Powercordz Synthetic Shift Cables - Review

Apr 6, 2010 at 0:07
Apr 6, 2010
by Mike Levy  
 
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How does a synthetic shift cable that will never rust, doesn't stretch, and is made of the same material that holds the wheels on a Formula One car on in the event of an accident, sound to you? With 10,000 PBO fibers hidden within the length of a single cable, Powercordz have brought high tech to our simple cables.

Read on...

Who else out there thinks that it is bit odd that we are still using steel cables to control shifting (and sometimes braking) on our advanced modern bicycles? While there are certainly arguments to be made in their favor, they're cheap and easy to work with, there are also drawbacks to the time tested steel wire based system. Any rider who has had their shifting go haywire shortly after having a new cable installed knows full well how much a standard cable is affected by stretch. One minute things are dialed and the next it's like your derailleur has a mind of its own. It may only need a quick adjustment, but it can be a pain in the ass regardless. The larger issue is how easily susceptible a steel cable is to contaminates, even when used with fully enclosed housing. The alternative is a cable that doesn't stretch and doesn't rust.

Powercordz in 1.2 and 1.5 mm sizes
Powercordz in 1.2 and 1.5 mm sizes

The solution, according to Power Cordz, is their synthetic cables that are claimed not to stretch and require readjustments or rust and corrode from bad weather or washings. As a bonus the Power Cordz system is claiming 45-60 grams of weight loss overall, which sounds like a lot since we're just talking about a few cables. Too good to be true? The heart of the Power Cordz system is their use of Zylon HM fiber (also known as PBO) that is encased within a thin layer of smooth nylon. The PBO fibers actually number around ten thousand per cable and each strand is amazingly thin but strong. When holding the 1.2 mm diameter cord on your fingers it is hard to believe that there are actually 10,000 separate fibers running lengthwise that are hidden within. The nylon coating protects the fibers from damage and also helps to keep the cord running as smooth as possible. Further helping matters is Power Cordz' supplied housing that uses a fluorinated polymer lining that works well with the cord's nylon coating. An anodized aluminum cable end is then bonded onto the end of the cord and is tested to withstand 600 lbs of force, the same as its steel counterpart.

Powercordz packaging
Powercordz packaging

• Available in both 1.5 mm and 1.2 mm diameters to fit 5 mm and 4 mm housing
• The 1.2 mm size is compatible with all common shift systems (SRAM, Shimano, Campagnolo)
• The 1.5 mm size may require slight modification to work properly with some shifters
• Compatible with Rohloff shifters and Nokon aluminum housing
• 1.2 mm cable weighs 2 grams, 1.5 mm cable weighs 3 grams (standard steel gear cable weighs 14 grams)
• Manufactured in the U.S.A.
• Two year defect warranty
• MSRP $69.95 CAD (includes two shifter cables, housing, ferrels, and barrel adjusters), MSRP $37.95 (includes two shifter cables)

I never really thought of a standard gear cable as being heavy, there really isn't much to it. But holding a 1.2 mm Power Cordz cable in the other hand makes it clear that there is certainly a big difference although the numbers themselves are quite small. A steel cable comes in at 14 grams and the 1.2 mm Power Cordz at 2 grams. That's only 12 grams between them per cable, but the Power Cordz is seven times as light. Most of you will scoff at the weight savings but there are those out there who will appreciate it. In my mind the real advantage is the system's claim of far greater reliability.

Installation and Riding

I installed three Powercordz shift cables, one for my rear SRAM derailleur, one for my HammerSchmidt, and one to control my KS i950r adjustable seatpost. I used the supplied Powercordz 4 mm housing and sealed ferrel's for each one.

