Bomber on Line The New Hotness a freecarver’s PGS snowboard review February 2010 By Jack Michaud

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http://www.bomberonline.com/resources/Bomberfiles/the_new_hotness.html

The New Hotness
a freecarver's PGS snowboardreview

By Jack Michaud

February 2010

jack14

 

The advancement of alpine snowboard technology progresses much like any other. Manufacturers tweak their designs from year to year, fine tuning shapes and materials and processes. Relatively minor improvements present themselves as optional ways for builders to distinguish themselves from the others. But every so often, along comes a revolutionary innovation, a game-changer. Every board builder has no option but to embrace it. Evolve or die. The radial sidecut. Asymmetry. Symmetry. Custom orders. Until relatively recently, these were the big ones.

Some History

In North America, the last game-changer and the beginning of the slow death of alpine products from big manufacturers like Burton, Sims, Rossignol and others was heralded by the arrival of Prior Snowboards in 1990. Prior is widely credited with starting the North American "micro-brew" snowboard industry. They began making custom boards for racers and anyone who wanted to pay a modest premium for a board built to their specifications with higher-end materials and the extra attention to detail not usually found in a large factory. For the first time, Joe Public could call up a snowboard company and order a custom built race-stock snowboard that was identical to what was under the feet of world-class athletes. Until then, you either had to be a world-class athlete, have serious connections, or be lucky enough to score used equipment from racers. Otherwise you had to pick your alpine snowboard out of a catalog of homogenized mass produced gear derived from what was cutting edge in racing a year ago or more.

Since then we've seen other North American boutique snowboard companies come and go. The ones who have managed to provide relatively consistent performance, improvement, and customer service have lasted, and each has taken their turn as king of the hill. With perfect timing, the internet instantly became the main artery supplying these manufacturers with their lifeblood of exposure, word-of-keyboard, and a stream of orders from all over the globe. The internet begat alpine snowboarding discussion forums, and these forums begat non-competitive freecarving rallies, dubbed "expression sessions". In these forums and at these sessions, trends and leaders emerged. Some larger manufacturers like Volkl, Nidecker, F2, etc managed to ride out the storm of the boutique manufacturers, and some even more specialized players like Tinkler have won a following with wild and original designs. But in North America, the buzz among freecarvers has been generally commanded in turn by the fantastic four – Prior, Donek, Madd, and Coiler. Each one refined the use of materials and shapes derived from the racing of the 90's, and honed them for freecarving in order to attract the favor of the growing mob of online carvers.

Freecarving or Racing?

Freecarving technique and equipment of course trickles down from racing. Therefore the ultimate freecarving equipment is racing equipment – provided you have the skills and the terrain to realize its potential. However even for the most experienced freecarver, full blown race gear may not be necessary or even realistic. You may not want to go 40+ miles per hour. You may frequent a resort with narrow, short, or crowded trails. You may prefer a turn size that is neither slalom nor giant slalom. You may want one board that can carve the groomers, float in powder, and play around in variable terrain. You may want to pursue the non-race derived "Extreme Carving" style. You may not be able to justify spending $1500 on a toy. During this recent freecarving renaissance over the past decade, a seemingly de facto standard general purpose freecarving shape evolved with the ubiquitous 171cm length and 11-12 meter sidecut,. What is this shape? To any high level racer, it is basically useless. Some people might take this to mean that racing gear is not good for freecarving. This is false logic. The truth is that some great freecarving boards are not good for serious racing, but every good race board is good for freecarving, within the parameters of SL or GS type riding.

What Happened?

During the past decade, freecarvers were blessed with iconic must-have boards like the Prior WCR and 4×4, the Donek FC171, the Madd 170, the Coiler Schtubby. It was a good time to be a freecarver. Little did we recognize that meanwhile, European builders leapfrogged the North Americans on the race circuit. Were the North American board builders distracted by this chase for the freecarver market? Or did European manufacturers simply take them by surprise?

Chris Prior weighed in on this: "From my side I did at one time focus quite exclusively on World Cup race boards and had success. I was how ever developing big mountain freeride boards, split boards, and freestyle boards and realized the amount of time required to maintain the focus on 'race exclusive' boards was unrealistic for the market size. Racers also require a lot of maintenance. So I started focusing on just great corduroy rippers. Kessler, SG are race orientated companies as is Oxess for BX boards. We will never enter that market. Our boards are not designed for the WC GS race course, they will work great on a national level but are designed to carve up the slopes all day long and have fun. One reason why alpine is so small is because it became too elite and race orientated and driven, the masses don't care who's winning what they just want is to go have fun with out all the ya ya tech talk. I can draw a distinct parallel to the windsurfing market."

