Monday, 30 June 2008

Your Badminton Racket is Useless Without Footwork

Your shiny new badminton racket will not be much use to you unless you can get in position to hit your shots, period. And this all comes down to footwork, the most important, and often overlooked part of badminton. Without good footwork you will spend most of your time stretching and twisting around the court, off balance and late to get to the shuttle, making accurate, consistent shots virtually impossible. The risk of injury also increases, and your stamina will decrease because you will be constantly chasing the shuttle.

I know this from past experience, and perhaps you do too. You can buy yourself the most expensive badminton racket available, string it to very high tension, and have the exact same equipment as a professional player, but this is not going to make you play like one. Without good footwork that £100 racket will just be used to scramble the shuttle back, you will hardly ever know if it will benefit your game because you will be too busy thrashing about to notice.

In my opinion, you need to learn how to grip the racket first. Then i would buy myself the best pair of badminton shoes i can get my hands on. Next comes footwork, then technique, then a badminton racket. You then experiment with different string tensions, there is no need to buy another racket yet, just change the tensions in the one you have. When you have found your own personal tension that suits you, you can then experiment with different badminton rackets.

Back to footwork. There is no one way to move around a badminton court, all players move differently. To get a good idea it is best to watch the best players move. Dig out your badminton dvd's and watch some games. Just look at one player all the time, look at their feet and how they move around the court. You will notice that the very best make it look easy, this is no accident, these players have spent countless hours practising their movement, using on court drills, practise games and by strengthening their leg muscles.

An example of the variance in movement can be seen in a match between Zhao Jianhua and Morten Frost from the 1985 All England singles final. Zhao is the perfect badminton player in my opinion, the best there has ever been. I truly believe that if he was around today he would still beat anyone, Lin Dan included. His movement around the court as perfect, and he took many chasse steps to get about with great speed. His leg strength was incredible, probably the best athlete ever on a badminton court. In contrast, Morten Frost tended to take small, quick running steps, but he also has very strong legs to move him around. Frost was well known for his court coverage and athletic ability, he just did it in a different way. Both players reached the top of the game for a long time, winning many major titles along the way. The point is that footwork is not set in stone, there is no absolute single way of doing it, it is personal to the individual player. If you feel comfortable in your movement then so be it. If you can get around the court in an efficient way then go for it.

The key word is efficiency, you want to be able to maximise your stamina so you can last the pace in hard games. Footwork will be the difference between winning and losing. Zhao was known for his deception, and it was all down to his footwork. He was able to get into position to hit his shots because he could move quickly, he got there early so his opponents had to react to what he did, not the other way round. Playing singles when you are constantly chasing the shuttle is exhausting, in the end you will be the first to get tired. When this happens, your footwork is put under more pressure because your legs just can't get you in position quickly enough. Eventually, you will become even more tired until you just can't get to the shuttle, your technique will start to crumble because you are playing shots out of position.

I spent an entire year with a badminton coach just practising footwork. I was taught to use chasse steps, and i would spend two hours doing drills, running after cricket balls with chasse steps all over the court. I would do shuttle runs to all corners of the court, over and over again, using chasse steps every time. I would then do multi shuttle feeds all over the court, it started with 10 shuttles and progressed to 70 after a year. The coach would stand at the net and then hit shuttles to every part of the court, which i had to return. As my footwork got better and more consistent, the coach would feed quicker, so that as soon as i had hit one, another was fed to a different part of the court. This made me move quicker, just to get to the next shuttle, until i couldn't move quickly enough. The speed was probably even quicker than it was in a real game, but the saying "train hard, fight easy" comes to mind. I was prepared for real game situations, my footwork was so much better than before, you only realise this when you actually play a competitive match, against a similar level opponent.

Practise as much as you can, go spend some money on a good coach and learn the basics first, your game will improve much quicker than spending all your money on the latest badminton racket. Watch the best players to get ideas, go to the sports hall and practise, but get yourself a coach, they can see you when you practise and give pointers and tips to help you in the right direction, more than you can ever do on your own. There are coaching manuals that can give you ideas, or videos on you tube that you can watch, just type in badminton footwork in the search bar and see what comes up. Any good coach will teach you the importance of footwork, or at least they should. Remember, footwork is the bedrock of badminton, being in position to hit your shots will give you a huge advantage, so go out and get practising.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Ashaway Badminton Rackets

Ashaway are more well known for their strings, but they also have a wide range of badminton rackets, clothing, shoes, and other badminton accessories. Ashaway have a great reputation, mainly due to their racket strings, which have proved to be very popular over many years. Building on this solid foundation, they have begun rolling out badminton rackets.

The flagship range is the Kevlar series. The top racket is the Ashaway Kevlar 8000SQ. At the time of writng this, it is not yet available in the UK. It comes out in July 2008. Looking at the Ashaway website, it says this racket is extra stiff, and head heavy, with a weight of 89g. It has an isometric head shape, and is re-inforced with kevlar and high modulus graphite. This seems to follow the pattern of most expensive racquets, with stiff flex and head heavy balance. The price, well i don't know yet, but i expect it to be around the £100 mark, which means Ashaway are going straight into Yonex territory, so this had better be a quality product to compete. Ashaway actually price this at £119 on their website, but it will probably sell for less at the online badminton stores.

The Ashaway 7000SQ is next up, and is alomost the same as the 8000SQ, but appears to be a bit lighter at 86g. Extra stiff flex and head heavy balance are the main points of this bat. Stringing tension is around 26lbs, but you can go higher than this if you like. It is retailing at about £92.99, which is expensive to me.

The Ashaway 6000SQ follows a similar pattern, but has less weight, at 84g, and has a slightly less stiff rating. It still has a head heavy balance point, and the isometric shape. Ashaway say this racket is designed especially for doubles play, however, they then boast that England player, Nathan Rice uses this racket. The problem is that Nathan is a singles specialist, so what is he doing using a doubles bat? The answer is simple really, he likes this racket. Don't fall for the marketing talk. I mean come on, how on earth can any manufacturer claim that they have made a badminton racquet specifically for doubles play? You play the same shots in any form of badminton play, ie, smash, drive, block, drop, slice etc. Think about this the next time you look at the crap that is being said by the manufacturers.

I am systematically going through all the many ranges from the many different companies, and just telling you what they, and the online stores want you to believe. I have my own opinions on this, and no doubt you do as well, if you have read any of my other posts. You have to make your own mind up, but be aware that all that i say is just a reference for you, taken from the manufacturers. I can give you my own personal views on these rackets, but it won't be of much use to you. Why? because i don't play like you do, and vice versa. What i think is a good racquet, you may not. It is all personal, and that is it, period. Who am i to tell you that you should buy such and such a racket? Only you can make that choice. I have told you that i use the Carlton Airblade Tour, but this doesn't mean you should go out and buy one. No doubt there are some of you who have used this model and thought it was crap, that it didn't have any power or control, or whatever. All i know is that i like it, it is pretty cheap, and that is the main reason, the cost.

Yes i can go out and buy the most expensive bat out there, but the difference it would have on my own game would be hardly noticeable, i guarantee it. It pains me to read all these reviews on the forums that go on about how such and such a racket has improved the accuracy of a smash, or that drop shots are much closer to the net with this amazing new bat. What a load of crap. The only thing that will make your smash more accurate is your technique, not the racket. Seriously, if you give me 10 different racquets, all strung at the same tension (this is important) the difference in my smash accuracy will be virtually nothing, unless i start messing around with my own technique. It will be the same for you as well. In fact, if for some strange reason you do truly think your accuracy has improved by changing rackets, then your technique is inconsistent, and no racket on earth will help you out with this. There is one more important factor in all this, and it is more important than your technique, it is footwork, the most fundamental and often ignored part of badminton. I have not mentioned it until now, but it is so important, and i will cover footwork in future posts.

I think i have got a little side tracked here!! Ok, back to Ashaway badminton rackets. The 6000SQ will cost you around £53.55 if you look hard enough.

The 5000SQ is next up, and is lighter still than the others in this range, at just 82g. The flex is medium/stiff, so it's a little more flexible than the others. It still has a head heavy balance, and the isometric head shape. Price is about £47.59.

The next series in the Ashaway range is the Superlight series, and the range topper is the Superlight 79SQ, which weighs just 76g and has a medium flex rating. It has the isometric head shape, and the head is re-inforced with titanium and ultra high modulus graphite. Ashaway have a recommended retail price of £90 for this, but i have seen it priced at £49.47. 76grams is very lightweight, and it is almost as light as the Karakal models, so if you want an alternative to Karakal, then this could be the one.

