Clark?s Cycle Systems, with its primary facility situated in Birmingham UK, offers a variety of OEM and aftermarket bicycle solutions such as cables, brake pads and disc brakes, in collaboration with companies such as DuPont, Carbone Lorraine, Casiraghi and Clim8.
The Clark?s cable is borne out of the association with DuPont, with its Teflon coating which is exclusive to Clark?s products. A total of 37 different types of front, back and shift cable types are offered to cater to the various disciplines of riding. For mountain/hybrid bike, Clark?s Cycle Systems offers 3 different brake and derailleur kits which are available separately. The subjects of this review belong to the mid-range 8002 (brake) and 8005 (derailleur) Performance series.
The Test Subject
Our test cables came wrapped naked around a stylish packaging with clear colour coding to differentiate their intended usage (the red and green packs for brake and derailleur cables respectively). This reviewer however, felt that an additional plastic packaging would provide better corrosion protection in our hot and humid climate. Both the brake and derailleur cables came in a smooth, matt black finish, bearing much semblance to Shimano?s top of the line XTR cables that were replaced. Texture wise however, the Clark?s cables felt slightly coarser than Shimano?s despite the Teflon coating.
In The Wrench Shop
Contrary to the 2000mm cable length that was quoted on the website catalogue, our test cables only measured 1800mm which came as a bit of a surprise. Still the length is deemed more than sufficient for most cable routings (apart from monster sized and/or highly complex full suspension frames). With no special instructions provided for installing the cables, this reviewer applied the procedure he had picked up at his regular bike shop. To minimize variables that might otherwise affect the performance of the cables, the Shimano SIS cable housings already on the test bike was kept for this review, the internals degreased with GT85 and dried. The test cables were prepped with a fine coating of Finishline Premium grease prior to installation. The longest cable required was on the rear derailleur and installation was completed with 40mm of cable to spare. The brake cable was installed on a M960 rear V brake operated by M952 Rapidfire STI levers, while the derailleur cables were installed with a predominantly XTR drivetrain operated by the M960 Dual Control levers on a separate test bike.
Out of the oven, the cables breathed fresh life into the shifting and braking, especially with the rear brakes, its longer routing which had always suffered from higher friction compared to the front. Usually there is the need to run higher tension in the return springs of the rear brake to compensate, however this was not necessary with the Clark?s cable setup, thus allowing for equal and delightfully light feel on both brake levers. Similarly there was noticeably lesser friction in the shift levers, however bearing in mind that clearing the muck out of the stock housings would also had contributed to the improvements so far.
To truly push the cables to their limit, evaluating them in extreme weather and riding conditions is indispensable. Test bike 1 of which the Clark?s brake cable was mounted on, embarked on a 4 day, 400km road trip up north. The sky opened up on alternate days, drenching this reviewer and having the rainwater pervade into every single crevice on the bike. With the ride taking its physical toil, daily maintenance was very much minimal. Still, there was no perceived degradation of ?feel? in the brake lever despite the moisture and foreign particles that had already infiltrated into the housing, immersing the cable in a potentially corrosive solution. The post ride overhaul 4 days later however, showed no signs of rust along the length of the brake cable.
The derailleur cables were subjected to a different but equally demanding preposition. On this reviewer?s other off road bike, the Clark?s derailleur cables saw actions over a variety of terrain and weather; more than a few occasions the bike got splattered with serious muck. Shifting though remained crisp under such conditions; single upshifts on the rear derailleur did feel a tad smoother than the previous stock cable. Likewise on downshifts, cable induced hesitations were almost non-existent. Due to the nature of the dual control levers requiring extra leverage on multiple upshifts however, little difference could be felt there between the Clark?s and the XTR cables which it replaced. After 3 weeks of muddy rides, the cables have yet to be stripped down for thorough maintenance, yet there appeared no serious degradation in shifting performance. During this period, minor cable tension adjustments were needed, which could be a result of the cables stretching as they begin to wear in.
Over our short review period, the Clark?s cables survived the wet weather scrutinizing, especially the brake cable maintaining the impressive consistency in the brake lever ?feel?. Shifting performance, despite some positive notes taken, was less conclusive, as other factors such as the derailleurs and shifters would also have played significant roles to the performance of the entire drivetrain. This reviewer was also interested in the durability of the Teflon coating, cable fraying resistance as well as long term corrosion protection, however not possible with the present review timeframe.
With the cables having a R.R.P. of $9 each, this puts them just below XTR price point, but with a performance that can rival Shimano?s best product. Clark?s cable system also includes its propriety cable housings which were not part of this review, it would be intriguing to find out whether the complete Clark?s cable system would live up to the expectations it has amassed so far.