Saturday, 26 July 2008

Customising Badminton Rackets

Now as you know i am on the lookout for a new badminton racket that will not destroy what is left of my shoulder. The last post went through a bit of racquet science, and so i am after a fairly heavy model with a head light balance.

What i would like is a head light, heavy overall, medium- stiff flex. My string tension would be around 25 lbs, enough to help control, but not so much to wreck my shoulder. If i find one great, but i will also add lead tape to the handle to increase the balance point towards the handle, making it head light.

Just as a side note, the badminton stores in the UK, all offer the Yonex Nanospeeds in head light versions, which appears to contradict the information on badminton central. However, different regions have different versions so perhaps there is a trend towards even/head heavy balance around the world with the yonex racquets. The UK versions are also 4U, making them heavier, which is better for shoulders and arms. A lot of people state that the Nanospeed 9000 offers more power. Based on just the design of this racket, the head light balance and overall weight would help explain some of this, as this is the ideal combination for a low work racket.

Although the technique factor is the most important, this racket will help your shoulder in this form, if more weight is added to the handle it will be even more effective, not only for reducing injuries, but also making it easier to swing and getting better performance. Probably without even knowing, players using this type of racket are getting a bit more performance with the same effort, and also being able to play more consistent shots for longer because it is easier to swing over longer periods of play compared to the head heavy, or super light rackets that proliferate the market today. The only problem is the price of Yonex racquets, there must be other models that have this same design feature for a lot less money. Although what price would you put on your shoulder?

Would i buy one? If it saved my shoulder then yes, of course i would. My priority has changed during writng this blog, i have found out things i didn't know before about just how much badminton rackets can cause injury, or reduce injury depending on the type you use. This is the most important factor to me now, and if you also have nagging injuries, it should be yours to. In fact, even if you don't have any injury problems, head light, heavy overall rackets are what you should look for. Customize the one you have, or look for something else.

I am going to test this whole theory out myself. It will be simple to find out the answer. I have 3 carlton airblade tours, so i will keep one the same, and just add more weight to the other two by way of lead tape, one more than the other. Then i will just play a normal game with each racket, and see what happens. I anticipate that the difference in power will only be small, it can only ever be a slight difference anyway, but what i am more interested in, is how much easier it will be to swing the badminton racquet, and if it helps my shoulder problems.

Time to search for some lead tape, and after looking at quite a few online stores, i have decided to buy some from ebay. You can pay up to £10 for this lead tape, which seems a bit expensive to me. I have found some on ebay for £5 delivered, so it should reach me in a few days time. What i am after is a decent sized roll that is not thick, so it doesn't make my handle too wide when i add the overgrip. There are some versions i have seen that are very thin, what i have gone for is 36" of 1/2" wide tape, that should do fine. How much i will put on i have no idea yet, i will just experiment when i get it, and see how it feels. The time to customise my badminton racket has arrived, about 20 years too late though.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Badminton Rackets and Injuries

Badminton involves throwing your badminton racket very quickly at the shuttle, it is the one racket sport that creates the most violent actions on your body, especially your shoulder and arm. The result is that many players pick up injuries to their shoulders. Most of these injuries are caused by repetetive movements, and are usually chronic, meaning they are permanent. The longer you play the more likely you are to pick up these kinds of problems. I am in the same situation. Many badminton players are too, so you know what i am talking about.

So i decided to find out if a badminton racket had any influence on the potential to cause injury. What is the best racket to use, to help reduce injury? Well let's find out...

To find this information i have looked through many different articles from academic journals on racket science, physics and sport. I have been to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, and looked through Google Scholar for the answers. A few names keep cropping up, and they are the leading academics who have researched this topic.

I am not, in any way, a maths or physics expert, to be honest with you, i hate the subjects. But to find out some answers i thought it necessary to at least have a look at this stuff.

The first term that came up was work. Work is the energy required to produce a certain shuttle speed. It measures the efficiency of the badminton racquet. What you want is a racket that has low work, high work is bad because the player has to swing harder to achieve the same result. Work is the racket's power, the less work you have to put in to get the required shuttle speed the better.

