Weight weenies rejoice! In a world where bicycle parts are continuously getting lighter, with constant innovation and incredible technology coming down from component and frame manufacturers’ research and development departments, there’s one component that hasn’t seem much innovation; the brake cable. Most riders hardly give it any thought, but Power Cordz, a new brand of synthetic brake and shifter cables, may be changing all that.
Bicycle cables, traditionally simply constructed pieces of braided steel cable, now have a much better alternative, doing what the carbon tubular did to the box section aluminum rim several years ago. We’ve seen these so called “synthetic” brake cables hit the market in the recent few years, and many were skeptical that these could really make a difference. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it, right? Well, until you replace those steel cables with this new breed of modern technology, you don’t know just how broken your traditional cables are.
I installed a set of Power Cordz brake cables on one of my road bikes with a brand new Shimano Ultegra group back in May to figure out if there was any merit to building a better brake cable. The literature included was promising; lighter, stronger, more durable, and perhaps most important, more responsive. I set out to test the marketing hype against it’s actual performance, and as an admitted skeptic when it comes to things like this, was pleasantly surprised. See what these cables are all about after the break.
As soon as I unboxed them, I threw the Power Cordz on the scale. The company claims “an uncut 1.7m brake cord weighs less than 5g.” My scale read 5g exactly, 10g for the pair. Not bad when compared to the 23g (46g pair) Shimano cable my shop would have used. Saving 36g on just a pair of brake cables, and, if the company’s claims hold true, 60g when using Power Cordz brake and shift cables, is one of the most cost-effective weight saving parts upgrades you can make on your bike. At $70 for cable and housing for either a brake or shift cable set (so $140 if you replace all your cables), it’s a whole lot cheaper than a new frame or a new set of wheels, and a great way to take your new racing rig a step further.
The instructions included with Power Cordz are up front; these are not traditional brake cables, and they don’t install like traditional brake cables. My review set even included a “test cable”, not fit to be used on the road but included just for practice installing the system. Seeing this, I took everything down to my local shop, so there were some experts there just in case. We first tried the test cable, which taught us the valuable lesson that you only get one shot with these. Once the brake bolt is clamped around the cable, it breaks the outside housing, which means if you clamped it down in the wrong place, you are probably going to have to start with a fresh cable.
Installation of these cables isn’t like a traditional steel cable. The company recommends a Windsor clasp (provided with the Cordz) but several people have reported that simply looping the cord 180 degrees around the brakes pinch bolt works fine. Either way, you aren’t on your own. The company offers a step by step guide (with pictures) here, and there is also a series of YouTube videos guiding you through installation. After getting mine set up, I can say that most any home mechanic who has done a traditional brake cable install should be able to handle this with a little bit of patience. Don’t be afraid to read the instructions, and if you get really stuck, the company even includes a support number you can call to talk with a tech.
But do they work?
All brake cables are NOT created equal. I immediatly felt a difference with these cables, even on a new brake install. Just to be sure, the shop let me ride a similarly equipped bike (new Ultegra build) with traditional steel cables, and there was no question that the Power Cordz made a noticeable difference. The braking was much tighter and smoother from the get go. I hit the brakes hard coming into corners, feathered them on windy descents, and tapped them as I rode through busy city traffic. Each time, I felt the difference from my old steel cable. These cables opened up a whole new world for my mid-level brakes.
While I enjoyed the increased performance of my brakes, it took me a few months to really fall in love with these cables. Why? After a couple thousand miles, I hadn’t made a single adjustment to either the front or rear cable. Not a single inch of slack developed, because these cables don’t stretch. That’s right folks. No more cable stretch. Eight months later, they are still going strong, not a single issue. Power Cordz use a material called Zylon HM, which is stronger and lighter than steel. The material is about twice as strong as Kevlar, but doesn’t stretch out like traditional steel cables. The company also points out that because it is not a solid metal like steel, the material doesn’t rust or corrode, so you don’t have to worry about moisture over time.
The Bottom Line
Performance freaks, weight gurus, and those of you looking for a maintenance free cable solution, Power Cordz are for you. It’s a bit of a stretch to shell out $70 for a set of cables, but this is one of those products where you really will notice a difference. Great performance, super light weight, and maybe a little bothersome to install, but overall, a solid product that will stay on my bike. Next season, I’ll be trying out the shifter cables, hoping for the same great feel that I got with these brake Power Cordz.
Power Cordz are available now direct from the company at www.PowerCordz.com. The cables are available for both mountain and road brakes/shifting systems, and come in three colors; white, black, and yellow, with more colors on the way.
Has anyone else ever tried these? Let us know what you thought in the comments section below.