Friday, February 21, 2014

NIS Binding Plate Retrofit for Flat Top Skis

NIS Plates retrofitted to Atomic World Cup ST skate skis
(updated 2/28 with weight info)
For several years I've been wondering when someone would market a retrofittable NIS binding plate that can be used on flat-top skis (like Atomic, Salomon, and some Fischer, and roller skis too).   Rottefella has done it for the 2014/15 season.    Here's a look.

Top view: the front section.

I received a set of these NIS retrofit plates by FedEx today and mounted them on a set of Atomic World Cup ST skate skis right away.     All season I've been telling people that the new camber and improved mold regulation, has delivered for Atomic the best skate ski I've ever seen from them.    I've told people that the new Atomic is a GREAT skate ski, but that it would be even better with the fore/aft adjustability afforded by the NIS binding plate.      Well, thanks to the new NIS plate that screws down to the flat top skis, the Atomic skate skis are even better.

The NIS plate screws down with a heel plate (2 screws) and a main plate (6 screws).   The main binding plate will allow three position adjustability, with each position separated by 1.0 cm.   This compares to the current "bonded to the deck" NIS plate that has 7 positions separated by 5 mm.

Tech Specs.   Courtesy of Rottefella
The main binding plate seems to be slightly pre-stressed (i.e. slightly curved) to ensure that the fore and aft parts sit snug to the deck when it is screwed down to the ski.     Installation would be simpler with a specific mounting jig, but the sets of screws are at the same width as standard NNN and Salomon bindings, so at least the pairs of screws can be drilled easily.    A bit of careful measuring is needed to assure that the two front pairs are 40mm apart, but it's not a huge hassle (measure twice, drill once, right?).
Very visible in pink.   But production pieces will be black.

Heel plate is separate.
These new retrofittable NIS plates will be useful for anyone using NNN compatible boots who is also using flat deck skis (i.e. Atomic, Salomon).    The fore/aft adjustability is no joke.   Even if you just tweak the position once, and then leave it forever, it really can make a significant difference.    Also, skiers who swap around between wedges, and no wedges, will find this quick changeability to their liking.    It's a no-brainer for the brainiacs.

How does it compare, weight-wise, with the screwed-down R3 skate binding?  The R3 Skate binding (one) weighs 140g with screws (measured).  This new NIS binding adapter with screws weighs 60g (per foot), and the Xcelerator skate binding is 87g (each), making a total of 147g.  So the plate + Xcelerator weighs about 7g more (measured).

For certain these will be available in quantity by autumn (Ultratune has already ordered a bunch of them).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: Rossignol Xium WCS Skate Skis 2014-15

New 2014-15 Rossignol Xium WCS S2 skate ski.
I received a big team bag from Rossignol last week, packed with new skate and classic skis, and boots:  New product for the 2014-15 season.

I'll focus now on the Rossignol Xium WCS 1 and 2 skate ski models.

While world cup skiers have always had a wide range of specially made skis available to them, to handle different snow conditions, this really hasn't been the case for recreational racers (consumers).   Rossignol has answered this situation by offering three distinct camber styles.  

Who doesn't love skiing in
fresh falling snow? 
For the 14-15 model year, the cambers have been adjusted.    The S1 has a lower camber, with longer contact areas in the front and rear, and almost no tip splay (while still having a moderately flexible tip).    The S2, their most "universal" camber, is about the same as previous years, with a medium contact zone in the front and rear, relatively high and springy camber.   The 14-15 version seems to have a little bit more tip-splay than past years (at least that's what I'm seeing with the samples that I'm testing).  The S3, which wasn't part of this test (wrong conditions for this ski), is a high camber ski with smaller contact distribution, more tip splay and a white base, and it's intended for moist conditions

The long contact distribution on the S1 is works well on colder snow, from sugar and loose soft conditions up to medium/firm track.  The S1 might feel more sticky when the snow is moist.   The S2 is a very all-around ski, and will ski pretty well in a wide range of conditions, and has a very snappy feel that the Rossignol skate skis are known for. 

In the past, there has been a lot of overlap (in production skis) between the cambers of S2 and S1 skate skis.   Typically, if I tested a bunch of S2 skate skis, I could find some that were similar to the S1 skis.    Rossignol tells me that for the 14-15 season the distribution of cambers will be much more close to "guidelines" for that particular model version.    IE, the S1's will be like S1's, and S2's will be like S2's.  

S1 & S2 Skis
I took the S1 & S2 skate skis out to test over a couple of days in different conditions.   Both pairs were identically prepared and sized very appropriately for me (I'm on a 192cm ski, and weigh about 185 lbs).   Both pairs skied very well, and I think that either pair could make a good "all-around" skate ski for most people.    But they're not the same.   They perform differently, in subtle ways, in different conditions.

I took these skis out in 15F weather in falling new snow.   This was cold packed powder, with temps warming from a cold snap near zero F, and rising with the falling snow, but definitely in the cold powder range.     In these conditions, the three people who were testing the skis all agreed that the S1 felt super stable and relaxed and fast.   

In firmer groomed conditions the S2 is still my favorite of the Rossignol quiver.  When I took the S1 & S2 out in these conditions (22F, fresh grooming, firm track), both pairs ran well, but the S2 felt more free, with a quicker release on climbs.   It has a lot of pop, feels super stable on a straight line on one ski, and also really rewards an aggressive skier who attacks the turns on the downhill.   This is my "quiver of one" skate ski from Rossignol.

