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Ultimate Upgrade: Powercordz cables

Sam Challis
21 Mar 2017

Steel is real, but liquid crystalline polymer is better

Powercordz lay claim to some bold stats: more than 75% lighter than steel cables; twice as strong as Kevlar; they never deform, don’t corrode and, once set up, will last the life of your bicycle.

They were also created by an engineer who made them in his garage in his spare time.

Tony DuPont developed Powercordz in 2004. ‘A lot of people knew synthetic fibres had the potential to outperform regular cable systems in every way, but no one had found the right design to get it to work,’ he says.

‘So using my engineering background I did some research and found Zylon, which is a liquid crystalline polymer that I thought would be suitable, but once I got some I didn’t really know what to do with it.’

The fibre came as a braided rope, so DuPont separated out the fibres and greased them so bunches would stick together in the diameter of a regular cable.

After feeding them through his bike’s regular brake housing, he tied knots at each end and went for a ride.

‘That first ride I almost went over the handlebars because the fibre is so different to steel in its modulus of elasticity,’ says DuPont.

Slow start

It took another year and a half of refinement for DuPont to develop a marketable product. ‘As I was doing it part-time, I’d be saving up to buy a batch, running a bunch of tests, then saving up to buy some more,’ he says. 

‘Things really got going when I went to a bike show with 20 cables in my pocket and I got orders.

‘Luckily I got some industry-savvy help from a future investor so we were able to put together packaging and product information, then it went from there.

‘Now the systems have been used in the last two Olympics. What riders remark on most frequently is the feel of them.

‘The fibre’s accuracy and durability means brake modulation never changes, regardless of temperature or age.’

A product that might seem too good to be true does indeed have its foibles, however. DuPont recommends tying an underhand loop-knot below where the brake cable is pinned in the calliper.

‘As Zylon is tougher than the brake clamp material it cannot be compressed and gripped like steel cable. So to properly anchor the cable in the brake we tie the knot, which tightens against itself the harder the brake is squeezed.’

On top of that, Zylon fibre can’t compete with steel in terms of price and, due to the cables being slightly wider in diameter than steel, can drag slightly in their housing. 

‘We’re always advancing and evolving the design, though,’ says DuPont. ‘We’re decreasing the diameter of the cable so it performs better and also figuring out how to natively produce Zylon-similar fibres, which will bring the cost down.’

When it comes to research and development, DuPont believes he’s found the perfect testers.

‘We work with a youth cycling team. They’ve produced 20 national champions and an Olympic gold medallist.

‘These kids are 16, 17, 18, and they beat the crap out of everything we chuck at them, so they are the best riders to test our products.’

Powercordz Prime cables and housing, £54 per set of two,

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