I replaced my brake cables today, for the first time. It wasn't too tricky — slide the old cables out, slide the new ones in, crimp on the end caps. I had a little trouble clipping them, since my wire cutters couldn't handle the steel cables, but one of the bits of my Leatherman eventually did the trick. The cables had some rust on them, which explained part of the friction I'd been feeling in the brakes, but even the new ones got stuck going through the noodles (those J-shaped tubes of metal that steer the cables to the brakes), which were gunked up with congealed grease. I made an evening trip to REI, that being the only place that was open, then replaced the noodles on the concrete in front of the store. A little adjustment to the spring tension screws, and my brakes were good as new.
While I was at it, I replaced the brake pads (which didn't quite need it yet) and put on new tubes and tires (which did — the tubes had two or three patches each, and the rubber of the tires was fissuring a bit). I'm experimenting with Bontrager's "Hard Case Plus" tires, which have all sorts of anti-flat technology built in; we shall see if they're worth the extra $10. kdsorceress stopped by to help with the maintenance and point out that my tires were on backwards and so on, which was very useful of her.
I'm going to celebrate my newly tuned bike with a trip to Rocky Narrows Reservation on Sunday. It's about a 37-mile round-trip, plus a couple of miles of hiking. Mmmm.