Vertebrae, the most advanced cable housing in the world

Customer’s Testimonials / Magazine Reviews:

Vertebrae brake cables are aimed at improving your stopping performance through use of ceramic housing, and while they’re priced at a hefty €99 a set, they do work as claimed.It’s the ceramic verterbrae that separate this product from other high-end cable sets from the likes of Nokon, Jagwire and Gore. They’re made from processed alumina (aluminium oxide), a hard wearing ceramic that won’t degrade as quickly as traditional metal-core cable housing.

In theory it means you should be able to re-use the vertebrae over and again, simply replacing the rest of the components, which should be fairly cheap. The veterbrae, on the other hand, are expensive to produce.

Durability aside, the main advantage of ceramic housing is the way it reduces compression of the outer when you squeeze the brakes. This should give you more direct braking and consequently mean you use less energy. If you live in a particularly hilly area, you’ll appreciate this.

We ran a set of the Vertebrae brake cables on our road bike for several months and were impressed with their performance. They feel very different to normal brake cables because of how little give there is when squeezed. There’s no sponginess, plus a firm and very linear braking response. It feels different but we liked it.

Are they better than conventional brake cables? Yes, we think so.

Jeff Jones, Editor – Bike Radar.


I received and installed the kit last week. Installation went really well. It was about as easy as I imagined it would go. Granted it takes some time to thread those little ceramic bits onto the cable but it really wasn’t too bad. I went out and purchased a heat gun for the occasion which really helped. I am running them on Dura-Ace 7800 levers. I contemplated running them under the bar tape, as several people have done with the Nokon housing, but decided against it- I just set them up like regular cables. They have a little bit more sag than steel cables, but nothing to worry about. Besides, exposed shifter cables are all but obsolete in the current generation. So far the biggest improvement is in front shifting. It takes noticeably less pressure to shift. Before I had to torque my wrist to exert pressure, now not any more. Rear shifting is improved too, especially shifting to an easier gear.

Cedric Bosch from

Big names including Gore and Avid have attempted to come up with an improvement on Shimano with varying degrees of success, but it is still hard to beat a cheap set of gear cables. One company with a new angle is Vertebrae. Its cables are made from mini concave/convex discs of ceramic (aluminium oxide to be precise) and come in a self-assembly kit, which involves threading them together onto a PTFE liner to your required length, then toasting a heatshrink wrap round them to hold it all in place and keep the muck out.

The ceramic will never corrode and the outer will last for a long time, so only the cable and liner will need to be replaced periodically. The ceramic discs also fit nicely into tight bends with no ill effects.

Once in place, shifting was excellent, with a snappy and positive action… The outers are far more flexible on the bike than traditional steel [housing]… this could be to your advantage if you have awkward cable routing.

The question is, do you really need to spend this much money on cables? You could probably pick up two sets of Gore Ride-Ons for that sort of poppy. But they do provide an extra snappy shift when set up properly and, for the fashion conscious, they come in 13 [make that 18] colours of wrap including a clear option so you can see the discs, and a glow-in-the-dark version. Pimp!

Read the full review here.

Paul Burwell, Technical Editor – MBR Magazine.

Vertebrae is the new kid on the block with aluminum oxide ceramic beads threaded onto a liner. Vertebrae is a new Australian design and operates on a similar platform to Nokon. Housing segments, in this case aluminum oxide ceramic ‘vertebrae,’ are threaded onto a continuous liner. The twist is that once the housing sections are assembled, heat shrink tubing is used to cover the housing to keep it all together and protect the frame.

The Vertebrae system comes with plenty of everything, even enough heat shrink and liner to replace or repair whole sections. Once again this system is not cheap: a whole bike will run around $200. The upside is that the vertebrae will not corrode, break or deteriorate and once installed look pretty damn good. The liners are cheap and the heat shrink covers can be removed and replaced with different colors.

Assembly can be somewhat time consuming and the heat shrink requires an electric heat gun and the skill to apply it.

“I am quite impressed with the system. The ability to run continuous liner makes your system great for ‘cross and I really like the overall feel and action of the brakes.”

