It’s Christmas come early!
Online motorcycle toy store “LeatherUp.com” wants to let the world know about its house-brand line of helmets called “Xelement”, and has been kind enough to send us one of their ”2-IN-1″ Evolution models for evaluation.
And while it’s a bit cold here in Boston for an on-road test, it will be my pleasure to walk you through my initial impressions of the product as I open the box.
See below for the traditional box-opening video, where I record the revealing of the item fresh out of the shipping container so as to capture the most genuine first impression possible. If you’re in the market for a new road-riding dome piece, read on for a more complete review of the helmet.
The shape of the helmet is decidedly angular. The subtle peak at the top actually reminds me of the hood on my Acura, and the cascading ridges on the back of the helmet give some depth making it a bit more visually engaging than a standard “bowling ball” helmet.
But it doesn’t look (or feel) like it was designed in Minecraft. On the contrary the angles are rounded off, giving the design an “aggressive-but-subdued” kind of vibe. I find these smooth edges match the rubberized matte black spray-job nicely, though that may be my color bias coming out.
Fit & Finish
The rubberization you get with a matte finish really helps make any helmet feel solid, and that’s the case here too. The body itself feels well-reenforced and is plenty thick. The face shield is robust and its up/down operation feels great… once you figure out the locking mechanism.
The plastic toggle switches on the vents and retractable sun visor aren’t the sturdiest I’ve seen, but they’re perfectly acceptable. Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised with the overall build quality at this price point.
The helmet is well-sized; I demo’ed a Medium and it was consistent with my other Mediums from other brands. The head-entry hole at the bottom is a bit on the snug side, making it easier to don the thing with the visor up, but once it’s fitted this gives you a nice feeling of snug security.
The chin strap is a different design than I’ve seen in this application. Like a modern ski boot it’s a plastic locking-clip rather than a D-Ring, which I typically see on motorsport helmets.
The plastic here feels solid but I’ll be closely monitoring how well this mechanism survives in long-term testing. The design takes plenty of punishment in the ski boot application so I’m confident it should hold up just fine in the wind. In a crash, well, let’s hope I don’t have to report back on that one. As an added bonus it’s quite a bit easier to put on while wearing gloves. A huge plus if you like to ride in cooler temperatures!
The first thing you notice about this helmet is the giant visor. Fortunately, it doesn’t look goofy in real life like you might imagine but it will get noticed by other riders when the lower face-shield is in position. Of course, the benefits of a large visor are obvious- visibility through this thing is excellent! In fact, the best I’ve experienced on any full-faced helmet. And as I mentioned earlier the construction is solid. With the locking feature of the slide, you won’t have to worry about it flying up or down with the will of the wind.
That brings me to the second-most noteworthy feature- the removable face shield. This aspect is in fact what renders the helmet a “2-IN-1″… with it in place, you get the style of a full-face. Without it, the wind is yours for the swallowing.
It’s easy to connect-and-disconnect, which is great for accessibility. But as a result, I’m sure it won’t give quite the same level of chin and lower-face protection as a solid one-piece helmet. That said, it does feel strong enough to withstand a direct blow… I just don’t think the locking tabs are up to the task of keeping this little shield in place during a lateral impact.
The third and my favorite feature I want to share is the retractable sun visor. Tucked within the forehead area is a small dark-tinted shield that snaps down with the push of the top-mounted toggle switch.
The feature isn’t unique to this helmet or brand, but I love it nonetheless.
For some reason I can’t help but associate it with Luke Skywalker’s X-Wing helmet visor. Which of course, makes it super cool.
And it actually is rather useful. For all those times you forget/lose/break your sunglasses, the retractable shield will be there to keep me from getting blinded by the sun and the police strobes I invariably encounter when I ride. The only downside here is that it does’t cover your entire field of vision, so your eyes may have trouble keeping up if you look at your gauges a lot.
The Xelement Evolution 2-IN-1 is a stylish, versatile helmet with plenty of features and more than reasonable construction quality. A much better package than you’d expect for the price- you can’t go wrong with that!”
