Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Weighing in on wing wedges

There has been a bit of buzz about the 60mm wedges that can be used with Pilot bindings.    Here's some info and pics.

Wings provide a wider base of support under the forefoot.
The "wing wedges" have been seen on the World Cup for the past 3 seasons.    I first saw them on Atomic skis while working at the World Cup events during the winter of 2008/2009.      There has been plenty of experimenting and tweaking in the past couple of years to give the manufacturer confidence that they have some merit.    And finally they make it to the consumer so that anyone can give it a try.

The intent of the wings or outriggers is to provide an extended platform under the forefoot, providing better control of the ski.     This has been the premise of the NNN binding design since 1998 when they introduced their wide platform R3 skate binding, and it has shown over the past decade that it's a good idea.    

The wing wedges provide a space for the Pilot binding to sit down in a channel so that the wings are at the same surface level as the foot platform of the Pilot binding.   Because of the inset dimensions, the wedges work very, very nicely with the Pilot but are not compatible with any other version of Salomon binding.   It's not intended for use with the Profil, ProPulse, or Pilot Classic binding.

The wings - the lateral support extensions - seem pretty obvious and intuitive in their benefit, yet the idea of the wedge that lifts the toes by 5mm seems less clear-cut.        While some marketing articles claim that the ski will spurt forward like a wet bar of soap ( ?? ) if you simply add this wedge, I find that the effect is subtle.     It has 5mm lift over a length of 300mm.    Sharpen your pencil:  that's about a 1 degree angle.

How much toe lift?   The wedge is about a 1 degree angle.   
With the toe lifting wedge, I think there is some initial accentuation of the sensitivity to fore/aft foot pressure on the ski.   But competent skate skiers will adapt quickly and really won't notice much difference in feel after a few days on the skis.      The wedge component of the setup seems to have received a mixed reception - whether it helps or doesn't - but the consensus is that at least is doesn't harm performance.

My opinion after testing skis with the wing-wedge, and without them, is that the wings definitely improve the feel of the skis.     The wedge (toe lift) aspect, to me, is somewhat inconsequential.

The wing wedges are not an expensive item, they're less than $20/pr and include longer screws to replace the front-end screws on the Pilot binding.     If you're retrofitting skis, the change-over is simple and quick and doesn't require any drilling - you can use the same holes as long as you don't mess anything up when removing the bindings.    

At the relatively modest price, and with such minimal impact on the ski setup, it's something that anyone could try themselves and make their own decision on whether wing wedges are a benefit or not.

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