Rene Herse Cable Hangers

Rene Herse Cable Hangers

Cable hangers aren’t a very exciting topic. We love to talk about derailleurs or brakes, because they are complicated parts with many intricacies. But cable hangers…? And yet they’re as important for the performance of your bike. It’s small parts like these that can make a big difference when it comes to enjoying your bike to the max.

Cantilever and centerpull brakes have many advantages over other rim brakes. Mounting the arms directly to the fork blades reduces flex – in fact, ‘direct mounting’ has become popular for sidepull brakes on racing bikes, too. Another plus: Centerpulls and cantis use a straddle cable to transmit the brake power. That makes them more powerful and lighter than other types of rim brakes. (A wire in tension is stiffer and weighs less than a brake arm.) For all-road bikes, that means you can get plenty of stopping power even though the brakes have to reach around wide tires.

There’s one caveat: The brake cable housing needs a stable anchor. On sidepull brakes, the anchor is part of the brake. On centerpulls and cantis, the cable is anchored remotely. That saves even more weight – the cable housing is shorter – but it can introduce a problem: If that anchor flexes, brake power is lost. Every brake system is only as strong as its weakest link, and for many cantis and centerpulls, the weak link is the cable stop. I realized that once again a while back, when a Bicycle Quarterly test bike with Rene Herse cantilever brakes had relatively poor braking performance. I wasn’t expecting this, as it’s not a problem on other bikes that use the same brakes (above). It took me a while to figure out what was wrong with the test bike: The cable hanger, a stamped steel piece, flexed so much that relatively little brake power was left to squeeze the rims.

How do you avoid flex in the cable stop? One obvious solution is to incorporate the cable stop into the stem. The stem is so beefy that it won’t flex. You can do that by drilling the stem – as I did on my Mule (above) – but you need to work carefully so you don’t weaken the stem. You also need to make a hole that’s perfectly aligned with the steerer tube, so the brake cable runs smoothly. And with modern aero brake levers, you need to be creative to route your cable into the stem from above. Until somebody offers a pre-drilled stem, a cable hanger in the headset is a more feasible solution for most riders.

Is it possible to make a cable hanger that doesn’t flex? The answer is yes – but you need to optimize every aspect. We used Finite Element Analysis to design a cross-section that is as stiff as possible. We made it as short as possible – just long enough that the brake cable can enter the hanger smoothly even if the stem is as low as it will go. The photo shows a prototype – the final version is a bit shorter yet. Every millimeter counts.

The offset of the cable hanger is important, too. Keeping the hanger close to the head tube limits flex as well. You also want the brake and straddle cables to run parallel to the head tube, so the cable pulls the brake arms in the correct direction. Otherwise, you waste precious brake power by pulling the cable at an angle. All these small things add up to make a real difference in the power and feel of your brakes.

In back-to-back testing on an 18% hill that ends with a stop sign at the bottom, there was no noticeable difference in braking with the cable housing ending in the stem hole (zero flex) and with our new cable hanger (minimal flex). The cable hanger is no longer the weak link in the transmission of the brake forces from the lever to the pads that squeeze the rim.

Besides optimizing performance, running the cables parallel to the head tube and seatstays also makes your bike more beautiful. Good cable lines are the brake equivalent of good fender lines – key to making small parts disappear visually, so they don’t distract from what makes a bicycle beautiful. A bike is two circles connected by a diamond, and the more our eyes can focus on that, the more elegant the bike appears.

After many months of testing and manufacturing – making this hanger is a complex process that involves laser cutting, broaching, CNC machining and polishing – the new hangers are now in stock. We offer them in three versions. If you want to optimize power and feel of your brake to the nth degree, the simple ferrule for the cable housing reduces flex to an absolute minimum. This version is slotted, so it’s easy to remove your handlebars and brake cables for Rinko. If you prefer a barrel adjuster, which makes setting up your brake easier, we offer that, too.

Different from most other models, the Rene Herse cable hangers incorporate the headset locking mechanism. Most bikes use a groove in the fork steerer to keep the upper headset cup and locknut from turning together – which would loosen the headset. Our spacer has a corresponding tab, so you can use it without a separate tabbed washer.

Even more secure is to file a flat onto the back of the steerer tube. That way, you don’t need much force to lock the headset nuts. The Rene Herse cable hanger is also available for that system.

All models are in stock now in limited numbers. More are in production, but with the current situation, it may take a while until they arrive. If you run a 1-inch threaded headset and have enough room – the hanger replaces a 5 mm headset spacer – you can now supercharge the performance of your cantilever or centerpull brakes. In the future, we may also offer a front cable hanger for threadless headsets.