• On sale now for $89.95
• Sprayed in Flat Black, Gloss Black, White, Yellow, or Gun Metal
• Fitted at S through 2XL
• Available today at LeatherUp.com
Stay tuned for on-road testing in the spring!
After a few months of begging industry-champion motorsport outfitter Alpinestars for some gear to test, they finally obliged us with a sweet pair of kicks from their street motorcycle apparel lineup.
It couldn’t have come at a better time, because the Pumas I had bought off the clearance rack at Marshall’s were looking even shabbier than my twenty-year-old sportbike.
I busted open the box and shot my usual impression video, including a road test review.
In collaboration with Bootleg Media Group we were able to up the production value from my usual one-camera operation, and I finally found an excuse to strap a GoPro to my Gixxer.
I yapped about the build quality, style and versatility of the FastLane shoes on camera, but in case you don’t want to take my word for it, examine the close-ups for yourself.
A high-powered sportbike, even a geriatric one like mine, requires a little commitment on behalf of the rider in order to extract the machine’s full performance potential.
You wouldn’t take out a Ferrari with bald tires and no seat belt, right?
Put your hand down, Mr. Hattabaugh.
These shoes give you the a little racing boot rigidity without… well… being racing boots. The high-top style is less aggressive in appearance when worn with jeans (or any long pants), and the only thing hinting at the motorsport-orientation of your footwear will be the big A* emblazoned on the sides.
The black-on-white with red trim really is a classic race look, but the shoes can be had in black/yellow or black/white as well.
Here are the specs, straight from the horse’s mouth (what?):
- Sleek profile upper is constructed from lightweight, durable and abrasion resistant microfiber.
- Breathable mesh liner aids airflow within the shoe.
- External TPR protectors around the ankle and toe.
- Foam backed, double density ankle cups provide impact protection to both sides of the ankle.
- Internal toe and heel counter are layered under the microfiber for additional impact and crush protection.
- Reflective stripes on heel for improved visibility in dark conditions.
- Integrated metal shank in the sole helps reduce excessive foot deformation during impacts.
Comfort and convenience
- Plush 3D Mesh on the collar and tongue.
- Shift area with debossed texture detail.
- Extremely lightweight rubber sole features laser-ablated textured grip for sure footing on all surfaces.
- PU midsole on the heel for added walking comfort.
- Anatomically profiled EVA foam footbed grants the foot a more natural posture both on and off the bike.
- Lace closure system with adjustable Velcro strap affords quick and easy fastening.
Head over to Alpinestars’ dedicated page for the shoes here to see them up close and get a pair of your own.
I’ve commended Demon’s body armor technology quite a few times last ski season, as the Demon United team was kind enough to furnish us with some armored shorts that were absolutely brilliant for protecting a novice snowboarder from tailbone injuries.
Now they’ve sent over a new suite of pads and although it’s a bit late to test them on the slopes, I headed out to the forests of New England to see their effectiveness on the sticks and stones of some mountain bike trails.
Demon’s latest loadout comprises of knee pads, elbow pads, and a spineplate that’s secured to the body by way of a lightweight vest.
Build quality, fitment, and style on each element is exceptional.
The skin-contacting sections are breathable and non-irritating, while the rubberized logos give the armor a premium-quality look and feel.
I will say that heat buildup was more than I’m used to, as I don’t usually bike in this much padding, but considering how snugly everything fit I’d say that heat retention was acceptable.
So it looks good, it feels good, and it gives you the confidence to stay powered-on through some rougher obstacles.
The spills I took in testing were, fortunately/unfortunately, too minor to truly test the blunt force resistance of the armor (although I did land on my elbow in relative comfort once).
But that doesn’t mean I was about to let my sponsors down.
Enlisting the help of my sister to complete the test; I tossed her a stick about half the diameter of a baseball bat and had her rattle off a few precision hits on my pads.
