Going Compressionless: Yokozuna Reaction Cable Housing

Is there a better upgrade for $30?

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Cable housing is poorly understood, under-respected, and often neglected in cycling. I can’t tell you how many times I see people riding with stripped, frayed, or exploded housing, wondering why their bike won’t shift or brake. My good friend Ryan bike commutes straight through winter, and his front derailleur housing is completely shredded as we speak.

There’s lots of unused potential here!

Yokozuna Reaction Compressionless Brake Cable Housing is a special kind of brake housing that significantly increases braking power with mechanical brakes. It’s the unsung hero of the competitive cyclocross world, and in an age of touring, gravel and endurance bikes, the easily-reparable mechanical brake is king. I trust Avid BB7‘s for ice, mud and salt, season after season, because I know I can always count on that steel cable actuating when I need it. It’s not that I have anything against hydraulic brakes (except Juicy), I just prefer the guarantee of a mechanical brake when I’m deep in the woods, tearing through light snow in sub-zero temperatures.

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Image Courtesy of Parktool

You already have compressionless housing on your bike— derailleur cable action needs to be completely precise, so the housing used on derailleurs is always compressionless. Parallel steel wire prevents the housing from, well, compressing when you shift, keeping the cable action the same through the full length of the bike. Brake housing traditionally uses a wire coil, as shown above, but compressionless housing adds a second layer of parallel wire, just like the derailleur housing, that prevents the housing from mashing when you pull the lever. It might only compress a millimeter or two with traditional housing, but that translates to squishy brakes and less stopping power.

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Yokozuna is one manufacturer catering to the new “premium housing” market. That bright red color has won me over; I think it accessorizes nicely with the rest of the bike. But enough aesthetics; how does it perform?

Usually, I replace my housing twice a year; once before winter, and once after it. Most of my components seem to have a “Before Winter” to “After Winter” lifespan. The Yokozuna housing, however, is still working flawlessly after a full summer of rain, mud, ocean air, and over 2,000 miles of riding.

Installation was simple, and completely analogous to a normal housing swap. I installed Yokozuna Housing right when I put my front derailleur back on, so that I could re-tape my bars all in one fell swoop. The only difference between regular brake housing and compressionless in the installation process is the slightly larger cable size, which makes jamming ferrules on the end a major pain. Yokozuna simplifies that with a stepped ferrule that accounts for the larger cable size, while still nestling nicely in traditional cable bosses. Ingenious. Jagwire is always a major pain to jam into a ferrule, so I was very happy about this.

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I went with full length brake housing for wet weather and also upgraded my derailleur housing, too. The Yokozuna kit came with more than enough housing for a cyclocross rig with full-length housing, which is not a guarantee from other brands. Many of the “Road Premium” housing kits only include enough for caliper brakes.

Once I got everything installed and taped up, I actually cut the housing and installed a cross-top lever on my handlebars. Even with the lever and plenty of extra housing for stem adjustments, the Yokozuna housing arranged nicely to accommodate a rack, basket, and the occasional bikepacking-style drybag.

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My wheels get beat up, and that often means my disc brake rotors are far from perfectly true. I keep the calipers on my Avid BB7 disc brakes on the looser side to account for the rotor sway, so that they’re not constantly rubbing. The precision in the compressionless housing allows my brake levers to still fully engage even though the brakes are far from tight, giving me more stopping power than I deserve for my poor upkeep of the braking system.

With this much wet riding mileage on the rig, I considered swapping my housing out before winter, but the Yokozuna has been working so flawlessly that I’ll be running it right through till next April. It’s a good investment, and an impressive offering in an under-appreciated niche market. If you want to upgrade your bike’s most important safety feature for less than the cost of some handlebar tape, compressionless housing is your next order from the LBS.

Keep Braking!

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