Ross Rebagliati won the 1998 Olympic giant slalom on a relatively stock, traditional construction F2. Philipp Schoch won the 2002 Olympic GS on all-new technology – a board built by Kessler with metal construction, multi-radius sidecut, a decambered nose, and the rest is history.jack15

 

 

 

 

 

The new technology laid waste to the rest of the field. Any manufacturer that wasn't riding this bubble all but disappeared from the World Cup tour virtually overnight. Other brands including SG, Oxess, and F2 adopted the new technology early enough to remain competitive. The Schoch brothers would later leave Kessler to start Black Pearl.

North America Reacts

So where did this leave our beloved North American boards? Coiler got a small head start as sole proprietor Bruce Varsava is a provincial racer himself and had connections with perennial World Cup threat Jasey Jay Anderson. He saw the benefits of metal laminates for racing first hand and knew they would be good for freecarving as well. In the spring of 2005 he got a chance to ride and inspect a Kessler. He then built his version, calling it the NSR for New School Race. Jasey Jay campaigned this board for the 2006 FIS World Cup season, but he later had to migrate to Kessler to keep up with the state of the art boards being ridden by the rest of the top finishers. Kessler simply had too much experience with the new technology to deny.

Prior reacted with the WCR-M – World Cup Race Metal – the first widely available North American production line of modern metal-topped boards for the 2005/2006 season. These had metal topsheets, rubber dampening, the requisite metal sheet below the core, and unidirectional carbon fiber laminates instead of fiberglass. These boards were extremely lightweight and fun to ride, but they were fragile and bore little resemblance to the metal boards they are building today. For 2010, Prior released the FLC line of race derived shapes with metal construction. They feature the decambered nose and tail, and blended dual radius sidecuts.

Donek had less guidance getting into metal technology, and their first production year with metal construction lacked any rubber dampening at all. The boards received less attention and luke warm reviews. Hearing one in action revealed an eyebrow-raising "tin can" resonance. But nevermind that. Donek has reinvented itself. "I did everything in my power to throw away everything I thought I knew about snowboards and listen to what the racers and recreational riders wanted. I pretty much abandoned every principle I have stood by for years, started testing methods of accomplishing what was being asked for and built it. These boards are completely based on the requests and feedback received from others rather than my personal preferences. In the beginning, I thought I would hate them, but I've relearned that there are many ways to skin an apple, and this works really well", said builder/engineer Sean Martin. This fresh approach has resulted in 2010 Doneks that are updated and competitive with Coiler and Prior.

Madd did not survive the metal revolution. The enigmatic and problematic company that was on the forefront of spare-no-expense premium board building in the early 90's would disappear and be born-again in 2004, taking expression sessions by storm with fleets of mind blowing poppy and playful demo boards. Then almost as quickly as it started, it was over. Riders discovered the smooth and easy rideability of metal boards, and by 2008 Madd found itself headed back into hibernation. Unfortunately this was as much a result of being caught flat footed by metal as it was of less than consistent build quality and customer service. But we may very well see Madd v.3 some day, and they will surely be an option not to be underestimated.

So this leaves us North Americans with the Holy Trinity – Prior, Donek, Coiler, for accessible choices of small-batch, race derived, high performance alpine snowboards built onshore, by small dedicated companies, at reasonable rates. Of course there are still other choices if you are willing to drop one or more of those qualifications, like Tinkler, F2, Volkl, Nidecker, etc. Or if you can afford $1500 snowboards, then the world is your oyster.

Time for a Review

How do the offerings of these three stack up against a state of the art World Cup board? Last winter I tried a friend's Coiler NSR and fell in love with it, so I ordered one. Then I decided it was high time I finally find out the answer to that question, and also for my own curiosity. Since the days of the so-called "Factory Prime" I had always known there were two classes of "race board": the stuff under the feet of World Cup racers, and well, the stuff that I could buy. Also the buzz about these World Cup boards being so superior was growing louder every year in the forums. Even World Cup Snowboardcross racers were jumping ship from their more freestyle-biased sponsors to ride SBX boards built by the race-biased companies like Kessler. So with the help of Bola at All Boards Sports, the North American distributor for Kessler and other European exotics, I placed my order for a World Cup spec Kessler 185 KST built for me. It soon became obvious that a Kessler vs. Coiler review would be necessary. So why not invite Prior and Donek to the party as well? Unfortunately my snowboarding budget was more than tapped dry for the year, but Prior and Donek graciously agreed to build and send demo boards for the review. Donek even sent two versions of its GS board, the "rec" and the "wc".

