Cables are often overlooked as a cause for life unhappiness and premature general sadness takeover because folks are bummed. The reason cables are so often overlooked is that they're just not flashy, blingy parts. Even the Dura-Ace cable sets are gray and relatively inexpensive. You can't impress bike people with your Tiagra steed decked out in Dura-Ace shift cables: they will see right through you.
Sure, Nokon makes flashy compressionless housing out of little bits of metal, but they creak and click, and you can't get a good, precise adjustment out of them. Plus, they quickly eat through fragile paint such as that found on high-end steel bikes, while creaking and shifting poorly. Oh, and they corrode in salty conditions.
Gore makes expensive cables and housing, but the average bike observer can't tell outside of a five-foot radius that you're sporting Gore cables.
Average Bike Observer: "Is that a bicycle you've got there? I recognize that."
Bike Owner: "It just happens to be, yes."
Average Bike Observer: "What kind of bicycle is it?"
Bike Owner: "It's a Guerciotti X-Crow, 2009, with Sram Rival and wheels I built myself."
Average Bike Observer: "Oh, a Gary Fisher, eh? I like Gary Fishers. They're neat."
Bike Owner: "No, I said it's a Guerciotti."
Average Bike Observer: "Apology accepted. Where did you get the Gary Fisher?"
Bike Owner: "It's not a Gary Fisher. It's Italian. My cousin has a job that takes him to Europe every few years, and he picked up the frame for me in France."
Average Bike Observer: "Why did you need to go to France to get a Gary Fisher?"
Bike Owner: "IT'S NOT A GARY FISHER. LOOK AT THE DOWN TUBE, YOU MORON."
Average Bike Observer: "It's a forgery! They didn't spell Gary Fisher's name right. You got ripped off. Nice Jagwire cables though, are those Jagwires? Jagwires are neat."
Bike Owner: "A pox on your tardy-gaited household! Those are Gore Ride-Ons, you simpering sovereign of chaff and scrapple!"
Average Bike Observer: "Uh, thanks! I'll see you later!"
So cables don't make the bike: fashion-wise they're like seat collars, spokes, bar plugs, and stem caps: more or less invisible as long as they don't clash too badly. Cables are an important part of a good maintenance plan however. New cables and housing just put the icing on the cake of a well-tuned bike, at least until they stretch a bit and throw the whole world into despair.
This particular piece of housing made a bike shift very poorly:
Check out how much it scrunched up when the inner wires stampeded effortlessly through that cheezy plastic ferrule:
Yep, that's cause for complaining.