, more thought will be given to the practicalities of their fitting and servicing, and the mechanics who do the hard graft. I’m a fan of the concept and the appearance, but I don’t yet enjoy working on them.

Battaglin Portofino R, custom-made-in -Italy modern integrated steel lugged road bike, cromovelato blue, NDS frameset
There’s no denying that full internal routing goes well on this stunning Battaglin Portofino R steel road bike

Václav Svatoš, Independent Bike Mechanic – Czech Republic

So, what are your thoughts on fully internal , integrated cable routing?
It is only stylish and an evolution of bicycles and clean design and maybe some watt saving like aerodynamics. From a technical side, it’s horrible for mechanics, users, and designers of components and parts like hydro hoses.

Is it a good thing, or a bad thing?
It is good if aero is important and you need to save watts. It adds time when you need to change position of stem or change headset bearings or you need to take off bars for traveling. All service on the bike with hoses inside the bars, stem, and headset is more complicated and much more expensive.

Are you having to charge your customers extra (or more often) for headset bearing replacements, brake bleeds, cable replacements, etc?
Yes, all is more expensive and I recommend to customers on new bikes to change sub-optimal headset bearings (BMC on so expensive bikes use headset bearings for $10 with a horrible lifetime) for stainless steel bearings with good quality seals. If you need to change bearings, it’s a horrible job when you must cut brake hoses, sometimes change one hose (you can usually use the old rear for front brakes and you need new one for rear). Changing the rear brake hose is sometimes not easy (it’s a question about the BB area). If you need to change headset bearings, it’s sometimes a harder job than building a new bike (you must clean up everything, take it all off, and then build again from zero.

Is it really that much more hassle, or is it easy enough once you’ve done one or two?
Yes, it is more complicated. Yes, if you make the same bikes again and again, you know how to do that quickly. But the job time and job steps are the same.

Is it more difficult that so many bikes use slightly different solutions?
Yes. There’s no real standard of this, some companies use traditional headset bearings and some D-shape steerer tubes and without more space for hoses. (You have to forget mechanical groupset!) Some companies may forget to make a hole in the steerer tube for the front brake hose and then only accept the FSA system with hose going into the steerer from the top! That’s the most horrible idea, and the hoses are bent more than 90° in such a small space!

Would you have it on your personal bike if, in some parallel universe, you weren’t responsible for the maintenance of your own bike?
On my bike… for my money? No never. I will have a 100% functional bike without feeling the rear brake hose if you turn the bars. I need bikes with easy removal of the fork to service the headset, change a headset spacer, for easy for traveling, easy to change handlebars or change levers, etc. So, no.

2020 FSA internally routed cockpit integration - ACR, ICR SCR road, gravel, mountain bike handlebar, stem, headset
The FSA Aerodynamic Cable Routing (ACR) solution routes cables through the top of the steerer tube keeping them out of the wind in a bid to save precious Watts

James at Analog Cycles – Vermont

At Analog, all we do is build adventure bikes. Anything that makes a bike harder to field service is bad for the customer out on tour, and any hole in the frame that doesn’t need to be there is a place for water to get in and also a place where the frame is weaker. This has been born out by testing bikes with and without internal routing holes in controlled impact and fatigue tests carried out in Taiwan for our sister company Tanglefoot Cycles.  

Internal cable housing also bangs around in a frame, which makes customers think they have a frame crack when really it’s just crappy engineering. I’d be more with the internal headset routing if there was a full length tube to capture the housing the entire way.  This would eliminate banging noises, water egress, and the PITA of fishing a cable out. Yes there are good techniques out there for getting a bit of cable through, but these don’t always work (i.e. sometimes a customer has pulled all the cables out in a DIY effort, etc) and fishing a cable through a frame is no one’s idea of a good time. Additionally, if you look at how much wear a bit of housing causes on a paint job to the point of frame wear, even on a steel bike, one must wonder about a cable housing smacking and rubbing against a paint-less, hidden steerer tube made of plastic. Seems like an accident waiting to happen. 

So, what are your thoughts on fully internal, integrated cable routing? It’s also pointless for bikes that rarely are moving at peloton speeds.

Is it a good thing, or a bad thing? Fine for crazy road bikes I guess, pro bikes…

Are you having to charge your customers extra (or more often) for headset bearing replacements, brake bleeds, cable replacements, etc? We charge a premium for all internal routing. Headset routing isn’t harder than frame routing, but it takes more time so you need to charge more.