Unfortunately Prior built an FLC board for the review, but it failed QC. They intended to build another one, but they were slammed with business and preparations for the 2010 Olympics right in their back yard. The solution was to take a new WCR-M 187 from Bomber's own stock, use it for the review, and then make it a demo. The WCR-M has a traditional single radius sidecut and a less aggressively decambered nose and tail, but it has their premium metal construction. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it served as a reference for a traditional shape in a similar length to the other boards.

World Cup Designs

Any board that wants to be competitive on the World Cup tour must conform to at least these three common design features: metal laminates, blended multi-radius sidecuts, and decambered noses and tails. The best freecarve boards will borrow this technology. Below is a description of each.

Metal Laminates

Metal has been used in skis for decades. Metal was also used for many years before this metal craze in snowboards like Volkl and F2 but with little fanfare, possibly because it wasn't being used to its full potential and it wasn't coupled with the other two advances. Perhaps Volant's spectacular failure with metal-capped snowboards partly delayed the acceptance of metal construction. Also metal boards hadn't yet swept all other construction styles out of the World Cup. Metal is also more difficult to laminate into a snowboard due to its smooth surface. Manufacturers had to go through iterations of attempts before perfecting the technique.

The current metal of choice is Titanal, a brand name of an aluminum alloy. Two thin sheets are laminated into the board in traditional sandwich style, with one sheet somewhere below the core and one somewhere above. Two sheets are needed like this so that the thermal contraction of the metal in cold weather doesn't affect the camber of the core. The metal's job in the board is, like fiberglass, to provide strength. Fiberglass is strongest in tension along the direction of its fibers, which is why different weaves of fiberglass like biaxial, triaxial, and quadraxial are used to accomplish different qualities of stiffness and feel. Metal's strength is all-directional. This means a few things; a single layer of metal can take the place of several layers of fiberglass, and it is stronger in torsion when part of the composite. This creates a board that has better resistance to torsional deformation – the edge angle at the ends of the board is held closer to the edge angle under your feet. Metal has its own dampening characteristics as does fiberglass, but it is the perfect combination of metal and rubber that creates the elusive balance of dampness and liveliness. Bruce Varsava of Coiler says "metal seems to provide a totally different dynamic flex whereas the boards will flex a bit more when pushed to get more varied arcs. Its quality to stick well on ice I truly cannot put a finger on the reason but it does it better than glass in any head to head test I have done. Its just magic!" Bruce once posted in the forum that you could build a metal board without rubber and it would be just as lively as a fiberglass board. I asked him if a glass board could be built with more rubber and perform as well as metal. He replied, "Did 3 pretty much exact hardboot BX boards for Jasey back in the day. 2 metal/rubber and one glass/rubber. No comparison and the glass rubber/program was scrapped. Not the same grip. Metal/rubber seems to be best combination. Metal without rubber still grips pretty good but the feel is too nervous and metallic."

Multi-Radius Sidecuts

Many different sidecut shapes have been tried since snowboarders embraced the simple radial sidecut. Quadratic, elliptical, progressive, etc. But none were as dramatic as the current big-taper dual radius shape. While the exact curve used by some companies may be a complex mathematical equation, two radii can effectively approximate it – a shorter radius for the front half of the board, and a longer one for the back, the two lined up at the waist. For example, the Donek rec GS has a published 14m nose radius and a 20m tail radius. This results in a taper of 20mm, while years ago 4mm was considered normal, and 6mm was aggressive. It may seem counter-intuitive that such an asymmetrical shape could work at all, much less win races, but remind yourself that no sidecut shape can describe a perfectly radial turn at all edge angles.

This effects your control of the board in a few ways. For one it practically makes the turn size adjustable. Pressure the nose and the board turns shorter. Simply ride side to side in the middle, and the turn size feels like the average of the two radii. Drive from the back seat, and go loooong. The longer tail radius also prevents the board from hooking back uphill. We naturally tend to weight the back foot more during the bottom half of a carve. This is when our speed and therefore our centrifugal force are greatest. This compounded with maximum gravity from traveling across the fall line creates a lot of pressure on the edge. This causes the board to bend more, which tightens the effective radius of the shape of the board. For a board with a constant single radius, this causes the effective radius to shrink as our weight shifts back. If the sidecut radius is too small for the speed it may simply skid out. With that in mind, it makes sense to put a larger radius on the tail of the board so that when the tail is weighted more than the nose, the radii of the two halves of the board may actually be more similar to each other.

