Rode

When I dump out my fanny-packs and corral my various open containers of kick wax I find more Rode wax “in-service” than any other brand. Including seven tins of Super Blue. Like many skiers and waxers, Rode is the foundation of my kick waxing world. Rode was formed in 1972 by Rodeghiero Rizzieri after a semi-illustrious career as a racer and service man for the Italian national team. He was a seven-time Italian national champion, but without question his lasting mark on the ski world came with his waxes.

Franco Nones, 1968 Grenoble Olympic 30K. Photo shamelessly stolen from the internet.

Uncle John has this to say about Rode:
“Rode was/is a fairly new company,¬†but the Italian–can’t bring up his name right now (Franco Nones, with skis waxed by Rodeghiero Rizzieri)–won the ’68 30K in France because he had rode special green and gained all sorts of time on Mantyranta, on the last 2-3k downhill–that put Rode up with the big boys.”

Instead of waxing poetic (that was a pun; get it?) about the history of Rode waxes, I’ll give you an item by item run-down of the line-up of kick waxes. That will be more useful.

Drywax – In the latest version of drywax packaging many of the waxes have two different temperature ranges marked on them – one for middle-Europe (alpine environment) and one for northern-Europe (scandinavian maritime environment). In general we can think about the high-mountain west as being “middle-Europe” range and the east, midwest, northwest and Alaska as being “northern-Europe” range. But as with all temperature ranges on all waxes, these ranges are only guidelines.

Special Green – One of many good extreme cold drywaxes. This one doesn’t stand out for me in any particular way, but maybe you should ask Franco Nones. I carry it and use it.

Green – Known for its speed, I’ve been told by World Cup waxers that this one is “too fast” (code for “not enough kick”). I find the kick to be remarkably solid in most North American snow. This is a forgiving and wide-range cold drywax with great speed.

Multigrade Blue – The old tins called this “Blau” and that’s still commonly how I refer to it. This is another wax known for its speed above all. Great performance with temperature in the teens.

Blue I & Blue II – I have no idea why Rode even makes a normal “blue” in addition to blau, super and super-extra (not to mention weiss). Why they make¬†two of them is really beyond comprehension. I have both of these waxes, and have never successfully used either.

Super Blue – This stuff is magic. As a kid and a young racer I heard it repeated often that Super Blue “won’t ice”. It is a remarkably “safe” wax, and it can provide great kick in cold conditions without killing speed. In some untransformed old cold snow it can be amazingly fast even at below-legal race temperatures. These days I use Super Blue mostly in conditions considerably colder than its nominal range, and in older snow. While it works extremely well in the “warm blue” range, there are other waxes that I usually like better there.

Super Extra Blue – Rode specifies a humidity range of “40/90%” for this wax. Is that high or low? I never could figure that out, but the wax is great in new snow, and falling snow. Under the circumstances I think Rode probably means to indicate “dry” new snow conditions. I use it closer to the advertised range of temps in snow that’s not glazing much – particularly falling snow.

Super Weiss – The third of the rode warm-blue trifecta isn’t blue at all – it’s white. This one is best in “greasy” tracks near and below freezing – untransformed snow that has seen a lot of traffic and become mealy, and doesn’t pack too well.

Multigrade Violet – This is where I’ll make some Rode die-hards really angry. I find this stuff to be tourist wax. People tend to love it because when the warm blues aren’t kicking well, multigrade violet provides bomber kick. It’s an easy step to take to get good grip. It also almost always slows the skis down. For racing I rarely ever use it. But it’s always in my fanny-pack for just skiing around.

Violet – Also known as “Zero” for it’s traditional published range of 0C. This wax is the one I depend on more than any other in the Rode line for racing. In conditions approaching that hair-raising territory where things get sloppy and kicking wax can really start to slow the skis down, this wax provides great kick with reliably excellent speed. In a world full of advanced fluorinated solutions you don’t have race wax in this range unless you’ve beat Rode zero!

Violet Extra – Meh.

Rot Extra – This is one of those exceptions like a highway exit on the left. Normally (thanks to Swix) we think of “extra” as designating a warm version of a wax, while “special” designates a cold version. Well, this is a cold red called extra. Rex has a warm blue called special. They’re trying to make us crazy. Rot Extra is quite a good cold red, but I usually end up with Swix Special Red, or one of the newer fancy waxes like Vauhti K12 or Start RF Violet.

Rossa – Once again, I end up on more modern stuff.

Yellow – “Gialla” is one of the few really sticky “klistervax” type products out there that can compete for any sort of use against the modern fluorinated waxes. Usually this stuff gets beat out by zeros, but in some conditions where relatively dry new snow is being saturated from below by lots of available moisture, this stuff can be really good in the heavily glazed tracks. However, much more commonly this goop gets used in mixes. Either on-the-ski mixes or premixed waxes like the classic Swix Extra Blue / Rode Yellow mix known as “Cowboy” or “Blellow” depending on whether you’re Bruce Cranmer or Ruff Patterson.