Is it really that much more hassle, or is it easy enough once you’ve done one or two? Easy enough, the issue isn’t ease of use on a workstand.

Is it more difficult that so many bikes use slightly different solutions? Of course it’s a pain in the ass. How could it not be? New standards mean new tooling, more education for staff, more time spent on youtube the first few go rounds.

Would you have it on your personal bike if, in some parallel universe, you weren’t responsible for the maintenance of your own bike? Hell no. The most I’d do would be internal routing with a brazed in place brass tube on a gravel or road bike top tube or chainstay. I don’t think the headset routing looks good, it looks cheap, like a Walmart bike solution to not braze on cable guides. What would Pacific do? Internal routing! A lot of this stuff is just for manufacturers to tout marginal weight savings over last year’s model. If you do away with downtube cable ports or housing bosses, you move the port to the headset, and suddenly your frame is X amount of grams lighter. It’s all a scam, there is no legit reason outside of aerodynamics to move the routing to the headset. So, if you see this routing on anything but a pro level bike, and you think it’s rad, you’ve been had.

enve custom road race bike aero full integration headset cable routing
Full cable integration on an Enve Custom Road Race Bike gives the cleanest of lines for this aero-optimized frame

Mitch Graham of BioWheels – Madeira, OH

I guess we take the approach that it doesn’t do us much good to complain about what the industry does with internal routing or new standards on the bread-and-butter bikes that we sell and service. It is what it is. If most customers are in favor of these features (many are looking for full integration), then we have to be. The average price for a bike we sell is $6000 which means that now more than half of the bikes we sell to folks have fully internal routing. We are used to dealing with them, and they definitely get easier the more you work on them (especially if you are seeing the same models in front of you over and over again.) Looking back now into our workshop, both bikes being tuned up have full internal routing. So more and more service bikes coming in are internal. We charge hourly for service, so we run the clock once we start work on a bike, and bill for our time. So yes we have to charge more because these bikes are always going to take longer to service than the previous generation.

Would I personally choose a bike with traditional routing or fully internal? Great question. I guess since I want the new Moots CRD road bike more than I want the previous model – I would have to say fully internal for me! They just look awesome.

What effect does internal routing have on bike fitting? There isn’t enough time during a bike fit to swap a fully integrated bar/stem out, so that job usually gets pushed to the service department of our shop, or the fit client’s shop back home. We use a fully-adjustable GURU fitting bike for the actual bike fit, so we are able to get the customer their measurements from that (which then would get transferred onto their bike).

Moots Cycles Vamoots CRD side shot
The aforementioned Moots Vamoots CRD with full cable integration

Felix Wolf, Light Wolf Studio – Germany

What are your thoughts on fully internal, integrated cable routing? Everybody wants it, nobody’s needing it, but we’ll do it anyways.
It can only be an aesthetic thing since there’s no technical advantage from our point of view.
We see way more disadvantages.

Is it a good thing, or a bad thing? It’s a trend of this time.
As a custom bike builder, we’re in the lucky position to carefully pick our products and of course convince our customers for the best solution.
Most bikes we build nowadays come with AXS or Di2 shifting. So we’ll have only two brake hoses. Our second advantage might be selling bikes to custom fit. Thus, we can cut these two hoses exactly to the length needed by knowing spacer stack, stem and handlebar specs. This way we can achieve a very clean look without squeezing hoses though small parts.

So most bikes don’t come with full integration. But if it comes with internal routing we have strict rules:
We’re not building bikes with 2x mechanical drivetrain and integrated cables – 1x only in some rare cases. We just want to avoid the negative effect of stiff cables effecting your steering, and to minimize the risk of rattling. To conclude: we only use systems that really work well and can be really picky to avoid downsides for us and the customer.

Are you charging our customers extra (or more often) for headset bearing replacements, brake bleeds, cable replacements, etc?

Actually we’re not charging extra or more often, we just charge per hour in the workshop. And a headset bearing replacement took minutes in the old days. Now it’s hours to open and re-bleed two hoses and perhaps also need to remove the BB for rerouting the rear one – depending on the brake system. I assume most customers don’t take that into account and will be shocked by the high workshop bill. There are some internal routing systems out there that leave bearings uncovered. I bet this will affect headset lifetime. But for us it’s simple – we just don’t sell bikes with that kind of integrated solution.