The sensation of riding a board like this for the first time gives the impression that the board is really accelerating off the tail. This is because the board is not bending as much and the sidecut is not becoming progressively tighter as the turn comes around. The pressure that builds in the bottom half of a turn seems to be converted into more speed rather than more turn shape. Riding the single-radius Prior back to back with the Kessler emphasized this. While the benefit of a board that doesn't want to aggressively finish every turn may be obvious, the trade off is that a dual-radius board will generally want to be ridden faster and longer. That's a big "duh" for racing, but freecarvers simply may not have the trail width. However blended radii are making their way into freecarving boards as well. For example, instead of a 12m radius on your next freecarve board, you might consider an 11m to 13m blend.

Decambered Nose and Tail

Whether you like the dampness of a metal board or the adjustable feel of a multi-radius sidecut, in my opinion no snowboard of any kind should ever be built again without some amount of a decambered nose. This feature allows the nose of the board to initiate predictably, slice cleanly through the snow rather than plow through it, and to absorb bumps and ruts more gracefully.

These pictures illustrate the differences between a traditional nose and a decambered nose.

Traditional Nose

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Decambered Nose

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Traditional nose, middle of board flat on ground:

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Decambered nose, middle of board flat on ground:

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The decambered nose effectively becomes part of the sidecut when the board is tilted on edge. It works with the sidecut instead of against it. The upward curve of the nose aligns better with the curve of the sidecut and the shape the board assumes when the whole thing is decambered in a carve. As you can see in this picture, when a board is carving, the nose is engaged in the snow well past the end of the so-called "running length" of the board:
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Therefore the upturn of the nose becomes an active part of the sidecut and an active participant in the carve. A traditional nose shape that curves up abruptly will "plow" through the snow because it is trying to turn along the upward curve of the nose – a much tighter arc than the rest of the board. A low, decambered nose will "slice" through the snow better because its curve is more inline with the sidecut. The decambered nose does not result in a huge reduction in effective edge length, because the board is still engaged in the snow along most of its length as we can see here:

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rider: Ben Schurman

However the nose is now "unloaded" and not fighting the sidecut or the forward movement of the board. Also the decambered nose helps with bumps and imperfections in the snow surface. Any impact to the nose of the board as it is carving will be more abrupt with a traditional nose, because the nose upturn is more vertical and curves up at a tighter radius. The nose has to climb up over the obstacle more quickly, in a shorter length of board travel. This creates a shockwave that travels down the board, compromising edge hold and possibly upsetting the rider. You can imagine an extreme example of a nose that quickly curved up to be perpendicular to the board – something like that could actually stop the board in its tracks. The decambered nose spreads the impact out more gradually, and the whole front of the board has more time to deflect more gently.

Snowboard Comparisons

Objective Measurements and Observations

All measurements in millimeters unless otherwise noted.

 

Coiler

Donek Rec GS

Donek WC GS

Kessler

Prior

Comments

Overall Length

1840

1840

1840

1850

1870

 

Overall Stiffness

13

19

18

12

17

mm of deflection

Nose Stiffness

19

24

24

16

22

mm of deflection

Tail Stiffness

17

24

22

14

21

mm of deflectioin

Camber

13

9

9

9

20

measured with board standing against wall

Nose Width

252

255

251

259

267

widest point

Waist Width

198

203

203

205

211

narrowest point

Tail Width

233

235

230

240

253

widest point

Taper

19

20

21

19

14

 

Nose Length 1

90

80

75

80

100

end to widest point

Nose Length 2

235

222

273

210

160

end to contact point, board not locked

Nose Length 3

298

251

338

359

220

end to contact point, board flat on ground

Tail Length 1

64

40

30

30

60

end to widest point

Tail Length 2

95

111

159

110

50

end to contact point, board not loaded

Tail Length 3

159

149

203

255

60

end to contact point, board flat on ground

Nose Height 1

29

24

38

21

32

board not loaded

Nose Height 2

35

27

43

24

38

board flat on ground

Effective Edge

1686

1720

1735

1740

1710

widest point to widest point

Insert Setback

146

152

152

127

127

 

Avg Sidecut Radius

16m

17.6m

20m

16.8m

14.9m

3 point calculation at widest/narrowest points

Nose Sidecut Radius

13.2m

14.2m

15.7m

14m

n/a

3 point calculation at widest/narrowest points

Tail Sidecut Radius

20.3m

23.1m

27.9m

21m

n/a

3 point calculation at widest/narrowest points

These measurements may differ from manufacturers' published specs due to different measuring techniques. When measuring specs like effective edge and sidecut radii, etc, the widest points of the board were considered because this is where the board starts and stops interacting with the snow during a carve.