While not overly tricky, the Powercordz certainly do take some extra attention and care to install correctly. I would urge anyone who is going to put these on their bike to read the instructions and watch the installation videos on the Powercordz website. Straight out of the package the very end of the both gear shift cables were slightly frayed and needed to be trimmed clean in order to be pushed through the housing. Not a big deal, but make sure you use a sharp set of cable cutters in order to get a clean cut. I installed the 1.2 mm cable with the supplied Powercordz 4 mm housing and their sealed housing ferrels. An awl, pointy spoke, or some other tool that can be used to open up the housing after trimming is mandatory in order to feed the Powercordz cable through. Take the time to make sure all your housing ends are cut straight and not on an angle for the best possible performance. The cable itself is not as rigid lengthwise as a braided steel shift cable and trying to force it through blocked housing will only kink the cable and render it useless. Care needs to be taken when feeding it through the ferrels as well because of the O-ring seals in each one. Because of the slick nylon coating on each cable they do require a slightly different technique when it comes time to clamp them down at the derailleur. More clamping force is needed (don't go overboard here!) and they require you to wrap the cable back around the bolt in order to get more contact area. Despite reading the instructions and taking my time, I managed to damage a cable as I tightened the cable anchor bolt. The cause turned out to be the washer under the cable anchor bolt had rusted in place and was turning with the bolt. The washer stripped off the nylon coating and I was left with exposed and frayed PBO strands. Hardly the fault of the Powercordz, but it highlights the delicate nature of the cables. The second time around I made sure that the washer was moving free and I had no issues. With two shift cables alone costing $37.95 CAD, you'll want to check those sorts of things before you install!

A damaged Powercordz due to wrong installation technique
A damaged Powercordz due to wrong installation technique

Once installed correctly, the Powercordz moved quite smoothly through the housing. My rear SRAM system's high spring tension does hide some of the extra smoothness that the composite cables add, but those with lighter action Shimano shifters and derailleurs will certainly instantly notice an improvement in perceived shift effort. The obvious telling factor for me was the improved action of my cable activated KS i950r telescoping post. Because the KS remote lever doesn't use a return spring (the only return spring is located at the actuation arm on the post's head), the slightest amount of cable friction is instantly noticeable. With the Powercordz installed the remote thumb lever for the post snapped back quickly, something it's never done with a standard cable installed. Also, there was next to no cable stretch. In fact, I'm betting that the small barrel adjustment that I made only needed to be done due to housing caps seating in. It's all well and good that the Powercordz worked great when new, that's to be expected for the price, but the advantage of not using a steel cable was more obvious down the road. Countless rides in terrible conditions that were followed up by irresponsible power washings have done nothing to faze the PBO shift cables. They are moving as free as the first day I installed them. Forget about the minute weight savings, for those who ride a lot, especially in less than ideal conditions, the Powercordz do make a lot of sense simply for the fact that they require basically zero maintenance. They are far more resilient to contamination than even stainless cables could ever hope to be. After countless miles I have encountered only a single problem. One of my bike's housing stops turned out to be not quite open enough to let the cable pass through without it rubbing against the aluminum. The nylon coating was quickly peeled off in that small section, exposing the PBO fibers within. Funny thing though, my shifting is still flawless. I plan on leaving it for now just to see how long it will hold up, but it should be mentioned that one of the nylon coating's jobs is to protect the PBO fibers from harmful UV rays.


Tensile strength - the force required to pull something to the point where it breaks:
   * PBO - 5.8 GPa
   * Steel cable - 2.8GPa

Tensile modulus - the ratio of stress to elastic strain where more stress is required to produce a given amount of strain:
   * PBO - 270 GPa
   * Steel - 200 GPa

Weight
   * PBO - 1.56 g/cm3
   * Steel - 7.8 g/cm3


A bit hard to tell from this picture, but the cable is wrapped around and back on itself to keep from slipping
A bit hard to tell from this picture, but the cable is wrapped around and back on itself to keep from slipping

The facts are that they are costly, finicky to install, and don't take kindly to being handled roughly. They also happen to require essentially no maintenance or adjustment at any point. I can see a lot of riders, myself included, being attracted to these for those reasons. Many readers will scoff at the Powercordz cables, but how many of those people have bikes worth $2000 and up in their garage that aren't shifting up to spec due to rusty $3 cables? With each cable costing roughly ten times as much as a standard gear cable, you'll have to decide if the Powercordz cables are for you.