Michael Robson, Velo News cyclocross contributor.

I got both the clear and white outer liners, but ended up going with the clear. It’s a really good look….. My clear set really looks the part. It would be at home on any high end bike…..

Performance. I must admit I did have some preconceived notions coming into this. I expected to be able to report no real difference from Nokon. To my surprise I was wrong. The performance increase seems to be really quite noticeable. Normally Sram red front derailleurs are not the best performing mechs. Even without a barrel adjuster for the front mech, I was able to get it to work very well, quite possibly the best I’ve ever seen from a Red front. The brakes were incredibly smooth and modulated flawlessly. This housing could be the best complimentary piece to the EE brakes. Making a phenomenal brake, even better. All of this improvement is based on a comparison to the Yokozuna housing, which is what was previously being used by me. So as a nice surprise, I did see a very noticeable improvement.

In the end I am very impressed with this system. Yes, as I said earlier, it is a bit expensive in the U.S. but part of that is due to the current exchange rate. The installation takes a long time, but the result is a set that looks fantastic and works even better. Full review here.

Jason a.k.a “madcow”

After using these ceramic cables for a while now, I don’t want to go back to normal cables again.

The combination of great looks and better braking performance is a winner for me.

When Vertebrae offered a set of their latest ceramic brake and gear cables for review, I jumped at the chance.

Ceramic cables qualify as new bling for the race bike, but they also promise increased performance with stronger braking and easier gear shifting.

To put them through the test I chose a self-assembly kit, picked my colours and componentry match, and within days a small package arrived from the US.

The kit included the ceramic pieces, teflon liners, cables, spinal wrap, and detailed instructions.

The spinal wrap, or outer plastic tube, comes in many different colours, including clear. This clear version makes the ceramics easily visible once installed. New bling needs to be shown off in my opinion!

While Vertebrae offer pre built cables to any length you need, the kit I had was the self assembly version.

I threaded each individual ceramic bead onto the teflon liner, making each piece long enough for the section of the bike that it was needed on. It was a fun project for a wet day.

The instructions were very clear about what had to be done, and how to correct any mistakes along the way.

I made the long brake and gear cables for the front, and the shorter rear gear and brake lengths for the back.

While this threading process did take a while it was pretty simple.

Once the ceramics were threaded, next came the fun part – installing the spinal wrap to hold it all together.

After a quick trip to the hardware store for a $29.95 heat gun, I was ready.

The heat from the heat gun shrank the spinal wrap tightly around the ceramics, forming the perfect looking brake and gear lines. After some small trimming with a craft knife, the cables were ready to put on my bike.

Installing the finished cables is exactly the same process as for any other set of cables. Within minutes the old cables and outers were removed, and the new Vertebrae cables in place.

The ceramic cables come in a few different types, Campagnolo, Shimano or SRAM. I installed the cables on my 2008 Campagnolo groupset.

The Test
Vertebrae claim their system provides smooth and efficient braking, and easy shifting.

While I am not a mechanic, nor an expert in the performances of brake and gear lines, these did feel good.

The braking was as Vertebrae claim – very direct. Every pull on the lever felt like it was grabbing harder and harder.

The gear shifts also felt smoother and easier to make, in part due to the compressionless ceramics, and to the qualities of the teflon liner.

Teflon has one of the lowest coefficients of friction, making this lubrication free liner a great choice for brake and gear lines.

Visually, the Vertebrae lines look stunning. White ceramics covered in a clear outer looked sharp on my black bike, but never fear, Vertebrae have colours to match any frame or colour scheme you require.

I don’t want to go back to normal cables again. The combination of great looks and better braking performance is a winner for me.
Vertebrae can be purchased as pre made cables, self assembly kits, or in any combination of parts should you ever need to rebuild a line, or replace due to a crash.

Vertebrae brake and gear lines are available for Shimano, Sram, Campagnolo and FSA. These are not just for road bikes either. They are also suitable for other bikes too – BMX, MTB, or fixie.

The self assembly kit tested are available online at for a price of 195 euros. (approximately NZ$400)

If it helps, you could even justify this to your non-cycling partner as a “safety device”.