 OH Yeah, the new graphics.   I love the new look.   See the pics, that's all I need to say on that.   They look great.

Test info...  Skis were tested for feel.   I was skiing pairs, and also skiing an S1 on one foot and an S2 on the other.  Tested on flats, steep climbs, easy climbs, short downhills.  The two pairs were identically prepared; both had the Ultratune R214 grind (an "almost ready for the retail-menu" new grind) and were waxed with Toko LF Moly & Blue mix.   NIS Bindings were the "normal" (non SSR, no wedge) version, and were set at the middle setting (at the "0").  I was also using a new pair of the Rossignol Xium Premium Skate boots (2014/15 model, size 44).  

How to get these skis?   You can put your name on Ultratune's pick list for autumn of 2014, just email with your info (height/weight, preferences, contact info), and let me know what you want.  

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Review: Madshus Nano Carbon Skate Boots 2014-15

The 2014-15 Madshus Nano Carbon Skate Boot.
I got a pair of size 44 Madshus Nano Carbon Skate Boots by FedEx about a week ago.   These are the newly updated boots for the 2014-15 season, which are an update to the Nano skate boot that you'll remember as the bright red and black boot.  

The new Nano boot is quickly and obviously distinguishable with the new color scheme, the new boots are black with red and white accents (as compared to the old boot which was red/black).

Now with Xcelerator NNN sole.
These Nano boots now feature the Xcelerator sole, so they have a different flex characteristics to the old NNN sole and the slightly lowered heel.   While I feel that the increased foreword flex is very noticeable it doesn't seem to come at the expense of torsional rigidity which is still very good.   If you're a skier who routinely uses wedges, skips the NNN heel piece, or uses the SSR binding, then the lowered heel will feel great, and might allow you to skip some of the other measures you've taken to get your stance comfortable.    On the other hand, if you're using "regular" flat Xcelerator NNN bindings, then you might need a few outings to get used to the dropped heel on the new Nano skate boots.    Madshus isn't alone in their use of the Xcelerator sole - these new soles have been in use for 2 seasons on the Rossignol Xium World Cup skate boot, for instance, so using the Xcelerator sole isn't so much groundbreaking, as it is perhaps 'making up ground'.

Comfy ankle padding, regular laces,
and velcro cuff closure are unchanged.
Materials in the lower part of the boot is new material, a synthetic material (leather-like) that's durable and has some modicum of flexibility.    The upper part of the boot (the gaiter) is again the breathable MemBrain material that worked well on the older boots.   Overall, I like the feel of the boots on my foot, though I had no trouble with durability on the older version.   The interior padding up around the ankle and the rear half of the boot seem virtually identical to the boot's predecessor.

The lacing system, and the ankle strap are definitely sticking with the Madshus pedigree: the laces are tied like an ordinary sneaker, and the ankle cuff is secured with a sturdy velcro strap.  These both seem to work really well, and clearly Madshus felt no need to change these.  

The fit.   The new version of the Nano Carbon Skate boot is a little bit roomier in the toe box than the boot it replaces.   While I wouldn't call it a "wide" boot, I will say that it is a friendly fit for people who have a higher volume foot, or who like a little wiggle room for the toes.

Okay, weights and measures...      These new Madshus boots are actually lighter than last year's boots and also lighter than their RedLine Super Nano boots.     The numbers look like this:

  • 2014-15 Madshus Nano Carbon Skate boot size 44   -  558g per boot
  • 2013-14 Madshus Nano Carbon skate boot size 44    -  606g per boot
  • 2014-15 Madshus Super Nano Skate boot size 44    -  569g per boot

Note that these boots are lighter than similarly priced offerings from other brands.   They are light.

There can be some confusion, because the super-top-end RedLine Super Nano boot is black and not red at all.   While the existing Nano boot is in fact red (color).   Now the Nano Carbon Skate boot will look more akin to the uber-stiff more expensive sibling, though still a very high spec boot in its own right.     The price is a big enough differentiator to keep most people clear in their mind, once they've had a good look.   The SuperNano being the $750 carbon molded version, while the Nano is at around $424.

So what's my verdict and take-away?   This new boot has a different ski feel than the predecessor, largely due to the NNN Xcelerator sole, with its increased forward flex and lowered heel.     Yet the boot retains the torsional stiffness and good fit of the previous boot.  If you liked the fit of the previous version of the Nano boot, then you'll likely find these to be a good fit as well.    Madshus has done it without raising the price, and overall quality is quite good.    These are a first rate, top end race boot that should have enough comfort for long training days for most skiers.

Hand Selected New Skis from Nordic Ultratune

Are you looking for new skis to go along with your desire for improved performance? It doesn't matter what level of skier you are. We all want to hit the trails with skis and a grind & wax that are going to give us the best experience. Nordic Ultratune offers skis and world class grinds that help you achieve your best. Fortunately, we continue to offer our custom ski program tailored just for you this 2013-14 season.

Get the skis you want, selected just for you, from the best possible selection. Check out our available new skis from Atomic, Madshus, and Rossignol on our new website!

I work closely with the ski companies, knowledgeable World Cup skiers, coaches and servicemen to get the best possible information on ski fitting for each brand and model that Ultratune sells.

All skis are selected using the Ultratune Digital Flex Press in our shop. Whether you choose a ski from Atomic, Madshus or Rossignol, you'll get a well-fitted ski with a fast base finish that will result in great performance.  Email for info or with any questions!