Is it really that much more hassle, or is it easy enough once you’ve done one or two?

In most times, its a pain in the ass and the mechanic needs to grow a third arm. But of course, only a few bike mechanics are used to it by working on integrated solutions daily. And with more bikes coming with these integrations, we’ll get used to it and evolution might help with a third arm in the future. We’re in a comfortable position again with a boutique workshop, carefully assembling each bike. If a build needs any longer – we’ll have the time and patience.

Is it more difficult that so many bikes use slightly different solutions? We don’t see so many different solutions. There’s a bigger upper bearing, a carved upper race, split-able spacers and a stem and handlebars with lots of holes. They may differ in particular shape, but the system used is always quiet similar.

Would you have it on your personal bike if, in some parallel universe, you weren’t responsible for the maintenance of your own bike? To be honest, I’m just planning a new ride with everything that a bike shop used to hate: fully integrated cables and proprietary parts. You guessed it right – because it looks cool!

Deda Superbox DCR flexible integrated stem, 4-in-1 internal or external routing options
The Deda Superbox DCR 4-in-1 Stem permits a variety of cable routing options

Evan Robinson of Steady State Cycles – Pittsburgh

The current trend for running hoses and cable/wires through the headset is great. Creating a clean cockpit makes any high-end road bike look much more stylish. If there are marginal gains from having the hoses inside the headset, I am here for it.

But I think it is criminal, absolutely criminal, for this to be on lower-end and mechanical bikes. Oversize headset bearings require replacement less often. Getting into the head tube to clean and grease the interfaces between the bearings and the frame is a little pain in the ass, but on many high-end bikes, not a deal breaker.

I had a customer that did 10,000+ miles a year in western Pennsylvania and needed a headset after two seasons. The bike was due for an overhaul anyways, so other necessities absorbed the cost. I also think a good practice as a mechanic to replace the cable housing rather than the inner cables alone is a professional practice, and now that becomes an extremely expensive job on an entry-level bike.

cockpit closeup on Colnago V4Rs road bike
The Colnago V4Rs was designed to be the fastest all-road bike ever
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DaveJ
DaveJ
1 month ago

“one must wonder about a cable housing smacking and rubbing against a paint-less, hidden steerer tube made of plastic. Seems like an accident waiting to happen.”

I’m REALLY surprised that this isn’t more of a concern. My OG Ibis ripley had cables that passed near the steerer, so they provided the bike with a protective steel tube to slide over the alloy steerer.

STS
STS
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveJ

I guess it’s the same as with many design failures bike companies have come up with. There’s no way around the consequence that there must be catastrophic failures if those bike / components are actually ridden. But we rarely hear / read about those.
I find that phenomenon really amazing.

DaveJ
DaveJ
1 month ago
Reply to  STS

…unless you follow this guy Luescher Teknik.

Eddie Pliers
Eddie Pliers
1 month ago
Reply to  DaveJ

Whenever I do an internal\ cable routing through the stem that passes through the frame, I make a passthrough with a fishing line to make sure the contact points can be avoided. I did have a Ventum frame where it couldn’t be avoided and the rubbing against the steerer tube was my main concern. The client didn’t care.

paniadua
paniadua
1 month ago

Internal routing, especially through the headset, makes for cheaper production for manufacturers, this is easy to see on carbon frames. This is a huge point that never comes up.

Bike companies are squeezing another couple bucks profit with headset routing.

It definitely adds time and frustration to maintenance tasks that used to a lot simpler.

Want to add some spacers to bring your stem up? You could very well need at least one hose, olives and barbs, bleed both brakes, and a lot more time to get it done.

Now headset routing is appearing on mountain bikes, making for sticky dropper and shifter cables with the tight corners and crazy routing that is required. At least brake hoses can function bent at a 90, but cable/housing suffers when bent too far.

This isn’t an improvement, it looks cool though 🙂

Industry
Industry
1 month ago
Reply to  paniadua

No part of this is a cost savings. It’s actually a huge cost increase.

The headset parts themselves are more expensive. If you design your own you’re paying for molds and tooling to make special covers, spacers, and compression ring setups – this is thousands of dollars of up front expense. If you purchase a readily available system from FSA or others you can go look at the costs, they’re about 50% higher than buying standard IS bearings / covers.