Overall stiffness was measured by placing 1" wooden dowels 40cm away from the center of each insert pack. The board's height off the ground was measured at the waist, first unloaded and then with a 35 lb dumbell placed halfway between the inserts.
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Nose and tail stiffness were measured by clamping the board to a bench, cantilevered at the center of the insert pack. Deflection was measured with the 35 lb dumbell placed 40cm away from the clamp.

Nose and tail length 2 and 3 were measured with the paper test – placing the board on a flat surface and sliding a piece of paper under the board until it stops. Length 2 is with the board unloaded; length 3 is with with the center of the board pressed down to the surface.

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Effective edge is measured from widest point to widest point, because the board is engaged in the snow and carving along this length.

Setback was measured against the effective edge.

Sidecut measurements are only an approximation using the 3 point arc calculation at the widest and narrowest points of each board, over the length of the effective edge. Half-board sidecut measurements were made by mirroring the 3 point arc at the waist.

The Doneks are significantly softer than the other boards. While the Prior measures only slightly stiffer, it has more than double the camber, which gives it more mechanical stiffness. When the Prior is flat on the ground, it is under greater preload.

The Kessler has both the longest nose decamber and the second shortest nose kick of the group. With the board pressed flat to the ground the nose begins to rise off the floor at 359mm away from the tip, all the way down around the "K" in Kessler. Yet when the board is unloaded, the contact point rolls forward to only 210mm away from the tip. This means the transition region from camber to rocker is longer and more gradual than the rest. The Donek WC GS has the most aggressive nose decamber. The Prior has the most traditionally shaped nose, although it is still moderately decambered.

Riding Impressions

All boards were ridden with Bomber TD2 and TD3 step-in bindings with medium (purple) e-rings, Deeluxe Track 700 boots with Fin-Tec heels and Bomber BTS system with medium (blue) springs. All boards were tuned with a 1 degree base bevel and 2 degree side bevel.

Disclaimer: Please note these are long, fast, advanced to expert level boards. We are NOT suggesting everyone needs a board like these regardless of ability.

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I spent the summer of 1989 making payments on a new Burton Safari Comp II while working at a garden center. I loaded 40lb bags of manure into Volvo station wagons and did other crap tasks at the boss's whim for five dollars an hour. When I finally paid the board off and took delivery of it in mid-July, I stood it up in my bedroom under the track lighting, and went to bed every night gazing at its then-massive 14mm deep radial sidecut and totally sweet zebra graphics, and dreamed of eurocarving like Peter Bauer. When we finally went up to Sugarloaf for the first weekend of the season, I forgot my boots. Well there was no way in hell I wasn't riding that board. I crammed my Salomon SX-51 rear-entry ski boots into the Burton 3-strap "Darth Vader" bindings and went for it. It sucked. That weekend I vowed never to become a hardbooter. I still have nightmares based on this experience to this day.

Kessler KST 185 PGS

20 years later, I finally got my own full custom World Cup race-room race board. In April. I stood it up in the kitchen and stared at it every day. Taller than me, it silently mocked me to get in shape, to get my game on, for the coming season. It stands there now as I type this. Walking to the lift for the first run in December carrying this board in my hand that was worthy of Olympic gold and FIS championships was… transcendental. This was what I had been practicing for, for 20 years. Was I worthy? Would I love it? Would it be too much? I made small talk with the people around me, but they weren't really there. I stared up at the mountain trying to decide which beckoning white stripe of manmade would be the maiden voyage. It was a cold, bluebird day, with hard but edgeable cordury which had been laid down with many hours left in the night to set up solid. The ski report said frozen granular.

