Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Niflheim Nordic S600 Rollerski review

So, Ed has been developing rollerskis. I was his testing department and marketing and sales department, until he fired me for being too "negative". I call it constructive criticism. Whatever, I wasn't getting paid anyway. The genesis for these skis was in part due to my constant complaining about V2 skis - CSU gets some sort of deal with V2, which is fine for the newbies who want combi skis, but once they get to the point where the combi skis are turning into classic skis, there are only two options for skate skis from V2 - the big-wheeled Aero skis, and the fancy shmancy carbon narrow-wheeled skis. Aeros suck, don't get me started on how they're too fast and too high maintenance and too tippy and too heavy. The XL98 (the narrow-wheeled ski) has its own range of problems - if the wheels didn't disintegrate within a month of buying the skis, they might be decent skis. Its not like V2 gives you free wheels to replace the ones that had the rubber fall off, you have to buy a whole new set. Oh, and these cost about $350.

WHY, then, do CSU juniors/parents keep buying V2 skis? Clearly its not for the quality...

Speed reducers. V2 is the only brand (aside from the woodski brake, and some sort of speed reducer thing that sort of works on certain models of Proskis) that offers any sort of braking/safety device. I've learned that parents will go to any length to keep their kids safe, even if it means replacing the wheels of your XL98s every two months. There are many brands of cheap aluminum skis out there, generally in the $150-$200 price range, but thats all they are - cheap aluminum skis. No way to stop beyond the usual tried-and-true gravel slides, running when you hit the grass, U-turns... you get the idea. If you want to be able to slow down on rollerskis, you're stuck buying V2. Not a pretty option. I don't mean to bash V2 too much, their classic skis are perfectly functional (if ridiculously overpriced, but then look at Marwe, its just the price to pay for classic skis).

So, Ed saw a niche that needed filling, and he filled it. He has this dream of getting rollerskis into the hands of all high-school skiers, skis that are safe, skis that are affordable to a skier who isn't necessarily pursuing this sport with the single-minded focus of most rollerski-purchasers. He developed a company called Niflheim Nordic (as Rob said, this is why they usually keep the engineers separate from the marketers... but its a cool name nonetheless, meaning the land of snow and ice in Norse mythology), and he got cracking on researching his patents, doing his engineering, designing something that wasn't going to be any bigger or clunkier than the average rollerski. Although he wanted to keep these affordable, he was very concerned with also making sure they can stand up to the abuse we ladle out to our rollerskis - rough pavement, rain and pavement gunk, getting thrown in the back of vans, 280+lb skiers with bad technique, you name it, the ski has to be able to survive it. You know how many tons of force that aluminum can withstand?

So there is the back story. The part you're here for is to read about how they ski! I've been on them for a while now, mostly because Ed had dismantled my old skis to compare his skis to how Elpex does things, and never bothered to put them back together again... anyway, I've been forcing myself to actually use the speed reducer, because since I don't normally use one, I don't really see the need for a speed reducer. I am going to break down the ski component by component, for easier reading.

Speed Reducer

For comparison's sake, know that I have only used a V2 speed reducer once. A lot of people (Ed demoed these skis at the CSU rollerski race) expressed concern that the little bar you pull on to set the speed reducer is too little - I didn't have any issues with it, but I am young and flexible with good balance, so bending down to put on the speed reducer while rolling didn't pose much of a challenge.

There are five different settings for the speed reducer, and to activate it, you pull back on the bar and lift the thingy to whatever setting you want it on. The speed reducer wheel touches the rollerski wheel at its lowest ("off") setting, but applies no resistance. At this setting, the ski rattles a little over rough pavement, but that was the one negative thing I could find to say about these skis. My favorite thing about these skis is that you can ski with the speed reducer on as much as you'd like - unlike the V2 Aeros, that isn't going to cause your tire to pop or wear down faster. This means you can precisely modulate your speed - ultimate control over ski speed. Skiing with the J2s, I find myself using the 2nd or 3rd notch, skiing with the older kids I leave the speed reducer off.

Going down hill, when I put the speed reducer on full, it basically brings me to a stop. Where is the fun in that? But inching down hills is exactly what certain highschool girls need in a rollerski.

Taking off the speed reducer is super easy - you just pull back on the bar, and the thingy snaps into the "off" position on its own.

Niflheim Nordic is offering wheels in two speeds - slow and medium. Ed mounted the skis I've been using with the medium-speed wheels, but really, it doesn't matter, because you can use the speed reducer to create slower-rolling wheels. These are the same 100mm wheels that everyone else is using in their skis, and you can use these wheels in other skis too, if you wanted to do that. No difference.

Rollerski Shaft

Ed seemed to be really bothered by all the paint chipping off of my Elpex skis. I never really thought about it, but it does look cheap and used. So, the Niflheim Nordic skis are anodized, which means you'll never get the paint chipping. Woot. I like the color, although I did ask for a special pink pair for me and didn't get it. Boo.

I don't know all the specs about how the aluminum is made or whatever, I do know that Ed spent a lot of time doing the models for the shafts and they're way strong - we're talking tons, not hundreds of pounds. Since they are aluminum, you do feel the road a little bit through them, but I'm used to that, since I was skiing on aluminum skis before, too. The center of gravity is the height of the center of the wheel, so to people used to Marwe skis (one of the only brands other than V2 that sets the center of gravity lower than the wheel center), the skis might feel tippy. Again, I'm used to that, so haven't really noticed it.

I gotta say, I really do like these skis, and not just because Ed makes them. They're about the same weight as my Elpex F1 skis, even with the speed reducer in the front, and actually the extra weight in the front evens out the balance of the ski - ever notice how rollerskis tend to be way rear-weighted because they just aren't long enough? These skis have a nice even balance, which translates to a nice feel when skiing on them. You do feel the road through your feet, since they're aluminum, but they're also $145, so I'm not going to argue with that. My feet aren't so sensitive that I would spend three times that amount for a composite ski. Go check 'em out! Perfect for the safety-conscious skier on a budget.


Unknown said...

They look great! I just recommended them to the new coach of Fairport Nordic, Alan Losh! Good job Ed

Alex said...

Wasn't Alan a Clarkson skier? Rumor has it Ed is heading to the HFL ski swap with a bunch o' skis...

Brett said...

I have v2 Aeros which I admit are very tippy but also are nice for roads that are not completely smooth. How are these on typical New England roads with little cracks and bumps on them?

Alex said...

Sorry about the two-year old reply, here...

Like any narrow-wheeled ski, the S600 is not meant to glide over cracks like they don't exist. I'm fine on typical NE roads with little cracks, but when you get to a road that is absolutely falling to pieces, yeah, it sucks. I don't have any roads I know of that I outright avoid, though.

I have found that when the pavement is greasy - not quite rain-wet, but not dry - the wheels want to slip out. We think this is due to rubber composition, and I've only ever had that happen to me once, but it was annoying.