Reveling in the task, she wound up and broke the stick over my D3O’ed knee… and I’m happy to say I was only able to report minor discomfort.
Without prompting she sought out a second stick and thought to try my spine plate, the result of which I was just as happy with- although I expressed the opposite to my assistant.
The only department where the D3O plating falls short is in repeated impacts. After three to five good thwacks, you start to reach the limit of its effectiveness and the need to take a break from getting your ass kicked.
But in a sports-crash situation you’re not likely to have repeated blunt trauma to the same part of your body within a few seconds, so you really don’t lose much in going for this stuff over typical CE plating… and that stuff is over twice as heavy and ten times as cumbersome.
As always, pick up your own set straight from the source at DemonUnited.com.
Premium purveyor of extreme sport body armor Demon United has once again graced us with gear- completing my arsenal with a full loadout for both summer and winter.
You might remember how many tailbone injuries I was spared from thanks to Demon’s FlexForce padded shorts over the winter- now I’m looking forward to enjoying full-body protection with the rest of the set.
Check out the box-opening video here to see my initial impressions, and stay tuned for field testing.
UK-based helmet manufacturer Ruroc has been kind enough to punt one of their RG-1 snowsports helmets across the Atlantic to my mobile HQ, and in the limited edition “Venom” green-on-black color scheme no less.
After a few days of testing in a variety of conditions, I’m happy to report the headline I’m sure Ruroc’s PR department was hoping for: I love it!
Check out my open-box impressions below, then I’ll get into the details of on-snow usage.
As you saw, Ruroc does it right straight out of the box.
Beautiful packaging, premium build quality, and heaps of stickers will have a new purchaser nodding in approval before he or she even puts the thing on. If that’s not enough to make you smile, the “Made In England” stamp inside the lid certainly will. This helmet is built where it’s designed- no outsourcing to enslaved kids in Molvania for this company.
You’ve gathered by now that the look is polarizing. If the mirrored lens didn’t make enough of a statement, that solid face shield and textured matte black finish will have Stormtroopers saluting and kids running to their mama (this helmet is probably not the best choice for on-duty ski instructors).
On one test day I was told I looked like Darth Vader by no less than three lifties, although if I were inclined to get nerdy up in here I’d reckon the RG-1 looks a lot more like the Imperial Endor Scout helmet.
In any case, the perpetually-expressionless look afforded by this helmet lets you be The Stig of the mountain- for the full effect, move your head very slowly and don’t answer questions with anything but a nod.
Okay, so it looks hardcore. But how good is it really?
At first I was a bit skeptical. I’ve seen guys wearing full-face Downhill MTB helmets and they look like dorks. The giant chin-protector makes their head look disproportionately huge and is so far away from the face that there’s no way it can do anything for wind deflection.
But the RG-1 is different. The face shield is tight enough to your face to block wind and impact, and gives you that “locked-in” feeling I’m used to in my sport motorcycle helmets without the added heft.
It’s comfortable too. The helmet’s shell, which carries about forty stamps of approval and as many safety ratings, is quite thick and tall. But if that doesn’t describe your head shape, Ruroc has been foresightful enough to supply plenty of extra pads for you to shape the lid’s interior to your needs.
Some users have complained that the Ruroc helmet system only works with their house-brand goggles. Well they shouldn’t, because the included eyewear is top-notch. Interchangeable lens, incredible peripheral vision and perfect fitment with the helmet make them the only choice for an RG-1 wearer.
And on impact? Come on, I ride like a maniac… everybody knows I couldn’t go that long without a nasty prang to the head. Which is why I’ve had to wait until today to write a full review.
With my speed Völkls freshly waxed and serious tailwinds blowing skiers and snow downhill in a hurry, today was perfect for a top-speed test… which I realized afterwards would actually be my helmet test.
Going full noise down the Cornice Bowl, one of the steeper offerings at Mammoth Mountain, I found myself baring down on a patch of rocks that I really didn’t want to subject my new wax job to. Thinking I could change direction more effectively than I could hop the obstacle I banked too hard and proceeded to catch an edge, tossing me on to the icy surface like the first pawn eliminated from a tense chess game.