It was still very early in the season, and I was suffering my annual ritual of being too eager to tilt the board up on edge, resulting in simply falling over onto my side. A board with a 14 to 21m sidecut didn't help this. But I calmed myself down and reminded myself of the cure for this problem, to be patient and ride the balance point while letting the carve build. Then the true magic of this board revealed itself. The Kessler sliced into the eastern hardpack with eerily quiet confidence, as if to say "I'll take it from here". I could feel the nose bringing the carve around into the fall-line. Then settling into the second half of the carve and feeding the board into the turn, the straighter tail resisted the thrust of my back leg and accelerated the board across the hill with zero chatter, and total stability. Whoah.

I spent two days riding each board by itself in order to get to know it. Normally when demo'ing a board I know within a run or two whether I have to have it or not. But in this case I wanted a more intimate knowledge of each board before mixing it up with back-to-back comparisons. Getting to know the Kessler was an eye-opening experience. It conjured up adjectives like beefy, strong, planted, confidence-inspiring. But once I got used to the adjustable nature of the blended sidecut, riding the Kessler by itself for a few days, every now and then I would find myself being lulled into the false sense that this was just another alpine snowboard, carving just another turn. And then reality would come rushing back when in my lazy comfort I would just be leaning on the sidecut, not really being careful about my balance, and a patch of ice would deal a swift reality check. With the fresh perspective of careening along on my ass, I realized I was sliding seemingly twice as fast and twice as far as usual. Similarly, at times I was surprised by the sides of the trails approaching with astonishing speed. Furthermore, one day I rode the Kessler in the morning, and skied with my kids in the afternoon. I had to ask my wife, "were conditions this lousy this morning??" They were. I hadn't known.

So the point here is that this board can fool you into thinking it feels like a regular alpine board, until you realize you're comfortably going twice as fast without even trying, and on conditions that you normally wouldn't dream of riding with anything but a slow, turny SL board. It rewards you with big, low, fast sweeping turns and all the g's you can muster. While riding, it is impossible to not sport a big shit-eating grin. You get to the liftline and look around at, well, everyone else and think "if only they knew what this is like!"

Riding a board capable of so much more than I was used to reminded of the time I took my relatively slow and unfared motorcycle to the shop for repair. While I was there they let me take a new Honda Superhawk for a test drive. I went down the road and brought it up to what I thought was "cruising speed". I thought yeah, this feels right. Then I looked down at the speedo and saw 110mph. Oops.

The downside of this of course is that I would run out of trail width more frequently than on my trusty old 14m 171. If you are going to try to make round, fully carved freecarve turns, this board needs real estate. Sometimes I'd have to speed check and drift into the next carve, and lock-on after setting trajectory with a "slarve". The board was a willing and able accomplice in this task as well, able to feather and adjust with ease. Chalk that up to the decambered nose and tail, and the shallow sidecut depth. But when you head out on a big board like this, you can take all the narrower trails off the map if railing round carved turns is the priority.

One of the major upsides though, is that you can relax and enjoy the bottom half of your carves and just ride them out without fear of the board not being able to handle the maximized forces and speed. The board settles in and tracks across the hill with eerie stability. The edge feels positively embedded in the snow from tip to tail. Mid and high frequency vibrations are all but non-existent thanks to the Titanal and a luxurious deli-style slab of rubber below the topsheet, visible in the sides of the insert holes. But that doesn't completely deaden the ride. As the stiffest board in the group, it strikes a perfect balance between lively and damp, and it will launch you if you give it a quick edge-snap right before unloading off the tail. Believe it or not though, low frequency chatter can still happen, but only if you're doing something stupid or demanding the impossible. Which of course you will do, because the board makes you feel like an invincible stupid teenager again.

This board is so good at carving turns at high speed, that I would love to see what Kessler could do with a 171cm, ~21cm, ~13/15m template. (Kessler: HINT HINT)

The decambered nose makes turn initiation smooth and predictable, giving you a little extra time to set the edge before the angular acceleration begins. The board is more compliant to your inputs, instead of always telling you where it wants to go. The nose also deals with surface imperfections much better than any traditional nose. Sometimes I would see a rut coming towards me and I would wince, anticipating the hit to my boots. But then it wouldn't happen.

Coiler NSR 185

The Coiler is nearly as stiff as the Kessler and has a very similar sidecut. In use, the turn size and shape was basically identical for all intents and purposes. With a full 5 day work week between riding the Kessler and then the NSR for two full days by itself, the Coiler convinced me it was practically a match for the Kessler's speed, edge hold, and stability. However at first the slightly narrower waist was noticeable and required a minor adjustment. Basically all the compliments lavished upon the Kessler can be applied here, as it shares many of the same attributes and riding qualities. Decambered nose, check. Multi-radius anti-progressive sidecut, check. Titanal, rubber, check check. Shit-eating grin, check.

