Nobody likes a rat’s nest … except maybe rats. They probably love them. But humans don’t like them, especially human mountain bikers. Still, many of us have the makings of one sitting front and center on our handlebars. It’d be nice to get rid of just one cable, but until you get SRAM AXS, you’re likely stuck with all four, flexing and bouncing into each other.
Heat-shrink housing is a tool used by electricians to tidy their own rat’s nest, and it can essentially turn two of those cables into one. Your rear brake and shift cables sit right on top of each other, making them perfect for getting cozy. Get yourself at least 12 inches of 3/8-inch heat shrink tubing. Most hardware stores will have it in the electrical section. As for the heat part, a decent hair dryer will do the trick, but a proper heat gun will do a far better job. We’ll get to that part later, though.
You should be comfortable adjusting derailleurs and bleeding brakes, and you should have a fresh set of compression fittings because some of the hose components might not fit through the heat-shrink tubing. Measure out the section where the brake hose and derailleur cable are near and parallel to each other, and cut a piece of heat-shrink housing to that length. Detach your derailleur cable and pull it completely out of the housing. Then detach your brake hose, angling the brake lever up to prevent it from dripping. If the hose hardware and rubber beauty cap won’t fit through the tubing, you’ll need to cut the existing fittings off. Thread the hose through the tubing and, after you’ve reinstalled the fittings if necessary, reattach it to the brake lever and bleed. Then slide the derailleur housing through the tube and reconnect your cable.
Once you’ve positioned the tubing where you need, it’s time to heat it up. It actually is possible to get it hot enough with most hair dryers. It helps to have a flat diffuser, and you’ll need to hold it in one place for a few minutes. Don’t wave it back and forth like you’re actually drying hair. It will work, but in the time it takes, you could probably get to the hardware store and back with a proper heat gun.
No matter how you do it, you’ll end up with one less rat’s nest on your bike, which is great unless you’re into that sort of thing.