Thursday, December 24, 2009

Congratulations to Casey Smith of MV Biathlon!

A quick congratulations to Casey Smith from Winthrop, WA.

Casey qualified for the Biathlon World Jr Championships this past weekend. The qualifying races were in Mt Itasca (MN), and for the youth men it was a best-two-out-of-three format. Casey finished 2nd, 5th, and 1st.

His good performances were credited to good shooting and fast skiing. Casey commented that with the 'same wax rule' in place for the qualifying races, it was important to have good skis with the right grind. He took two pairs of Madshus skis to Minnesota, one pair with an "i5" grind and the other have the "s2" structure.

Casey has been working hard toward this goal for the past 3 years. He's a no-nonsense young guy with a great work ethic.

He'll be traveling to Torsby Sweden in late January 2010 for his first taste of competition in Europe.

Casey competes as a member of Methow Valley Biathlon, and also competes in XC with Methow Valley Nordic.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Testing Grinds for Cold Temps

Tuesday is a ski testing day. A few new experimental structures were tested by feel and in a speed trap.

The test skis got a fresh grind - in this case there were 3 structure variations prepared, and two benchmark structures for comparison. With the current conditions and morning temperatures, the Ultratune S2 and XC02 were used as the benchmarks -- both are running well in the morning when temperatures are in the single digits (-15C approx).

The grinds were done on Monday afternoon, and all the skis were prepped the same - all getting the same wax (a good fluorinated race wax, but no powders or top-coats).

It is important to note that the test skis are factory matched pairs that were specially made as test skis. They've been tested to verify that they're very even skis (all tested with the same grind and same processes and waxing), so there are very few variables to botch the test data.

The speed trap was set up on a gradual, but somewhat fast, run. The begin and end points are 70 - 80 meters apart, and trap times were around 10 seconds. This gives average speeds of 25-28 km/hr, which is a bit faster than average race pace. Since conditions here right now are pretty fast, there is only a short gap from the start point to the beginning of the speed test zone - just enough to let gravity get a little motion going. (today times were around 10.2 seconds, and the trap was set around 80 meters)

Testing consisted of two sets of three runs per pair. Using two sets is a good compromise between switching skis after every single run (time consuming!), and doing a single set of data (which can yield systematic data errors if the tracks are getting faster or slower). Doing two sets is useful in showing offsets in times. Differences in times for different sets, for the same ski pairs, will show if the tracks are getting slower or faster.

Results are stored in the timing unit, and downloaded back at the house. I enter all the data in a notebook, and then into the computer where I use an excel spreadsheet to crunch the data for basic statistical results (medians, std-dev) and look for trends. It's common to see times improving as trap tests progress, as the tracks get skied-in. Sometimes they'll get slower.

Expectations vs. Results? Today I was looking at minor variations in well-documented grinds. I find that there are no big differences in the data; this is pretty much as expected. As much as anything, I'm getting the test processes dialed-in for the season... ...there's finally enough snow and enough time available to start the weekly ski testing program.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Salomon stepping up to the plate?

I was perusing some European patent documents today, and saw that Salomon has recently applied for a patent.

The new patent from Salomon would incorporate some great ideas that have been available only on the NNN/NIS bindings up until now. The Salomon patent includes a means to adjust a binding plate fore/aft on a track, and a means to provide a wider base of support under the ball of the foot.

I applaud Salomon for stepping up to the plate! The NNN/NIS bindings with their adjustability and wider base of support have been the most innovative change in skiing in the past several years.

The NNN/NIS setup has now made the black strip in the middle of the ski an almost universal feature. It's a nice thought to think that Salomon is moving in this direction, too. I can only hope that Salomon and the folks that brought us the NIS plate will get together and make a universal standard plate that would be used for ALL cross-country bindings.

If you're curious about these things, Salomon applied for the patent in March 2009, and the application document was published about 6 weeks ago (see doc EP2108413, a type A1 European Patent Application). Of special note are figures 5 & 8 which show the adjustable plate and wide support, both in line drawings that are of a style typical in patents but which seem sort of quaint in any other context .

I know there are some folks who have said that bindings don't need adjustability, and don't need wider support under the foot. But I think it's clear that Salomon is now joining the bigger group of skiers who think that it's a good idea. This is good news for Salomon and good news for all cross-country skiers!