The picture changed though, as soon as I started doing back-to-back swaps with the Kessler. The Coiler seems to incorporate thinner or less rubber, as it transmitted more snow-feel to the boots, and had a slightly less quiet feel. As such, the NSR gives up a short-hair of edge hold to the Kessler. The Coiler's decambered nose is less gradual. The transition region from camber to rocker starts 61mm further towards the tip, and finishes 25mm sooner. This revealed a sensation of slightly shorter effective edge length. Nevertheless, the NSR was still stout and confidence-inspiring, and I was comfortable going as fast on it.

What makes Coiler unique? Bruce Varsava says:
"Camber is cut into core but biggest difference is I have way more precise stiffness control at the final stages of the assembly procedure. I tweak and test boards after assembly before the tops go on. Never heard of anyone else doing this. This is the best way to eliminate the variable of wood density."

Donek Rec GS 184

The Rec GS is another "new-school" race shape, but its softer flex make it an entirely different ride. It was the most versatile board of this group, allowing the shortest turns which let it fit onto more trails and into more "nooks and crannies" than the others. The blended radius also allowed adjustment of turn size, permitting it to be ridden long and fast with confidence, although its ultimate speed limit was lower. It was noticeably softer between the feet as well, which was more comfortable and forgiving. The board overall was more manageable and workable, and never had that freight-train feel. The extra independent foot movement on the Donek made the Kessler and Coiler feel almost like bolting your boots to a 2×10. Like the others, the decambered nose made for smooth, predictable turn initiation and oozed the board over bumps and ruts. While the more forgiving flex was welcome on a greater variety of trails, it comes at the cost of a little less liveliness. But overall this was the easiest board to step on and ride well from the word go.

Sean Martin describes some differences between the 2010 metal construction and previous years:
"This years construction is completely different. The carbon has been rotated 90 degrees and placed between the core and metal instead of the metal between the carbon and core. We've added full rubber laminates, something we never did in the past, the geometries have been completely tailored to the metal construction with the continuously variable sidecut, large amounts of taper, and decambering."

Donek WC GS 184

The WC GS employs an even longer sidecut for greater speed and a more aggressively decambered nose. Sean Martin describes the design differences:
"The coaches and athletes who tested the WC version prefered the increased decamber, while the freecarvers appreciated the increased predictability of slightly less decamber. I believe this is also a function of the slightly thicker metal laminates we are using. They produce more torsional stiffness and bite when feathering the board. Additional decamber regulates this and makes it easier for the racers to redirect the board."

Interestingly though, as the WC is not significantly stiffer than the Rec, its resulting carve size and speed was nearly identical to the Kessler and Coiler, which have shorter sidecuts. Like the Rec, it felt more pliable, however I found the softness at the higher speeds required greater attention to balance. The big nose had the most terrain clearance, however at times it felt vague when carving and initiating turns. This is a race-level machine that offers an alternative feel for riders who like to manipulate the board more.

What makes Donek unique? Sean Martin says:
"I think the most unique thing about what we are doing this year is the complete adjustability of everything. When I take an order I consult with the customer and listen to everything they have to say and make any recommendations I have with regard to adjusting dimensions and specs to meet their specific needs. If they want to make similar adjustments, I give them guidance and then adjust everything accordingly. This is available on every board we're making."

Prior WCR Metal 187

As stated earlier, the single-radius WCR was the only Prior available to be loaned out for review. The constant 15m radius felt familiar and performed predictably, but the turn size was noticeably less adjustable. This combined with the least decambered nose gave the board a feeling of immediacy when locking in to a carve. This made the board exciting and grippy but also slightly less versatile in terms of carve size and shape. Turn radius could be tightened up as usual, but the single-radius was less willing than the others to be drawn out. The sidecut begins carving sooner and holds on longer, and wants you to positively finish each carve.

The Prior's high camber gave it a more energetic feeling and magnified the stiffness. On-snow, the Prior felt stiffer than its measured stiffness which by itself was only slightly stiffer than the Doneks. For me this felt like the happy medium on the stiffness scale. Prior also has the liveliness/dampness balance nailed. I could imagine the FLC 187 with its blended 15/17m radius would hang quite well with the other PGS shapes for freecarving.