Shock is the loading of the racket from a sudden change in kinetic energy on impact, ie, vibration. It is how much the racket slows down when it hits the shuttle. Before impact you need energy to get up to speed to hit the shuttle. After impact the racket moves slower and energy is lost. The shuttle gets some of the energy, and the rest is used in bending the frame. If the frame is stiff and light, the frame bending energy will not be absorbed by the frame, it will be dumped into your arm. High shock is bad for injuries.

Now, all the research has indicated that the best kind of racket to use to gain maximum power is a heavy racket with a head light balance. More mass placed close to the handle will allow this kind of bat to be swung faster. More mass at the tip of the racket makes it more difficult to swing. An example of this can be seen in a sledgehammer. All the weight is placed at one end, and if you have ever tried to swing a sledgehammer you will know that it is very difficult, you are often thrown off balance because of the weight at the tip. If you hold the sledgehammer the other way round, with the weight in your hands, it is much easier to swing it.

There is a bit of conflicting evidence about this from what i have seen. Some people argue that a lighter racket will allow you to swing faster, and therefore you will have greater velocity on impact, which in turn will give increased shuttle speed. Heavier rackets will have more mass, but will not have as much swing speed on impact. So in this instance, it appears that you would get the same shuttle speed using one or the other. The lightweight racket can be swung quicker but does not have the mass, and vice versa. However swing speed is not the key, momentum is what counts in a collision, and the research shows that it is better to have more mass, and particularly more mass closer to the handle of the badminton racket to achieve more power and less potential for injury.

The advocates of lightweight rackets claim that this extra swing speed equals more shuttle speed on impact, and to a certain extent this is true. But.. faster swing speed on impact means less control, and more importantly, a lightweight racket will slow down much quicker on impact, causing more stress to your shoulder. Over time that light weight will demolish your arm, as you are having to do more work to get the performance, not the racquet.

So why not have a head heavy balance and light weight? It would seem that you could get the most performance with this type of bat. The problem is that it requires more effort on your part to swing it, you have to work a lot harder to achieve a certain shuttle speed than with a heavy head light bat. Rememeber the sledgehammer example. Another drawback is that head heavy racquets feel sluggish.

Here is the low down... Head light and heavy is best for performance, and best for avoiding injury.

The research also shows that the worst kind of racket you can use for injury is a lightweight racket with a head heavy balance, and a stiff frame. Does this type of racket sound familiar? All the most expensive and popular racquets have these characteristics. The current trend is to have head heavy balance, and the manufacturers market this all the time.

As an example, i have looked for the specifications for Yonex rackets in relation to their balance points. I have used a table of reference from badminton central, which lists many of today's most popular badminton rackets. According to this information, not one single Yonex model has a head light balance. Many are head heavy, such as the Muscle Power series, whilst the Nanospeed series appears to be slightly head heavy, or evenly balanced. It would appear that an even balanced racket is better for you than head heavy. Better yet, a heavier overall weight is good, even with an even balance.

Next time you look for a new bat take this information into consideration. How many times have you seen people go into their local shop and pick a racket up, swing it round a bit and then say "wow, that is so light, i think i'll buy it". Their entire basis for buying is based on how light it is. This kind of ignorance has caused so many injuries. And don't think the store owner will try and put you off buying a lightweight racket, i guarantee that most of them will not even know what balance the racket is, all they are trying to do is sell you that racquet. They will certainly not know what you know if you have read this.

So, what can you do to make your racket into a powerful, injury preventing weapon? Add weight to the handle. You can do this by adding extra grip tape. If your the kind of player who buys a racket and then applies large amounts of overgrip on the handle, you will have changed the balance point, probably without even realising. Many professional players seem to have overgrip going upto half way up the shaft. The Indonesian players favour this. The extra grip is also to help them hold the racket further up the shaft for more control, but they have also changed the balance point with all this overgrip.

There is also a little gimmick called lead tape, and the idea is to apply this tape to the racket head. This will create a head heavy balance. Many players use this tape as they believe it will give them more power. We now know that all this lead tape will do, is to make it more difficult to swing the bat, and cause the most injury to your shoulder over time. What i would do is buy some of this tape and apply it to the handle, then put the overgrip on top of it.