The Ashaway Superlight 79 is virtually the same but has a conventional head shape, and for some reason it weighs 79g, so it's fractionally heavier. In case you hadn't guessed yet, the SQ stands for Square, or isometric. The price is £38.07, so it is about £10 cheaper than the isometric version. If you can hit the shuttle in the middle of the strings you won't need an isometric head shape to help you, so in this case you can save yourself £10 and get a normal head shape.

The Ashaway Superlight 78SQ has a medium flex and weighs 75g, as does the Superlight 78 with the classic head shape. Apparently this is a real players racket, according to Ashaway. What does this mean? More marketing bullshit is what it means. The superlight bats have sold well, and a few badminton stores have sold out of this range, so they have proved to be quite popular. Expect to pay about £45-£50 for these two versions.

The last in the Superlight range is the T5, which is also available in conventional and isometric head shapes. The weight is 79g, with a medium flex and head heavy balance point. There is also kevlar in here for extra strength, which the more expensive 78 and 79 don't have for some reason. Prices are about £40.

The Palladium range is next and has three models to choose from. First up is the Ashaway Palladium XT600. Palladium is from the platinum series of metals, and this provides more strength, which allows these rackets to be strung to higher tensions. The XT600 has a stiff flex, is head heavy and weighs 89g. I have not seen any of the palladium series on sale in the UK yet, but the recommended retail price is £79.99.

The XT550 is the same as the 600, but has a medium/stiff flex and weighs 86g, so a bit more lightweight here. Price is £69.99. The XT500 has a medium flex and weighs 84g. Price for this is £59.99. All these racquets have the isometric head shape.

The Ashaway Electro range is next up, which have nano carbon technology, making them lightweight but also strong. The Electro Nano is the most expensive and has a medium flex and weighs 81g. Price is £54.73. The others in the range are the Electro Pink, which is designed for the ladies and is bright pink. It is also supplied with bright pink strings and a pink bag, so you will not lose this even if you tried. Priced at £60 on the Ashaway website.

The Electro VG has a metallic gold colour, with a medium flex and weighs 84g. This has proved more popular than the others in this range, and you will pay about £46.27 if you shop around a bit.

The Ashaway Electro VB has a flexible rating and weighs 82g. However, at central sports they say this weighs 75g, so i would take the information from the Ashaway site first. Price is £34. We also have the Electro VR, which is the same as the VB, but in a different colour as far as i can see. Priced the same too. The Electro VP, is purple, and is the same racquet.

The final series is the Nano Dynamic range which will be available from July 2008. The Nano Dynamic 130 is the range topper and weighs just 75g with a flexible shaft. Priced at about £45. There is also the Nano Dynamic 80, 70 and 60 which are about £34.99 or there abouts. I have seen them for less though, and they could be a decent starter choice if you don't want to spend much.

All in all, Ashaway badminton rackets offer just about everything you need, and the price range is huge, from cheap to expensive. Based on their reputation for quality strings, their racket range could well prove to be just as successful.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Karakal Badminton Rackets

Today is Karakal time, a funny name for a badminton racket manufacturer don't you think? It actually comes from Belgium, hence the weird name. Karakal have being going since 1978, and they moved into the UK market in 1981. In 1985 they purchased the rights to the UK and Ireland, not too sure what the hell this means, but they also got the rights to the rest of the world in 1991, and changed the name to Karakal Worldwide Ltd, their own new name. They now distribute to over 40 countries around the world, so they are a big player in the racket world.

I suppose they are most famous in the UK for their badminton over grips. These grips sold like you would not believe, they still do to this day, but almost every other manufacturer has copied the original design, so we now have more choice than ever before. Karakal grips are still the best in my eyes though, always will be too, although they have got carried away with some of their more recent designs.

Karakal are also famous for creating the lightest badminton rackets in the world. 70 grams to be exact, which is light enough thankyou. I think Karakal pushed the envelope as far as they could when the "in thing" was to make rackets as light as possible a good few years ago. However, there is one problem with light rackets, and that is, it is hard to generate the power wwith them. Of course, this need not be a problem if you want manouverability, you will get this in spades with a 70g bat. If you like defending, or want quicker reaction shots, then this is the one for you.

I have played with the SL70, and the new M-TEC 70, and to be honest, you do need very good technique to get the power, mine probably isn't good enough, as i did struggle to belt the shuttlecock as hard as usual. Yet, again we come back to stroke production and technique, the absolute bedrock of your game. Let me just say that if you string the SL70 to 30lbs tension and play a full season with it, you should book an early appointment with the physio to help get your shoulder and arm back. This is a hard core racket, but is perhaps not designed for power players, more for the deceptive stroke players, or net players. But, if you can swing fast enough then give it a go, it could be the just the right fit.

The flagship model is of course the SL70, which has been around for a good few years now. The latest incarnation now has nano technology in it, with graphite and magnesium. The weight is 70g, but there is no mention of the balance point, although i don't suppose it has one either way it is so light you wouldn't notice. The new model also has the Muscle-tec strigning system, which increases the sweet spot, and allows for higher tension, 30lbs to be precise. The price is about £69.99.

The all new M-TEC 70 ISO, is very similar to the SL 70 but has an isometric head shape. It is 90% nano graphite and 10% titanium, but weighs just 70g. The price is also £69.99 where i looked. This seems to be just a preference of the classic head or the isometric, so the choice is yours.

The SL80 is next, and it weighs 80g, with nano graphite and titanium. The Karakal SL80 also has the muscle tec stringing system, so you can go upto 30lbs tension. This could be useful if you want a little more weight, but it is still very light compared to everything else on the market today. Very limited supply of this racket in the UK, not many vendors sell it, but i have seen one for sale at £54.99.

The Karakal M-TEC 80 retails for £52.99 and is the same as the SL 80 but with isometric head shape. The flex is medium stiff and is designed for all round play. The maximum stringing tension is 24lbs on this one, but you will be able to go higher than that. Incidently, this racket had a special offer with it, of 4 Karakal grips thrown in.

There is also the M-TEC 75, which is 75g with an isometric head, and a medium stiff flex. The best price is just £39.93, which is a very good deal for a decent intermediate racket.

There are a few other models a lower prices, which follow the same path as every other manufacturer. However, if you fancy something a bit different then Karakal could well be a good alternative. I have seen quite a few reviews of Karakal badminton rackets, and most of them are favourable, so they must have something going for them. The prices are also very favourable compared to Yonex.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Yehlex Badminton Rackets

In the previous post i talked about Fleet, so now i want to talk about Yehlex badminton rackets. As you know, Yehlex falls under the Fleet umbrella, as one of their five trading names, however the rackets are different, although very similarly priced. Rememeber they are all made in the same factory in Tiawan. Yehlex and Fleet are the original product lines, and where there from the very beginning, in 1985. Now i have to admit, i have never used any of the Yehlex models, i always used Fleet, and that was because i got good deals on them, it could just as easily have been Yehlex though. There does not seem to be much difference between the two, apart from the name.

There are eight rackets in the range to choose from, and the entry level model is the Yehlex YX2000. This is marketed as an ideal starter/club player racket. It has a flexible rating, which most starter level bats have. This is to give a little more power to your shots. The weight is 86-90g, and it has a normal head shape, as well as being a full one piece carbon graphite model, not bad for an entry level. It also comes pre strung with Yehlex titanium string at 24lbs tension. All this for just £27, this looks like a decent price for a beginner to learn the game, and not spend a fortune.

Next up is the Yehlex YX5000 Nano, which as you can tell from the name, has nano technology in it. It weighs 86-90g and has a medium flex rating, with a conventional head shape, or classic, they both mean the same thing. It also has a wide body frame, and is made from ultra high modulus graphite and nano carbon. You can customize your stringing for a little bit extra, and the recommended stringing tension is 21-26lbs. Price is £45 for this one, so it is quite a jump in cost from the YX2000, but then again it has a lot more technology in it.

The Yehlex YX55 Nano is next, and is specially designed for the ladies, mainly because it is light, at 81grams. Made with nano technology and a flexible rating. It has a slim shaft and an isometric head shape. It also has a pretty colour scheme, as this is what ladies like! You can string this racket to 29lbs and there is a choice of strings from Yonex and Ashaway. The flexible rating and isometric head will give a bit extra power, however, the light weight will take this away. The price is £55.

The Yehlex YX6105 is the next in the range, and it is bit heavier at 86g, with the isometric head and stiffer flex. It comes pre strung ith Yonex BG65 Ti as standard, so you are getting a good quality racket string here. Again, it has nano technology, and the cost is £50. It also has a fancy design, with electro plated colour schemes to add a little glamour to your game if your into that kind of thing.