Fast Fluoro Kick Waxes – Rode jumped onto the fluoro kick wax train at about the time that Swix was touting the XF line of waxes. There are four Fast Fluoro kickers – Blue Special, Blue Super, Violet Special, and Red Extra. The only one I’ve never used in racing is the Blue Special, and the only one I still test is the Red Extra, which is a great wax for covering klister in abrasive hard tracks.

Top-Line Kick Waxes – I have recently seen some new Rode waxes in use on the world cup, and understood that these are a new series of modern fluorinated kick waxes. The one that I’ve had for my own use is the “VXPS”, which is comparable to my beloved Rode “zero”, and has beat it out in multiple circumstances. There are two slightly colder ones as well (VO and VPS), and you can bet I’ll be working with these as well. If you’re a Rode person, you’ll require a set of these.

Klisters

Chola – Truly one of the toughest and hardest binder klisters around, and it smells wonderfully like tar. The trick with this stuff is that it sets up almost glassy-hard, and you really need to bond your kicking klister to it with some heat. For use in really abrasive warmer conditions where kicking klisters are soft (like Rossa), I recommend an intermediate layer of base klister – either Blue or Special Violet. Otherwise the soft klister is liable to shear right off the hard Chola. Chola does not provide a “cushion” – it’s strictly for durability. It won’t come off the ski if it’s heated onto a clean, abraded base. You don’t need a thick layer of it.

Special Blue – A very tough base klister with a hard finish. This doesn’t provide the same toughness as Chola, but it is a more effective cushion for a kicking violet, or even for covering with drywax in cold fine-grained abrasive snow.

Blue – This is often referred to as “Skare” (and the special blue as special skare). The original packaging even said Skare on it. My understanding is that Skare is a Norwegian word for crusty snow, and that the word used to be fairly universally used for klister intended for icy, crusty conditions. The Rode Blue is more of a base klister than a kicking klister in my opinion. This is one of my less-used Rode klisters. I find it a little too hard to be a really versatile base for warmer klisters and drywaxes, and use Special Violet much more.

Special Violet – This is a good one – a great base klister for softer kicking klister, and for blue-range drywaxes. Also good for mixing into hardwax bases to create a more viscous kicking base. Also OK as a kicking klister in finer-grained cold icy snow, though usually the straight violet ends up being the ticket.

Violet – A truly versatile cold conditions kicking klister.If you’re kicking on Rode violet you almost certainly want a good tough base klister under it, because those conditions are sure to be quite abrasive. It’s often worth softening this a bit with Rossa in finer grained snow with moisture in it, or with Multigrade Universal in coarse grained snow.

Rossa – A truly versatile and utilitarian tacky klister – great for softening a strong klister like Violet or Multigrade on coarse snow, or adding a little backbone to a Special Rossa in wet new snow. Rossa is almost always used as an additive to soften or stabilize other waxes. It can enhance kick and resist icing in a wide range of conditions.

Rossa Special – This is a great tacky klister for fine (even new) crystals and high moisture. It is also good as a mixing klister for use when the moisture is coming to the surface and producing glaze.

Multigrade Universal – One of the great strong universal klisters for coarse snow, along with Swix K22 and Rex OV. Multigrade and Rossa is always something to test in wet coarse snow and breaking tracks above freezing. There have been days when I got sucked into chasing different combinations through transitional wetting snow, and I finished up just wishing I had waited until 10 minutes before the start and put on Rossa and Multigrade. Kris Freeman can tell you about one of those days. I never quite caught up with the obvious solution on that one! If you run out of Multigrade on a race day just check the front of Ruff Patterson’s jacket – there’s sure to be half a tube available there.

Nera – This stuff is mostly pine tar as far as I can tell. Tar is good for avoiding icing in new snow, but so is kick wax that isn’t klister! I always find that Nera has less kick than I expect – I consider it more of a cold klister than the advertised -2 to +5 range. It hasn’t been race wax for me – I have always beat it with something else – but I’ll keep trying because I love the smell. For my next set of attempts I’ll be mixing it with softer klisters. I’m thinking a Special Rossa/Nera mix for new snow…

Silver – This is a good soft silver klister – very versatile for adding to mixes in dirty snow conditions.

Silver Extra – This stuff seems to target tricky conditions where getting things exactly right is almost impossible, and your wax is almost certain to be less than satisfactory at some point in the race. I’ve never felt that Silver Extra bailed me out of some crazy situation where nothing else was going to get the job done. Rode says it’s for coarse snow changing from wet to dry corn. If anything I find it good in glazing new snow falling and blowing into saturated transformed wet tracks, as long as it doesn’t ice, which can be tricky.

Gialla – A very soft tacky klister for heavily glazed fine grained snow. Sometimes useful, but not often in my experience. It’s possible that this could be a good mixing additive with other tacky klisters like the Rossa and Rossa Special, but I haven’t played with it much in that way. In general I find zeros or hairies are better in these conditions!

Universal Plus – Another very soft klister – good for adding in small quantities stronger mixes to enhance kick. But this one has a tendency to slow things down, so be sure you test it. I haven’t used it much at all, but I’ve seen it used successfully in europe.