There is additional labor cost to set the bikes up.

There is additional shipping cost due to the necessity of larger packaging.

There is additional cost in producing integrated handlebars/stems.

Production cost of the frame itself in terms of mold, tooling, labor etc has not been impacted either way by internal cable routing.

None of it is cheaper. If you want to pick something that is actually a cash grab, be upset about the hilarious cost of electronic groupsets. $4,500 to change gears??

Exodux
1 month ago
Reply to  Industry

But aren’t most new bikes( carbon mostly) have internal cable routing? The only difference with these bikes are that the cables enter the a couple of inches higher in the frame, actually eliminating the cable port(s) on the down and top tubes.

Dinger
Dinger
1 month ago
Reply to  Exodux

He’s spelled it out pretty well. The costs of the stops and ports that used to pass the cables & hoses through were negligible. The costs of the proprietary parts necessary to run hide the cables (bar/stem combo) and headsets are massively more expensive. There is no cost savings in any of it.

Exodux
1 month ago
Reply to  Dinger

I wasn’t talking about the cost, which I agree that most likely would be a bit more. I thought the conversation had more to do about servicing a bike with hidden cables.

Exodux
1 month ago
Reply to  Dinger

I thought this post was more of a mechanics point of view to the possible complexity of have internal cables rather than the cost of the parts involved. Sure, for now, the parts will be more expensive, but like almost everything else, once this has more of a foothold, and it will, the prices will come down.

I think you haters should get used to it, because, like disc brakes on road bikes, this is not going away anytime soon. Good thing though, you most likely will never be forced into it, because there will always be bikes with external cables and hoses.

Dinger
Dinger
30 days ago
Reply to  Exodux

I took the OP to which we’re responding to be aimed directly at the prices of the bikes themselves.

“Internal routing, especially through the headset, makes for cheaper production for manufacturers, this is easy to see on carbon frames. This is a huge point that never comes up”.

Many of the more expensive parts of an internally routed bike system are mature and will not come down much in price (carbon bar/stem, 1.5″ cartridge bearings, machined headset spacers, etc.). Such is the nature of the business. It is up to each of us to decide with these features are worth to us.

And you got me wrong. I am far from a hater. I own bikes across the tech spectrum, from a steel single speed to a Disc/di2 equipped aero bike and love riding them all.

satanas
satanas
1 month ago

Executive summary: Looks neat, but is a total PITA. Might conceivably matter at Pro Tour level otherwise best avoided.

Sean
Sean
1 month ago

Long time professional mechanic, far from woke and I’m disappointed by your choice of “guys” when referring to mechanics. I’d prefer to see gender neutral language. This profession has taken big strides towards changing it’s historical male dominance. The language should reflect that.

Seraph
Seraph
1 month ago
Reply to  Sean

Stop seeking conflict. No one else was having this issue.

Dirt McGirt
Dirt McGirt
1 month ago
Reply to  Seraph

Speak for yourself. I noticed this as well.

Bill Bradford
Bill Bradford
1 month ago
Reply to  Seraph

Agreed. Thank-you.

David
David
1 month ago

Internal cables are to me are utter nonsense… I will not buy another frame with them, as most things in life, function, function, function ! For the typical club or recreational cyclist it makes no real world sense, professionally I am involved in design so have a keen understanding of aesthetics. It is like I have seen a number of reviewers etc now starting to extoll the virtues of a good steel or titanium frame for these same normal cyclists… We don’t drive a F1 car to the shops so why do we want a World Tour bike ?

Dinger
Dinger
1 month ago
Reply to  David

Having owned a couple bikes with internal routing I can tell you it’s pretty painless to live with. A lot of the dread scenarios just don’t happen. The headset bearings last and if you’re running mechanical shifting, the fully internalized and full length housings also last nearly forever. It’s a one time deal for most people. Build it and forget about it.

Cyclestar
Cyclestar
1 month ago

1 rear brake hose
1 front brake hose
1 dropper post hose/cable
1 cable rear deralieur
1 cable front deralieur (in need here for me to tackle terrain and different user cases with the same bike €
1 lock out cable for the shock
1 cable (some bikes) for geometry change on the fly (e.g. ShapeShifter)

so my Dream bike would have 5-7 cables/ hoses

just for fun, let‘s add the new KISS system
put the batteries for front and rear lights in the „glove Box“ and route the cables
Route the Dynamo to the „ Power bank/ Battery“ so you could load other devices during touring.

