Review: Power Cordz Road Brake Cables

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┬áback 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.

Can this little cable really make a big difference?

Weight

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.

Installation

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.

While it may be a bit daunting at first, installation isn't that bad, I promise.

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.

Durability

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.

Comments

AnonymousChris - 12/10/10 - 1:15pm

I have a hard time getting past their use of a ‘Z’ in place of an ‘S’.

Andrew - 12/10/10 - 1:15pm

I used these for brakes, about 1500 miles. They were okay. They didn’t really travel all that smoothly. Seemed to be some significant friction in the housing. I don’t know, the weight savings is nice but not sure if I would get them again.

BubbRubb - 12/10/10 - 2:40pm

I’ve used the derailleur cables on many bikes, and they are fabulously light and stretch free. On my personal bike I run the cable through Nokon housing.
The brake cables are dangerous IMO… if they aren’t pinched properly, they crack and fray, and I’ve had them pull loose on panic stops. Once could argue that I’m at fault for improper installation, but as a professional I stand behind my work. Regardless, I’ won’t risk them on brakes ever again.

Robin - 12/10/10 - 3:06pm

I have used Power Cordz and found that they didn’t have the positive feel that steel cables had. Moreover, they didn’t last as long. Mine were installed by an LBS experienced at installing these “cordz”. I found both Campy and Shimano cables provided better “feel” and durability. As for the weight difference between PCordz and regular cables….well….that weight difference provides a performance benefit on par with farting as you go up hill, which is to say one not worth thinking about. As for stretch, it’s awesome and frankly amazing that Power Cordz exhibit “no stretch”. Who knew that it would be a bike component that would re-write physics and prove wrong material science theories.

Cody - 12/10/10 - 4:23pm

I have used Power Cordz on both my road and cross bikes (shift&brake) and mountain bike (shift only) for four years (replacing each once a year) and have experienced many positive results. I am a racer and self proclaimed “weight weenie” for sure and appreciate every gram I can save. My titanium 29er hardtail comes in at 18.5 pounds, ti cross bike 17 pounds, and my ti road bike 15 pounds (road is for training so I don’t care to go lighter). The biggest benefit I have experienced with these cables are that they improve shifting (especially in poor conditions) on all bikes. The lack of “stretch” is noticeable as I too did not need to readjust any cable on any bike after the housing settles in (that is where the majority of “stretch” occurs, and is really more compression of the housing than stretching of the cable). If you use their housing, the shifting/braking is smoother than any steel cable. Braking modulation improved on my cross bike as well. Using canti’s with road brake levers often leaves a mushy lever feel. These cables firmed things up quite a bit. I’m a big fan and highly recommend them to any one who likes the best equipment possible on their bikes.

Cody Waite
http://www.epcmultisport.com

KGr - 12/10/10 - 10:34pm

I’ve used their shift cables on my mountain bike. Great idea, but they stretch under tension, making shifting mushy and less precise than with a traditional steel cable – so I eventually switched back. They might work better under a light-action shifting system like the new Dynasys 10-speed, but I haven’t tried that combination myself.

ShopMechanic - 12/10/10 - 10:55pm

My experience was that I didn’t like the finicky installation procedure and the increase risk involved with it. I’ve found that teflon coated cables with nosed plastic ferrules will get you all the smooth power you can get with the power cordz. The only advantage I can see with the power cordz is weight. Let’s be honest with ourselves though, if you have done any racing can you honestly say that 60 grams of cable weight cost you a single place in a race?

Justin - 12/29/10 - 12:28pm

Hello, I am the Sales Manager for Powercordz and I just wanted to let all of you know that if you have any problems with the powercordz to please call the tech line or email us with any questions. We have sold tens of thousands of these cordz around the world with very little negative feedback and overwhelming positive feedback. We get emails all the time from people who have been using the same set of Powercordz for years and they have replaced the housing 2-3 times while continuing to use the same Powercordz. We sponsor mountain bike, road, and triathlon race teams and enjoyed success in all of these areas. The bottom line is in our experience, if the Powercordz are installed correctly with a couple of extra small steps when compared to traditional cables systems the Powercordz are definately proven as being a high performance product.

Post a comment:

Comment sections can be a beautiful source of knowledge, conversation and comedy. They can also get pretty ugly, which is why we've updated our Comments Policy. If your comment isn't showing up or suddenly disappears, you might want to check it out.