More information:

• More information about the Front Cable Hanger.
• Our Rear Cable Hanger.
• If you prefer to drill your stem for a cable stop, illustrated step-by-step instructions were published in Bicycle Quarterly 51.
Why steerer tubes with a flat surface tend to keep your headset adjusted better than keyed steerers.

Photo credit: Nicolas Joly (Photo 5)

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Comments (32)

  • Don Humphrey

    How about a QR rear cable hanger, seat post mounted?

    March 21, 2021 at 7:44 am
    • Jan Heine

      The Rene Herse rear cable hanger is slotted to allow for the brake cable to be removed quickly. It mounts to the seatpost binder, so the brake cable aligns correctly and doesn’t pull at an angle (as it would if it was mounted to the seatpost). Since the rear hanger is just stressed in tension, it’s very small and light, and adding a barrel adjuster would require to make it much bulkier, so we don’t offer that version.

      March 21, 2021 at 8:36 am
      • dhumphrey

        Thanks, will try.

        March 21, 2021 at 9:27 am
      • Jacob Musha

        I can’t help but note the rear hangers I’ve come across weigh 4g, not 3g. 33% heavier than advertised! 😉 (Two friends and I weighed at least two hangers on three different scales.)

        As for the new front hanger, I’m glad it exists. But you’ve already turned me onto drilled stems as cable hangers which is now my favorite setup.

        March 22, 2021 at 9:28 am
        • Jan Heine

          🤣 We’ll have to check our current production run – the last time we weighed, it was something like 3.2 g… 🤣

          And yes, we shouldn’t give you detailed instructions on how to drill your stem if we want to sell more cable hangers! But really, the goal is to make cycling better, and the money you save on cable hangers you’ll spend on other parts from us (or on a great trip on your bike, which also makes us happy).

          March 23, 2021 at 9:53 am
  • N Ed

    Hi Jan.

    Brilliant idea! I have 1 Chris King headset. Which option would be ideal?


    March 21, 2021 at 8:32 am
    • Jan Heine

      Make sure you have 5 mm of spacers/washers that you can take out to make room for the hanger. Check your steerer tube (remove the top locknut of the headset). It’s probably slotted. Decide if you want a barrel adjuster or just the simple ferrule.

      March 21, 2021 at 9:00 am
      • Jeff

        Been waiting for these to get released-no more soggy front noodle! Thank you RHC!!

        March 21, 2021 at 2:01 pm
  • Murray

    These are the most beautiful cable hangers I’ve ever seen. Count me among those frustrated by the flexiness of standard cable hangers

    I’d like to see a clamp-on version for 22.2 mm stems, since many older bikes (like mine) don’t have sufficient stack height to accommodate a 5mm spacer. The only other options are the Paul Funky Monkey, which is visually incongruous on a classic bike, or the Nitto Fairweather sold by Blue Lug, which has been out of stock for months, and the shipping is prohibitive.

    March 21, 2021 at 8:56 am
    • Jan Heine

      Adding a clamp requires complicates things. If you put the clamp on the front, you get a lot more flex (only one side is supported directly), so the clamp would have to be at the back. It’s something we’re thinking about…

      March 21, 2021 at 9:14 am
  • Steve Sweedler

    Jan, any thoughts towards making a fork crown mounted brake stop.

    March 21, 2021 at 8:58 am
    • Jan Heine

      Fork-mounted stops may help with bikes that have a lot of brake judder – although on my Alan, just switching to brakes with better tolerances has eliminated the fork judder, much to my surprise. Making a flex-free fork-mounted cable stop seems hard – you only have a small 6 mm hole in the fork crown to attach it to…

      March 21, 2021 at 9:13 am
  • Trevor Wheatcroft

    Look great How much I need three

    March 21, 2021 at 9:54 am
  • Phil

    Very lovely, I’d definitely be interested in a 1 1/8 threadless headset version !

    March 21, 2021 at 10:13 am
  • Dennis Ketterling

    I’ve been waiting for this since you showed the prototype a few months ago. I have a 70’s Peugeot with a Stronglight V4 headset. The upper race has an O.D. of 45mm. From eyeballing your photo, it looks as if the Chris King is a smaller diameter (?). The vintage flexy Mafac hanger is “scalloped” on the rear to JUST barely clear the headset, and in fact contacts it under hard braking. Before ordering, I’d love to know if there will be enough clearance.

    March 21, 2021 at 2:57 pm
    • Jan Heine

      Good question! When we designed the hanger, we made sure it fit the largest headset that we thought our customers might use – the Stronglight V4 you mention. So it’s designed to fit – as long as you keep the toothed washer that’s needed for headset adjustment. As long as you have 5 mm of spacers that you can remove, you’ll be fine.

