The Jagwire Road Elite Sealed Shift Kit could be described as the complete package, the Holy Grail of gear cables, impervious to Mother Nature and supposedly zero maintenance. Even with my Univega's eclectic, high-mileage drivetrain, shifts are phenomenally slick and swift.
The Shift Kit works to broadly the same science as Jagwire's brake cables and, indeed, other sealed systems. A clear sleeve inside the outer cable impregnated with a permanent lubricant runs the entire length, preventing wet, gritty stuff from contaminating the inner wire and affecting shifting/braking performance.
The stainless inner is also treated with a specialist fit 'n' forget polymer lubricant, and I've never felt the need to give them a blast of PTFE-based maintenance spray.
Sharp snips are a must for any cable guillotining, but especially where these are concerned because they fight back. If you're in any doubt about the condition of your snips, invest in a fresh set rather than risk ruining these pretty pricey cables. I accidentally pruned one with my generic workshop snips, the sort used for cutting zip ties, which resulted in a messy cut. A grinding wheel saved the day and my blushes, but you have been warned. A methodical, uninterrupted approach is best – bargain on an hour to get front and rear mechs sorted.
The outer is very stiff, creating graceful arcs where cables exit the frame stops and enter the rear mech, requiring some slight trial and error and trimming, which all tacks on time. It's worth the wait, though. Any new cable of decent calibre perks up shifts, but changes in every respect have become that bit more precise. Without any further dialling in, the front has skipped between 44 and 32 rings without hesitation, even when grinding up unexpectedly sharp climbs.
Riding through wet, gritty lanes and literally running them with zero TLC has made no impression on their performance these past few weeks. Beware that the outers are also quite harsh, especially when silty contaminant gets lodged in, so remember those rubberised cable cuffs and 'helicopter' tape where they rest directly against the frame.
Ultimately, I love these cables and rate them above other sealed units I've run in the recent past. Time-poor riders with higher end components wanting maximum performance with fit 'n' forget simplicity will be delighted.
Top notch maintenance-free gear cables
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Jagwire Road Elite Sealed Shift Kit
Size tested: Outers 1700mm, Inners 2300mm Sts-Lf Coated
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Jagwire says: "The Elite Sealed Kit uses a continuous liner that seals the system completely protecting it against dirt, mud and debris. Available in unique frozen (matte) colors, this system offers the ultimate combination of protection and low-friction performance.
"To ensure the lowest possible friction, we developed a unique polymer-coated cable and paired it with Speed-Lube ultra-slick lubricant used throughout the liner. This combination delivers amazing performance and the precise lever feel you expect."
My feelings " Deliver truly superb, seemingly fit n' forget performance but at this price, something I would reserve for an Audax, mile-munching tourer or gravel bike with top-flight transmission."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* The continuous liner running from the levers to the derailleur offers much more protection from dirt and debris
* Ultra-slick polymer-coated cables are paired with our Speed-Lube to reduce friction
* New lightweight XEX shift housing is nearly 30% lighter than traditional shift housing.
* XEX - lightweight, braided steel strands around a Speed-Lube liner
* Sealed, Lubricated
* Jagwire sealed systems, available only in DIY kits, include liners that run continuously from the lever to the brake or derailleur. This protects the cable and housing from dirt, mud or anything else that can cause friction. But because the liner runs the full length of the cable, a specially developed cable coating and lube are used to keep friction to a minimum.
* STS-LF - pre-stretched, slick stainless steel spiral-bound cables with an ultra-slick polymer coating designed for use in Jagwire Sealed Kits
* Polymer-Coated or Polished Ultra-Slick Stainless Steel
* These ultra-slick stainless cables deliver the ultimate low-friction performance. Jagwire offers two options: An ultra-slick polymer-coated cable for use in our Elite Sealed Systems with continuous housing/liners, or a highly polished, uncoated cable that can be used with any housing and lubricant. These Elite level cables deliver incredibly accurate, smooth performance.
Housing Construction XEX
Outside Diameter 5.0mm
Housing Length 1700mm
Liner Length 2225mm
Cable Construction STS-LF Polymer-coated Slick Stainless
Compatibility SRAM®/Shimano® Road
Front Cable Length 2300mm
Rear Cable Length 2300mm
Superb, ultra-precise shifting and, to date, seem truly impervious.
Difficult to say in the shorter term but standards of materials and construction suggest they should deliver excellent performance in the most challenging contexts with zero maintenance.
According to Jagwire, its XEX housings are 30% lighter than 'standard' outers. An opportunity to save a few grams, if you've trimmed every last bit of "fat" elsewhere.
These certainly deliver excellent performance, though probably best saved for a high-end groupset that racks up big mileages.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Easily the best gear cables I've used, offering truly brilliant performance.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Superb shifting performance.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Outers were quite tricky to fit but this isn't particularly unusual by sealed system standards.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? For a mile-munching bike with top flight group, yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, though there are plenty of much cheaper but still good quality options.
Use this box to explain your score
Brilliant performance; they're a little tricky to fit and pricey, but still warrant an 8 overall.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)