My head and hips met the ground like old friends and I slid at least ten meters toward the bottom.
But with my head encapsulated by the RG-1 and lower body protected by Demon Flex-Force shorts (reviewed here) I was able to hop up and power on as soon as gravity showed me a little mercy and arrested my slide.
In the flurry of snow and limbs that resulted from the crash I can’t really tell you if my face hit the ice or not, but I can tell you the only thing giving me a headache at the end of the day was the Skillrex Pandora station I was rocking out to on my bus ride home.
The Ruroc RG-1 is solid as the third little piggy’s house, believe that. But like everything else it ain’t perfect. It’s not nearly as warm as it looks, and wind whips through the vents quite easily. Luckily you can rectify that with a baklava, hat or kafia underneath. On really windy days you’ll have to stuff something between the opening under the front of the face shield and your skin, or your face will sting after your first chairlift ride.
It’s also somewhat inconvenient for the everyday skier. Headphones are impossible to reach if they get jostled out of your ears, CamelBak tubes are tough to get to and is a little awkward to have a conversation with any cuties you might meet on the chairlift when you look like you’re about to go break up a riot. So the RG-1 probably isn’t something you’d ski or board in every time you hit the snow- but it definitely can’t be bested for those top-speed test days, video sessions or park workouts when you want to go hard and can’t be bothered socializing.
Starting at $260 US this unit isn’t cheap either. But since that figure includes a helmet, facemask and goggle set, all made in Europe, the price starts to look pretty reasonable.
The RG-1 is available in ton of color combinations, and the modular nature of the helmet allows you to plug-and-play with the style to your hearts content.
And if you want to see the thing in action, here’s a quick clip I grabbed before I had to retreat to the bar from the day’s obnoxious wind.
Having taken delivery on a pair of Flex-Force Pro Armored Shorts from Demon United last week, I’ve finally had a chance to properly evaluate them after a few runs in varied conditions and a few falls flat on my ass.
Before reading, you should really check out the Open Box Impression video below, to get an idea of the product itself and how it’s presented by Demon.
As you saw, I found the build quality, fitment and style to be most agreeable straight away. Solid stitching, great elasticity and a high level of comfort that you need in an undergarment.
The pads are light enough to keep on all day but beefy enough to remind you of their presence thanks to utilization of a material called “D3O”. For those of you who don’t usually ski or board in body armor it is an inspiring experience- even if you don’t crash.
Confidence burbles from the pads up your spine and into your brain, making you feel like some kind of snowboarding superhero.
This of course is not the goal of armor manufacturers and is in fact an extremely dangerous phenomenon.
Wearing armor is not an excuse to be an idiot. But let’s face it- how do you get better? You go bigger, that’s how. And although it doesn’t make you invincible, light armor like the Flex-Force Pro shorts allow you to walk away from bigger falls without injury.
And that, I can attest to.
While butt-region injuries are relatively infrequent on skis, thwacks to the tailbone are all too common when riding a snowboard. Especially if you’re new to the sport like myself.
In order to truly test the Flex-Force shorts, I had to have a go on a board. I rented a basic Burton 160 from the demo shop at Mammoth Mountain and set out for some intermediate trails.
As I rode the chairlift I thought about my career as a crash-test dummy. Would I really be able to throw myself into the snow on purpose for the sake of science?
Who was I kidding- I’m not a good enough snowboarder to go a whole day without falling on my keister.
It only took four runs before I had my chance to properly evaluate the shorts.
Coming down Stump Alley, a moderately steep but surprisingly fast run under Mammoth Mountain’s Chair Two, I built up way more speed than I knew what to do with an overconfidently tried to initiate a heel-edge turn to scrub down.
In less time than I could yell my butt was barreling into the snow, making contact with enough force to toss me around and cream the left thigh as well.
I looked up to make sure my board and body were visible to descending traffic and began to assess my injuries.
