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Tech Frozen brake cables?!?


Maximum Pace
Sep 17, 2011
Took the 'Alpine' route to work today, over Mitake (minor Mt in Gifu, 500m high at the pass).

Slowed down for a light at the top, released brakes, still stopping? Had to reach forward to pull the calipers apart.

Garmin showing -1C, Shimano grease in cables. I had always used oil previously.

Lesson: check your lube will be fluid sub zero.

I got them working OK by pumping them, friction generating heat.

Bit of a fright.



Tokyo Cycling Club
Jun 30, 2013
Tech advice aside, that is an excellently hardcore commute you have going on there!

What brakes are you using, out of interest, and which grease did you have in the cables (I assume you put grease in yourself when assembling?)


Maximum Pace
Oct 16, 2014
Dave, if you are using the brakes in your avatar, I have one question. How do you know your brakes are working since they are well known as being the fastest brakes Campy ever designed. You sure it wasn't moisture in the lines? Grease freezing stiff at these temperatures is unlikely, more like your bike just asking for some better anchors. Listen to your bike.


Maximum Pace
Oct 25, 2011
@DeltaForce, I'm pretty sure the problem was H2O, not grease which works down to the pour point of the oil that makes up the bulk of the grease. This will usually be much lower than the freezing point of water.

Chris Williams

Maximum Pace
Dec 21, 2013
I had the same thing on Sunday with rear brake only on MTB.


Maximum Pace
Sep 17, 2011
Thanks for all the feedback, people. The melodrama goes on.

Bike: Cheap GT MTB about 10 years old.
Brakes: Cheap Shimano V-Brakes (newish cables)
Grease: That green Shimano grease.

Recent news:
The problem manifested itself again that night. The brakes were fine when I started out from work, the temperature would have been around 6 degrees. But it started snowing and as the Garmin got down to less than 1 degree, the lever return got weaker and weaker. Finally I was having to reach forward to manually separate the V-Caliper back off the rim again. I was also beginning to have trouble with the front dérailleur not going down to the middle ring. At the end of the ride, I also had trouble removing my rear light from it's clip. The snow that had accumulated around it was a bit icy.

@TCC, the 'alpine' route is fun. Lot's of options here, including single track hiking trails or unsealed river roads to mix up the commute into Nagoya. Therefore, I commute on my old GT MTB, which has fat semi slicks and shimano V-brakes. The levers and cables are only a few months old after being replaced by a shop. I had had an accident, and it was all replaced at the expense of the careless bast,... motorist. All worked so nicely until I got caught in a flood, water up to the fork crown! Things got a bit gummed up, so I removed the cables from their casings, cleaned them and re-lubed them, but with the Shimano grease. All worked nicely again for a few months. I did begin to notice the levers would not return quickly sometimes as the weather got colder. Later in the day though, when the sun had come out, they would work normally. Sometimes it was the front and sometimes the back.

@George5, You have cast ill intent in regards to my Deltas and TCC handle. Your punishment is to be subjected to my ramblings on the matter, with slightly more detail than you may feel comfortable with about these - miracles of technology.

Yes, the C-Record Deltas are truly mystical, having a reputation for not being effective. But adorning the bicycles of most of the pro peloton in the mid 80's, including my heroes Stephen Roche, Laurent Fignon, even Greg Lemond. It is a bit of an art to set them up as Campagnolo intended, but when you know the parameters, and have the specific set up tool Campagnolo released for these brakes, they are as effective as any other brakes from the era. I have had them working fine on several bikes. They do require about 4 times more effort to set up than side pulls though. A bane to the mechanics for sure.

I rode the Bianchi, with the Deltas, in snowy conditions a couple of times last year, I don't remember having problems. I'm using modern Campagnolo cables, lubed with Finish Line wet chain lube. The Delta return springs are almost heavy enough to pull the levers back through the cables, so I don't think cold weather would stop them. To ride this C-Record groupset again, was the main catalyst to get on my bike again after 10 years or so. It's some kind of 80's retro fever.

I have been able to buy new brake blocks for them, too. Kato Cycles in Nagoya has an absolute goldmine of 80s NOS. If you have any interest in 80s professional bicycle equipment, the 2nd floor of the shop will just blow your mind.

@joewein: What you and George5 are saying makes sense. Must be H2O. I'm still wondering if grease is worse than oil, or if I should just not put anything in the casing. There's Teflon in there these days, lol. I wonder if H2O gets trapped in the cables with the grease, but with oil, the water can find it's way out? Or never makes a connection between the inner cable and casing?

Two days later, after having done absolutely nothing to the bike, with the temp being around 8 degrees, the brakes ran silky smooth again, Yay.

I'm gonna degrease and re-lube with the finish line wet chain lube that I have used for years. Although not in these temperatures. New territory for me here.
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Maximum Pace
Jan 30, 2007
Just a point of reference, but I use lined brake and gear cables with ptfe coated cables, and there is no need for oil or grease, except a dab at the nipple in the brake lever. Less chance of freezing or dropping into a very viscous zone for grease.


Maximum Pace
Sep 17, 2011
@AlanW, thanks. I liked the smoothness the oil afforded, also keeps the 'standard' cables rust free. But the ptfe coating would achieve that.
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