Rottefella SSR – Built-in Skate Binding Wedge

The new Rotefella SSR skate binding

The new Rotefella SSR skate binding

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about the use of wedges on skate bindings. In fact, I haven’t published anything on the subject on this website. So before I discuss the new Rotefella Xcelerator Super Skate Race (yes – that’s really the name) binding with a built-in toe-lift, I’ll back up with a brief history of the use of toe-lift wedges for skating.

Around 2008 (off the top of my head) a variety of wedges began to show up under skate bindings on some racers. They were probably around earlier than that, but it was obvious enough to register in my foggy brain during the 2008 season, and I started fiddling with the idea using some wedge-shims from home-depot during the 2009 season. Salomon was the first company to really embrace the idea and offer it as standard equipment. But Fischer biathletes were among the earliest athletes to use the wedges in competition.

I’ve seen lots of discussion about what the wedges do, and why they work, and in spite of quite a lot of testing, I remain personally unconvinced that they actually make skis objectively faster. But in many conditions (and depending on the skis in question), a bit of toe lift makes the skis feel considerably faster, and I do choose to ski on them sometimes. Generally, a lift of about 4mm at the toe tapering down to nothing at the heel (in the case of Salomon) or the mid-foot (in the case of Rotefella) seems to be the norm. Many Salomon athletes have adopted the wedge as standard equipment on all their skate skis. NNN-platform athletes have made less universal use of the wedges, in part because the pink NIS-inserts that have been available are pretty beefy – providing a bigger lift than the 4mm (or so) that seems to be comfortable. So a fewer number of NNN athletes have used the wedges consistently, but it’s by no means uncommon, and it’s much more prevalent on the World Cup than among the general population.

The down-side of the wedges is about as nebulous as the benefit. Some people find that wedges put added pressure on their shins, and others find that they just don’t ski well with the wedges, even though they seem to make the skis feel fast. In the end it’s clear that, good or bad, the use of wedges is something that nobody but you can decide on for yourself.

Last year’s roll-out of the new Rotefella Xcelerator sole has introduced a new variable to the equation. The Xcelerator sole has several mm less heel lift than the previous Rotefella sole. In essence, the Xcelerator sole provides some of its own “wedge effect”. This has meant that some athletes who had settled on the use of wedges with their previous boots, have had to reevaluate. Kris Freeman went from nearly full adoption of wedges to very selective use of wedges in combination with the Xcelerator sole because he found the combination too extreme.

We first saw a pre-producton version of the SSR binding last December in a visit to the Fischer warehouse in New Hampshire. At World Championships in Val di Fiemme I expected to be able to get them for use in racing, but Rotefella had experienced production problems and there were none available. Liz Stephen had one pair from Rossignol, and Kris used them in one race because they felt more natural then the pink NIS wedges. The SSR bindings provide a less extreme toe-lift than the pink wedges, and I believe that they’ll be a better and more user-friendly solution.

The SSR will be the most expensive binding on the market next season, with a minimum advertised price of $130. It represents a step-up in convenience from the regular Xcelerator, since it requires no NIS key for installation or adjustment. But aside from the toe-lift and the keyless operation, it is functionally identical to the regular Xcelerator. We will have the SSR binding available next season, and we want to be clear that it represents a great option for skiers who want the option of a well-designed, easy to use, and relatively moderate wedge solution. The SSR is not a new mechanism or a more advanced design, and it’s not a binding that you have to buy simply because it’s more expensive.

Some combination of heel-drop and toe-lift might be appropriate and advantageous for you, in some conditions if not all. As you consider boots and bindings, keep in mind the various combinations of heel drop and toe lift available, and what they might add up to for you.

 

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