Next is the Yehlex YX6106, and is the same as the YX6105, but has a platinum black colour scheme. The price is also £50.

The Yehlex YX7 is a new racket for the 2007-08 season. There is more technology in this, with an isometric MP head shape. I have a feeling that MP stands for "muscle power", which of course is part of the Yonex technology. There is also kevlar woven into the shaft, but what this does i am not sure. Yehlex do though as they say it increases head speed and stability. Max string tension is 30lbs, so the head can take the pain. Price is £55.

The Yehlex YX99 is up next which has a much stiffer shaft than the others in this range. The weight is 86-90g with the isometric head shape again. The stringing tension is up to 32lbs, which is about as high as anything i have seen. Get ready for shoulder problems at this tension, and a racket re-string every other day. The price is £65.

The top of the range Yehlex badminton racket is th YXQ, which stands for quad power, and this allows for an 88 point stringing system which produces more power. The balance is head heavy, and the flex is stiff, so this is aimed at advanced players, who can get the most out of this racket. Price is £70, which is pretty expensive, and is on a par with the main big hitters in the badminton equipment world, except Yonex of course, who are in a whole price league of their own creation.

My view is that Yehlex are testing the market with the YXQ at this price, just too see if it sells. If it does sell it will stay at this price, but i have a feeling it will not be too long before there is a buy one get one free offer. You see this all the time at the badminton stores, if a racket has not sold well it will go on offer at a knock down price. The stores need to get rid of the stock before the new models come out, of course they all wish they could sell them at the highest price, but life isn't like that for retailers, there is fierce competition out there. But because of this very fact, we badminton players can get our hands on cheap deals all year round, but especially when a new range is being launched.

The exception seems to be Yonex. You will find it difficult to find cheap Yonex deals anywhere on the internet, or if there are, there is not much of a discount to be had. I am not sure why, because there is no way that Yonex can sell all their rackets all of time. Perhaps Yonex have put a minimum price on all their equipment, to stop a free for all.

Yehlex have a solid reputation so far, for producing affordable, quality gear, and i would recommend you give them a try.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Fleet Badminton Rackets

Fleet badminton rackets have been going since 1985, so they are now fairly well established on the badminton scene. They trade under five different names, these being Fleet, Yehlex, HiQua, apacs and Pro Tech. Why i do not know, but what i do know is that they offer the whole badminton package, ie, rackets, clothing, shuttles, bags, shoes and even stringing machines. Their clothing is unbelievably low priced, they currently sell polo shirts for just £6. I currently use one of Fleet's thermo bags, and i think it cost me £10 about 3 years ago, and it's still going strong, so it is good quality.

All their bats come from Tiawan, from a huge wholesale factory that produces all sorts of sports equipment. I think the owner has landed on his feet here, as this factory does produce good stuff. I have often wondered where all these rackets are made, and it is in the far east. If you can find a good supplier you are onto a winner. Just visit them, tell them what you want and hope they can produce good quality gear. As you buy more, the price goes down, and you make more profit, simple eh? I have thought about this, you know, finding a supplier in the far east, buying a shed load of racktets, and then selling them in the UK. Well this is exactly what Fleet have done. My guess is that this factory mass produces badminton rackets and then a few different companies have their own brand put on them. I reckon that the exact same rackets are in circulation with different graphics for different companies, and all at different prices, for the exact same thing. Makes you wonder eh?

Anyway, back to the Fleet range. The starter racket is the Fleet FT330Ti, which is on sale for £30. It has a medium flex and weighs around 88g, with an isometric head shape. It is made from ultra high modulus graphite. It comes pre strung with Fleet titanium string at 24lbs tension. This is a great option, because factory strung bats from most of the main manufacturers are crap, and at low tension. If you wish to specify the tension you will probably pay a bit more, but this is for the entry level model, and you usually do not get this, so well done to Fleet.

Next up is the Fleet FT 85S, which has our old favourite, nano technology in it. The flex is stiff and it weighs 86g, with the isometric head. It is designed for control, hence the stiffer rating. You can string up to 31lbs tension, and there is a choice of string from Fleet, Ashaway or Yonex. The price to customize is vry cheap, for example, you can have Ashaway Rally 21 for just £3 at your own tension. The racket costs £58 though, so it is a bit expensive, but Fleet do some good multi buy offers.

The Fleet FT 85X is the next model, and it is the same as the FT 85S, apart from the fact that it has a more flexible rating, so Fleet say this is aimed at more power. It cost the same too, at £58. However, there is a special offer with this badminton racket. You can buy two for £66. This is a no brainer, i mean, you can buy one for £58, or have two for an extra £8, the choice is yours.

Fleet also have a nano power range, like everyone else these days. The first is the Fleet Nano Power 600, which has a wide body design, isometric head shape and a flexible rating for extra power and head speed. Weight is 88g. Cost is £50.

The Nano Power 700 is next and is a bit lighter at 81-81g, it has the same technology, but less weight means this is ideal for fast reaction shots, but less power unless you have a very fast swing. The price is £56.

The top of the range is the Nano Power 800, which weighs 88g and has nano power system flex, whatever that is. It is designed for attacking players, and it costs £62.

No i have used Fleet for a number of years and have found them to be pretty good value for money, with the exception of the Top Power model. They don't make this anymore, and thank god for that, it is rubbish, but bear in mind it only cost around £30, so you live and learn, but at least it was not an expensive mistake. I may well look at Fleet again in the future, but always go for the two for one deals, they are always there. Don't be put off by the fact that they are not so well known, you need to find the right racket for you, regardless of the name. The only problem i can see with the current Fleet range is that it has got a little bit more expensive if you buy a single model, they are getting closer to the other badminton brands, who have a better reputation, so all things being equal, most people will go for the more well known make, and this will hit Fleet harder than before. I guess they will just have to let their rackets do the talking, if they produce a quality product it will sell, usually by word of mouth. This is how i started using them, a few club members used them, i tried a few models out myself, and liked them, so i bought a few, and they didn't let me down. Fleet badminton rackets are a good alternative to the more expensive brands and i do recommend them from past experince.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Forza Badminton Rackets

Forza, or should i say FZ Forza, are the number one badminton racket manufacturer in Denmark, with about half the market share. This is big news for them, and they have now branched into the UK, ith a new range of rackets, clothing, footwear and other things you might need to play badminton.

The Forza UK website has got to be one of the most annoying sites i have ever visited. To view the product catalogue you are faced with huge pages which you have to zoom in and out of to see what is on them, this is a stupid idea, it just complicates things, all i want to see is the rackets they make, not spend ages zooming all over the place. I can tell you that there are a hell of a lot of rackets to go through, with three ranges as far as i can see. A lot of these models are not on sale in the UK, but the most expensive one's are.

I am currently looking at Forza's 2007-2008 racket range, which is grouped together in a big triangle diagram, presumably to make things a bit clearer. First up is the Forza Kevlar N Power range, and there are 8 models to choose from.

Forza use Kevlar because it is 5 times stronger than steel and very elastic and lightweight. All the Kevlar N Power range are wide body frames which gives more smashing power. I remember Yonex introducing wide body frames a good few years ago, so this is not a new technology, many tennis racquets are wide bodied. Anyway, the range topper is the Kevlar N Power 200, which also has the power plus system that allows the strings to be closer together, giving more power and higher string tension.

Material- Nano Graphite/Kevlar
Head Shape- Isometric
Shaft- Long
Weight- 88 grams
Flex- Stiff
Balance- head heavy
Max Stringing Tension- 26 lbs
Player Type
Advanced Offensive

We can see that the N Power 200 is designed for power, with the head heavy balance, long shaft, extra weight and the isometric head shape. The stiff flex will aid control. I imagine you can string this racket a lot higher than 26lbs, but Forza will obviously not recommend this, even though it has the poer plus stringing pattern. I don't know why not, Head recommend 30lbs tension, so good for them, and good for you if you want shoulder injuries. The best price i have seen for this is £75.62, but if you don't look around you could pay as much as £115.

Next up is the Forza Kevlar N Power 150, which is alomost exactly the same as the 200, but is marketed as an all round racket as it has aslightly more flexible rating. Not many of these on sale at the more popular badminton retailers on the net, but i have seen it priced at £110, i am sure you can get it much cheaper than this though.

The Kevlar N Power 110 is next and again, it is similar to the other two, with not quite as much technology in it. It still has a stiff flex and weighs the same, the only difference is that it has a little less weight in the head, so it's designed as a bit of an all-rounder. Prices are around £62.50 if you look hard enough.

