Madshus Redline 3.0
If it seems like it was just yesterday that we started talking about the new Madshus 2.0 models, it’s because it was only two years ago. And if it seems like we’ve written a ton about Madshus development projects in the past three or four years, it’s because we have. All of this is because Madshus has been working really hard on development, and the process that results in the release of the new 3.0 models is a continuation of the 2.0 development process. The Redline 3.0 release does not represent a reinvention for Madshus. That was 2.0. With 3.0 it’s been all about delivering on the promise, and chasing the potential to new heights.
What Hasn’t Changed
The Redline 3.0 models have the same geometry as the Redline 2.0 models. They’re built in the same molds, with the same topside shape and sidecut. The 2.0 development project was primarily focused on reinventing the geometry of Madshus race products. The 3.0 evolution has been focused on maximizing the potential of the new geometry.
What Has Changed
A lot. There is new material inside the skis, new groove configurations on the base, and new cambers. When you ski on them you will not be mistaking them for 2.0 skis. They carry-forward (almost) all the strengths of the 2.0 models, and add some incredible race-focused performance factors. To describe all of this, we’re going to split things up into several sections. In this article we’ll do the basic cheerleading-style highlights of the new products. In a follow-up pieces I’ll go into our more customary incredibly nerdy depth with a couple of hours of supporting video material discussing the specifics. Why? Because, why not…? Talking about skis is a great distraction from pandemics. And there is a lot to cover once we start going into depth.
The Simple Marketing Pitch
Madshus Redline 3.0 has arrived as the fulfillment of all the promise of the 2.0 development project. The new 3.0 models focus on produced speed in active skiing, and they do an unparalleled job of turning your movements into velocity.
New carbon reinforcements!*
*exclamation point added to convey enthusiasm and excitement.
Without getting too specific about what type of materials have been added, and where they’ve been added, Madshus has crammed a bunch more carbon into these skis, and the result is a much more robust and rewarding skier experience. We have talked about “elasticity” for years, using the term to describe the sensation of getting stored energy back out of the ski during the rebound cycle. Particularly in skate skis, this concept of elasticity is critical for turning energy and power from your motions into speed across the snow. You haven’t felt elasticity like this!
The risky thing about trying to build too much camber action and elastic response into skis is that it can quickly get to be too much. You can’t just add a bunch of carbon, increase the spring-effect, and make a better ski. When the ski gets to be “too much”, the cost is that it starts to beat up the skier, suck energy out of your legs, and punish you when your motions become fatigued. What is most interesting about these Madshus 3.0 model skate skis is how easy they are to get along with. The active camber values are quite high, but the skis are settled, predictable, stable, and fast. If we were to try to “fit” skis from other brands at the camber heights that feel great on these 3.0 models, they would be terribly unstable, and really difficult to drive.
These new reinforcements are more focused on the skate side of things than classic. But the new K3 klister models also have some added material, which does amazing things to enhance the kick strength by increasing transmission of force to the ends of the pocket.
New Groove Configuration!*
*exclamation point added to convey grooviness.
Madshus has done an extensive project testing their groove configuration. For years, they have had some of the longest grooves in the industry, and while this has contributed quite a lot to the tracking stability of the skis, it was mostly just set up that way because that’s the way it was set-up. In testing, the development team found that shortening the grooves provided more steerability on the snow, lighter snow-touch and better running speed, and easier access to the edge. Amy and I had the opportunity in May of 2019 to participate in some of the early testing of different groove configurations during an on-snow session at Sognefjell. The differences were remarkable. I’ve worked in the industry for a long time and have always acknowledged that grooves were there for a reason, but I didn’t figure on how much of a difference could be made by changing the configuration. Madshus has settled on two different groove set-ups for the 3.0 models, and both are considerably shorter than previous models. The shortest groove, which comes on the F3 skate model and the cold classic model, starts behind the foot!
New Camber Profiles
In our Redline 2.0 review from last season I wrote about camber variations, and the presence of what I will call “camber manipulation” to obtain specific material expression on the snow. An example of this would be the addition of a distinct inflection in the forebody material to prevent the bridge from closing too far back toward the foot under load. These things happen when the specific goals of the design process are pointed toward really specific contact area lengths and bridge characteristics. We see this from all companies, and these more evidently “manipulated” cambers seldom produce the best all-around skis. In general, a “smoother” camber profile and a more pure representation of the material composition results in a broader range and higher performing ski.
On the skate side of things, the camber differences between the F2 and F3 skate models have settled into a more predictable differentiation. On the classic side, the cambers have been redefined entirely, and offer new levels of kick and double-pole speed in both cold and wet models. I’ll describe more below.