I’m not gonna lie- the crash was not a painless experience. I felt some undeniably tenderness where the impact had first taken place, but the sensation secondary impact had already faded.
I righted myself and headed for the lift, half speed this time, and compared this crash to my last nasty tailbone tag.
My first day on a snowboard had only taken place a few weeks ago, but the pain in my tailbone from one low-speed direct hit had lingered like the last party guest still desperate to bring someone to bed.
I estimate the crash I just had in the shorts was roughly equal to that which had haunted me for so many days, and I’m delighted to report that the pain from the former had faded almost completely by the time I reached the bottom of the run.
These things saved my ass from a week’s worth of pain and hampered performance; you can’t put a price on that.
Actually, you can. The Demon Flex-Force Pro Shorts retail for about $70, and can be purchased directly from their website or through any major online sports gear retailer.
The only caveats I’d send you to the store with is that the shorts do get quite hot, even on cooler days. Makes me think they’d be pretty tough to spring ski in, and nearly unbearable on jungle mountain biking runs.
What’s this “D3O” business anyway? It’s not a Star Wars character (I know, that’s what I thought at first too). D3O is actually a synthetic polymer that’s coming up as the new word in sports body protection.
The geniuses over at the D3O Lab in England have finally put down the teakettle and developed a material that’s lightweight like foam when moved slowly, but hardens instantly on impact to disperse the blow over a larger area of your body and reduce the risk of injury.
This material is ideal for sports protection applications where low weight and high maneuverability are critical features.
This material is tough, that fact made itself apparent right away to me when they absorbed most of the ouch from my spill. But don’t take my word for it, watch the maniacs at GizMag.com beat the crap out of each other to prove my point.
As you can see, D3O may not withstand repeated trauma as well as thick foam CE armor. But when’s the last time you didn’t take a few second breather after a nasty impact? In all but the highest-speed crashes you might wrap yourself up in on a motorcycle, snowmobile or quad, the lightweight and malleability of D3O renders it the superior tool for personal sports protection.
Wanna get a little more nerdy with it?
Local ski shop owner Tim Hinkle was peddling his wares outside Canyon Lodge yesterday- and was kind enough to be handing out demos of this year’s Surface skis like they were t-shirts at a wrestling match.
No license, credit card or background check required. How could I resist a free test-ride on new hardware?
“Whaddyou wanna try, man?”
Having just bought new skis I admitted I wasn’t in the market, but it seemed stupid to waste an opportunity try some different gear.
I picked out the most ridiculous offering in the lineup- a pair of 179cm powder/all-mountain planks called the “One Life” from Surfaces’ “Life Series” of skis.
Featuring a substantial 140 / 112 / 132 footprint and unheard of eight degrees of rocker; all four front ends of these beasts (twin tip, of course) pointed to the heavens while the only part of P-Tex that actually touched the snow was directly under the boot.
If you don’t understand what the hell I’m on about, check out Evo.com’s definitions of ski shape.
Designed for extremely deep snow and I’m assuming halfpipe skiing, I noticed loads of pop and an excellent wax job as I skated toward Chair Sixteen for an inaugural run.
Coming down the groomers I couldn’t help but pull flat 360s every couple meters. With such an extreme rocker angle the edges of the skis hardly had a chance to catch, and I found out quickly that the One Lifes would much rather pull spins than lay into a carved turn.
When I could break off a carve, I was rewarded with a most obnoxious plume of snow dust being flung off the tail. Imagine a never ending exit wound caused by shooting Frosty with an M1014- weirdly beautiful and decidedly awesome.
In bumps the One Lifes were a riot; weaving around obstacles so quickly and easily I thought I might trip over the tips.
The skis were so happy to turn at low speed that I could practically orbit every mogul on the hill in the same run. The bumps I couldn’t be bothered dodging were even more fun- just an easy bend of the knees and I was boosting effortlessly into the next dip.
