About a year back I published a positive review for the Spud Inc Econo Lat & Tricep Pulley. I praised it for its ease of use, versatility, and low price. I even went so far as to refer to it as one of the best garage gym accessories on the market for under $100.
Well you will be happy to know that my opinion of the Spud Econo Pulley has not changed. It’s still just as functional, convenient, and almost as affordable as the day I published my original review. As a matter of fact my own Spud pulley gets used multiple times each week, and I cannot think of any other gym accessory that’s not only this inexpensive, but also used so frequently.
So why am I writing about it again? Because my original review didn’t include any information about durability or the life expectancy of the product, and as it turns out those two things merit some discussion. Why? Because in the year or two this product has been available we have learned that despite the overwhelming number of pros, the product as a whole is still not totally perfect. It has a tendency to show unnecessary signs of early wear and tear for those who actually use the product on a regular basis.
In this article I’m going to explain what the issue with the Spud Econo Pulley is, how you can identify if it’s happening to your Spud system, and how you can fix it. I’ll also give you some ideas on how you can create your own version of this product from scratch – a version that will not only be far less susceptible to wear and tear, but that will also be totally customized to your gym (that is, your rack).
The problem with the Spud Inc Econo Pulley is the cable itself. It’s a ¼”-diameter, 9×17 galvanized steel cable with no protective vinyl coating (image below, left). While this cable does have plenty of load capacity for this application, it cannot handle being pulled through the near 180-degree bend of the small 2½” pulley over and over again. It tolerates it for a while, obviously, but with no protective coating to insulate the steel cable and keep it separated from the steel pulley, the cable eventually begins to fray.
At first it’s a fray or two, then the next thing you know you have a dozen or more – all of which can be found in the section of cable that is regularly dragged through the pulley. How quickly you go from one fray to dozens depends on the amount of weight you are working with and the frequency in which you use the product, but regardless of when it happens you’ll learn that after enough individual wires break the whole cable begins to deteriorate quickly.
To be fair, you usually get many months of use before that first wire breaks, and you should get many more months of reliable use even after that happens. You will however need to handle your cable with much more care once you get a fray, as running your hand into one of those stray, protruding wires hurts like a sonofabitch. Any of you who have had the Spud system for a while now know exactly what I’m talking about.
Interestingly enough, Spud’s strap components are indestructible. I wouldn’t be surprised if the looping strap and tricep attachment outlived me. Really the product is great save for the included cable, and I dare say that if Spud Inc included a 1/4″-diameter vinyl coated steel cable instead of the sheathless galvanized cable, the product could very well be considered perfect.
The first thing you should do when you become concerned with the condition and safety to your Spud cable is request a replacement directly from Spud Inc; especially if you’ve had the product for less than a year. Ideally you’d want to replace it with a vinyl-coated cable rather than the same junky cable again, but this solution is 100% free so why not give that a shot. Here is Spud’s contact information:
I’ve come across a couple accounts of people managing to get a hassle-free replacement from Spud, but don’t get excited yet. I attempted to contact Spud about the damage to my cable multiple times, but sadly I never heard back. Now I’ve never had to contact Spud Inc before so I don’t know if they have garbage customer service all the time, or if they are just sick of replacing cables, but either way I was unable to get a replacement from them (and shame on them for not even replying). Don’t let my experience stop you from trying though.
When it’s all said and done, if you are still unable to secure a replacement cable from Spud then you will need to do one of two things: buy the whole product over again (not ideal), or simply buy a replacement cable elsewhere; which I’ll get into next.
Spud-Free Cable Replacement
You have a couple options when it comes to replacing that cable on your own. You can buy ¼” vinyl-coated 7×19 cable by-the-foot at the hardware store along with the thimbles and clips and make your own cable, or you can order a custom cable from a gym supply/repair company. Making your own cable is far less expensive than having it made for you (about $15 to replicate the Spud cable length by doing it yourself), but when it’s made at a gym supply company the ends will be crimped professionally (image below, left) instead of bolted together with clips (right).