But first, here is a video discussion with Gunnar, our in-house Madshus racer:
The F3 model is designed for softer snow and lower average speeds, and it has shorter contact zones, more tip and tail splay (on average), and slightly lower cambers at rest and at half weight. The F3 also has the shorter tail-only groove, which complements the other model objectives. In our testing we found that the F3 can perform very well in a wide range of temperatures. The short groove is a bit alarming at first, but you can’t see it when it’s on the snow, and you don’t miss it when you ski on it. The only exceptions are in really glassy/greasy packing glaze, where the directional stability of the ski feel compromised. The rest of the time, the ski feels incredibly free and fast, and is our favorite all-around model in most conditions. We prefer the F3 when the snow ranges from “soft” to “perfect”, and tends to break down or sugar-up a bit under traffic. It doesn’t need to be ankle-deep sugar for the F3 to shine – it’s a true all-rounder.
The F2 model is designed for harder snow and higher average speeds, with longer contact zones, and less tip and tail splay. The resting camber and half weight camber are a bit higher, along with the overall level of camber activity. And the groove comes in the longer configuration (still shorter than previous models). The F2 provides a bit more tracking stability, but also a bit less freedom and slightly more interactive snow-touch in most conditions. It can also work well in a wide range of temperatures and moisture conditions, depending on the specifics of the camber and the grind configuration. We really like the F2 when the snow starts hard, or is packing under traffic, and developing a glazed surface. The F2 can certainly be an all-round solution for a skier who wants uncompromised directional stability and expects to ski mostly on hard-pack or manmade snow.
If the skate cambers have been refined and clarified in the past year, then the classic models have been totally reinvented. This all came from a project to experiment with adding laminates to the classic skis, kind of like they did with the skate skis. The experiment yielded some alarming results. One of the alarming things was how high the “flex” values of the skis got. And the other alarming thing was how well they worked, in spite of very high flex values. Our son, Gunnar, got a special pair of classic skis made for Helene Fossesholm last season. He started the season at 37kg, and the skis had an end-flex of 40kg. How’s that for spitting in the eye of conventional wisdom? Classic skis “fit” at 108% body weight? I also picked him a more traditional ski, but he never once raced on the “normal” ski because the new one was so much better.
Over a season of testing, the cambers and constructions have been refined, and the outstanding qualities have been maintained while the overall set-up has been nudged back toward a more “normal” range. This whole concept requires extensive explanation, and I will go into detail, as well as provide video conversations with Pat O’Brien, who worked with these skis in race settings last season, and Connor Green, who was the engineer in the development process, in our in-depth follow-up article. The short version is that the new classic skis provide more kick force than you’ve felt before, with higher glide speed than we’re accustomed to experiencing. The caveat is that you need to ski pretty well, and glide high over the ski. This is not a ski concept for shufflers.
The K1, Cold model has a camber designed to carry hardwax applications. While the camber height is higher than you might normally expect to find on a hardwax ski, the configuration of the material and the shape of the camber develop kick force from the ends of the pocket, and you continue to develop additional force as you kick harder. The pocket “gathers” material under foot, and especially in softer snow, the grip is quite amazing, provided you develop the force over the high point of the camber.
The K3, Wet model is a klister-oriented camber that carries significantly higher, and also has built-in reinforcements to aid the transmission of kick forces to the ends of the pocket. This is the model we tested all of last year, and even used successfully in hardwax conditions. This is an extremely fast ski that depends on some volume in the wax build-up. We find that it can work really well with harder wax jobs than most skis, and can cover a very broad range of conditions.
What is not present in the current line-up from Madshus is a low, forward-pocket classic ski with a really light kick trigger. This is something that the Madshus team recognizes. Particularly in racing, there is a demand for this kind of ski – especially in conditions where you want to be able to kick on very light pressure through an extremely tacky wax. I call it “fly-paper” kick. That might be something we see from Madshus in the future, but the 3.0 development project has been organized in response to overwhelming racer feedback that this new camber and material concept is the direction that needs to be pursued.
OK – I can sense that I’m getting sucked into greater level of detail than this article was supposed to be pointed at. If I left some questions unanswered, or caused some confusion, please bear with me and look for my follow-up. The bottom line is this:
Madshus has put together a race model line-up that is potentially disruptive to the status quo. It will redefine the way we talk about “flex” and “fit”, and it will do even more to redefine what we look for from race ski performance. Because it is disruptive to the status quo, Madshus has a job on its hands to support these products with marketing and information. Some retail shops don’t have the understanding to sell something that really can’t be described by a single “flex” number, and those outlets might find all of this to be too much. It might be a tough launch for Madshus given how much of a conceptual stretch they’re asking people to make. However – once the snow is on the ground, these skis are going to be extremely popular. It’s unclear how we’ll manage demos this season, but we really hope that you have an opportunity to try these skis. Keep in touch as snow-time draws near, and we’ll be happy to set something up if circumstances allow it.