But as you’ve probably already guessed, this level of dedication to low-speed maneuverability cost the One Lifes stability at speed. Over 35 MPH and they’re a bit squirrely. Over 50, they might as well be snow blades.
When I cleared the moguls and made it into the straights the riders I had smoked came up on me again and blew past in a white cloud of granular that stung my face almost as much as my pride.
No matter. I was coming up on the Art Park, a small gathering of features for park rats-in-training, and these oversized fruit boots would once again prove their worth.
Even the small kickers were enough to elevate these skis to some respectable hangtime. Hell, I could have caught air off a hummingbird’s wang. I’m sure a more talented park skier could have really made them shine in one of our larger terrain areas, but I had a lot of fun all the same.
Obviously these skis aren’t viable as the only weapon in your on-snow arsenal, but they’d fill out your collection nicely if you’re the kind of rider that needs a specific ski for every lift on the mountain.
Sounds like you? Head over to YeahSweetOnline.com to place an order, or try and meet up with Tim for a demo. I hear they’ll let any idiot have a go…
Details on “One Life” powder/all-mountain skis by Surface
After telling the Canyon Lodge Demo Shop staff my sob story of a desperate, broke skier in need of some gear (myself) they were kind enough to pull back the curtain on their secret stash of last years high performance skis they’d apparently sell me for short money.
“I’ll even give you the employee discount on the standard rental rate… take as many out as you want, and let me know what you think,” said Charlie, the shop’s manager.
Picking a new set of skis is not a task to be taken lightly. I had my last pair almost eight years, and put thousands of runs underneath them. They’ll see duty again too, once they’re back from the shop.
But now that I’ve spent almost two decades on two planks, more than my share of time riding with PSIA cert’s and NASTAR racers, plus this season trying to keep up with my unabashed roommates, the stakes are even higher.
I don’t want to limit myself with a basic, do-everything-with-mediocrity ski. I need something that’s going to be a challenge to ride, something fierce. Basically, if I can find its top speed, I’ll leave it on the shelf.
Enough psyching myself up, on to the comparo.
On this day in late January, 2012 I rode four pairs of skis in the following order; the K2 Aftershock 181, the Völkl Unlimited AC50 177, the Salomon Enduro 177 and the Nordica Hot Rod Tempest 178. They were ex-demo 2011 models, so they all had a few nicks on the topdecks but the bases were all Drake Lake smooth.
Don’t forget, last year was a record for snowfall here in Mammoth, so these demos wouldn’t have seen half the rocks we have to deal with in 2012.
Each ski was run over a wax roller before I took it out, and the DIN on my bindings was always 7. And for the sake of full disclosure, I was rocking my Salomon Sensi-Fit boots from 2004 complete with structural cracks and very tired buckles.
Yeah, I know. Well if I could afford new boots I wouldn’t be shopping for skis in the barging basement of the rental shop, would I?
What matters is that each ski was tested with the same shitty boots… so journalistic integrity remains intact.
I did no less than four runs on any one ski and did at least one all-bumps, one all-fastblast, one hoon run and one mixer to get a complete feel for the ski.
I’m also writing these evaluations before purchasing one of the skis, and they were all being offered to me at the same price with bindings.
One more disclaimer; don’t forget I’m looking not looking for a rounded, easy all-mountain ski. I’ll have that when my Mavericks are fixed. I’m testing these skis to see which is the scariest, most demanding, Shao Khan-badass on the mountain and which ones couldn’t blow the scarf off a snowman.
Rider: Scrawny but strong 6 foot, 155-pound male. Competent skier on all terrain.
Dateline: Mammoth Mountain, California. Late January 2012.
Conditions: Heavy, well packed snow. Some pockets of thin powder, some pockets of thick, wet “Sierra Cement.” Good-not-great snow coverage all around. Excellent visibility. Agreeable temperature. Resort was not crowded.
• Easy to bump n’ jump
• A little too light… feels flimsy
• Couldn’t really get handling dialed in
• Not particularly stable at high speed
Coming in least-beastliest is the Salomon Enduro. I wanted to ride this ski because what I really wanted was a 2012 Salomon Shogun, and for some reason I thought this would be similar. I also liked the plain-black design and how light it was to pick up.
