The Jagwire Road Elite Sealed Brake Kit is a premium-grade sealed system designed for calliper and cantilever stoppers. Performance is incredibly slick and they are as fit and forget as most road riders are likely to need.
Sealed systems have been around for a good while but have come a long way since the days of inflexible, builder's hose type housings that were a nightmare to cut and gnawed through paint with alarming haste.
The Jagwires have an incredibly pliable outer – ours were 'Frozen Coffee' (what I'd call Plasticine brown) but there are four alternative matt colours to choose from. Beneath this paint-friendly polymer sits a layer of high carbon, low compression, coil sprung steel, with a clear 'speed lube' liner between this and the inner wire. Designed to run the cable's complete length, this seals it from dirt, grit and anything else that might induce friction and, therefore, impair braking performance. (See more details here.)
The stainless steel inners are also coated in a permanent polymer lubricant, which is reckoned completely maintenance-free. So long as you have decent cable snips and have taken a few moments to double check lengths before trimming, fitment is only fractionally more involved than standard cables.
Despite assurances of zero stretch, I found ours needed pulling through within the first 20 minutes of set-up, so it's worth pumping the levers to settle things before trimming the inner wires. These also snip beautifully with no hint of fraying. I glue or solder ends but the fitting kit includes decent crimps should you prefer.
Feel is lovely – not quite a match for Jagwire's truly compression-less system, but vastly superior to most decent quality benchmarks.
It made a world of difference to my Univega's rear stopper, which can be temperamental. Save for when I'm trailer tugging, it's seldom used, so tends to receive a fortnightly shot of PTFE-based lube to keep things slick and happy. The Jagwire kit has rendered this unnecessary.
Stopping, modulation and feel have remained superb throughout. Having used previous versions of the Elite, I deliberately ran the rear's liner to the stops, leaving the inner cable bare – just to see whether this made any difference. In practice, none – although top tube runs offer good protection from spray and contaminant.
And so we come to value... On the one hand, there's no denying this will accentuate the performance of bling brakesets and is a great choice for riders who literally want maintenance-free systems. However, there are other impervious options offering similar performance for considerably less. Admittedly, Transfil's Flying Snakes proved an absolute pig to install and lacked the Elite's outright refinement, but performance was still very good and for a tenner less they represent a more cost-effective option for mid-range bikes/daily drivers in my opinion.
Super-refined maintenance-free cables, but with a price tag to match
road.cc test report
Make and model: Jagwire Road Elite Sealed Brake Kit
Size tested: Dimensions Outers 1700mm, Inners 850/1650mm Sts-Lf Coated - See more at: http://todayscyclist.co.uk/kit-road-elite-sealed-brake.html#sthash.F2eLl...
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Jagwire says: "The Elite Sealed Kit uses a continuous liner that seals the system completely protecting it against dirt, mud and debris. Available in unique frozen (matte) colors, this system offers the ultimate combination of protection and low-friction performance.
"To ensure the lowest possible friction, we developed a unique polymer-coated cable and paired it with Speed-Lube ultra-slick lubricant used throughout the liner. This combination delivers amazing performance and the precise lever feel you expect.
* The continuous liner running from the levers to the brake caliper offers much more protection from dirt and debris
* Ultra-slick polymer-coated cables are paired with our Speed-Lube to reduce friction
* Low-compression housing results in crisp brake lever feel
Available in 5 colors"
My feelings: Super refined sealed cable that does exactly what they say in the blurb but pricey compared with some.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
CSX - high carbon, low compression coiled steel around a Speed-Lube liner
Jagwire sealed systems, available only in DIY kits, include liners that run continuously from the lever to the brake or derailleur. This protects the cable and housing from dirt, mud or anything else that can cause friction. But because the liner runs the full length of the cable, a specially developed cable coating and lube are used to keep friction to a minimum.
STS-LF - pre-stretched, slick stainless steel spiral-bound cables with an ultra-slick polymer coating designed for use in Jagwire Sealed Kits
Polymer-Coated or Polished Ultra-Slick Stainless Steel
These ultra-slick stainless cables deliver the ultimate low-friction performance. Jagwire offers two options: An ultra-slick polymer-coated cable for use in our Elite Sealed Systems with continuous housing/liners, or a highly polished, uncoated cable that can be used with any housing and lubricant. These Elite level cables deliver incredibly accurate, smooth performance.
Extremely well made.
Refined and powerful stopping.
System should be totally sealed from grot. So long as you're installing with decent quality cutters, they should deliver this level of performance for a long time.
There is a weight saving, which may also appeal to owners of bikes on strict calorie controlled diets.
Certainly refined and well made but best suited to high-end brakesets. Will be interesting to see how they fare in the longer term.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, pleasant to install and delivers an obvious improvement in braking performance for calliper and cantilever systems. Lever action is markedly slicker and friction reduced compared with more traditional top-drawer cables.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
High quality materials, excellent performance.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing particular given the design brief, but a bit pricey.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes but not at full RRP.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, but there are cheaper, competent options.
Use this box to explain your score
Lovely cables that do exactly what they say on the tin but they are pricey. It'll be interesting to see how these perform in the long term, but for now I'm rating them as very good.
About the tester
I usually ride: Rough stuff tourer based around 4130 Univega mountain bike frameset My best bike is: 1955 Holdsworth Road Path and several others including cross & traditional road
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Shaun Audane is a freelance writer/product tester with over twenty-eight years riding experience, the last twelve (120,000 miles) spent putting bikes and kit through their paces for a variety of publications. Previous generations of his family worked at manufacturing's sharp end, thus Shaun can weld, has a sound understanding of frame building practice and a preference for steel or titanium framesets.
Citing Richard Ballantine and an Au pair as his earliest cycling influences, he is presently writing a cycling book with particular focus upon women, families and disabled audiences (Having been a registered care manager and coached children at Herne Hill Velodrome in earlier careers)