Next time you buy a new badminton racket make sure you know all the details about it, such as weight and balance. Specify what weight and balance point you want. If your not sure what this means, just browse through some of the previous posts. Remember, more weight is not a bad thing.

Just as a side note i have learned a lot myself from doing this research. My current racket of choice is the Carlton Airblade Tour and it weighs in at 78g. Now from what i have just told you, this racket is probably far too light to get maximum power. The result of me using this racket is that i have got shoulder problems. I have been putting in all the work to get any sort of power from it. The only plus point is that it is head light, but it is so light overall that it makes it very difficult to extract power. No wonder i have shoulder problems.

If i want to carry on playing badminton i will need to change rackets, to give my shoulder the best chance of survival. The performance difference between the many racquets is very small, changing from one to another should not be a problem, technique does not change when you change rackets does it? What i am interested in, is prolonging my playing days, and if that means using a heavier badminton racket and placing more weight on the handle then this is what i will do. It is time to start experimenting...

Monday, 14 July 2008

Badminton Rackets and Tension Explained

Most badminton players are familiar with the notion that lower racket string tensions give more power, and that higher racket string tensions give more control. The general idea is that lower tension strings stretch more on impact and store more energy. When the shuttle rebounds from the racket head, more of this energy is returned, resulting in increased shuttle speed. The idea that higher string tensions provide extra control is a bit more complicated to explain.

If we take control to mean the ability to place the shuttle consistently at an intended position, then how would this extra tension help to achieve this? Many badminton players report that having a badminton racket strung at high tension gives the feeling of more "bite" into the shuttle, which provides more control over the shuttle. The theory is that the strings will cut deeper into the base of the shuttle, especially on slice shots, giving more control. Many of the string manufacturers produce thinner gauge strings, and they then market them by claiming they offer more control as they help to bite into the shuttle base more, which is the same theory as the high tension, both are concerned with this "bite". Thus, if we have high tension and thin strings we should achieve the most control because of the extra "bite" factor.

Now this theory has been tested at the university of Sheffield in the UK. The test was conducted on tennis rackets, and the amount of top spin produced with different string tensions. The same basic principles must also apply to slice shots in badminton rackets, they are doing virtually the same thing. The results showed that string tension, or string type, had no effect on the amount of spin produced. It was found that all stringbeds are sufficiently "rough" to produce the maximum amount of spin.

This scientific evidence goes against what most of us badminton players think. I must admit that i always assumed that high tension and thin gauge strings would allow me to produce more spin on the shuttlecock and create more slice. The answer is that it makes no difference at all. So the next time you read about Yonex and Ashaway claiming that their latest thin gauge string will give you more control, you now know that this is not the case.

However, many players still feel that they can produce more spin or slice on the shuttle at higher tensions. There may well be other factors that can explain this. The same study mentioned earlier was also applied to the amount of spin produced by two identical rackets strung at different tensions, with the exact amount of racket head speed on contact. The results again showed no difference in the amount of spin produced.

However, tight strings produce less velocity compared to looser strings,(remember the rebound effect of lower tensions). This would result in the shuttle landing shorter in the court. So if two identical badminton rackets were used, but strung at different tensions, with the exact same head speed on impact, the one with the higher tension would send the shuttle shorter into the court. To make up for this, the player with the high tension strings may well swing faster, thus creating more spin. Now in this case, it is not the tension that has created the extra spin, but the player. It is the players response to tighter strings that produces more spin, not the tension itself.

If string tension does not have any effect on spin, then it cannot have any influence on added control through spin, ie you cannot slice the shuttle more with high tension strings assuming the racket head speed is the same for the shot. But there are other variables that do vary with string tension. The first is string movement. You would assume that at lower tensions, the strings will deform and move more when you play a heavy slice shot. The strings would move in a sideways direction. This has been tested and it does happen. Tighter strings do not move as much on impact with the shuttle.