It felt so flexy and playful I started with a hoon run, pulling 360’s and big snow-throws with the tail. I’m not sure if this particular pair had dull edges or if I just wasn’t vibing with the sidecut, but I was actually having a lot more trouble spinning these skis than I thought I should.
On my fastblast run, they ran alright up to about 35 MPH but started acting skittish when pushed. Carving was adequate, just.
The Enduros came into their own in the bumps. In fact, I reckon they out-shone every other ski here in terms of how easy they were to hop and huck through the heavy moguls under the mid-section of Chair Sixteen. But this just wasn’t enough to redeem their lack of confidence at speed. I felt like they were letting me down when I needed real performance and weren’t challenging me enough at low speed. For that reason, the Enduros are coming up fourth.
• Carved harder than grandpa tearin’ the turkey on Thanksgiving
• Extremely versatile
• Poor balance… I couldn’t get my weight to the right places.
• Clattered like the Tin Man on a Flexible-Flyer
• Dorky Power Rangers paint scheme
I rode the K2 Aftershocks first because of a solid recommendation from Charlie. He reckoned this ski would give me the speed I was looking for while still being versatile enough to have fun on the whole mountain. I have to admit, I left the shop with these feeling a little unsure for no other reason than that they’re just so damn cheap looking. K2 makes great skis, but they are seriously lacking in the design department. With weird textures and a super-90’s color combo, you certainly won’t be hanging these on your wall when you retire them.
Interestingly enough, it took me the longest to get dialed in on these skis. I took a few more runs with the K2s than the others for the same reason you sit through a Hugh Grant movie to get to second base… I knew there was something sweet to be had, I just had get comfortable first.
Luckily the K2s and I connected before the credits rolled, and we made sweet giant-slalom symphonies as I wound them out so hard I could have fallen asleep at my lean angle.
Despite having such a long footprint, the turns I was able to lay out with these things were unbelievably fun. But where that footprint let me down was in the bumps. The 181 centimeter length was just a little to long for me, and I could never really hustle them around obstacles like I’d need to on the double-blacks off the top of the mountain and in the trees back east.
If you’re about to scroll to the bottom of this post to comment “hey asshole, you can’t claim to review a ski that isn’t sized properly”, save your proverbial breath. I’ll state again here that I’m reviewing used skis from 2011… and therefore only have the options of what’s on the lot. The K2s were so popular that they were sold out of all but one pair, the 181s I had a go on. Since I do feel like the K2s have been shortchanged in this review by being too big for me, I think this is worth mentioning again.
The carves on this ski were so satisfying that I almost bought them despite the Fast & Furious paint scheme and oceanliner length, but the final neg that made me hang them up was an unbearable clatter they produced at just about any speed. Could have been loose bindings, the front out-extending my weight, or just ski gremlins living between the woodcore, but for some reason these skis just sounded like an old Land Rover full of aluminum cans driving down a cobblestone road every time I got off the chairlift.
• Good length-to-weight ratio
• Bindings somewhat lacking… a bit vague
• Durability- long term tests seem to indicate these lack staying power
The Nordica Hot Rod Tempest was a ski I hadn’t heard of until I saw it sitting on the demo rack. But a quick search on my smartphone indicated these things had a solid reputation as a high-speed all-mountain expert-level snow weapon.
With cool graphics and a viable length, I had to have a go.
These were the last skis I rode of the day, and I had to bat my eyelashes a little to get the demo shop to fit and wax them for me forty minutes before lift closing. But they did, and it was on.
After coming off the lift I pumped out a few meters of skating and headed straight into a fastblast run. The skis exploded with acceleration and held good stability all the way up to just shy of 60 MPH, a speed I was mostly limited to by traffic.