Oliver
Oliver
1 month ago

I’ve never had an issue with ACR / SMR / DCR or similar style, and like them a lot.

D-shaped / curved-rectangle shaped steerer with side pass cabling, and worse of all BMC’s foam-core threaded ICS steerer, can be a total nightmare.

That’s about it as far as I’m concerned. Don’t be scared of and welcome the flexibility and ease the former brong, avoid the latter like the plague.

DaveJ
DaveJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Oliver

Agreed on the non-round steerers, but segmented compression rings (Specialized recall) should be avoided too.

Also, steerer tubes should be armored to prevent long term wear from cable rub.

M bot
M bot
1 month ago

As a homegrown mechanic who wrenches on bikes like it’s my job, I am really
Not that intimidated by them. In fact, I have two bikes on order that both have it. I made sure both bikes were fully tube-in-tube routed (so all you do is put in the hose and it pops out the other end) and the area by the headset was well sealed.

With those things, it’s possible this headset and cable routing could be more durable! Less water intro he actual frame around critical bearings, since there are no direct openings in the frame…

And as far as changing out headset. Nbd. Just remove the brake hose from the lever body place it up right not to leak oil. Undo dropper and rear shifter lever from there cables slide the cables out, slide the brake hose out from lever body. Pull out the head set and replace it. Just put everything back together, no need to re-route cables or bleed brakes.

I am sure, like everything there will be people that hate this and make a mess of it. But for me, I like it. I think it will add to the durability of the internals. If water does get in the headset routing (which is less of a direct shot than side headtube holes where) and since routing is (should be) tube in tube. When water does get in it won’t wreak havoc in the frame.

David
David
1 month ago
Reply to  M bot

The problem with this is from a non-homegrown mechanic side, that customers who don’t have skills, and tools get hit. We did an est on one of the new Scott trail bikes, a works tune including all cables changed and 200h suspension service could approach $900. And shops aren’t going to discount their labor because its headset routed. There’s also a bunch of $900-$1500 commuters that will basically need a full tear down to replace a length of housing, and that nearly hits 1/4 the cost of the bike. We’ve also already had a few sliced brake hoses during an over rotation that again, required a full tear down of the bike and removal and replacement of cables and housing, bleeding of both brakes. This is for an issue that would never have happened with through the frame or external cables, not to mention a HUGE waste of parts that were otherwise perfectly good. A $40-50 quick job by a service writer now needs the bike booked in and sidelined for a few days so the customer is kind of out of luck. Imagine being on a road trip you’d been planning for months and your bike gets side lined with a mechanical. It’s mid summer and no shops in that area have a spare 4 hours in their day to fit you in because they’re booked solid for a month. S.O.L. Even if you have the tools, are you tearing down the entire bike, maybe headset and BB to reroute a shift cable in a hotel room or campground?

On the Bikeshopside of things, sure it looks good that you have your mechanics day fully booked but if you have one or two bikes in the stand for the day simply because they take so long but only require $150 in parts that’s a lot less attractive compared to 4-5 bikes in the same amount of time all requiring $150 worth of parts each. You make the same labor dollars and increase your parts sales for the day 4x. You also have more customer traffic for clothing, parts, accessories and are turning away less customers for service who might go elsewhere, changing their purchasing habits from your shop to another. So, other than providing income on the initial sale of the bike, headset routing actually decreases long term sales because of the lack of turn over in repairs. It’s also a pain when something does go sideways because you basically need to start over on some of these bikes (the Cervelo S3 is a particular pain in the ass) so you end up falling behind for the day.

As for water ingress, very few company’s are actually using fully tube in tube routing. Most couldn’t even get through the frame routing right, so I have a hard time trusting them with getting through the headset without making a mess. I’ve seen what people can do to a properly sealed headset in a two year period too many times with pressure washers and sweat to believe in this standard of doing things.

All this for an Aero advantage that 95% of people don’t have the power for or a clean look for the 5% of people that notice. It’s a pretty weak argument.

DaveJ
DaveJ
1 month ago
Reply to  David

Thank you sir, more voices like yours need to be heard by the industry.

