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Flex Numbers Do Not Matter (Much): A Gear West PSA

Posted by Josh Doebbert on Sep 14th 2015

Flex Numbers Do Not Matter (Much): A Gear West PSA

When Matt Liebsch or Kyle Bratrud grab their favorite pair of skis come race day, they are concerned with exactly one thing about those skis: how fast they are. Over the past several years, we’ve been using our Gear West Flex Tester to study what does and does not lead to these fast skis. Notably, it has highlighted for us how the “closing flex” measurement reported by manufacturers is one of the most misunderstood metrics of ski fit in the industry.

For those who are unfamiliar with the process, ski manufacturers build skis individually and then take several measurements which are used to match the individual skis into matching pairs. Perhaps the easiest to understand of these is a simple measurement of how much weight it takes for the camber of a ski to close completely under the binding. Since fit is done based off of skier weight, most manufacturers will also provide this value to give ski fitters a rough starting point in determining fit – a classic ski must close under significantly less than a skier’s body weight to effectively engage the kick pocket, while a skate ski should not close even under the skier’s full weight. It’s a simple guide that can help ski fitters quickly eliminate overly stiff or soft skis before spending time on a more extensive fitting process.

Like any other tool, however, the closing flex value has its limitations. The most obvious issue is that there is no common consensus within the industry on how to measure the closing flex; each company has their own method and even within a brand, manufacturing changes can result in inconsistencies from year to year. This makes it impossible to compare skis on an “apples-to-apples” basis by closing flex alone.

A more fundamental issue lies in the fact that a ski’s behavior is dictated by a huge number of factors, and no single number or measurement can ever fully encapsulate this behavior. For example, a ski may have a very narrow bridge that is very stiff and correspondingly more compliant tip and tail, or one that is very wide and comparatively soft, but with a much stiffer tip and tail. A ski may distribute your weight over a very large portion of the ski base or concentrate that weight in very small zones. The tip and tail may have a great deal of splay or hardly any at all. There are many other similar factors, and each has its own effects on how the ski responds to different snow conditions and skiing styles.

We started building our Flex Tester because we wanted the ability to quantify these factors and remove the human element as much as possible. Today every in-line race ski we sell has been tested by one of our flex specialists to ensure it meets our exacting standards. We take pride in our ability to guarantee every ski that goes out our door, and we love to answer your questions or hear feedback. To reserve your flex-tested ski for next season or learn more about our ski fitting process, call us at 877-473-4327 or email us at info@gearwest.com.

-Posted by Josh Doebbert on Sep 14th 2015

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