      March 21, 2021 at 4:10 pm
  • Todd Teachout

    I’m sad to see that the cable adjuster is very small in diameter. One thing that Campagnolo did well with the 1970’s era Nuovo Record brakes was to design a brake adjuster barrel that was pretty large in diameter. It allowed a cyclist to make adjustments while riding (like if one hit a pothole which caused a buckled rim with a dent bad enough to rub on the brake pads). The barrel, as designed, does not lend itself to being turned while the bike is being ridden. Too, those of us getting older are also getting arthritis and losing strength. A wider barrel offers a greater moment lever resulting in easier adjustment. The hanger part does seem nice though.

    March 21, 2021 at 3:02 pm
    • Jan Heine

      There’s simply no room for a larger-diameter barrel adjuster – we’d either have to slim down the hanger (and make it more flexible) or move the centerline of the cable outward (so it won’t line up with the brake any longer). In any case, I don’t recommend turning the adjuster while riding – if you buckle a rim, you should stop and inspect the wheel anyhow!

      March 21, 2021 at 4:11 pm
      • Conrad

        Can’t wait for a 1 inch threadless version. Or would it be possible to file the nubbin off….

        March 21, 2021 at 6:06 pm
        • Jan Heine

          You can file off the tab, but you need to have a way to keep the hanger from rotating. The headset compression alone isn’t enough. You could drill a hole and tap for a set screw…

          March 21, 2021 at 6:45 pm
  • Jordan

    They’re beautiful. And I’d love to max out my canti braking. I hope there will be a version for threadless headsets!

    March 21, 2021 at 4:58 pm
  • Kevin in Aus

    These look very nice and I’d replace my Paul’s hanger on that basis alone if there was a threadless headset model.

    Unfortunately, my Compass/Herse centerpulls are actually not that great and I’ve tried all the set up hints you’ve mentioned in the past on the journal. Just wondering if rim width makes a great deal of difference to brake performance? That’s about all I have left to experiment with!

    BTW – received my copy of the Rene Herse book today. A beautifully presented book – will need to take a few days off work and read it 🙂 Thank you!

    March 21, 2021 at 7:22 pm
    • Jan Heine

      I think the cable hanger can make a big difference. Also, if you have inline adjuster in your brake housing, those add a lot of flex. Set up right, these brakes are very powerful, but every setup is only as strong as the weakest link.

      Very glad you enjoy the book!

      March 25, 2021 at 10:21 am
  • Ben

    I just want to say that these design and testing discussions you post on this site are crucial for my engagement with your products. Maybe I’m stating the obvious here, but don’t ever stop with this blog, it’s really some of the most consistently interesting reading about bicycles on the web.

    Now if only you all had extra time to make YouTube videos… should happen right after they invent the 30 hour day I suspect.

    March 21, 2021 at 11:19 pm
    • Mitchell Hull

      Plus one for what Ben said. I know of no other brand that does engagement the way that RH – BQ does. By far my favorite bike blog and/or site.

      March 23, 2021 at 5:05 pm
  • Doru Persinaru

    Is there a way to send you an email? 🙂

    March 22, 2021 at 12:38 am
  • Ben

    Echoing the request for a threadless version. I have a lovely old cannonade cross bike which I have basically stopped riding because it’s such a large size that flex in the cable hanger cause brake shimmy. Would be lovely to get a really stiff version to replace it with.

    March 22, 2021 at 1:24 am
  • SteveP

    “As long as you have 5 mm of spacers that you can remove, you’ll be fine.” I may be missing something here (wouldn’t be the first time) but most of my 1″ threaded-stem vintage bikes have exactly no spacers in the headset. It would appear that the accepted method was to trim the stem to “just” fit the headset with no extra space. In fact, in some cases I have had to select specific headsets on a rebuild because the original builder used a low-profile model – further restricting choices.

    So while this is a beautiful piece of engineering, it would seem to be most applicable to a new-build “vintage-style” bike? Otherwise, it would seem creating space for the 5mm height would require a new (or reworked) fork and stem?

    March 22, 2021 at 6:27 am
    • Jan Heine

      If you have no spacers on your bike, your bike probably runs sidepull brakes, and you don’t need a cable hanger. Bikes with centerpull or cantilever brakes always have a cable hanger, so you already have at least 2 mm of spacers/washers. If there aren’t any other spacers, you can use a headset with lower stack height to gain the extra height.

      March 22, 2021 at 8:39 am
  • Ford Bailey

    Beautiful !

    March 22, 2021 at 8:38 am
  • Eric Madison

    This is such an awesome product. As stated above; this hanger will solve the problem I face with both my Peugeot PX-10’s. I have a 1979 Centurion Pro-Tour with canti’s and the hanger on that bike is very beefy aluminum. These wil do the trick as a MaFac replacement. Now what about some internal cam skewers?

    March 23, 2021 at 11:31 pm

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