Julian
Julian
1 month ago
Reply to  David

Interesting to see the point about bike shops. Handle four bikes in a half day of a worker’s time, or handle one, and the shop that fixes four bikes makes more $$ on parts/clothing/accessories from the customers that walk through.
What that calls to mind for me is the idea of the long term customer relationship. Nobody’s that thrilled to spend hundreds to fix a single messed up cable or brake line rather than the $20 or so I’d expect to pay (my bikes have cable operated rim brakes and fully external cable routing)

Ashok
Ashok
1 month ago
Reply to  David

+1 for your well-reasoned comment. Cheers.

Dirt McGirt
Dirt McGirt
1 month ago
Reply to  David

Well put!! Thumbs way up on this one!

Masanori Iwmaoto
Masanori Iwmaoto
1 month ago

People who posts the comments here, including myself hates internal routing, but recently i have ordered a frame, which allows me to choose internal or external, people in a forum surprised because I took external. There is the people who loves internal and they are alot.

It looks to me, majority of the people do not do bleeding , handle bar chagnes or bearing changes so that the internal routing is not a problem for them. Maybe because more people is getting into this sports. Like cars, a lot of people buy a car and sell it before even seeing its engine. I see it, but dont even change its oil anymore although i used to do it.

It is good that the industry expands, only hope i could have, is that the industry will invents more better solutions to satisfy both people like us and people perefers internals. I trust it will come because Bicycle has a beauty in its simplicity. we all rides it after all we have cars, aircrafts, space rockets or drons.

Exodux
1 month ago

Personally I like it, cleaner and more aero. As far as bike setup, It does take a little more time, but in reality, most bikes do have most of the cables running inside the frame below the headtube.
I guess it would be a pita if you’re the type of person who tears down their bike every month, but for the rest of us, I’m 100% behind it.

Dirt McGirt
Dirt McGirt
1 month ago
Reply to  Exodux

I’ve seen the “more aero” reasoning for all sortsa dumb crap over the years with zero science to quantify it. Enough.

The vast majority of people riding these bikes out there aren’t looking to shave milliseconds off their Saturday morning, dressed up like a lycra superhero, screaming at people on the bike path rides with their fellow lawyer/doctor/real estate developer buddies.

It’s a BS excuse puked out by the racing industrial complex and it needs to stop.

Grillis
Grillis
1 month ago

I get the distaste from a maintenance perspective, there’s no real argument there. But there’s a lot of discounting of the aesthetics and performance aspects. We often buy a bike, in part, because we like the way it looks. And you don’t need to be going at pro-tour speeds to get the benefit of better aerodynamics. As long as people are educated on the hidden future costs and mechanics are compensated, I don’t see a problem.

This is just the new normal and perspectives have to adjust.

That said, I think on a mtb’s it’s purely aesthetic and is mostly pointless, especially given that there are generally more c&h involved and aero isn’t a consideration.

DaveJ
DaveJ
1 month ago
Reply to  Grillis

Yes, but there are obvious safety concerns too. The ‘new normal’ seems to have arrived with a few recalls. I’d agree with your comment if the industry did proper engineering and didn’t treat customers like test dummies.

Will Ferrule
Will Ferrule
1 month ago

If you really think that internal cables provide a tangible aero advantage…. seek help.

Robin
Robin
1 month ago
Reply to  Will Ferrule

Define “tangible” in this context. You can’t because it’s a subjective term.

Will Ferrule
Will Ferrule
1 month ago
Reply to  Robin

Define “define” in this context. You can’t because it’s a subjective term.

Dirt McGirt
Dirt McGirt
1 month ago
Reply to  Robin

Define “context” in this context. You can’t because it’s entirely contextual.

Bob R Huerta
1 month ago
Reply to  Will Ferrule

And let’s see how they will deal with the ” must have ” hydraulic power steering with electric auto dampening for ” real cool ” cycling….

dr sweets
dr sweets
1 month ago
Reply to  Will Ferrule

There may be evidence on road/time trial bikes where races can be won be hundredths of a second. I do not see this as a performance evolution for anything other than those aforementioned bikes. IMHO it makes absoultely no sense for headset cable routing to make it’s way onto anything else. It seems driven by esthetic desires more than anything and if you’ve the lack of time and deep enough pockets to have a shop mechanic deal with every associated adjustment need then by all means go for it.