But does this string movement have any affect on control? As the shuttle hits the strings they will deform in a sideways direction depending on the type of slice. The strings, however, stay in this deformed state even when the shuttle has left the racket. They have not recovered back to their original position. You can see this in action if you play a slice shot and then look at how the strings in your badminton racket have moved to one side. If the strings were able to move and then retain their original position before the shuttle had left the racket face, then in theory they would produce more slice or spin on the shuttle, but they don't, hence the findings that spin is independent of tension.

The amount of string movement will affect the impact because it will influence the location that the shuttle leaves the badminton racquet. This movement will also affect the speed and angle that the shuttle leaves the racket, and therefore, where the shuttle will land on court. This will result in inconsistency, and hence less control over where the shuttle will land. The amount of string movement also depends on the speed of the swing, where exactly the shuttle is hit on the racket face, and the position of the strings on impact. If you have previously hit a heavy slice shot, the strings will be deformed, and if you hit another slice shot immediatetly after this, then you may find that the shuttle is only in contact with one string on impact, rather than two or three. The result is lower tension results in less consistency, and hence, less control.

Another factor to be considered is dwell time, ie, how long the shuttle is in contact with the strings. Scientific evidence has shown that contact time on the strings is higher with lower string tension, as you would expect. The shuttle also moves further across the stringbed at lower tensions. If we take the example of a player playing a slice shot, then the racket strings will brush across the base of the shuttle. The probability that this slice shot is performed correctly is increased if the distance that the shuttle travels across the stringbed is minimised. So tighter strings will increase the probability of a successful slice shot.

Another impact of dwell time on control can be seen with racket head movement. The longer the shuttle is in contact with the racket head, then the more the racket head can move. If you don't hit the shuttle in the sweet spot, then the racket head will rotate and twist, known as torque. The longer the shuttle is in contact with the head when this happens, the more head rotation will occur, which will result in larger errors in your shot precision. Higher string tensions help to eliminate this unwanted effect.

To summarise all this up, string tension and string type has no effect on the amount of slice you can impart on the shuttle. However, tension does affect dwell time, string movement, and contact distance. Stringing your badminton racket at higher tensions makes your shots more consistent, which will add to control. Hope this little science lesson has helped you. It has certainly opened my eyes to a few things that i didn't know before.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Badminton Rackets and Technique

I have gone on about technique in previous posts, but i have never actually got to the real meat of what it actually is, and how it affects your game. Most of my posts have talked about the various badminton rackets on the market, and what to look for when you decide to buy them. I hav also told you that the actual racket is the final piece of the jigsaw, and without footwork and technique, this racquet will be of little use to you. In my opinion this will always be true. But what exactly is technique?

Put simply, technique is the way you hit the shuttle around the court. Every badminton player will do this differently to a lesser degree. It involves your whole body coming together to hit the shuttle. What you need from the way you hit your shots is consistency. Think of a golfer. The aim of golf is to hit the ball accurately and consistently. The best players in the world always seem to hit the ball effortlessly, and the ball usually goes exactly where they planned.

Badminton is the same. The professional players seem to be able to hit the shuttle with ease, from one corner to the other, from the back to the back. They can do this because their technique is almost perfect. They are usually in the correct position to allow all of their body to come together at the point of impact, and send the shuttle to where they want it to go. Have you ever tried to hit the cover off the shuttle with your racket, and found that the harder you try to hit it, the less power you produce? I know i have, and the reason the shuttle goes nowhere, is because your technique is flawed. At the point of impact, something is not quite right, and the force you are putting in, is not being transfered efficiently to the shuttle.

The reasons for this could be many, which is why we are not all professional badminton players. To hit a shuttle with maximum power you will need your body weight, your shoulder, forearm and wrist, plus forward momentum, to impact the shuttle at the highest point available. If all these factors are in tune, then in theory, your technique will be as good as you can get it. The difficult part is being able to do this consistently. I am sure you have had that great moment when you can feel that you have really creamed a smash, and hit the shuttle with more power than you thought you could. Or perhaps you have just hit a really accurate drop shot that went right onto the line, or skimmed the net. You get a great buzz from this, and it boosts your confidence no end, it makes you feel like you can really play this game. At that moment, some part of your technique played a part in achieving that shot, but do you know which part? That is the key to improving your game, knowing how you just did something. A coach will, or should, be able to recognise this and point you in the right direction.

