Ferrule-y I Say Unto Thee

Vintage bicycle frames and components can have unique cable stops that require specialized ferrules.  Also known as “end caps”, these little guys create a stable connection between flexible brake or shifter housing and the related component.

Some vintage frames have no cable stop braze-ons, and instead use clamp-on stops.  And, frames with cable stop braze-ons may have a number of different styles, requiring specialized ferrules.  The type shown above is a split shifter stop, making it easier to maintain the cables, as the whole unit can be lifted out of the stop’s split top.  But, the ferrule required to fit into the stop needs a tiny step down.

Vintage components also feature a number of different styles of ferrules.  Brake levers designed for upright bars often include “fatter” ferrules which have a wide connection to the component – wider than the actual housing.

The rear brake cables of mixte frames are sometimes mounted from beneath the brake caliper and require different ferrules and hardware to accomplish this feat. The photo above highlighted with the arrow is an example of a specialized ferrule used on a mixte frame.

Vintage brake and shifter housing comes in a variety of sizes, but the most common size for brake housing (and often shifter housing as well) is 5mm.  Prior to the 60’s or so, shifter housing was narrow, at 3 or 4mm, and sometimes but not always in raw helical state.  The above photos show a late 40’s Simplex TDF derailleur which uses 4 mm helical housing covered with a vinyl casing.

Sometimes frame-brazed cable stops exist even where they are not needed, as in the case of this mid-century custom French frame shown above.  The shifter cable stop brazed a few centimeters below the shifter mounts serves no purpose, except maybe to look interesting.  Mission accomplished!

Working with vintage components, especially brake levers, can mean trying to source unusual ferrules.  Recently I needed to set up some vintage Mafac flat bar levers.  The openings in the brake mount were very narrow, and none of my vintage ferrules had a step down small enough to fit into the space.  So, I judiciously used a reamer tool to slightly enlarge the hole so that a stepped down ferrule (courtesy of Problem Solvers) would fit into the component.  A tight fit is okay!

Here is the vintage Mafac lever set up with the stepped down ferrule.  These days, it may be difficult to source a specific ferrules for vintage applications. It appears that Problem Solvers no longer supplies unusual ferrules. That means you may need to locate an entire vintage brake or shifter unit in order to continue restoration of your current project.

4 thoughts on “Ferrule-y I Say Unto Thee

  1. My favorite posts, both to broadcast and to read about, are those that individuals don’t take time out to really delve into or think past the first utilitarian solution possible. Bike shops are notorious for this where there is a graceful, elegant and appropriate fix but the trade off is it usually takes time to implement or/and additional parts must be ordered. But there is little desire to do this as there typically is always *something* in the parts bin that’s “good enough” even thought it stands out terribly. That being, said, us home mechanics have the time and patience can take time to find the best, most appropriate solution. Which your modern + altered fix certainly fits the bill. Great work and hats off to you for taking time to think about a small, overlooked detail.

    • Thank you, Josh. The original ferrule mostly likely was brass and looked something like this: https://vintagebicyclerestoration.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/007.jpg These shorter ferrules didn’t seem to work as well as the newer longer style, and I’ve seen a lot of examples of the housing pulled away or kinked, as you can see from the photo. These ferrules have a very small diameter step down section which fits snugly into the Mafac lever. It is nice when one can find just the perfect small touch that adds integration to the overall project, but I haven’t been able to source anything like this available as new.

  2. Nola, Great point , keep spares whenever you run across them! This stuff was made plentiful in the sixties and seventies but now seems unobtainable at the modern bike shops . I have a couple of baggies full of different stops and screws for brakes(as well as pther components) . This is more usefull as time goes on.

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