Thursday, 30 January 2014

Birkie Wax Recommendations - some additional info

Fast Trax - Preliminary Wax Recommendation #1
Canadian Birkebeiner - February 8, 2014
Additional Information 

1. Where can I find the first Fast Trax Birkie wax recommendation for 2014?

Check out our wax recommendation - here. Enjooooy it!!!

 2. The forecast is bitterly cold and the snow is dry. Why are you recommending a HF (high fluorocarbon) glide wax?

Fact: As conditions get wetter, the advantage HF waxes provide over LF waxes increases due to their astonishing hydrophobic properties. This causes many racers to incorrectly assume that HF waxes (and by extension, fluro powders)  only offer a significant advantage in the wettest conditions. 

However… While this assumption may have been true several years ago, advances in fluorocarbon technology have resulted in new formulations and products that ALSO work well in colder and drier conditions. In fact, HF waxes work so well that at the World Cup it is truly rare to race without pure fluoro powders and completely unheard of to race with LF waxes. In my past four years working with the US Ski Team, I cannot think of a single race where we did not wax with BOTH HF waxes and pure fluorocarbon powder.

Why is this the case? Sometimes, in particularly cold and dry snow, HF waxes may initially test the same as the best LF waxes. However, even when LF waxes are in the mix early in a test, they tend to lose speed after only a couple kilometers of skiing. This means that in a marathon event like the Birkie, HF waxes offer a MAJOR advantage in that they will remain fast for the ENTIRE race.

Note: All of the comments above regarding the advantage of HF waxes over LF waxes equally apply to the advantage of pure fluorocarbon powders over HF waxes.

3. What's the deal with black underlayers?

Black underlayers offer a distinct advantage in conditions of course and old snow - exactly what we can expect for the Birkie. A graphite underlayer often improves speed in these conditions, but the biggest advantage is added durability. The underlayer will work to ensure that your skis stay fast throughout the race, including at the end when you will appreciate that speed the most!

As noted in the initial recommendation, not all graphite waxes are the same. Given the cold temperatures, you will only want to apply a graphite that is extremely hard. Therefore, there are really only two choices: Ski*Go LF Graphite or Rex RCF Black. The graphite waxes from Swix, Toko, Solda (and every other company) are extremely soft and may detract from ski speed.

4. Testing Schedule Update

  • Sunday, February 12- onsite testing based recommendation (Jack and Patrick are going to conduct and extensive on-snow test for both grip and glide. Conditions look to be very stable, so we expect this test to provide very good information about race day.)
  • Tuesday, February 4 - forecast based recommendation and Birkie kick wax clinic
  • Wednesday, February 5 - forecast based recommendation
  • Thursday, February 6 - forecast based recommendation
  • Friday, February 7 - onsite testing based recommendation

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Preliminary Birkie Wax Recommendation #1

Fast Trax - Preliminary Wax Recommendation #1

Canadian Birkebeiner - February 8, 2013

Time to start thinking about getting your wax on.

Event Information:

Saturday - mass start, classic
Race notice - Birkie race notice


Another cold air mass is sliding south into Alberta and this one looks like it'll hang around for a while. After a blast of warmth that pushed temperatures to +2 Tuesday, an Arctic High is dropping in today (Jan 29).

Looking ahead, afternoon temperatures stay in the -12 to -17 range for at LEAST Friday and the weekend. If anything, Birkie week could be even colder. 

No significant snow in the forecast for the next 10 days, just a lengthy cold snap.

Edmonton was about 10 degrees WARMER than average for two weeks. We could quite easily end up around 10 degrees COLDER than average for the next two weeks.

Old Man Winter?
 Trail conditions:

By all accounts, the trails are extremely abrasive, but in otherwise good condition. 

Preliminary glide recommendations:

Base layer - Ski*Go LF graphite - this is a critical step to ensure durability and speed throughout the course of the entire race. Note the not all graphite is created equal. Ski*Go LF graphite is extremely hard and serves a very different purpose that graphite products from Swix, Toko, etc.

Race paraffin options - Swix HF4, Holmenkol RacingMix COLD, Ski*Go HF green, or Toko Tribloc blue could all be in the mix

Other race paraffin options - Given the extremely old and transformed nature of the snow and the debris that has blown down from the trees in the past weeks, Swix HF4BW (aka HF4 black) would also be a good choice. If the temperature is trending on the warmer end of the range, Ski*Go HF violet may also be in the mix. 

Preliminary kick recommendations:

Base layer options
  • Vauhti Super Base
  • Vauhti K-base
  • Special Violet or blue klister

If the kick ends up being klister, obviously you will need a klister binder. If the kick ends up being hard wax, Vauhti Super Base or Vauhti K-base will be the best choices. These base layers have an uncanny ability to improve not only the feeling of the kick in old snow, but ALSO improve the speed. Neat, huh?

Kick wax options - At the moment, it is very much looking like hardwax will not be a good option for kick. The trails are extremely abrasive and the snow is old. Hardwax that kicks well at first (if you can find any) is likely to wear off in the first few minutes, even with a base layer. 

Based on the current conditions of the trails and the fact that there is no snow in the forecast, it seems highly probable that the 2014 Birkie will be skied on klister. Options to consider would be a mixture of universal and violet klister or perhaps straight violet klister, depnding on how conditions end up. Blue PowerGrip may also be an option with excellent kick and durability, although likely slower speed.

Please note that the kick wax options are VERY subject to change as we get closer to the event. 

Testing and recommendation schedule:

Fast Trax will be updating our recommendations throughout the coming days to the race:

Saturday, February 1 - forecast based recommendation
Tuesday, February 4 - forecast based recommendation and Birkie kick wax clinic
Wednesday, February 5 - forecast based recommendation
Thursday, February 6 - forecast based recommendation
Friday, February 7 - onsite testing based recommendation

Fast Trax Birkie Waxing Service - see details here.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Salomon - new skate boot

Last year, Salomon released a new boot to a very select group of world cup athletes. This boot has been known on the circuit as the Carbon boot. These boots are FAR more minimal than the Salomon boots you are used to. They are unbelievably light and ridiculously stiff.

This year, midway through the Tour de Ski, Salomon released a new version of the Carbon boot, again to select world cup athletes. This boot has become known as the Blue boot and is the retail version of this ultra light, ultra fast boot that we can expect to see in shops next year.

Enjoy these photos! In each case, the black and yellow boot is last year's Carbon boot (definitely not available in stores) and the blue boot is the retail version to be released to shops next season.