There is also the Forza Kevlar N Power 90,70,50,30 and 10. These rackets will no doubt follow the same pattern as do all ranges, with less technology and more weight as you move down the range. I have not seen these models on sale at the big online retailers, but the top of the range bats are very prominant, and quite a few stockists are awaiting stock, so they must be a popular choice.

The next range is the Forza Titanium N Forze series. The top racket here is the Titanium 45 N Forze. This has nano technology in it, and the power string technology which gives upto 20% more power. It has the isometric head shape and weighs 88g, with an even balance. Price is around £75 from central sports, who seem to have the lowest prices for Forza badminton rackets.

The Titanium 40 N Forze is basically the same as the 45, but has a medium flex and has the SPS control string technology, which gives 10% extra feeling. Designed for control, this is an all-rounder. Expect to pay £65.72 for this one.

The Titanium 30 N Forze has super T technology, which gives minimum torsion, maximum control. Stiff flex rating, head heavy and 88g, make this another all round badminton racket. Price is also £65, so it's the same as the Ti 40.

There is also the Titanium N Forze 28, 24, 22, 20CF, 18CF and the 16CF. The 24 is a light racket designed for reaction shots, and you can get it for £52.

The third range is the Nano Forze series, which goes from the 9000 to the 1000. The Nano Forze series is designed for players who want control and quick reations. These all have very slim shafts and frames to reduce air resistance. I have not seen any of this range in the UK at present, but i am sure this will soon change.

All in all, i think Forza is an exciting new brand, and competitively priced. They could well be a good alternative to the higher priced Yonex models. Many Danish internationals use Forza, and they are gaining a good reputation here in the UK. I may well get my hands on some of these and give them a try out. Forza also allow you to customize your racket with your own writing on them for £7.99. This may help you to identify yours if you lose it, or if someone else has the same model as you, although you could just do it yourself for nothing. I can usually spot mine by the colour of the grip, or the amount of sweat on it. New manufacturers come and go, but i have a feeling that Forza badminton rackets will be around for a long time.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

My Badminton Racket History

I am going to talk about my badminton racket history today. This covers about 20 years worth of buying and breaking all kinds of rackets. God only knows how many i have gone through, and if you have played badminton for any length of time you will probably be in the same boat.

My very first racket was an ISI steel framed bat. All i remember about it was that it was blue and it cost about £10. While i was just learning the game it was great for me, and i followed this with another ISI racket, but i cannot recall what type this was, although it also had a steel frame. These lasted me a couple of years, and it was then that i started thinking about strings. Does anyone remember the carbon strings? Well they were all the rage back then, and i always had the carbon strings in my bat. They used to smell like carbon when you took the racket out of it's little head cover, fantastic.

Next up was an ISI carbon 1500. I as an ISI man back then, and this was a full carbon graphite model, one piece construction, and i really liked it. Most of my friends also had ISI rackets, and the range topper was the Boron 2000, which i couldn't afford. They don't exist anymore, but mine had the carbon strings in as well. I wasn't bothered about the tension, i just wanted to play, every single day at the local sports centre with my mates, on a concrete floor. I think the ISI Carbon 1500 cost around £30 back then, and this lasted me for a number of years.

However, this eventually broke so i bought myself a Grays racket. I have no idea what it was called, but i just remember it was full graphite, one piece, and it was quite heavy. This was when i moved away from the carbon strings, and first came across Ashaway badminton strings. A friend at our club got me in contact with a stringer who strung just about everybody's racket in the local league. He had one of the best stringing machines at the time, so i went to see him. My Grays bat got some Ashaway Rally strings in it, i remember the string was white, and quite thick, but it did the job.

After the Grays, whcih unfortunately broke as well, i went onto the Yonex Cab 8DX. This became a cult classic back in the 1980's, and if you played in this era you will know what i mean. I had a few of these, and it had a carbon shaft, with a metal head. By now i was using Ashaway Rally 21 in all different colours and tensions. If you strung the Cab 8 at daft tensions, the head would start moving and getting out of shape, but what a racket this was. Yonex stopped making this model, and replaced it with another model, but it was never the same after that. Many badminton players the world over where sad to see it go, including me.

Next up was Carlton. I am not sure what it was called, but it was white and orange, and the whole thing was one piece, with the handle and shaft all one piece. It was quite expensive as well, about £50. This is where i started to have problems. I went through three of these, and they all cracked on the shaft/handle. I sent them back and Carlton kept replacing them, but this must have been a design fault, so i stopped using them after a while, and i was always wary of Carlton racquets after this.

The Yonex Aerotus was next up, not sure the exact name of it, but it was Yonex's brand new range. I had three of these, and they all broke in the same place. I was a bit unhappy to say the least. My friend also had some and they all broke as well. This put me off Yonex, so i then used some Electre rackets. I had never heard of them, but an ex England international had 3 of them for sale, all with brand new strings for £75, so i got them. They were pretty good as well, but eventually they all bit the dust. This was when i first started to realise that you didn't have to spend a fortune on a badminton racket to be able to play. I must admit it took me a few years to realise this, and no doubt you may have come to the same conclusion in time.

Next up was Fleet, a newcomer to the badminton scene, and one of my team mambers was a coach who had terms with Fleet, so the whole team started using them. I can't recall the exact model i used but it was a titanium something or other. What a great racket this was, it suited my game down to the ground, and i bought quite a few of these, one of my mates still uses them. Mine all broke over time, and Fleet stopped making this particular model, so i asked them what was the replacement? Fleet told me the new model was the Top power 20, so i got two of these. Now, appologies to Fleet, but this is the crappest badminton racket i have ever used. There was something fundamentaly wrong with this, i could not get ny power out of it, no matter how hard i tried. To see if it was just my crap technique that was at fault, i let my fellow club members try it, and everyone came to the same conclusion, it had no power at all. This is the only bat i have ever used that had something very wrong with it. I know i keep going on about how a racket will only give you an extra 5% advantage, well this Fleet Top Power is the exception. If you have one of these you will know what i mean. Fleet, why did you do this to me?

This spelled the end of my love affair with Fleet after about 5 years. I tested many Yonex, as i was good friends with the local Yonex dealer. Models such as the Muscle Power 99, and the Nanospeeds. They are all good quality, but the prices are a joke, so i never actually bought any. The difference between them is ever so slight, and in my opinion, not worth the money. This is where it pays to be able to test rackets before you buy them.

So i went back to Carlton, and i got the Airblade Tour from Ebay for about £35 back then. I have used them ever since. This is the yellow and black model, looks like a wasp. It suits me perfectly, and prices are getting lower and lower, as retailers try to get rid of them. Carlton don't make this anymore, so eventually the stock will run out, but until this happens i will continue to buy them. If your thinking of buying one, go to Racketworld on Ebay, this is where i get mine, or another cheap alternative is Sweatband offer some of the most competitive prices on the internet, but they specialise in less expensive rackets, and i don't think they stock any Yonex at the time of writng this.

My badminton history is a bit of a mis mash of all types of bats. When the Airblades run out it will be time to look for something else. God knows what i will replace them with, and even though i like them, they do have their faults. The handle seems to have a mind of it's own, and i have 3 of them twist around from the shaft. So if anyone from Carlton reads this, please sort out this design problem.

Badminton is a fast game, and no matter what bat you buy, they will break eventually, it a fact of life, either on your partners bat, or through all the stick you give it, and especially if you start throwing them around the place. We all go through this phase, but you soon learn that it's not the racquets fault. I have seen players lose matches and then go to their bag and start snapping rackets for fun. It is a bit suprising that the higher the level of player, the more childish they become. Perhaps there is more at stake. But one thing i have learned over the years is that badminton should be fun, when you start to not enjoy it, you better take a good look at yourself.

There are hundreds of different manufacturers out there, with hundreds of choices available to you, but think about this, in the UK, 2.5 million people play badminton every week, so that means 2.5 million badminton rackets must have been sold, just in the UK. This is a big business, and the variety is endless. My advice is to make sure you can test before you buy. If you get in contact with a local coach, they will most likely have terms with a supplier, and will allow you to test out some models. This is the best option for you, and you can then create you very own badminton racket history.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

Prince Badminton Rackets

I am going to take a look at Prince badminton rackets today. They are part of the "big three" American suppliers, along with Wilson and Head. I must admit i am not a great fan of Prince racquets. I remember a few years ago when they entered the market with their x-axis range, you know the one's i mean with the funny shaped heads. A lot of my friends used these, and they were prone to string breakage because the string pattern made large gaps between each string. I was never convinced with this string bed, because large distances between each string does not equal control to me.