This WCR was the wider version of the 187, with a 21cm waist. It was only 5mm wider than the Kessler, however with only a 15m radius, the ends of the board were quite wide. Tipping the board up on edge required more leverage. If I were buying one, my size 28s would be happy on the standard 19.5cm waist. This wider version would be a boon to anyone with bigger feet or craving lower binding angles.

What makes Prior unique? Chris Prior listed:
"1. Inlayed metal on top prevents 'picking'
2. reinforced inserts help prevent insert suck.
3. full wrapped metal edges. edge wraps around tail to improve torsional stability in tail section. and protection.
4 carbon on top of top titanal for durability.
5. sexy graphics… for all!"

The Full Monty

Bola at All Boards Sports graciously loaned me a Vist plate, and Bomber supplied a demo pair of Sidewinders so that I could experience the full World Cup ride on my Kessler. The Vist plate consists of two plastic bars that mount to the standard 4-hole inserts, and aluminum plates that span the bars, providing the platforms for mounting bindings. The undersides of the plastic bars are notched to allow more upward flex, although the bars are still considerably stiff. Just by being there, the Vist plate adds dampness and some stiffness to the board, which makes the board ride even longer. The Vist plate also provides some suspension, as it allows you to "lock" part of the plate and "float" the other. The Vist-to-board mounting screws pass through lengthwise slots in the plate. The screws also pass through metal collars in the slots. The locking collars fill the slots and prevent sliding, and the floating collars do not fill the slots and allow sliding. So the Vist's plastic bars can slide on top of the board where the floating collars are used. The conventional wisdom in PGS racing is to float the plate under the front foot and lock the plate under the rear. If your board has special Vist inserts at the waist, you also have the option to lock the middle and float both ends.

jack12

jack13

top: floating collars; bottom: locking collars

The Vist plate created an even smoother, damper, faster ride. It is obvious why they have been so popular on the World Cup. I even got into a situation where the board hit a big rut that caused a chatter that would have been absolutely bone jarring, but the plate did its job to significant effect, and I was able to save the turn. However the trade-offs are that the board rides longer and there is a reduction in snow-feel. The muted communication between the snow surface and the feet would take some getting used to, but obviously it can be done. However on my first and only day with the Vist, it was a challenge to know what was going on under the edge. I'd be railing and railing, and then ka-pow, without warning I'd be going for a long, fast slide on my side with a very heavy plank on my feet. The weight is also very significant. The Vist plate itself weighs almost as much as a pair of bindings. So when the whole assembly is on your feet, it really presents itself. The board becomes more difficult to steer and maneuver, and flick edge-to-edge. I'm sure the weight and the snow-feel could be overcome with training, and even without it I could tell why racers need it – it allows you to go faster. But for my freecarving needs, the negatives outweigh the positives. And these boards all performed very very well without it.

The Bomber TD3 Sidewinders provide additional flexibility only in the lateral direction. Much has already been written about them, which I won't repeat here. The Sidewinders did a nice job of returning the comfort and independent leg action into the interface that the stiffer boards took away. They also helped absorb the hits of rough terrain. However sometimes when I was looking for some emergency and independent leg action into the interface that the stiffer boards took away. They also helped absorb the hits of rough terrain. However sometimes when I was looking for some emergency lateral support and response from the binding, with the soft yellow e-pads, the binding simply wasn't there. I didn't get to try the medium purple e-pads, but I would like to. I think they could be a nice compromise on stiffer boards. I personally don't feel a need for them on softer boards like my Coiler Schtubby, but I tend to like a stiffer binding in general.

Epilogue

jack9

Honestly, the Kessler sets the bar for the rest of the boards here. As it darn well should. It costs $500 more than the next most expensive board, and twice as much as the least. Whether or not it is "worth it" is up to you. If you bought any of the other boards here and rode and enjoyed it by itself, you could convince yourself it was the best board in the world and why would you need anything more? Do I need a metal board with a decambered nose and variable sidecut? Yes I do. Do I want a $1500 Kessler? Yes I do. Do I need it? No I don't. Not when there are other choices that are so nearly as good for so much less money, and when my children need college fund contributions. If I was racing and had to have every last ounce of performance possible, then I would need it. If I were in a little different financial position in life, then I could justify it. But damn it's been fun trying all these boards.

jack3

 

L'articolo è pubblicato su Bomber on Line a questo indirizzo

http://www.bomberonline.com/resources/Bomberfiles/the_new_hotness.html

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