Shift cables are the slim yet mighty heroes of mechanical drivetrains. At just over one millimeter in diameter, these precision-engineered cables connect your shifters and derailleurs and provide the near-instantaneous change of gears with the swipe of your shifter.

While the type of shift cable you use may seem insignificant - they're hidden inside the cable housing, after all - Shimano shift cables offer a range of performance features that keep your gears changing smoothly and reliably as you crunch, bump, rattle, slog, and grind through all manner of gravel roads and conditions.

Shimano GRX 12-speed mechanical upgrade to premium shimano shifter cables

Why Good Shift Cables Matter

Smooth and reliable shifting can make all the difference when you're out on a long adventure ride or pushing your limits in an important gravel race. A crisp gear change with every shift not only offers peace of mind but it increases efficiency, so you can focus on going faster or pushing harder instead of worrying about your next shift.

Shimano’s Polymer-Coated and OPTISLICK cables deliver top-level performance for gravel riders of all kinds. These durable cables help ensure your shifting remains consistent thanks to different coatings or manufacturing processes to increase the "slickness" of the cable.

Shift cables need to slide easily within the cable housing to perform crisp gear changes. GRX mechanical shifters and derailleurs work together in precise increments so that each swipe of the shift lever moves the derailer exactly enough to shift the chain to the next cog on your cassette (or to the other chainring). The smoother the cable movement within the housing is, the more accurate and reliable the shift.

Shimano athlete Peter Stetina riding Shimano GRX 12-speed with upgraded OPTISLICK shifter cables

Durability is another key feature of Shimano’s Polymer-Coated and OPTISLICK cables. Each features a stainless-steel inner cable design that resists corrosion and prolongs peak shifting performance. That means better shifting through more creek crossings, power washes, rainstorms, misty mornings, and mud puddles.

Polymer-Coated Shift Cables: Ultimate Efficiency

Shimano's Polymer-Coated cables are the cream of the mechanical shifting crop with a 30% increase in efficiency compared to standard cables. The polymer coating is a microscopic layer of tiny rings around the inner stainless-steel cable. This ribbed structure has less surface area to rub the internal housing, and the micro undulations retain grease better.

Shimano Polymer-coated shift cables

This polymer coating results in a quicker, smoother shift action with each gear change. The efficiency increase is especially noticeable when shifting the front derailleur, which uses more cable movement per gear change than the rear.

The polymer coating can wear slightly faster than the inner stainless-steel cable itself, so Shimano pairs its top-shelf Polymer-Coated cables with race-oriented groups, where riders typically replace their cables more frequently. Polymer-Coated cables come stock on high-end GRX820 and GRX810 12- and 11-speed group sets. It’s also the standard for top-of-the-line MTB mechanical shifting with XTR M9100.

OPTISLICK Shift Cables: Smooth and Durable

Shimano's OPTISLICK cables offer a premium shifting performance balanced with outstanding durability. They deliver an impressive 20% increase in efficiency compared to traditional cables but last longer than Shimano's Polymer-Coated cables for low maintenance and worry-free shifting all season long.

shimano Optislick shift cable housing

OPTISLICK cables are produced from corrosion-resistant stainless steel that is then electrically coated in a uniform finish that helps reduce friction and extend the lifespan considerably. This is Shimano's longest-lasting cable option, designed to ensure the best possible value, durability, and shift experience for every type of rider.

OPTISLICK cables come stock on GRX600 11-speed as well as 10-speed GRX400 groups. Mountain bikers will also find them on groups ranging from XT M8000 to DEORE M4100.

Fresh Cables for a Fresh Feel

Fresh cables are a great way to make shifting feel like new again. And Shimano's Polymer-Coated and OPTISLICK cables are an affordable upgrade for any mechanical group that uses standard cables. To further enhance the performance of your new cables, pair them with Shimano’s SIS SP-41 housing, which is pre-greased and specifically engineered for optimal performance with all Shimano shift cables.

Women riding her shimano GRX 12-speed gravel bike on a single track through the trees