Prince still use this system in some of their models, the higher priced models use the quadraform system these days, which is an isometric shape. There are, however, two new badminton rackets that have proved very popular, the 03 Silver and the 03 Red. The technology in them is Prince's O port design. This means that the grommet holes are larger, instead of being like pin holes, as in every other racket. This gives more head speed, better aerodynamics and a larger sweet spot. These larger ports are placed at 12, 9 and 3 o'clock on the head, so they are not around the entire head.

The Prince 03 Red is aimed at power players as it has a flexible rating, and the 03 Silver is geared to more control, with a slightly stiffer rating. Prices in the UK vary quite a lot. I have seen £100 to £60, so shop around for these.

There is also the Triple Threat Bandit and Triple Threat Rebel in the range. Now i know that this has been nicked from Prince's squash range, they have earlier racquets called exactly this. They are lower priced, at around £40-£50. The "triple threat" comes from the fact there is titanium, tungsten and carbon in three places- the handle, and at 10 and 2 o'clock on the head. This improves the stability. I have never used these badminton rackets, but i have used the squash equivalent and they are very good indeed, so hopefully the badminton versions are too.

The Quadraform range is the budget range in the UK, and prices range from £9.99 for the Prince Lob, up to £32 for the Quadraform Graphite Classic.

The official Prince badminton website is focused on the US, and it seems a little out of date, there is no mention of the 03 series here at all. Do they not sell them in the US? They have the M+ range here, which have no drilled holes or grommets in the frame, which provides more control. This is the exact opposite of the 03 range, so perhaps Prince had a change of heart with the M+ design.

All the manufacturers seem to offer something a little different to the others, little gimmicks and designs that they claim are the best. The variety is there, but when all is said and done, it's still a badminton racket, and it is still up to you to get the best out of them.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Wilson Badminton Rackets

Wilson are well known in the tennis world for producing quality stuff, but they also produce badminton rackets too. Being an American company they are not as popular in the UK as they are in the US, but the technological know how that Wilson have, is crossing over to badminton. Now, i am here in the UK and the rackets that i can see are all differently marketed to the US one's, so it makes things a little more complicated, but what the hell.

From the official Wilson badminton website 2008 there are two ranges of racquets, the K Factor and the N Code. I will take a look at the K Factor range first. It gets a bit annoying to actually find out what technology is in the K factor, as i just see a very flasy demo type advert all about it, and then it goes away, and the only way to get this back is to leave the website and come back again. Once is enough for me, so i will find about about the racquet technology from an online store. So i googled "wilson badminton racquet" and in number one spot is badminton alley, one of the biggest racquet suppliers in the US. Alas, there is little information about the elusive K factor. So i search in the UK and find something at last at, who i have had dealings with in the past, all good i might add.

The K factor technology is now a bit more clear. The "K" stands for 4 key factors in these rackets.

[K]arophite Black - New structures created at the nano level for more feel and ultimate [k]ontrol.

[K]ontour Joint - New frame and shaft technology that enhances stiffness at t-joint area for improve torsional stability.

[K]onstruction - New frame construction provides a more stable hoop and allows higher string tension.

[K]ap - New top cap design on the handle for more flexible shaft resulting in increased power.

Why don't Wilson just call this the "C" factor instead, because three of the four factors begin with "C"? Send your questions to Wilson badminton.

There are seven racquets in this range and these are:-

KFactor KPro

Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Type: Offensive (Smashing / Power Play )
Flex: Medium Stiff
Head: Square / Isometric
Weight: 84gm(4U-)
B.Pt: 7 (Head Heavy)

This is the entry level racket and is already aimed at higher level players. The head heavy balance, with a medium flex will aid power, but not control. Also, this is a light weight anyway, which will also take away some power.The price in the US is $89.95, UK is £55 with free delivery. I have considered buying from the US and then shipping to the UK before. I have done this once before with a Dunlop squash bat, and i think i saved about £10. The problem is the shipping costs from the US usually mean there is little difference between the two prices in the end. If we take this KPro as an example, and if i take the exchange rate as being around 2:1, ie $2 = £1, then the KPro is aound £45 in GBP from the US, without the shipping costs. If the delivery cost is less than $20 you may save some money. (after a little snooping about the current exchange rate is 1.95). You will have to do the maths here.

Wilson KFactor KPower

Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Type: Offensive (Smashing / Power Play )
Flex: Stiff
Head: Square / Isometric
Weight: 86gm(3U-)
B.Pt: 7 (Head Heavy)

It is aimed at attacking players looking for power and control. The racket provides control through its stiff shaft and power through its head heavy balance. It is pretty unforgiving but the isometric head shape will help with mis timed shots. Prices are $99.95 in the US, and i could not find one store that stocked this in the UK.

Wilson KFactor KStrike

Weight: 84g
Balance: 29.5 cm
Flex: Flexible
Player Type: Control Player/Doubles

Could not find anyone who stocks this in the US, i have no idea why. Wilson say this badminton racket is geared for control, but it has a flexible rating which is not associated with extra control. It costs about £63.99.

Wilson KFactor KBlaze

Level: Advanced
Type: All Around (Attack and Defence)
Flex: Medium Stiff
Head: Square / Isometric
Weight: 82-86gm(4U-)
B.Pt: 6 (Centre Balance)

Apparently this is an all rounder as it has an even balance, is average weight and has a neutral flex rating. You will have to rely on technique to get more power with the light weight and even balance, but let's face it, everything relies on your technique. Price in US is $109.95 and £69.99 in England. The price varies quite a lot in the UK, so be sure to shop around.

Wilson KFactor KTour

Level: Advanced
Type: Offensive (Fast Attacking )
Flex: Stiff
Head: Square / Isometric
Weight: 85-89gm(3U-)
B.Pt: 7 (Little Head Heavy Balance)

The most popular racket in the range, it is used by Jonas Rasmussen, the Danish international player. The stiff flex, extra weight and head heavy balance are designed for more power, which is why this is aimed at attacking play. Expect to pay around $129.95 or £69.99.

Wilson KFactor Kblade

Level: Advanced
Type: Offensive (Smashing / Power Play)
Flex: Medium
Head: Square / Isometric
Weight: 87-89gm(3U-)
B.Pt: 8 (Head Heavy)

Ok, designed for pure power due to even more weight, more head heavy balance and the medium flex. May lose a little control with the medium flex. Wilson say this is an all round racket aimed at singles players? Prices around $139.95 and i couldn't find one in the UK.

Wilson KFactor KLite

Level: Advanced
Type: All Around (Fast Play)
Flex: Medium Stiff
Head: Square / Isometric
Weight: 80-82gm(5U-)
B.Pt: 5 (Even Balance)

One of the lightest racquets around, with an even balance and a stiff flex, this should give more control, at the expense of power. The most expensive of the range at $149.95, again, no sign of the KLite in England, so we won't know how much it costs.

The next series is the NCode and there are three in this range on the Wilson 2008 website, although there are quite a few others on sale such as the NCode N1-6.

The technology is our good friend the nano, which is seen in Yonex, Carlton and virtually all the top end badminton rackets these days. NCoded racquets are twice as strong, twice as stable, and 22% more powerful than ordinary bats.

The three NCode racquets on the website are now called NForce, and we have the 400, 600, and 800. From what i can tell, they are lower priced than the actual NCode 1-6. Prices in UK are from £42.99- £59.99. I could not find any stockists in the US.

However, the NCode is on sale everywhere, and there are six to choose from.

Wilson NCode N6

Level: Intermediate/Advanced
Type: All-Around / Defensive
Flex: Medium Flex
Head: Square / Isometric
Weight: 80-84gm(4U-)
B.Pt: 5 (Head Light Balance)

Very light and head light balance will make this very manouverable, but not much power unless you have good technique. This is the starter level and you can expect to pay about $109.99 or £59.99.

The NCode N5 has the same spec as the N6, but is heavier with a stiffer flex, so more it's designed for a bit more power. Price is the same as well.

The NCode N4 has a stiff flex, is a bit heavier than the N5, but has an even balance. Aimed at more defensive players. Cost is $119.95. and this is because there is more hyper carbon in the design, $10 worth to be exact.

NCode N3 has a stiff flex and an even balance, aimed at all round play, but is $10 more, you get the picture.

NCode N2 has more hyper carbon than the others, and has a stiff flex and head heavy balance. Costs $139.95 so quite expensive this one.

The Wilson NCode N1 is the range topper, and is virtually the same spec as the N2, it costs the same as well, so i don't know what the difference is really.

