This review is for 3 separate products because you can’t really change your gear cables without changing your brake cables, and you can’t really change your cables without changing your bar tape. If you’re like me you might as well do a few other jobs whilst you’re at it!
Vel Flow Cables are quality kits with pre-stretched stainless steel inner cables and lined outer cables. The Vel Snake Bar Tape is a textured dura-polymer grip tape. First impressions are pretty good. The packaging is very impressive and I’d be happy to have some of these boxes stacked tidily on a shelf in my garage waiting to be put on the bike.
I’ll start with the cables. The brake and gear cables are nicely packaged inside. They’re kept in a neat roll by a plastic sleeve. This seems a better method than having them wound around each other or tied with cable ties like another brand I used recently.
Vel package the Flow Cables in two lengths, the front one being shorter, so be aware when setting up your bike. On the gear set I managed to get a loose snag of wire on the end of one cable. When I cut the snag off, it very nearly left me short of reaching my front derailleur. The cables I normally use have two cables of the same size so this took me by surprise, and I’m lucky I didn’t use the longer of the two first to do the front derailleur. I was more prepared for it when I got round to doing the brakes and made sure I did the rear brake first with the longer cable of the two.
The pre stretched cables feel nice and smooth in your hands. They certainly felt like they had less friction than the 6 month old Shimano SIS cables I was taking off. The outer cable was very similar to the Shimano stuff, which can’t be a bad thing. It doesn’t affect the operation of them, but I noticed that the bulbs on the end of both the gear and brake cables were slightly smaller and less refined. Minimal gains to be had from the weight saving though, probably.
The gear cables come with plastic end caps for the outers, some rubber doughnuts to stop any exposed inner from rubbing on your frame, and two metal coloured end caps for the inner cable. On the rear derailleur I felt the plastic ends were perhaps a little flimsy to cope with the bend that routes round the derailleur. They fit okay, but they’re not as thick as the plastic ends you normally get. You might need to leave the outer cable slightly longer on this bend to get it to sit right, like I did.
The brake cables come with metal end caps for the outers, some rubber doughnuts for the inners, and two metal coloured end caps for the inner cable. All of the cables went on with minimal fuss, apart from a slight snag on one of the ends of a gear cable. The ends of new cables in kits like this are stuck together with a bit of solder so you can thread them through the outer without getting any snags but occasionally you’ll find that one tiny strand manages to break loose. Always cut something like this off with nice sharp cable specific cutters or when you thread it through the outer it may unwind further and damage the integrity of the whole cable.
Once the cables were all fitted and working it was time to put the bar tape back on. The Vel Snake Tape comes in two pieces, but with both rolled into one roll. There’s plenty of length in each roll to not worry about cutting some off for the back of the levers. You also have two pieces of finishing tape and two bar ends in the box.
A bit like real snake skin, the Vel Snake Tape didn’t feel as I expected it to. It’s soft, and although it’s not thick it is still spongy enough to give some damping against road buzz. Although there’s a lot of grip, it’s not rubbery or sticky like some similar tapes I’ve used. It’s ideal if you ride without gloves. I like the subtle pattern. It adheres well to the handlebar and the finishing tape was very sticky and stretchy with a matt finish and nicely rounded ends.
The bar ends are a push in type and have the V of the Vel logo on. Bear in mind that with push in bar ends you need to leave quite an overlap at the bar end to wedge them in. My preference is screw in ends, but I guess that would push the price up towards that of the premium brands.
I’m happy with the result. The gears change as smoothly as ever, the brakes work perfectly which is partly due to them being thoroughly stripped and cleaned as part of the process, and the bars are comfortable. I prefer thinner tape and I’m impressed how cushioned this tape is despite it’s lack of bulk. I tried to rip an offcut of the bar tape and I’m pleased to report that it held up well. Although bar tape is relatively cheap and most people treat it as a consumable you want it to stand up to a bit of abuse. For a thorough description of cables, take a look at our article on cable fitting.
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