Price: $69 per cable/housing system (brake or derailleur); $37 per cable set
Made in: U.S.
Weight: <10 grams/pair (cables); 45g/meter (housing)
Compatibility: Campagnolo, Shimano, SRAM
Features: synthetic-fiber cables in nylon casing; bonded anodized aluminum ends; Kevlar-reinforced housing pre-lubed with Teflon grease; special Windsor clasps for brake system
RBR advertiser: no
How obtained: cold cash
Tested: 12 hours
Power Cordz brake and derailleur cables are ingenious and revolutionary. Instead of the steel or stainless-steel cables that have been standard on 2-wheelers since 1902 (really), Cordz are made of about 10,000 synthetic fibers in a protective and slippery nylon casing.
The synthetic material is called Zylon HM or PBO, which Power Cordz says is “a rigid-rod isotropic crystal polymer with superior tensile strength and modulus of elasticity” compared to steel cables. Although it may not be quite accurate to call Cordz “cables,” I’ll do it because the Power Cordz website does.
The chief advantage of these high-tech cables is weight savings. By switching from steel you can save about 60 grams (2.14 oz.). A Dura-Ace brake and shift cable set (4 cables, no housing) totals about 75 grams vs. the Power Cordz at 15 grams.
This might not seem like much, but at about 2 grams per meter, Cordz are darn impressive to hold in your hand, especially when you have the removed steel cables in the other. If you want a featherweight road machine, every gram counts.
A Complete System
Power Cordz systems come with everything needed for the derailleurs or brakes. I purchased the correct kits to replace my Litespeed Vortex’s Dura-Ace original equipment. Other kits are made for most road and MTB systems. I should mention that I favor Dura-Ace cables and housing and think they set the standard for friction-free operation, efficiency and durability.
Each Cordz kit includes inner cables, Teflon-lubed housing (E-Z Bend derailleur housing sections allow smoother routing) and aluminum ferrules. The brake kit has what the company calls Windsor clasps (more about these in a moment). Cordz also have bonded and anodized-aluminum ends (the part held inside a lever), which are lighter than the lead ends on standard cables.
Interestingly, Power Cordz can be trimmed to length with a sharp knife. No special cable cutter is required. And because Cordz have a nylon casing they won’t fray, so end caps aren’t needed.
To install Power Cordz you basically copy your old setup, sizing the new housing to match old sections, routing the new pieces and re-taping the handlebar. The ferrules provided didn’t fit my frame stops as well as the ones they replaced, but they did work.
You probably won’t need little rubber O-rings on the rear brake cable. They’re used to prevent the cable from rattling annoyingly against the top tube. Because Cordz aren’t metal I haven’t heard any of that pinging on my titanium frame.
The only thing I found tricky was attaching the brake Cordz at their anchor bolts. A normal cable passes under the bolt in a straight line. But now you need to tie a knot around the anchor bolt. This is where the provided Windsor clasp (shown here) comes in. It takes the place of the stock pressure washer, being recessed on the back to press on the knot and clamp it securely.
Now that I’ve installed the brake Cordz the knots make perfect sense. But I found the instruction manual confusing and had to read it repeatedly to make sure I was doing it right. The photo helps. It feels strange tying a knot in a cable and the Cordz resist a little. You need to pull forcefully to get it tight before snugging the anchor bolt.
Derailleur Cordz don’t require knotting, but you do need to wrap them around the cable anchor bolt with a 180-degree bend. That’s easy.
Typically, after installing metal cables you stretch them and seat the ferrules by operating the brakes and derailleurs, then you remove the slack. Power Cordz don’t stretch, according to the company, but you still need to shift and brake to seat and check everything. I did this and got some slack in the brake cables from the ferrules seating.
Re-tensioning the brake Cordz was interesting. Because you’ve tied a knot around the cable anchor bolt you can’t simply loosen it and pull on the cable end. You need to loosen the knot, snug the cable and retie the knot. This, plus crushing it again in the Windsor clasp, makes it seem like you’re abusing the cable. The directions say it isn’t a problem, that you can’t harm Cordz this way because of the protective nylon casing. I didn’t see any signs of damage.
I don’t have a lot of time on the Power Cordz but so far they are working as promised — smooth, quiet and sure. Maybe it’s a matter of getting used to them or being too used to steel cables, but I feel that braking and shifting are slightly softer now than with Dura-Ace cables. It’s hard to describe. I can still stop quickly and hit all the gears but it’s a different feel that reminds me of the first time I had power brakes in a car. It takes some getting used to.
Although Cordz aren’t supposed to stretch, I’ve had to turn the barrel adjuster on my rear derailleur to take up slack and dial-in the shifting, just as with a steel cable.
I’m impressed with the technology behind the Power Cordz and how the company has pushed the envelope in a new area to find a clever way to save more grams. I’m satisfied with how well these synthetic cables have worked so far. I’m sure riders with superlight bicycles will love how they eliminate even more weight.
However, the tricky setup, negligible braking and shifting gains, 3-year lifespan of the brake Cordz and relatively high price (Dura-Ace cable/housing sets cost about $45 less) make me think Power Cordz are not an upgrade that everyone will (or should) want to make.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.