The NCode range has proved popular, but the same can be said of all the nano ranges from all the different manufacturers. As this is the same technology it would be wise to go for the cheapest offerings because you are getting the same thing basically. Wilson badminton rackets will only improve in popularity in the future, so watch out Yonex.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Badminton Racket Bags

So you have just bought your new badminton rackets, you are going to need somewhere to put them. Badminton bags come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common, they protect badminton rackets from damage. Simple really. These days you will find that most racquets come with a bag of some sort, be it a thermo bag, or a great big bag to hold god knows how much stuff.

It never used to be like this though. I remmember many years ago you just got a small head cover and that was it, just enough protection for the strings, forget the shaft and the handle. Over time these bags grew to three quarter length, so just the handle was exposed. This offered a little more protection, but if your grip looked like it had been in a war zone, full of sweat and dirt (like mine usually do) all these bags did was to tell the world what sweaty hands you have. Here is a tip, don't buy white grips if you have sweaty hands, after about one hour of playing it will look like crap.

One of the main benefits of badminton racket bags are that they protect your strings from temperature changes. It gets cold in the winter, and strings don't like changes in temp. Sports halls are usually freezing in the winter so you do need to protect your investment. I must have about 30 thermo bags hanging around that are just big enough for a couple of rackets, they never get used. If you have quite a few bats you need to scale up and get a larger bag that will hold them all, plus a bit more room for all the other stuff that we players carry. My bag is currently full of squash balls, but that's another story.

You wil also need somewhere to store all your clothes, all the spare t-shirts and socks etc. When you play in tournaments this is a definite requirement, you don't want all your gear spread all over the place. This can cause problems if someone has the same racket as you and they all get mixed up, you can find yourself heading home with the wrong one. For my needs i have a 6 racket thermo bag and a seperate bag for my clothing. In the thermo bag i have a squash racket and 4 of my Carlton Airblade Tours. The big bag has my yonex shoes and god knows what else. Here is a tip, do not wear your badminton shoes until you get on court. If you wear them outside you will wear the grip down quicker, and you want them to last as long as possible.

You can spend quite a lot of money on badminton bags, but they all do the same thing really, the only differences are the prices. If we take Yonex as an example, you can get a 3 racket thermal bag for around £10 and one that carries 6 for around £20. You can get 9 and 12 racket bags and you can pay up to £50 for the latest Yonex one's. The choice is yours, and you will get a better quality bag that will last you if you spend a bit more, although you can save money if you buy last seasons badminton racket bags.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Head Badminton Rackets

Today i want to look at the Head badminton racket range. Head are a huge player in the tennis and squash world, and have a very good reputation for making quality stuff. Last year they finally decided to enter the badminton market and rolled out their products including rackets, bags, footwear and clothing lines. Now i have used a few head squash rackets before and i can tell you that they have produced one of the all time classic squash bats in my humble opinion, the Head 110i. I know i keep banging on about the 5% advantage any racket will give you, but this 110i really gave me that. I am at a decent standard at squash now, it has taken me a few years of learning i can tell you. I had gone through loads of cheaper squash rackets, and decided to try the 110i, by the way you can get hold of it for about £40 nowadays.

Jesus, this thing did feel different to all the others, i knew right then and there i had found just the right one for me. And it's not just me who thinks this, ask any squash player and they will tell you that the 110i is a very very good racket, it has gained cult status in the squash world. It weighs just 110 grams, you could play badminton with it, which i have done! So you see, i have a lot of time for Head equipment.

Anyway, back to the badminton. From looking at the official Head website, yep they do have one unlike Carlton, still can't quite believe that, there are four ranges to choose from, these being the Metallix, Nano Power, Airflow and Titanium series. The flagship series is the Metallix range. The technology in this series is Head's patented Metallix technology. This is a specially designed matrix of carbon fibres and crystalline metal alloy which creates lighter, stronger frames. The top rated rackets have more of this stuff in the head than the lower rated one's, which i suppose is why they are more expensive.

Head Metallix 2000

Flex Index: Medium Flex
Head size: 360 cm²
Weight: 88 g
Balance: 282 mm
Length: 675 mm
Colors: silver/blue
Benefit: Power
Gripsize: G2 (3 3/8) G3 (3 4/8)
Headshape: HEAD Power Frame System
Frame: Full Carbon Graphite
Shaft: Full Carbon Graphite 2-piece molding
Rec. String Tension: 20 - 26 lbs

This is the entry level racquet and follows every other manufacturers offerings, ie, lower priced models have medium flex shafts and are generally heavier, so it's designed for beginners to intermediate. Best price i can see for this is £29.99 with free delivery, not bad really.

Head Metallix 4000

Flex Index: Medium Flex
Head size: 360 cm²
Weight: 87 g
Balance: 284 mm
Length: 675 mm
Colors: black/silver
Benefit: Power
Gripsize: G2 (3 3/8) G3 (3 4/8)
Headshape: HEAD Power Frame System
Frame: Full Carbon Graphite
Shaft: Full Carbon Graphite 2-piece molding
Rec. String Tension: 22 - 28 lbs

This is a fraction lighter with the same flex as the 2000, but the string tension can be higher in this one. This is quite scary really, 28lbs tension is high for a racket aimed at novice to intermediate level. The frames must be strong to take this tension, but Head must know thay can take it. New technology eh? Expect to pay about £39.99

Head Metallix 6000

Flex Index: Medium Flex
Head size: 360 cm²
Weight: 87 g
Balance: 286 mm
Length: 675 mm
Colors: black/silver/orange
Benefit: Power
Gripsize: G2 (3 3/8) G3 (3 4/8)
Headshape: HEAD Power Frame System
Frame: High Modulus Graphite 50, 50 Graphite
Shaft: High Modulus Graphite 2-piece molding
Rec. String Tension: 24 - 28 lbs

Looks the same as the 4000 to me, can't really see what the difference is. Although the recommended stringing tension starts at 24lbs, this is a fairly high tension to begin with, all the stringers will be rubbing their hands with glee from the extra custom!! Prices are around £54.99

Head Metallix 8000

Flex Index: Medium Flex
Head size: 360 cm²
Weight: 86 g
Balance: 285 mm
Length: 675 mm
Colors: black/silver/gold
Benefit: Power & Speed
Gripsize: G2 (3 3/8) G3 (3 4/8)
Headshape: HEAD Power Frame System
Frame: High Modulus Graphite 70, 30 Graphite
Shaft: High Modulus Graphite 2-piece molding
Rec. String Tension: 24 -30 lbs

Again, very similar to the others, but this one is lighter so Head say it is designed for power and speed. String tension has now gone mad, at 30lbs, one mis hit shot and you can easliy break the strings, and perhaps the frame as well. Prices are about £62.99.

Head Metallix 1000

Flex Index: Medium Stiff
Head size: 360 cm²
Weight: 85 g
Balance: 288 mm
Length: 675 mm
Colors: red/silver/black
Benefit: Power & Control
Gripsize: G2 (3 3/8) Ge (3 4/8)
Headshape: HEAD Power Frame System
Frame: High Modus Graphite 80, 20 Graphite
Shaft: High Modulus Graphite, 3-piece molding
Rec. String Tension: 24-30 lbs

This is the top of the range, it has a stiffer flex and is lighter than the others, so Head say it is aimed at power and control. The control comes from the extra stiffness and it should also say it is designed for speed with it being lighter. The extra power will only be generated by your technique and racket head speed. Expect to pay around £79.99 for this one. If you compare these badminton rackets to the Yonex range you will notice they are a lot less expensive, i mean the ArcSaber costs a whopping £130, and i can tell you that there is not much difference between them at all, except the price. The choice is yours.

The next range in the series is the Nano Power rackets, and we have six in this range. This is similar to the Yonex nanopower series, they have probably nicked the idea from them to be honest. Head say that these badminton racquets have a head light balance.

Nanopower 500

Flex Index: Flexible
Head size: 364 cm²
Weight: 87 g
Balance: 288 mm
Length: 675 mm
Colors: green/black/white
Benefit: Power
Gripsize: G0 (3 1/8) G1 (3 2/8) G2 (3 3/8) G3 (3 4/8)
Headshape: HEAD Power Frame System
Frame: Full Carbon Graphite 100%
Shaft: Graphite 2-piece molding
Rec. String Tension: 20 - 26 lbs

Entry level bat aimed at beginners, with a flexible rating, but still the stringing tension can go up to 26lbs. I could not find this racket anywhere in the UK! They do sell it in the USA and it costs around $59.99.

Nanopower Rave

Flex Index: Flexible
Head size: 364 cm²
Weight: 87 g
Balance: 288 mm
Length: 675 mm
Colors: black/grey
Benefit: Power with fast response
Gripsize: G2 (3 3/8) G3 (3 4/8)
Headshape: HEAD Power Frame System
Frame: Full Carbon Graphite 100%
Shaft: Full Carbon Graphite 2-piece molding
Rec. String Tension: 20 - 26 lbs

This is the same as the 500 as far as i can see, but this is available in the UK, and you can get it for just £10.71 if you look hard enough. This is interesting, there is a big price difference between the UK and the US.