Ben Christian, Editor – Road Cycling.

I’m all about the go faster. But of all my perusal of product catalogues, new bike stores and what’s online, cable outers barely feature in my reckoning (unless I’m trying to be a fashion victim by colour co-ordinating).

Vertebrae is a Spanish company run by an Australian Doctor producing what they believe to be is the best quality cable outers you can get this side of Barcelona.

The cables themselves are made of small non-corrosive ceramic discs which are then shrink wrapped into a housing and lined internally with a full length Teflon liner. The ceramic discs are what give the housing its flexibility but also its compression rigidity. They believe that have achieved a veritable Chris King status for cable outers with longer life, less maintenance, no lubrication and better performance.

They manufacture both gear and cable housings for both the road and mountain market. They are certainly attractive with 16 different colours available ranging from hot pink to Tour de France yellow, and even one that will glow in the dark. This fact alone may appeal to proud bike owners anywhere.

Because of the nature of the housing some smarts and specialist tools are required for you to cut to length at home. Alternatively you can pre-order your desired length and it will be delivered to your door ready to be installed.

We have been using both the brake and gear cable solutions. Brake cable outers are less relevant to us mountain bikers these days so I had mine on my commuter. Its performance was certainly impressive with a firm sold feel to the brake lever and no softness after continued use. I’ve been using this for 6 months with nothing but exceptional performance with not even a consideration for replacement on a bike ridden five days a week.

The gear outer offered fantastic flexibility with tighter corners but initially had some frustrating friction resulting in ghost shifting, but after some investigation and consultation I discovered I had cut the Teflon liner too long and it was interfering with the shifter. Since then it has worked flawlessly with quick fluent shifts, no signs of wear and certainly no risk of the ends failing like on traditional housings.

I expect these outers to be used for a long time yet (like another year if not longer) with occasional replacement of the cables themselves. They are pretty expensive for cable outers running at 99 Euros for 1.5metres (on special) but if you want the best and want something that will last, then the solution could be right up your alley.

Read the review here.

Mark Dangerfield, Spoke Magazine reviewer.

Really is a great product. Can’t believe how much difference it has made to removing the compression sponginess in the rear brake cable run especially. Very cool.

– Sam Hocking

The Greatest outer cable system i have ever used.

– Brenden Smyth

Just in from my first ride with the vert’s and all I can say is ‘wow’, smooth like butter! Effortless like pushing a button on a vid’ game or a tv remote. Thanks again and I’ll let you know of any changes should there be any.

Kind regards.

Craig Campbell


Just a quick note to let you know that my order arrived today. Not a single detail is missing so it seems, and I’m really excited to install and run them on my bike soon.

Thanks so much for a really smooth shopping experience!

P.S. I just love the way you packed the kit. You know, with the 62 cent stamps stuck all over the box. Nice work!

Update 29/09/2010:
Also, the ceramic housings have lived up to my expectations in every way so far. They work perfect everyday, and no cracks or creaking. After the initial setup they’re spotless. Just wanted to thank you for the great product.

Best regards,
Shinichi Nagira

As a part of a recent update on my road bike, I installed a set of ceramic shift and brake lines from Vertebrae. The housing is very flexible, allowing for tighter and shorter (lighter) cable runs. However, the primary advantage is that they are “compressionless”. So instead of the cables first deforming the cable housing when you shift or brake, when using the Vertebrae housing, the movement on the shoft/brake lever is directly transmitted to the brake/derailleur. This translates into easier/lighter shifting and more powerful braking with better modulation.
My upgrade included SRAM Red/EE Brakes/Vertebrae brake lines (from the Shimano Dura-Ace 7800/Zero Gravity Brakes/Standard Shimano Housing combo I have been running the last 3 years). I have been testing the new setup since May and have put them through their paces on regular training rides and in the TN/NC mountains during the Cherohala Challenge.
So, while I can’t explicitly isolate the impact of the brake lines directly (because I did the entire upgrade all at once), I can say that the new setup is a huge improvement. My braking on fast mountain decents was incredible and the shifting is flawless. Besides the fact that they just plain work, as an added bonus, I think they look really trick to boot! The Vertebrae brake lines certainly aren’t cheap, but they should last forever and I would argue that having superior braking when it matters most is downright priceless.