Do the Powercordz cables make sense for you, or are they completely out to lunch?

Powercordz.com
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76 Comments

  • + 9
 go single speed! Big Grin lol
  • + 5
 why not?

1. cheaper
2. chain never jumps
3. no mech to bend or snap
  • + 3
 and its just not practable for many users of trail riding and dh.
  • + 1
 i rode freeride and dh for about 3 weeks single speed didn't have any issues and i ran it on my smallest cog lol gets you a lot fitter
  • + 4
 no 1.no gears 2.no gears 3.no gears
  • + 2
 you don't need gears man up get fit and get on with it! So little issues with single speed
  • + 4
 Yes! I've been riding singlespeed for about 3 months now and I just zoom off into the sunset as I laugh at my friends while they meddle with their silly derailleurs. Not to mention you get mad props when you muscle your way up a 6 mile climb and still finish faster than the guys who drop to the granny gear and spin away.
  • + 3
 I do like singlespeed on a hardtail but i also love my X.0 on a fully wit a good chainguide it works like a dream.
  • + 2
 finally people who like single speed! It just makes biking so much easier grab the bike put a little lube on the fork and go!
  • + 4
 Dboerma, you laughin at us granny gear folks? I'll have you know that I still make it up the hill... eventually. Also, if you run Sram, you don't have to "meddle" with your dérailleurs, they shift precise every time, straight into the granny gear!
  • + 4
 no way im spending that for a cable.
  • + 3
 There is a reason cars and motorcycles have gears. Singlespeed is fun, but you have to be a bit of a masochist.
  • + 1
 they have gears so you dont fry your motor and tranny, they need the for going up and down hills at defferent speed. imagine you car going 60 in first gear. if you say thats fine then try doing it on your bike because a cars gears arnt much bigger.
  • + 1
 collin7, haha I guess I'm just used to my tore up shimano shifting from 2001. Still though... you know you dig my ghetto full suspension singlespeed. All the fun of a regular singlelpeed but without the efficiency haha
  • + 1
 This is the big mis-conception with single speed.....It doesn't get you fitter! It might build some strength, but it doesn't build stamina, that comes from spinning higher cadences, in which you need gears for uphill or flat. Single speed can also screw up your knees from pushing high a relitavly high gear up hill.
  • + 2
 Lol, yeah most people have all run the old Shitmano at least once or twice when they first started biking! It builds character... then when you upgrade to Sram, you feel like your in heaven!
  • + 1
 Back in a day after experiencing shimano derailleurs I switched to single speed for about 4 years LOL then I discovered sram.. Shimano's cranks and breaks are great but I can't stand the way their gears work.
  • + 0
 Dont tink about having sigle speed as a bad thing, to add to all the great and true comments up there ^^

When you ride single speed you get usto it, and are able to use it towards your advantage at any type of riding. Whether uphill or downhill it is just overall that much easier to use that a shifter.

I know ima prob get downpropped for this but w/e its my opinion. Razz
  • + 0
 Not for your opinion, for your grammar... I could hardly understand anything you just said.
  • + 0
 -_- sorry for not being a grammar natzi.
  • + 1
 I hate to think of myself as a grammar Nazi... I am terrible at anything grammar or spelling related. But "tink", among other things, is a pretty easy fix! I really did have to read it twice to piece your thoughts together.
  • - 1
 I got a new keyboard recently and the keys arent coaperating + i dont really care for how i spelt a word, i dont go over what i just rote 5 times. not being a dick to you... just i cant stand people that go crazy for grammar.
[Reply]
  • + 7
 great concept, but i think it needs a bit more refining for its price tag. I would have to try one out before i bought one.
  • + 3
 looks good, I'll have to try one out also
  • + 6
 I fitted a goodridge cable and braided housing (I ran the cable through some Finish Line Ceramic Grease before threading it into the housing) to my bike at the start of the year after my gears ceased to exist on my old cables. I've done absolutely no mainainence on my drivetrain since then and they're still running as smoothly as the first day, and that includes multiple power washes between periods of weeks without washing the bike.

