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.


Lefty said...

Great Article.
What would you reccomend (from the current Yonex range) as a replacement for Yonex CAB8dx?

antony said...

Hi lefty
The Cab 8DX is such an old racket that there is no solid replacement in the current Yonex range, they just don't make them kind of bats anymore, not in the UK anyway. The only rackets with that type of old technology are the basic series, which is the bottom of the range, and they don't remotely feel like the old Cab 8DX did. It's a shame really because it would be great to just play with one right now!

The Cab 8DX was in the middle of the price range back then, so i suppose you would be looking at the Isometric series from the current ranges, but as i said before, the difference is huge, so it's not really comparable. I'm afraid the Cab 8DX is consigned to the past forever.

Lefty said...

Thanks Antony. What I meant is if anything in the current Yonex range 'feels' similar. e.g. I considered the CAB8DX as a head heavy racket on the heavier side (mine are 2U). I don't mind spending up to £150 per racket. I accept the world has moved on (big time), but still desperate to get a similar balance even if the racket is lighter.
Thanks once again.

antony said...

Hi Lefty
You could try the Yonex Armortec rackets, these are all head heavy, so they will give you a similar feel. By the way, i have seen some Cab 8DX's for sale on ebay, not sure if they are still there at the moment. I saw them a couple of weeks ago and thought of you!

Owtaman said...

Hi Lefty,
I suggest you to get the Carb 21 SP(Yonex is still selling it), I believe this is the last and the best of Carbonex range of Yonex rackets. but beware of the stiff shaft of Carb 21 SP, it is not suitable for beginners. I still have the Carb 8dx in my racket bag but I seldom use it. I broke the Carb 21 SP some time ago due to a clash. Note: Carb 21 Special is NOT the same as a Carb 21 SP, Carb 21 Special is an inferior model.

Anonymous said...

I still have the LEGENDARY CARBONEX 8 DX SP FULL CARBON SHAFT , bought in 1994 :)

It cost me like 89.90 Singapore dollar last time :)

antony said...

You Lucky thing!!