Greg Grossart

I’ve been running the Vertebrae cables on my Klein and like them so much that I put them on this bike. Tenerife has pretty steep and long descents, so I’ve been looking for cables that noticeably increase braking performance. I’ve tried Nokon, iLink, etc… and they all work, but some either creak, are a pain to clean, flop around (when no tension), don’t do tight bends, or need protectors so they don’t scratch the frame. I haven’t had any of those hassles with the Vertebrae. Shifting is smooth and flawless, and braking is better than anything I’ve used.

– Johannes Vranek

They arrived yesterday and fitted this morning ….. The performance of these cables is quite remarkable ! It really is hard to put in to words just how much improvement there is in the all the round performance and feel i now have with the gear change system Just to note these are fitted to shimano105 and ultegra mix . i will leave positive ebay feed back when i get home later many thanks

– Craig Elliot

The cables arrived yesterday. When I took them out of the box, I was certainly impressed. They’re a very classy looking product indeed. Not wanting to waste any time, I immediately started fitting them up! Everything went very smoothly, although I think I will need to order some more of the clear wrap to properly re-cover sections where I needed to shorten the housing.

The ride to work this morning gave me a chance to test the operation, and they are great! All up, everything is fitted, adjusted, and working pretty darn well… The shifter cables feel awesome – equal to, if not a little crisper than the Nokons.

All up, Leslie, I’ve got no complaints with the cables – they are performing really well, even though I still have a bit of adjusting to do. I’m really pleased with them.


– Corey Freeman

All received in perfect order in what has to be the fastest post to Sydney ever.

Dominic Sargent

I am a bicycle owner, lucky enough to be able to buy the best technologies available to date… I say this with as much humbleness as can be conveyed.

My philosophy on choice of frame and componentry is simple: Strength first. Lightweight-ness second.

Operating with this in mind has led me to Vértebræ Cables over all others. The reason is as simple as my philosophy stated above. These are the strongest, longest lasting cables in the world. Period.

Qualifications for this statement can be found by not only reading Dr. Leslie Brown’s material’s statement, but in any other google search for “ZTA Ceramic.”

It is always nice to discover a new product that you know will be around for a long while. My prediction is Vértebræ Cables will overcome any market skittishness and become the ne plus ultra cables of choice for non-electric, non-hydraulic cable systems.

These cables are expensive. Sometimes being expensive is the price of excellence! Can a Ferrari be made cheaply I ask?

The market for such luxury items exists and this is the market that will exploit the availability of “the best.”

My own impression of the effectiveness of the cables: Usually, the more expensive items become, the returns are diminished. Not with these cables. They are notably, markedly, better than any mechanical cables I’ve tried. The actuation is lightning swift and consistent… over and over again. I have to thank Dr. Brown for sticking his neck out on his no expense spared attitude I strongly believe will pay off when more, who can afford them, get to know his product.

UPDATE 01/09/11:

Am extremely happy with the cables. Not only are they great (the best out there now – not the very lightest but definitely the most compression-less and quiet. And, importantly, there’s no annoying squeaking like in the interlinked housing of the Nokons and Alligators if they get dusty and lack oiling), they look great too!

The Ultraclear FEP copolymer is (I really appreciate that they are tougher than your other offerings and are inert – easier to clean), and looks, fantastic! I really like my clear covering, clearly revealing all the tiny individual bone-like ceramic ‘vertebræ’!

I really am going to have professional pictures taken and send you some.

Greg Lammers

Can’t thank you enough, system’s been workin’ a dream!

Craig Campbell, UK


No worries I am pretty wrapped with them – I actually really enjoyed the building process and I love well designed products.

The flexibility to get the length exactly how I wanted it was excellent the ability to change the length both longer and shorter – actually going to shorten the gear ones again now that I have been fully set-up to get the nice even curves that I am after.

Would be great to drop some photos in will send some in once I have finished shortening the housings.

Good to hear you are breaking new ground,

Steve Waters
Project Controls, Terra Firma