637 Days To Go is my blog, which was originally started with exactly 637 days until the start of the London 2012 Paralympic Games. And now it's been re-started with 637 days until the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Shifting... with a difference

I've had my current road bike for a few years now and have loved most things about it. Plus I decided to switch to Sram components years ago, when the Red system first came out, and for the most part I've been really happy with it. But if there's one issue I've had with my bike and the components – it's been the shifting of the gears.

Now, I'm sure my good friends at Fisher Outdoors (who sell Sram in the UK) aren't going to be happy when they read this and say it's because the cabling wasn't installed properly or blame some other factor for the poor shifting – and they are probably right! I personally think I've had issues with the shifting due to the difficult cable run on my bike (a Cervelo S3). Some tight, tricky bends through the frame mean that cables don't always pull the way they are supposed to. 

Whenever I install a new set of cables, things seem to work great for a short period of time before things start to get 'sticky'. I have tried several different systems from Gore's fully sealed system to generic cables to ├╝ber-fancy Aligator i-Link compressionless cabling. They have all had their issues.  Plus, as a bit of a weight-weenie, I'm always on the lookout for a cabling system that is lightweight and won't add extra, unneeded weight to the bike.

This search brought me to Power Cordz. Power Cordz is a synthetic cabling system. That's right – it doesn't use traditional metal cables, but rather is uses synthetic fibers (called Zylon HM or PBO). Here's the techy bit: 

"PBO is a rigid-rod isotropic crystal polymer that has superior tensile strength and modulus of elasticity. Simply stated - Zylon is very stiff and strong. It's superior cable material. A slick nylon protective coating encases around 10,000 PBO fibbers.

The cord is bonded (using a top-secret patented process) to a high quality anodized anchor. The bond has a breaking strength of over 600lbs which is the same as steel at 25% the weight."

So what does all that mean? Well, basically it comes down to this: The cables are lighter, more durable, won't stretch, are more efficient and don't require adjustment. The won't rust or corrode and work on any bike. OK – that's enough of the sales pitch from the company. What about ME? How did I find them in real life?

With any product that I use and write about, I like to give my honest opinion and tell why I use it. Not just the manufacturer's fluff piece but a real-life assessment. The cables were provided to me by the UK distributor, Synergy Action ( The owner there, Simon Philbrick, has been incredibly supportive and superbly fast in dealing with me. Product was sent out the same day it was promised without having to ask twice. Service like that is hard to find. Anywhere.

Simon sent me Power Cordz's Prime System. A full set out outers, inners, ferrules, etc and in your choice of several colours. Everything you need to wire up your bike perfectly. The Power Cordz website has videos on how to install the cables, and there are also instructions sent out with the product.

But it's pretty basic. Just a matter of cutting the outer housing to length (usually to match your existing cables if you already have them on your bike), and then putting the correct ferrules in the right places. Run the inner cable through and tighten at the ends to your mechs and brakes. The last bit (tightening the cables) is the only tricky bit and you need to get it right for the system to work. But it's just a matter of wrapping the synthetic cables around the bolt in a 360° loop instead of the way you normally would do it with a steel cable (where you just put the cable through and tighten down directly on it). Hard to explain, but the videos show it clearly, as do the written instructions. This just stops the synthetic cables from sliding out from under the bolt.

In tightening down my bolts on the cables, I noticed that the cables 'came apart'. I squashed them so tightly that the cables separated into individual threads. Like if you took a piece of rope and squashed it so tightly that you could see the individual strands that make up the whole rope. I thought I had done something wrong – but this is the beauty of synthetic cabling. It's so strong that even when 'crushed' like this it keeps it strength. I was assured by Simon that this is OK.

That really was my only complaint! Seriously.

I've been riding with these cables for a few months now. I wanted to wait a while before posting a review of them. Give them a chance to 'wear in' and see if any problems occurred. I didn't want to install them, go for one ride, declare them the best thing ever, only for them to turn out like other cables and stop working a few rides later!

For the first time (possibly ever with this particular bike), my shifting is smooth, crisp, correct and reliable. I don't have to pull extra hard on the levers to get my shifts. The cables don't stretch so the shifting is accurate every time. The cables aren't metal, so riding in the rain and muck and salt of winter hasn't corroded them. They don't need oiling. The ends don't even need nibs on them! I am impressed.

If you've come to this blog through an internet search for Power Cordz and want to know if/how they work, my answer is... perfectly. If this changes over time I'll repost and update with any issues. But for me, for now – the best shifting performance I've had to date!

And lastly, as a side note, when Simon sent out the cables, he also sent me a couple samples of one of his other products. A little packet with a wipe inside. It's called 'Foggle'. You wipe your sunglasses with it and it stops them from fogging up on a ride (a common problem, especially on colder days). It's the ONLY product like it that I've used... that has actually worked! Went out on a cold day (where I was rather warm from the efforts on the bike) and it actually stopped the glasses from fogging up. I was amazed. If you have this issue, get a packet and try it out. (I think they're only a couple of quid each, and you can reuse the wipe several times). I'm going to try it on my TT visor next as well to make sure they can handle a REALLY tough challenge!