For this reason alone I really dont see why such a fiddly expensive product such as these synthetic cables is worth considering untill it has seen some serious development.

Just my 2 cents.
  • + 4
 I've had powercordz for about a year now. so far it hasn't given me any issues. and yes... I destroyed my cable in the same way shown for the same reason with the anchor nut! I'm about to put powercordz on all my bikes! I'll get extra cable as well, not that I think they'll exer need replacing. It's worth it for how smooth it is. considering how much is sent on other parts of a bike, it shouldn't be considered a rear downfall. there's more expensive stuff out there... gore rideon cables??? the metal hardware in the kit is a nice touch. the 5mm housin is light for 5mm housing, but 4mm is the way to go for light weight! and BTW, I didn't put a crimp on the end of the cable. I'm not sure it actuslly needs it. so far so good
  • + 2
 they need these for brakelines
  • + 4
 whats wrong with buying pre-stretched cables ? and whats wrong with turning the adjuster barrel 1/4 or 1/2 a turn to take up any slack that's grown?
  • + 1
 greasing the cable at installation also completely solves the dust/rust problems to
  • + 3
 Also just to note: When putting the ferrules on the housing, especially if you have some pretty dope aluminium ferrules like the goodridge ones, leave about a 2mm gap between the end of the housing and the bottom of the ferrule and pack that wee gap tae f*ck with grease - Basically acts as an open lubrication port and stops any dust/dirt/moisture getting in. Epic win!
  • + 1
 has anyone ever even thought of hydraulic shifting?
like it works for brakes so why shouldnt it work for shifting?
  • - 2
 expensive product with cheap and cheesy name.

the name alone puts me off Frown
  • + 3
 £700 GBP? No thanks.
[Reply]
  • + 3
 POWERCORDZ. Really, that's the best name they could come up with? EXTREME advertising always sounds stupid, you think having 'power' and 'z' in there make it sound cool? Well I guess I'm just shitpicking. $70 for just two cables and housing, I could buy many regular ones for that price. If it was $35 for two cables and housing I think I'd be more interested.
[Reply]
  • + 2
 Question 1: I assume these have a finite life. How long is it, and what causes the final death (perhaps the nylon outer of the inner rubbing against the nylon inner of the outer?).

Question 2. What stops dirt/grit/dust/mud getting into the housing? Or doesn't contamination hurt the shifting or longevity?
  • + 3
 wouldn't that 2nd question be for ALL cable housing?
  • + 1
 No, because some cable housing lets dirt and mud in, while others have little silicon seals (like some Jagwire end caps) or rubber gromits and stuff (like you find with the XTR cable and outer kit). Since he says there is virtually no maintenance, either their must be little seals at the end of the housing OR the system is not affected by anything that gets in there. More seals and tighter tolerances means cleaner cables but more friction. I'm interested in how they achieve the "almost zero maintenance" (either tolerance or exclusion of dirt).
  • + 26
 if you guys read the article you would have read this line: "I installed the 1.2 mm cable with the supplied Powercordz 4 mm housing and their sealed housing ferrels"