I priced custom cables from multiple sources, and the least expensive I found was from National Gym Supply. At $50 it still wasn’t nearly as cheap as making my own but I preferred the simplicity over cost in this case (I also didn’t want the sharp ends of the cable exposed on my cable). Oddly enough National Gym Supply was still $30-$40 less than other quotes I was getting (which is ridiculous), but who knows maybe you can find it for even less than I paid.
I know having to shell out any additional money on a product you’ve already paid for sucks, but there is a bright side. I’ve seen dozens of complaints in reviews and on discussion boards about the default length of the included Spud Inc cable; about it being too long or too short. Well making or ordering a replacement cable gives you the opportunity to adjust that length to your liking. Silver lining, right?
Build Your Own Cable System
Whether you’re starting from scratch or you need to replace a random component of your existing pulley system, here are some ideas.
Unless you’re permanently installing the pulley somewhere there’s no reason not to use the same swivel-style pulley that’s included with the Spud system; a 2½” swivel eye snatch block for ¼” cables. It costs about $12 and you can see it here. While this 2½” pulley will get the job done, you might consider upgrading to the 3″ diameter version of the same pulley here – it’s only a couple bucks more. Even though an extra half inch doesn’t seem like much, any increase in diameter lessens the stress put on the cable as it travels around the pulley wheel, and that’s good.
Attaching the Pulley
So now how do you attach your new pulley to the rack? The strap that is used to attach the Spud pulley to the rack is actually sewn together after being looped through the eyelet of the pulley, so unfortunately you can’t use/re-use that. One option for those of you who have a crossbeam where you intend to use the pulley is the Rogue Shackle. This is probably about the easiest solution possible, but most standard racks have a pull-up bar towards the entry of the rack, not a crossbeam – so this won’t be very helpful.
Worth mentioning is that anyone with a shrimp trawler on their rack can also use the Rogue Shackle (you can actually see one at the end of the trawler pictured below). Trawlers are a great place for a pulley system since everything is off to the side and out of the way. Spotter arms would work much the same way, but I doubt you could attach a spotter high enough because of all the rack assembly bolts at the top of the uprights. Maybe though.
Another option would be the Rogue Strap and Carabiner Set. These are basically short ring straps with carabiners used to attach the various grip/pull-up accessories that Rogue offers. They are sold in pairs which is kind of annoying, but since you’ll have two you may as well just double up for the extra security and piece of mind. And in case you’re wondering, Rogue assured me these are more than strong enough for this application – I asked.
Of course these are just a couple of ideas. There are all kinds of clever ways to temporarily and permanently attach a pulley to your rack, and there are countless discussions on bodybuilding.com and many videos on YouTube with ideas of what has worked for others.
The Loading Pin
You can order the same 18″ strap loading pin that comes standard with the Econo Pulley direct from Spud Inc for $37 (or a 12″ version for $34). You can also purchase a 12″ steel loading pin from Rogue Fitness for only $24.50. Alternatively, you could DIY a loading pin with hardware store components for less than either of these if you were so inclined.
For what it’s worth, I see no real advantage to an 18″ long loading pin versus a 12″. I mean, who is loading plates 18″ deep on their pulley system? Matter of fact, with a standard 90″ high rack you will probably find the 18″ loading pin + the ~76″ long cable to be too long. I certainly do. It’s just something to think about as you put your system together. Clearly its a non-issue if you already own the 18″ Spud loading pin – just keep using that.
Lat & Tricep Attachments
The world is your oyster when it comes to attachments. I touch on it a bit in this article, but you probably already know which attachments you’ll need if you don’t have them already. The only downside to totally building out your own system is that you don’t get Spud’s nylon tricep attachment – it’s pretty versatile and badass.
Have you DIY’d your own pulley system or have you modified or repaired your Spud Inc Econo Pulley using a different method? or completely different hardware? Share with us what has worked for you.