When I first looked at the prototypes for what would become the Carbonlite skate and classic rollerskis last summer, I was both intrigued and skeptical. On one hand, I didn’t see anything that would differentiate them from other rollerskis already on the market. On the other, I kept in mind that I was not looking at a finished product, and Fischer is careful to only release new products onto the market after significant testing and refinement. Twelve months on, Fischer has released the end result of that refinement with just enough fanfare to get people talking, and I’ve had a chance to test both the skate and classic models in multiple workouts. I’m happy to report that although they may at first seem similar to other options out there, there are a multitude of small, well thought out touches that set the Carbonlite rollerskis apart and make them possibly the best overall rollerski models available.First impressions first; the combination of carbon, air-core, and aluminum that Fischer uses for the shaft makes these skis stiff. This is noticeable in two ways: first, they feel slightly higher off the ground than they actually are, and once you get moving their ride is noticeably “responsive.” Those who have switched from a steel or aluminum bike frame to carbon fiber will know this feeling well; the first time you get on, it may feel a bit unforgiving, but given a little time with it, you’ll adapt to the new feel, and everything else will seem sluggish and noodley in comparison, especially when you try to put power down.
The overall design also appears to be remarkably durable. Although they are noticeably light, they feel solid and sturdy. Notably, the forks are integrated into the shaft and feature a composite construction of carbon fiber wrapped over an already bombproof rolled aluminum skeleton. This design, while probably not cheap or easy from a production perspective, is so far beyond what everyone else is doing, it’s almost laughable. Similarly, the edges of the Carbonlite skate have been beveled to prevent them from bottoming out during especially aggressive skating or cornering efforts. As someone who has been known to bottom out frequently in sprint intervals, this is a welcome touch.
As for wheels, Fischer has opted to use the “industry standard” wheel size for skate, which you can use wheels from any number of brands (including our very own Gear West rollerski wheels). This comes in handy if you’ve got a spare set or a different wheel speed you’d like to use. The classic wheels, on the other hand, are not compatible with any other brands in the US, so at least for now, the only wheel speed available is the one they come with. Fortunately, Fischer nailed the right wheel speed for training purposes. The stock Fischer wheel runs roughly like a Swenor “2.5” speed wheel. This is slightly slower than most stock rollerski wheels, but I actually like it better. For less experienced skiers, it means less chance of losing control, while more experienced skiers will appreciate the added resistance they provide. For both skate and classic, Fischer has opted to use round-head bolts to prevent them from catching on each other or getting ground down. I suspect we’ll see several companies follow suit in the next few years.
Interestingly, the design of the classic wheels specifically causes another “feel” difference. The aluminum core of the classic wheel not only reduces weight, but it stiffens the wheel up laterally. As a result, the Carbonlite classic tracks very straight and tends to always want to ride flat. This behavior is a bit of a mixed bag; it’s nice at times, such as during striding or generally going in a straight line, but times you might want to ride on an edge ,such as double poling down a banked road, attempting to corner, or scrubbing speed all feel more awkward than necessary. It also unfortunately reduces the rollerski’s ability to absorb road vibrations. These issues seemed to get less prominent the more I used the skis, though, so they don’t especially worry me; I suspect that as the wheels start to wear, they will largely self correct.
After having had the opportunity to put several kilometers on both pairs of Fischer Carbonlite rollerskis over a few different workouts of different types, I’ve been impressed. Are they going to put every other rollerski company out of business overnight? Probably not. For people who already own composite rollerskis, the Fischers probably feel pretty similar underfoot to what you already own. But as I pick up my own personal rollerskis with the forks I’ve had to fix when they stopped tracking straight, the bolts that I can barely get a wrench to grab anymore, and the shaft that’s been bottomed out so many times I get carbon slivers, I start to think. Maybe not having to deal with these headaches is worth buying another pair. I go upstairs and grab the Fischers for one last demo, then check my bank account.
See you on the (paved) trails.
-Posted by Josh Doebbert on Jul 2nd 2015