Kick Waxing – Early season testing lessons.
The snow we received right after Christmas here in the East gave us some good opportunity to work with some new drywaxes, and the subsequent thaw got us into the klisters. So we’ve got some observations to pass along.
The Rode Violet Watershed
When Blue-range waxes don’t work…
Blue-range waxes tend to have a phenomenally broad range – this includes products like Swix extra blue, Rode Super Blue, Vauhti Carrot, and many others. There are always winners and losers in the range, but all of the good waxes are plausible solutions in a very wide range of temperatures. When conditions get a little too warm for the blue-range waxes, things get very interesting.
About 80% of my in-service drywax collection (which weighs roughly 16 lbs, suggesting something in excess of 150 sticks of wax) targets conditions in the narrow range of temperatures within several degrees either side of freezing. Huge variations in conditions are possible within this range, and there is never a solution you can count on based on the temperature. Everything depends on the characteristics of the snowpack and the air. Testing is necessary, but it can be tough territory to navigate, given the myriad wax choices. I’ve got a system that’s been working well for me.
My method of dealing with conditions above the blue range depends on two things – Rode Violet, and a sharp putty-knife. The putty knife is so that you can quickly and easily strip your wax and start over. If you’re afraid of that, then you might consider a good pair of fishscales! I’ve already mentioned my appreciation of Rode Violet. In this case I use it as a benchmark and a watershed. If Rode Violet kicks well without icing, then I’m looking for superior speed. If Rode Violet is too slick, then I need to look for kick. A single qualitative test of Rode Violet gives my further testing some structure and direction.
If Rode Violet is working I’ll look for speed with the following waxes (getting progressively faster)
Star Racing Red
Rode Topline VPS 0/-1 (very close to violet)
Rode Topline VO 0/-2
Start RF Red
If Rode Violet is not kicking, then I’ll look for kick with the following waxes (getting progressively stickier)
Rode Topline VXPS 0
Vauhti Super Pink (wet new snow)
Start RF Violet
Ski*Go LF Orange
There are lots of other waxes worth putting into the mix, but having a good conceptual “ladder” and a very solid mid-range wax to use as a watershed can focus you attention on half the list quickly and easily. I use Rode Violet because it’s reliably excellent – if it works, it’s generally competitive, and I’m quite satisfied if I can beat it. Vauhti K12 is another good option for a watershed wax, but I trust Rode Violet more based on experience.
Rode Topline Drywaxes
Rode introduced their Topline kick waxes to the market this year, and we’ve sold a lot of them. These are waxes that I’ve seen and used in a World Cup setting, and so I’ve known they can be good. But I hadn’t tested them extensively prior to this season. I’ve had quite a few opportunities so far this season though, and I’m confident in my understanding of the waxes.
The three Topline drywaxes target a very narrow range of conditions near freezing, and they’re clearly based on incremental adjustments to the basic chemistry of the very successful Rode Violet. The three waxes are distinctly different, and it’s worth having all of them.
Topline VO 0/-2
This is the “coldest” of the three, and it’s considerably faster than Rode Violet. I used this in my only race of the season, and on that day it was the only wax I tested that had both better speed and better kick than Rode Violet. Incidentally, the temperature that day was -3.5C.
Topline VPS 0/-1
This wax seems to be very close to Rode Violet in its balance of kick and glide. On the day that I raced on the VO, the VPS had similar kick and speed, but had a tendency to clump-up and grab in the driest snow. The VO was more consistent. However, in slightly warmer and moister conditions the following days the VPS provided the same kind of boost that VO had provided on race day. Superior speed and better kick.
Topline VXPS 0
This wax is considerably more aggressive than Rode Violet, and is prone to icing in conditions where normal Violet will work. I’ve had great skis with it in the past in freeze-thaw conditions and somewhat transformed snow. I haven’t tested it much in glazing new snow, but that’ll be worth exploring.
Rode Topline Klisters
The Topline Klisters have been new to me this season. But I’ve always liked the Rode klisters, and so I’ve been eager to try these ones. So far I’ve worked with them on skis to get a feeling for them, but Amy’s the one who has put them on the snow. Like the drywaxes, there are three waxes in the line. These ones target a broader range, but also like the drywaxes, they appear to be based on familiar chemistry.
Topline K3 0/+3
The same temperature range and feeling as Rossa Special – we haven’t tested this one yet on snow.
Topline KM3 -6/+6
Anybody familiar with Rode Multigrade will recognize the range. The KM3 has the same “strong” universal feeling – good bet for coarse snow, or as a mixing backbone for the tacky klisters in saturated conditions.
Topline KR3 -2/+4
The Topline version of Rossa – maybe the all-time-great tacky klister for softening a strong klister mix.
These Topline klisters have some metal additive in them, but a very small amount – sort of like Guru 39 Extreme. But the consistency is very similar to the normal Rode klisters that they’re based on. Our initial test of a KM3/KR3 mix behaved exactly like what we would expect from a Multigrade/Rossa, and was very fast. These waxes a reassuring for their familiar feeling and range, and exciting for their speed!
Vauhti K-Line Klisters
Vauhti has been working on a new line of klisters to accompany their extremely successful K-line drywaxes. We’ve been working with these test products at every opportunity, and so far we’re very enthusiastic about the whole line-up. We’ve just brought in a limited quantity of these for sale (still in test packaging). Here’s a run-down:
A true dedicated base klister to provide both durability and padding for kicking klisters. In all abrasive conditions, keeping the klister on the ski is a big concern. With really tough base klisters like Rode Chola, it’s necessary to have intermediate base layers (like special violet) so that the kicking klister doesn’t strip off the extremely hard base klister. The K-Base is very tough, but also quite elastic and secure for holding kicking klisters. The folks at Vauhti have assured me that, with K-Base on the ski, the kicking klister “will not move a millimeter”. We haven’t had any extremely rigorous tests of the durability of this base klister yet, but it has worked extremely well in the tests that we’ve made. As with all base klisters it’s by far easiest to get a good application using an iron to spread the wax and heat it into the base.
In the regular line of Vauhti klisters the blue pulls double-duty as a base klister and a kicking klister. In truth, it’s not superior at either. It’s a relatively weak base klister, but it doesn’t provide great kick compared to the really good kicking blue klisters. We have yet to test the K-Blue, but we’re told that it is a dedicated kicking blue klister for old snow, fine-grained freeze-thaw, and cold manmade snow. The place the normal blue klister really shines is as a basewax for hardwax – often in combination with Super Base. The K-Blue also works very well used this way.
This one is based on the Violet/Universal 50/50 premix that gets used a lot in racing – good for coarse wet snow below freezing, and finer grained or manmade snow around and above freezing. This is a softer, stronger kicking wax than the normal violet.
K-Gold Universal -2/+10
The Vauhti folks are really excited about this one. It is based on the normal Universal, but with tar, and a new version of their silver additive in it. According to Vauhti the Tar broadens the range and increases the elasticity of the wax. The Silver enhances speed and prevents glazing and icing of the klister. The new aluminum oxide additive mixes less evenly than the old one, ensuring that the silver additive doesn’t “tighten” the kick surface too much and steal kick from the wax.
Our testing of the K-Gold places it in the general class of Start Universal Wide (also with Tar and silver additive) but with considerably more kick. This is a wide range and tolerant strong universal that has been good for us in both fine grained and coarse grained snow. However, it is a fairly “dry” feeling wax, and I anticipate the need for something tacky to mix with it in saturated wet snow. In fine-grained saturated tracks it does not kick as well as the normal universal klister.