In the bumps the Noridcas required a little effort to negotiate, but the experience was rewarding. As far as hooning it up, I didn’t get into it much because of how icy the snow was at this point in the day. But based on how easy it was to jump on these things and fly I reckoned the Hot Rods could live up to their name with little practice and confidence.
I caught last chair up Twenty Two and headed down the double-black Face Runs. These skis were the only ones I had the privilege of testing on terrain this steep, and the feedback was pretty solid. I really had to pay attention to keep them from getting away from me, and my legs were absolutely burning by the end of the run, but these things got me through some very steep, very icy, tree-splattered bumps in a low-light situation.
A really solid ski for the money, and the second meanest in this day’s test.
• Fast, fast, fast.
• Stiffer than a Buckingham Palace guard when Kate Middleton goes out for a swim in her royal bikini.
• Beautiful topdeck.
• Too heavy for the timid
• Difficult to hustle through the backcountry
The Völkl AC50s were that chammak challo you spot when you walk into a party. All your friends tell you to stay away, but you’ve heard that before haven’t you? You know you’ve gotta make a pass before you bounce, just need a little liquid courage first.
“You won’t like those, they’re too stiff. That’s an extremely aggressive ski,” said Charlie in his worldly sounding British accent as I ran my finger down the titanium-and-woodcore spine.
But the length was perfect, the topdeck was finished in a jaw-droppingly sexy stained wood design, and it didn’t hurt that they were made auf Deutschland.
After a little deliberation the Völk’s were waxed and ready.
I swung them over my right shoulder, they were too heavy to rest on my dented left, I clipped in and skated up Chair Sixteen.
I took my time dialing in on these skis. When I got off the lift I started with a gentle cruise, getting a feel for the sidecut and weight. Charlie was right; these were some aggressive-ass planks and frankly I’d be able to do a lot more with them if I had a little girth on my bones.
But as I skated around and got in tune with the heft, I started hustling them and beginning the real test.
The fastblast was first. Coming in hot off the top of Chair Five I was met with a dangerously enticing combination of a traffic-free face run and the Vishal-Shekhar playlist on my headset.
I skated out two hard pumps and aired in off the drop, hitting the ground with about twice as much speed as I had expected. In an attempt to stay in control I carved out to the right, hard to the left, then back right so hard I felt like I could have skied back to the drop-in.
Leaning forward as hard as I could, I struggled to keep my paltry mass over the front of the skis before they had their way with me and fed me a faceful of granular hardpack.
Carrying speed through carves was almost too easy… I had to throw snow a few times just to keep my velocity within a maintainable range.
After a dramatic hockey stop at the bottom of the lift, I was left out of breath and completely out of energy. My legs were on fire and I was thankful Chair Five had some of the best padding of any on the mountain.
Next up were the bumps. Heading the other way off the chair this time I aired in to Dry Creek, a naturally occurring halfpipe loaded with moguls and rocks the size of Woolly.
With the snow coverage as skimpy as it is these days, this run makes you feel like Luke Skywalker hustling down that back-door alley on his way to blow up Death Star. Just swap aluminum trussing for rocks and TIE fighters for lost gapers struggling to falling-leaf their way to safety.
The skis responsiveness was clutch ripping around the first few obstacles, but their weight took their tool on me quickly and I was gasping for breath by the fifth turn.
Control was being quickly exchanged for speed in a devil’s transaction that all skiers and boarders have known at some point.
I fought to stay on top but now gravity was running the show and the skis were playing second fiddle- I was just some idiot in the back strumming a piccolo.
I caught air off a particularly icy mogul and landed hard on top of another… tore through that and started blazing my own b-line through two more little bumps as I came crashing into a flat section seeking salvation.
Not being able to remember the last time I had had to stop mid-run to catch my breath, I decided then and there that the Völkl AC50 would be my next ski.
Fast, durable and obviously difficult to master, these wood-and-titanium monsters forged in hell’s own ski factory (actually located in Straubing, Bavaria) would help take me to the next level as a skier and be sure to offer up enough near death experiences to keep me interested in the sport for the foreseeable future.