Dinger
Dinger
1 month ago
Reply to  Will Ferrule

Or seek data. Cylindrical profiles are pretty draggy. Eliminating the cable salad on the front of a bike you mean to be fast counts.If it doesn’t count to you that’s fine but it’s semantics in the end. It’s becoming difficult to find a premium carbon fiber road frame set that lacks this feature.

TropicalNachos
TropicalNachos
1 month ago

To be honest, this is not a huge issue for those using electronic/hydro drivetrains, specially when using a DCR/S-DCR system. It is the FSA system that is more of a pain to use and adjust. To each their own…

David
David
1 month ago
Reply to  TropicalNachos

Until you slice a hose on a road trip (the shop packing it caused the issue when the headset over rotated), which just happened to someone who stopped in to our shop from Europe and due to banjo hoses not being available fast enough, he couldn’t use his bike for his two week trip. He spent 1000$ renting a mid level alu bike for his trip while his headset routed scott sat in his hotel room useless and he still needs to get it fixed when he gets home, so it ended up being a huge issue. Aero is super useful when the bikes sitting in a hotel room. He likely didn’t even end up having loosing much between the 1500$ Trek and the 10000$ Scott.

Michael
Michael
1 month ago

Yeah, it does look “cleaner” but why make a bicycle more difficult and expensive to maintain and repair with no change to function? I already have a car that is expensive and difficult to maintain and repair and use a bike because it is not.`Cable replacement is/was one of the easies jobs on a bike.

Jason DW
Jason DW
1 month ago

As a man who does his own work: no freakn way! Go fly a kite during a lighting storm industry.

MtnGoat
MtnGoat
1 month ago

37 years since I last raced, Cat. 2 road. This industry is fraught with gimmicks and geegaws that presuppose cyclists have loads of disposable cash and can be easily separated from it if they can one up the rest of the crew on the group ride. Some changes are great (clipless, brifters), Some seem ridiculous and raw money grabs (tubeless, disc brakes, hydraulics, electronics).

Tom
Tom
1 month ago
Reply to  MtnGoat

I’ve pinch flatted clincher tires dozens times in my 40 year cycling career, even though I’m “light’ on the bike. Contrast, I’ve nailed a manhole edge hard enough to bottom and crack the rim. But…no flat, as I was on tubeless. And while disc brakes can be a pain, I know I want them when I’m going down a tough descent and a car comes the opposite way in a blind corner.

Fraser C.
Fraser C.
1 month ago

If a bicycle or components company decides to design for hidden cables, be they electrical or mechanical, then they ought to know very well that sharp edges are poison to cables that articulate and get snagged or manhandled. This is fundamental. Some of the photos in this article actually illustrate my point here very well. This is a total DUH comment, and frankly it makes me sad that it’s needed. If your going to do something, do it well, FFS.

FritzP
FritzP
1 month ago

One thing not mentioned (didn’t read all the comments tho) is packaging a bike for travel. Wireless drivetrain makes this task easier but internal routing can make it more difficult if not a total PITA. For bikes where the stem & hbar can’t be easily lifted a new, bulkier bike bag might be needed. The shop may package it but usually the rider has to reassemble at the destination. I’m psyched both my drop bar bikes have external brakes lines.

All day breakfast
All day breakfast
1 month ago

Internal cabling, Chinese carbon and press fit BBs. No. Not with a 10ft pole.

Ashok
Ashok
1 month ago

J-M M and Bike Rumor, chapeau for a super article on a prickly bike design subject. Thanks to all those who commented, it made the piece richer with varied opinions and experiences. Cheers.

Dirt McGirt
Dirt McGirt
1 month ago

As a 30 year shop vet and mechanic, I’d like to weigh in.

Internal headset routing is solely for aesthetic and capitalistic purposes. Something new and shiny to buy. It’ll hopefully fade out soon like 142×12 rear spacing.

It’s unnecessary and only costs people extra money at tune up time and us mechanics more pain and suffering for no good reason.

All the diplomatic responses above made me cringe like crazy. Enough of the stockholm syndrome when it comes to engineers forcing dumb crap into the market.

Cruiser Joe
Cruiser Joe
25 days ago

Keep this away from mountain bikes please. I run everything outside even if the frame has routing. Mtb is not road. Let’s keep it that way.

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