We sell cable housing, but no one ever calls us up to ask for it. It’s good housing, and it lacketh in gimmicks. Gimmick housing, along with colored housing, should be left on Walmart bikes and period correct Master Lights. If you like braided cable housing, you should look at Walmart bike next time you are in there stocking up on Carmel Popcorn and sweatpants, it’s the same stuff, and it looks as classy on a Pacific Baboon Typhoon as it will on your bike. Black housing disappears, and that’s what housing should do. Why build a really nice bike up, with a great paint job, leather saddle, handmade racks, and then rob those great features with some orange housing? It’s just rubbery plastic. Do you really want to draw attention to rubbery plastic? If you had a 1959 Les Paul Standard, would you put some funny colored strings on it? No, that would be missing the point of having a Les Paul. You maybe maybe put funny color strings on that used tiger stripe Jackson you got for 50 bucks at a gear swap. But really, that would detract from those tiger stripes!
While we are talking about gimmicks, compressionless brake housing is a gimmick designed by housing manufacturers to make your brakes feel really powerful in the workstand, and be unusable and dysfunctional in the real world. I’ve never grabbed a brake while riding that worked better with compressionless housing. They have no modulation, and no power. Brakes need the springy coiled liner of traditional brake housing to work properly. It gives them more bite, more power. As you squeeze the lever you load that spring, which is trying to release itself, both back into your hand and into the brake. That spring is crucial to good brake feel, and when it’s absent, as it is in compressionless housing, the brake feels sorta fine at low speeds, but terrifyingly powerless at high speeds. Every other mechanic I have talked to this about agrees, but I’m sure there is some dissenter out there who disagrees, because bike mechanics like to disagree about things, just to stay in practice.
Compressionless brake housing is just shifter housing that has a Kevlar sheath over the longitudinal strands, to keep the cable from exploding out of the side of the housing under hard braking. A few companies make housing that looks like the spinal cord of a really small snake. This housing is made tiny of aluminum segments, linked together with the tears of your checking account. Although this housing is light, and comes in fun colors, it should be regarded with the same distrusting eye you give to baked potato chips, left and right specific socks, and wrinkle free shirts. Cause you know that damn shirt is going to wrinkle. The snake spine housing costs more than a dinner and a movie, and works exactly the same as the compressionless housing with the Kevlar shield. Worse, sometimes.
Last bit of grumpy wisdom. If your bike can take 5mm shifter housing, run 5mm shifter housing. Bikes that can not use 5mm shift housing, which are usually just plastic bikes with internal cable routing, should use 4mm housing, but that’s it. 5mm housing is stiffer (better shifting), stronger (less bendy-bendy), and more durable (can handle more abrasion). It costs more, and it’s marginally heavier, so norm core bike shops eschew it for flexy, cheap shifter housing, and never tell their customers there is a difference. But there is. If you buy into bigger bottom bracket spindles, bigger down tubes, wider rims, wider tires, wider handlebars, oversized stems, but undersized shift housing… you make me very sad. Anyway, our housing is black, lined with a slick plastic for low friction, and we can cut it any length you want. We sell it with brass ferrules. If you use good cables (Jagwire Pro or Ultraslick) and don’t ride your bike in a pool filled with sand, oil and metal filings, your cables and housing will last for years. No gimmicks. No BS. We save that for the compost pile.
Sold by the foot, here's our rough estimate for what ya might need:
For interrupted brake or shift housing we reckon you might need about 5-6' of housing. That's figuring 5-6' for both brakes, not 5-6' each. Same for the shift housing, 5-6' would cover you for a bike with interrupted housing, a front and rear mech.
For full length housing runs you're gunna be looking at 10-11' to completely equip both the front and rear brake. For 1x full length shift housing, about 6' should do ya.
If you can, just measure up all the old housing you're trying to replace and then maybe tack on an extra foot to be safe.
Seems like a lot. We like to run the housing voluptuously. Nice swoopy arcs keep the cable from binding. You don't want any abrupt turns. This setup also allows you to run a handlebar-area bag without affecting the functionality of your cables. You can just squish or push in the housing and it'll have plenty of room to settle into a non-awful position. Running the housing a bit long also leaves you with room to raise your bars up, if they aren't already there!
Final word on all this: for the brake housing, make sure that once you've cut it to the appropriate length, you remove the little burr that inevitably forms at the end. It takes a little finesse with the cable cutters, but you can grab the culprit end of the burr and clip most of it off. then use a sorta beefy flat file (or grinding wheel, or Dremel tool--I use a Dremel, because it's faster which doesn't really matter when you're doing this once every couple years, but I cut housing nearly every day) and file away until the end is nice and flat. Paul recommends this with his Klampers, and I recommend it with any brake at every end of the housing.