Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Equipment - Nokons


They make aluminum cable housing kits for bikes.

It seems the main goal on a bike is to replace steel with lighter material - carbon fiber, titanium, aluminum, even ceramics. One overlooked steel thing is your cable housing, and although I pooh-poohed the Nokons at first, I'm now a convert.

I like Nokons for a few reasons.

One, they are lighter.

Two, ONCE used them when they were riding the lightest bikes around. Well, I thought they were the lightest bikes around. Plus their bikes just looked sooo cool.

Three, the derailleur housing simply cannot explode like normal housing. When I put my bike in the car, I need to turn the bars all the way to one side. Normal housing doesn't like this and protests by exploding after about two months. I tried my first Nokons after my 3rd normal housing blew up. Nokons last, well, they last until I take them off.

The disadvantage is that the shifting takes more time to dial in. Not a problem unless you fiddle with the bike the day before the race.

A minor one is that electrical tape takes the finish off right away (when you peel the tape off). Then they corrode and get that white powdery coating on them.

The cables are thinner than the Campy ones so use the Nokon supplied ones (or similar diameter ones). I decided to mix and match some silver pieces into the black ones to make things more interesting - I have a total of 3 sets of silver (I bought 2, so did another guy, and he didn't like the way things shifted with them so he gave the derailleur pieces to me). I have one brake+derailleur set on my old primary bike. When I took apart my backup for the bars and stem, I also stole the Nokons from the backup as well.

My front derailleur cable's housing was wearing through. With the shifting starting to deteriorate (I had to kick the front derailleur a few times to get it to shift), I decided it'd be too risky to use at the next race.


I had my ace mechanics work on the bike. They spotted something unusual and took great care to make sure my bike wouldn't be affected by it.

Tiger and Lilly (left and right), both intent on something.

It must have moved. Nokon box is in front of them, the Nokon cables in front of Lilly.

I slaved over the cables, housing, and tape for probably two hours. It didn't help that all my extra parts were downstairs, my bike toolbox started in the car, and my normal toolbox remained downstairs the whole time.

Ultimately I got it almost all the way done. As I mentioned before, one of the things I had to skip was doing the handlebar tape - with all my electrical tape in the van, 2 hours away, I left the housing dangling that evening.

The rear, where I went a bit nuts with the silver and black.

I used all black up front. The front derailleur is all aluminum, right up to the shift lever.

The rear derailleur has the cheater steel housing in use, the one supplied by Nokon. They save themselves about 6 inches of the more expensive aluminum pieces by using the cheater piece under the tape. My small bike lets me use almost the full set of aluminum bits. If you have a taller bike, you'll have to use both cheater pieces or buy the extender set.

A better view of the rear. It's obvious which gears I used when I trained today.

Nokons require more than normal cable tension to set up the derailleur. My standard trick is to put it on the second cog (12T, next to the 11T, for me), pull the cable "taut", and tighten the anchor bolt. The cable will stretch enough to let it drop down into the first cog. If it doesn't, just yank on the cable under the downtube like you're trying to play Bill the Cat's tongue. Works on violins to fine tune cable tension, works on bikes too.

After that I fiddle with the barrel adjuster to get it nice.

I didn't check it with the race wheels, which I now know are just a bit off. But things worked out okay in the end. My front derailleur shifted perfectly. Actually, I shifted it into the big ring before the race and left it there, so it worked perfectly before and after my race. And the rear derailleur was manageable, not hindering me in the least.

So, if you constantly have to turn your bars way to one side to fit it inside a car/vehicle, Nokons are great. They lose a bit of weight too but I didn't feel like weighing anything so I don't know exactly what effect they had.

Probably a lot less than the tasty dinner I had tonight.


Ron George said...


I find my Nokons excellent in shifting. But they're a bit on the noisy side as I turn by handlebars left or right. Lookwise they are great.

Here's my ride

Anonymous said...

Is that a crack where your head tube meets the rest of the frame? I'm not sure I'd ride that over 10 mph.

Aki said...

No, no crack. The flash illuminates the carbon weave, reflects off of the Nokons, and catches any stray dust/(cat-)hairs.

Trust me, I'd be the first to stop riding a frame if I thought it wasn't 100%.