Nanopower Heat

Flex Index: Flexible
Head size: 364 cm²
Weight: 87 g
Balance: 288 mm
Length: 675 mm
Colors: white/green
Benefit: Power & Control
Gripsize: G2 (3 3/8) G3 (3 4/8)
Headshape: HEAD Power Frame System
Frame: Full Carbon Graphite 100%
Shaft: Full Carbon Graphite 2-piece molding
Rec. String Tension: 20 - 26 lbs

Same as the others, but harder to find in the UK. I could only find this on ebay, and it sells for £37.55, which is too expensive if you ask me, i would suggest digging a little bit deeper than i have, you will find it cheaper somewhere else i bet.

Nanopower Fire

Flex Index: Flexible
Head size: 364 cm²
Weight: 87 g
Balance: 288 mm
Length: 675 mm
Colors: silver/yellow
Benefit: Power & Speed
Gripsize: G2 (3 3/8) G3 (3 4/8)
Headshape: HEAD Power Frame System
Frame: Full Carbon Graphite 100%
Shaft: Full Carbon Graphite 2-piece molding
Rec. String Tension: 20 - 26 lbs

What is going on here? All these rackets have the same spec, what the hell id the difference head? Well they do differ in price but that's sbout it. Best price for this is £22.99, which is cheaper than the Heat.

Nanopower 600

No point mentioning the spec as it is the same as the others. Could not find it on sale in the UK anywhere, but is available in the US for about $70.

Nanopower 700

Flex Index: Flexible
Head size: 364 cm²
Weight: 85 g
Balance: 290 mm
Length: 675 mm
Colors: silver/black/white
Benefit: Power & Speed
Gripsize: G2 (3 3/8) G4 (3 4/8)
Headshape: HEAD Power Frame System
Frame: Hot-melt Graphite 60%
Shaft: Graphite 2-piece molding
Rec. String Tension: 22 - 28 lbs

Finally the spec has changed for the 700, with this being lighter and now having hot melt graphite technology which Head use in their current squash racquets. Not on sale in the UK as far as i can see, but expect to pay around $79.99 in the US.

Next we have he Airflow series with three rackets in this range, the Airflow 3 and the 5. These are very lightweight indeed, with the 3 weighing 80g and the 5 at 79g. Head have aimed these at lady players, and i assume this is because they are so light. Prices start at about £32 for the 3 and i could not find the Airflow 5 on sale in the UK.

The Titanium series has four badminton rackets in the range, these being the Ti Power 60, Ti Power 60 junior, Ti Power 80 and the Ti Power 90. This is the budget range and prices range from just £8.99 for the 60, to £12.99 for the 80. Here is the spec for the Ti Power 80:-

Flex Index: Stiff
Head size: 364 cm²
Weight: 102 g
Balance: 305 mm
Length: 675 mm
Colors: white/grey/black
Gripsize: G0 (3 1/8) G1 (3 2/8) G2 (3 3/8) G3 (3 4/8)
Headshape: HEAD Power Frame System
Frame: Aluminium Alloy
Shaft: High Tempered Steel
Rec. String Tension: 20 - 22 lbs

As you can see it is made from steel and aluminium and is very heavy, but has a stiff flex rating.

So there you have the entire Head badminton racket range, my impression is that they are affordable and decent quality too.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Badminton Shoes

If there is one piece of advice i can give you it is this- always buy the best badminton shoes you can afford. Do not buy cheap shoes, you will pay for this if you do, with blisters, aches and pains. A good pair of shoes are the first thing you should spend money on, period. Forget the flashy badminton racket, you need to protect your feet, or you will not be able to play.

I currently use the Yonex SHB100 LTD shoes. These are probably the most expensive on the market at the time of writing this, i got mine for £60 i think, but they are worth every penny. Before this i actually used squash shoes, the Prince NFS 2 in black. I thought that if they were good enough for Peter Nicol they were good enough for me. Squash has very similar movements to badminton, i mean have you seen a top flight squash match? The top players feet take some real punishment just like badminton players. I love squash, it's a great game, even though i am just learning it i get the same buzz out of it that i get out of badminton.

The best makers of badminton shoes are Yonex. There are quites a few to choose from in their range, but as a rule, go for the most expensive, your feet will thank you for it. I also like the look of the Asics gel series too. I have not used these but the gel sensei look like they could be a good alternative to Yonex. If any of you use them i would be very interested on what you think of them. The price is around £60, and i know that Asics have a great reputation for making running shoes, so i expect the badminton shoes will be top notch too.

A good pair of shoes will give you maximum support, comfort and durability. They should be re-inforced at the toe area, as this is where most of the wear and tear will occur. If you buy a cheap pair you will see how quickly they wear down as you drag your non racket foot when lunging. My Yonex shoes look like good quality. There is good support for your feet all round, and they have a power cushion sole, and inside they have a kind of ribbed insole which helps to cushion your feet. They are also very light. To be honest with you, when i first tried them out, i could immediately feel the difference, compared to my old Prince shoes. The Prince one's felt heavier. The good thing with the Yonex SHB100 is that i just put them on and played, there was no rubbing at all on my feet, no "bedding them in period". This is the sign of a quality shoe.

My shoe wearing history goes something like this:- first pair i used was the HiTec squash, then the Aliph shoes. These were the top choice quite a few years back, very very light but not much comfort and support, so i just put some more cushioned insloes in them. Next was the HiTec adrenalin pro, a great shoe that i used for a good few years, and then the Prince NFS, which i used for many years, and finally the Yonex SHB100 which i currently use. All i can say is the Yonex are the best by a mile, so thankyou to Yonex for making such a great product. Christ, i sound like an advert for Yonex here.

Please do not ever try to play badminton in your running shoes. They are not designed for it, and there is a good chance you will twist your ankle, and also wreck them after about one hour of play. I see this so many times at the sports centre when beginners play badminton, it is a recipe for disaster. If your gonna take up badminton please, please, please, get the right kind of shoes.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Cheap Badminton Rackets

Ok, this can mean two things, the first would be a badminton racket made from cheap materials, and the second would be you buying a badminton racket for a cheap price. As in most things in life you generally get what you pay for, so if you pay a small amount of cash for a racquet, you will usually have an inferior product to one which you paid a lot of cash for. Simple really. Cheap badminton rackets can be found all over the place, especially on the internet, and especially on Ebay.

You have a choice to make. Do you just go out a buy a brand new racket made from basic stuff such as steel and aluminium, or buy second hand? A new Yonex entry level racquet will cost around £20-£30, but you can pick up a decent used one for peanuts. In fact at this price you could pick up a decent used racket, which would be much better quality, despite the fact that someone else had already used it. Ebay is full of these hidden little gems, you just have to go through the pain of bidding, which can also be fun.

I choose to buy out of season rackets, ie, last years models, this is where you get the best discounts, just search around the online stores, there are plenty of special offers around because the stores want to get rid of last years stock. If you find a badminton racket that you like you will no doubt want to buy more than one. Sport Discount specialise in multi buys, and this is another way to save some money. Even if there is no advertised discount just e-mail the company and tell them if you want two or three, they ill usually offer some sort of deal. Don't be afraid to ask the question, there are many other stores that will accomodate you if you don't get the required response.

The power sellers on Ebay offer great prices, and they help to push prices down because they have no overheads to worry about. I have seen this in action when i buy my Carlton Aiblade Tours. My favourite Ebay power seller offers these at very low prices, cheaper than all of the more established internet shops. This particular ebay seller must have taken away a lot of their business, so guess what? Yep, the established stores now offer the Airblade Tour at the same price. The problem i have with this, is that i would still buy my racket from the power seller because they offered the cheapest option right from day one. It comes down to loyalty. Of course the delivery has to be spot on, and at a reasonable price.

Because rackets made from cheap materials are quite heavy you can even use this to your advantage, they can be good for training. I use heavy rackets in the off season to help strenghten my wrist, forearm and shoulder muscles. I take a £10 racquet, string it to a high tension (usually the frame will be all over the place!) and away i go. The badminton strings cost more than the racket itself! This is a really cheap way of playing and you still get some control. Just be careful the head does not fly off in mid stroke, which has happened to me.