If we take the example of who can hit a shuttlecock harder than anyone else, ie, who has the fastest smash speed in the world? The current holder of the fastest recorded smash speed is the chinese player Fu Haifeng. Does this mean he has the best technique? I would say yes. He is able to produce more power from his technique than anybody else, this must make it more efficient than the rest. At the point of impact he is able to produce more power than the rest. Andy Roddick has the fastest serve in tennis, his technique must also be the most efficient at producing this power.

What we would all love to do, is to be able to do this ourselves. Unfortunately, none of us can, not even other professional players, this is because we are all different, and always will be. You can try to copy these players, but you will not achieve the same results. Is it a god given talent? Some may say it is, it is the difference between the best and the very best and it is ever so slight, but it can make the difference between winning and losing.

This is not always the case, and there are many other factors that play a part, tactics for one. I am sure you have played against players who can hit the shuttle very hard, and they go out of their way to do this at every opportunity, they take pleasure in trying to hit the shuttle through the floor, and also through you. But if they hit the shuttle to the same place, ie, straight at you, in time you will become accustomed to the speed and direction, and you will be able to return the shuttle most of the time. Power is limited if it is not used wisely, and the higher level you play at, the quicker the players will adapt. Now the big hitting player who cannot adapt will have their main weapon used against them. Tactics are another vital part of badminton, or any other sport, and i will cover badminton tactics in a future post.

So how can you improve your technique? A good way is to watch the best players. Look at the way they hit the shuttle, at what point do they hit it? Where are their feet when they do this. Are they in position? Watch the badminton racket before and after impact. Look at their body as they hit through the shuttle. Put your dvd player on slow motion to get a closer look. All the best players will be in position more often than not, they will take the shuttle as early as possible to give themselves more time to play shots. Watch an entire game just focusing on one player, don't just follow the shuttle.

If you can hit the shuttle where you want to, consistently, then this is the best you can hope for. If you can do this, then chances are your technique is good enough to enable you to play badminton at your highest possible level, whatever this may be. Your badminton racket is just a tool to allow you to do this. Just remember that every player will have a different way of hitting their shots, but the results are the same, every player attempts to hit consistently and accurately. Only when you can do this, can you add power, slice, reverse slice or deception to the equation. Badminton is a never ending learning curve, this is why it is so addictive.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

SOTX Badminton Rackets

Not many people in the UK will have heard of SOTX badminton as they are a newcomer to these shores, however, they have been growing at a rapid pace over in China. Now they have entered the UK market, selling all kinds of badminton equipment including rackets, shuttlecocks, bags, clothing and shoes. SOTX have been around in China since 2002, and now have over 300 stores in many major chinese cities. SOTX has also expanded into around 20 other countries, and is a very active promoter of badminton tournaments. This can only be good for our sport, a litte more competition doesn't hurt anyone, but it may help to reduce prices for us lot who buy badminton rackets and accessories.

It was only a matter of time before a major brand appeared from China, what took them so long? Yonex dominates in the far east, but they are Japanese, so perhaps SOTX can take away this dominance. They already appear to be eating into the market share. The potential to sell badminton rackets in the far east is huge, the popularity of the game is massive over there. If you think that 2 million people play badminton in the UK every week, imagine how many people play each week in the far east? How many racquets could be sold? Millions, this is a big business, a very big business indeed.

The UK market is dominated by Yonex and Carlton, and has been since i started playing. Over the last 10 years there have been a few more players entering the market such as the American suppliers like Wilson, Head and Prince. There are also a few less well established suppliers like Forza, Fleet, Browning, Inflight and so on. With 2 million players in the UK, there are 2 million potential customers to serve, and the badminton magazine that is delivered to all members of the BA of E is full of advertisements from these companies. They all want you to buy their rackets and accessories.

