Cables are one of those parts on a bike that often get overlooked. The're not flashy like some aero wheels. They don't scream "upgrade" like a carbon bar either. For most riders they are pretty much forgotten until your shifting gets funky or your brakes stop feeling so good.
One thing I have learned in the last 11 years of working in a bike shop is that cables should not be completely ignored. For casual, fair-weather riding there is not a darn thing wrong with the basic stuff. The bike will shift and the brakes will stop you well enough. However, if you ride all the time rain or shine, on road and off this is not always the case.
Enter the Jagwire Ripcord cables. I installed some of these some time last summer when I overhauled my Independent Fabrication randonneuring bike following a 6 day bike tour. Since then I have ridden that bike 20+ days every month through dust, rain, mud, wind, and some sunshine too. Road rides, gravel roads, and plenty of Saturday Coffee Grinder rides. While I have often cleaned my bike and de-greased my drivetrain to keep things running proper I have not touched the cables. Trust me, that's impressive.
I'll chalk it up to the high quality stainless steel cables and clever sealed caps for the housing. Over time dirt and moisture creeps into cable housing and starts to add friction, this causes sluggish shifting. My bike is still shifting like the day I built it. Those little caps (we call them ferrules) have a nice seal on there that keeps the garbage out!
This is only one of three cool things about this upgrade. The 2nd is how much it improves the feel of mechanical disc brakes. This has been the year that disc brakes have really started to take off on bikes OTHER than mountain bikes. From hybrids, to cross bikes, to fat tire road bikes like mine we are seeing more and more mixed surface and road riding machines with discs. With just basic cables disc brakes provide a small by appreciable improvement in braking, especially when it's wet out. When I switched to the Jagwire cables I was switching to what is called "compressionless" brake housing. In brief that means that the housing is not made of a coiled steel tube like conventional housing that is designed to compress a bit when you grab the levers to give the brake fairly soft action. This is fine for caliper road brakes but I found that the switch to compressionless housing on my disc brakes drastically improved not only the feel of the brakes but performance as well. Win - win.
Of course the third improvement is style... Jagwire makes these in a bunch of colors for those who want to give their rig a bit of character.
ANY bike can benefit from the improved seals and performance of the ripcord shift cables and if you have a bike with mechanical disc brakes you are not getting the most out of your brakes without this or another compressionless brake housing system.
Worth every penny.