Another advantage of a cheap badminton racket is that they come with a small head cover. You can also use this for training by keeping the head cover on while you play. This is a great way to test your technique, because if your racket head is not completely in line with the shuttle on impact, it will go nowhere. You can swing all you want, but you have to hit it just right, timing is the essence here. You can use the head cover at the net, to improve your reaction shots, and strengthen your wrist. This is only for more advanced players and not for kids, as the extra strain on your muscles can easily cause injury, so only try this if you think your technique is good enough.

I have also played badminton with a squash racket, the old wooden type with the tiny head. You could probably buy one of these for next to nothing from ebay and use it for training as well. Cheap badminton rackets can be use to your advantage so have a go and experiment.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Carlton Badminton Rackets

Carlton badminton rackets are one of the most popular badminton manufacturers around today. They differ from Yonex because they only deal in badminton, so they have coined the phrase "specialists at speed". I must admit, i am a Carlton fan, and i have used their rackets down the years. The new Carlton range includes the Fireblades and the Aeroblades. These rackets replaced the Powerblades and the Airblades. Got that? Now, because Carlton have introduced the new ranges, it means there are savings to be made on the older rackets. My personal choice is the Airblade Tour, which you can pick up for around £30-£40 from the right places.

Carlton have suffered in the past from quality problems, especially with the shafts and handles. I have had a few that have twisted in the area where the shaft is joined to handle. A little super glue usually does the trick, although they do tend to replace them if you kick up a fuss. The Airblade Tours are especially prone to this as i have learned from experience. What Carlton offer are well designed badminton rackets, and in my opinion, they are a great alternative to Yonex. They are also a bit cheaper, so if you are on a budget you could be onto a winner here.

Ok, let's look at the Fireblade series first. There are six rackets in this series:-


The technical jargon states that this is made from nanopulse carbon. Normal carbon made rackets have billions of tiny little voids between the fibres, but the new nanopulse carbon has a nano resin that binds the fibres together, giving more stability and consistency. This results in a pulse of energy on impact, which gives more power and control. This sounds great, but Carlton are basically now saying that all their previous rackets lacked stability and consistency!

The more important things we need to know are that it weighs 84grams, has a head heavy balance and has an extra stiff rating. There are two different head shapes, the classic head shape and the isometric head shape. This is a new offering from Carlton, as they have usually never had isometric head shapes in the UK.

This badminton racket is unforgiving, being extra stiff. The head heavy balance will help you generate a bit more power from the back of the court, but you will lose a bit of manouverability at the front with a head heavy balance. If your looking for a bit of help delivering power then go for the isometric haed shape, it gives a slightly bigger sweet spot. Expect to pay around £80.


This is made from the same technology as the Elite, but only has the classic head shape as far as i can see. It is used by Nathan Robertson if this is any help to you. It weighs 86grams, so it's a bit heavier than the Elite, and it has an even balance and a stiff flex rating. The marketing crap says it is designed for the player who combines offensive and defensive tactics. A bit of an all rounder then. This racket is a bit more forgiving than the Elite.


Features an extra head light balance, weighs 84grams and has a medium flex rating. This is aimed at defensive players due to the head light balance and the light weight. It will be a little more difficult to generate power with this racket due to the light weight, but the medium flex will help a little bit. However, this medium flex will take away some of the control, the racket will flex more on impact.


As used by Gail Emms, it weighs 84grams, has a head light balance and a flexible rating. This is quite interesting. Can we match the racket with the style of player? Gail Emms is arguably one of the best net players in mixed doubles play, her achievements back this up. You would think that Gail would need a racket that will give her the maximum amount of control, as she plays most of her shots in and around the net. But this racket has a flexible flex rating, meaning it will not offer the most control, in theory it will offer the least amount of control. Flexible badminton rackets are usually aimed at beginners, as they offer more forgivness towards power. The head light balance would make sense, as this will aid reflex shots in fast, flat rallies. You would expect that a player like Gail Emms would choose a very stiff flex for more control at the net. The trade off would be less power from the rear court, but if the tactics are right, she would not be spending too much time there.

This example just shows that this technical stuff can be misleading. You must choose your racket so that you are comfortable with it, no matter what the marketing people tell you. If it feels right for you, then that is the most important factor.


There are seven rackets in this range as far as i can tell. We have the Aeroblade Ti/ISO Ti, the Aeroblade TT/ISO TT, the Aeroblade FX/ISO FX, and the Aeroblade Carbon TT. Prices range from around £56 for the TT, £42 for the FX, and £30 for the Ti rackets. You can get good discounts on this range, but the Fireblade series has sold like hot cakes, many of them are out of stock, from a quick look at the online badminton stores. High demand means you will be lucky to get any discounts on the Fireblade range.

Look for the now obselete Airblade range for the best discounts, that's what i do, although in the future i will probably look at the Fireblade range when the Airblade Tour's become harder to get hold of. In future posts i will look at all the other badminton rackets from the many different manufacturers.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Where to Buy Your Badminton Racket

Let's face it, it is getting more and more difficult to buy a badminton racket from the high street. The specialist racket stores are decreasing by the day, and there are not many left now. Your choices are very limited from the high street. Why? Because the advent of the internet has changed everything, and this is a good thing for all us badminton players. We now have more choice, and easy access to any badminton raquet we desire, at the touch of a button. Delivery is super fast and efficient, and it has to be, or else we will just shop elsewhere, and the online badminton equipment retailers do not want to lose our custom. We are the winners.

If you go to any search engine and type in "badminton racket" you will be presented with a huge list of stores who sell them. In the left hand side of the search results you will see the sponsored listings. This is where the retailers have paid to be placed on the first page of google, yahoo, ask etc. If you click on these adverts, it will cost the company whose ad you click money, even if you don't actually buy anything from them.

The most established online sites are central sports, sport discount, millets,uk rackets and a host of others. Ebay is also worth a look at believe me. I get most of my rackets from ebay, you just need to know where to look. The best ebay store for badminton rackets is Racketworld. They sell out of season bats, such as last years models, and they specialise in Carlton and Browning. At the time of writng, i have not seen Yonex rackets in their store. The more popular online stores are your best bet for Yonex. You can nuy Yonex from ebay, but don't buy anything that has come from China, they will be fake. How do you know this? Just look at the price. A brand new top end Yonex racquet usually retails for around £100-£120, most of the listings from China sell them for about £20. This is too good to be true, and it usually is. There has been a lot of fake Yonex products on ebay, and if you look very closely you can spot a fake. I will cover this in a future post as there is a good website that tells you what to look for.

Back to Racketworld on ebay. The guy who runs this store has connections with Carlton i am sure. I currently use the Carlton Airblade Tour and i get them for about £30. I have seen this same badminton racket from an online store priced at £80, so you do the maths. If you don't mind having last years model, with different paint on it, then you can save a lot of money. Just another thing here, i have seen racket reviews that go on about how good the graphics are on such and such a racket, and this does influence people's decisions when they come to buying. People are swayed by the looks. What a load of crap. I don't give a damn how my badminton racket looks, i just want it to do the job. Can you honestly tell me that the way a racquet looks will make you play better? No chance, only you can make you play better.

Of course the big problem with buying from the internet is that you can only look at the pictures and the marketing hype, you can't physically feel the racket. Do what i do, and borrow someone else's if you can. Some stores let you take one for a trial before you buy, which is good. But bear in mind that if you don't like it you will have to post it back. Still, it's better than buying it outright and then finding out you don't like it, your stuck with it then, unless you can sell it on.

While Racketworld still sell my Carlton Airblade Tour i will continue to buy it from them. The problem is that Carlton have stopped making this badminton racket, so eventually there will be no more, and then i will have to find another replacement. I do not buy expensive Yonex rackets, i do not believe in spending that much money. The difference between the Carlton i use and a Yonex is virtually nothing to me, i know this because i have used most of the top Yonex rackets, i do have access to them, i just choose not to buy them. Of course it does help if you are good friends with your local Yonex distributor!

You may also find that your local racket specialist (if you can find one) will match internet prices. Just ask them, most will want your custom, and will match the price. Just don't bother going to JJB's or a large retailer like that, they do not have a clue about badminton rackets. It is worth checking them out once in a while though, because it is not unheard of for them to incorrectly price rackets, especially Yonex. A bit sly you may say, but this is their own ignorance, so if they do it then it's their own fault.

I do have to laugh at the amount of security you will find if you try to pick up an expensive racket from these places. You are faced with chains, tags and god knows what else. It is impossible to tell what anything really feels like, so there is little point in trying.

Another point to bear in mind is that online stores often have a price match guarantee, so if you find a racket cheaper elsewhere they will match that price to get your custom. Although remember the example i have seen with the top Yonex models, they are the same price wherever you look. If this is the case, look to see if you get free delivery, you can save money on your badminton racket this way.