and

"Care needs to be taken when feeding it through the ferrels as well because of the O-ring seals in each one."
  • + 0
 How did I mmiss that. Thanks Deuplonicus.
[Reply]
  • + 6
 looks like a waste of time
[Reply]
  • + 1
 It's too early to give these cables a proper run for their value, give it a few years for further research+development and improvements (mainly a significant drop in price). Then maybe they'll stack up against the current field. personally I think if you can't be bothered to put up with some cable stretch and retightening once in a while then why the hell do you put up with bikes at all? these are machines whatever way you look at them and all machines need some tlc once in a while. As for the price to weight saving this is the last component on a bike I would fuss over. This doesn't appeal to me in the slightest.
  • + 1
 they have been being used for approx 15-20 years... and yea I know this an old post
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Use Shimano XTR Stainless Steel Cables, Teflon Coated and Stainless Tough. Use that with Shimano SIS-SP41 Cable Housing, and you are Golden! The Teflon liner with a nice Silicone Grease, will keep your Shifts Crisp and Clean. Replace your Cables and Housing Regularly! Yes the Coefficient of Friction with PowerCordz will be lower. However the vulnerability of the Nylon Casing and the Zylon HM fiber's, UV-Ray induced half-life, question reliability. The cost to weight ratio is great, save the coin replace your Cables with Shimano. Eat a Powerbar if you are worried about carrying the extra 60g's.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Nifty sure, but don't jagwire Rip Chord sets do the same thing? They have those sealed ferrules and teflon coated cables and cost half as much? I don't see these on DH bikes due to their fragile nature and the open cable frames that are out lately. Just my 2 cents.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 the sealed ferrules add significant drag, and aren't that dependable. i have had really good luck with the nokon housing. even if you have cable stops the liner can run full length from inside the shifter all the way through the cable hole in the derrailluer
[Reply]
  • + 1
 may sound like a sucker but im defently get this as my shifting is all over the place at the moment after it was fitted with new cable and outer but im for anything that can improve my shifting good write up
  • + 2
 Whoever installed your new cable is a moron , don't let them work on your bike. Ever seen how much weight a steel cable will hold? Its pretty damn impressive , fancy synthetic cables are not going to solve issues with improper installation. You'll break your shift levers off before you significantly stretch a steel cable under normal shifting.
  • + 3
 OOOOoooooooooh Kay.
  • + 3
 No they won't. The steel cable will stretch, your shifting goes to crap and your levers will still be there.
  • + 4
 as long as the cables are lubed and not rusted the longer you have them the tighter the weave stronger shifting just have to take the slack out
  • - 1
 Read: Significantly , I didn't say they never needed adjustment. That's what barrel adjusters are for, but were talking millimeters here...
  • - 1
 I still dont see where anybody mentioned anything about steel cables stretching significant amounts...
[Reply]
  • + 3
 I save more in weight by shitting before I ride.
  • + 1
 Or cutting your fingernails. 12 grams is NOTHING... As soon as you get mud or water on your bike it will equal that.
  • + 3
 12 grams out of 14grams is 70%.
thats ALOT of weight saved (in proportion).
and once your bike is covered in mud and water it will still be 12g lighter than it would be without these cables.
for weenies this is good value $/g
  • - 1
 lol but 12g's out of say an extremley light 10kg bike is about 0.1% so its NOT ALOT of weight saved in proportion...
  • - 1
 im sorry, but you obviously dont get what im trying to say.
this is a cheap way to save a large margin of weight on a given component.
if i wanted to save 70% of weight from any other component on my bike id have a hard time finding a replacement let along affording one.
  • + 3
 yea i get what you trying to say but 70% of f*** all is still f*** all. its not worth the extra for the weight saving, for the extra performance...maybe.
[Reply]
  • + 3
 How much!!!!?? your kidding right!? April fools was last week!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 THEY SUCK! flat out I ran them for a week and the shifting blew! had 4 other guys at the shop run them and they all had the same problem!
[Reply]
  • + 1
 no way am i ever buying that. might have better luck selling to the bicycle commuter crowd who needs super reliable bikes.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 I can go to crappy tire (Canadian tire)and by shifter cables for a dollar each and there not that hard to change ive been running one of them for over a year.
[Reply]
  • + 1
 the reel problem is dust and it is not solved with this new cables so.... waste of money...
[Reply]
  • + 2
 could this be used with a brake?
  • + 3
 Why? Hydraulic brakes are the way to go...especially with the price tag these things have.
  • + 1
 I think that is what the 5mm is designed for
  • + 1
 Well I had hydro but i just switched to a bb7 for street cuz I keep messin up my hose and thanks I'm gonna look into this
[Reply]
  • + 1
 i have had these for a year and they rock!! they are so great:P
[Reply]
  • + 1
 Who is the Canadian distributor for them? Only lists the US distributors.
[Reply]
  • + 0
 Yet another product for poser yuppies to spend their money on.
[Reply]
  • - 1
 give it time boys, the price will drop.
[Reply]

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