Back to SOTX, and they also have an ebay store where they sell all their stuff. After looking at the customer feedback, i can see that over the last 12 months, they have sold around 110 items, and all feeback is positive, not a single person in the UK has complained about their service or products. Most of the equipment they sell appears to be clothing such as tracksuits and t-shirts, and this is not suprising as you can pick up clothing for under £1, which is incredible. In fact i have never seen anything so cheap, jesus, you could get yourself 10 t-shirts for a tenner, tracksuits are not much more expensive either, and shorts for that matter. These are mental prices, and i am certainly going to have some of these, i will let you know what the quality is like when i get some.

Now to the actual SOTX badminton racquets, and there are lot's to choose from, with around nine different ranges. First up is the Commax Power Series, and the daddy of this range is the SOTX CP-7000. It is made from high modulus carbon with force-pro nano technology. You may be wondering what force-pro is. Well it is designed to reduce vibration to help protect your wrist, arm and shoulders. If you string your racket to high tensions you will get much more vibration going into your body, this can cause injury and give serious problems later on. This force pro stuff is meant to protect you, and seeing as the recommended stringing tension for this CP-7000 is 30lbs, you will need it. I think this could be a great idea from SOTX, no-one else has tried this to my knowledge. You will soon find out if it works, if your arm doesn't ache after a few matches. This could actually be very good news for shoulders and joints. At least SOTX is aware that high tension equals aches and pain. The CP-7000 has a stifness rating of 9.0-9.3, which means it is very stiff, and the weight is 83-89g, and it is head heavy. Now here is the killer, it costs a whopping £109. There are not too many badminton stores that sell SOTX yet, so you will end up paying full whack at the moment. SOTX also have an ebay store, and it is the same price there as well. I find this hard to believe, but the recommended retail price is £199 on the SOTX UK website. There is no way on earth they will sell any of these for that price, in fact i think they will struggle to sell any for £109. This racket really must be something else, but i guarantee it will come down in price to about half of what they currently advertise it for.

The SOTX CP-6000 has the same technology but is less stiff, at 8.5-9.0, and is a bit heavier, at 84-91g, the balance is more even. The price is £99, and you can string up to 30lbs.

The CP-5000 has the force-pro technology, weighs 82-88g, and is less stiff at 8.0-8.5. There does appear to be a large tolerance in the weight to me. 82-88 doesn't really tell me what the exact weight is, this needs to be more precise in my opinion. Max string tension is still 30lbs, and it costs £79.99. There is also the CP-3000 and the 1000 in this range, which appear to be very similar to the others, just less in price. The 3000 is £69.99 and the 1000 is £59.99. If the bottom of the range has this pro force technology it would be easier to just go out and buy this racquet, instead of forking out £109 for the 7000. After doing a bit of searching on the internet, there is only one authorised seller for SOTX rackets, and this is in the US. The price for the CP-7000 is $309!! This relates to about £155 in the UK. This makes it just about the most expensive badminton racquet in the world, and hardly anyone in the western world has heard of SOTX, until now, because i just did. SOTX are looking for agents to sell their stuff, now tell me how the hell are you going to justify that price? You would have to be a super agent to sell SOTX rackets.

If you think the CP range is expensive then take a look at the Woven range. The range topper is the SOTX Woven-16 and costs £129.99... gulp. It is made from 800D high grade carbon fibre and glass fibre, which give extra stability and control. It weighs in at 88g and has a stiff rating. It's party piece is that you can string it to 31lbs tension, if you can find a string that can take the stress. This range does not have the pro force vibration technology so you can kiss your arm goodbye if you string it at 31lbs tension.

The Woven-13 is next which has more flexibilty and is slightly heavier. This one costs £99.99...ouch. The Woven-12 is also very similar and weighs 86g with a stiffness rating of 8.5-9.0. Price is £89.99. The Woven 11i is a bit heavier at 89g, and is more flexible, price for this is £79.99.

There are another 9 rackets in this range, which are all very similar, and the bottom of the range is the Woven-2i, which still costs £49.99.

The Diamond Fighter range has 8 rackets, with the D-900 being the top one, and this costs £89.99. The Diamond Fighter range (where do they get these names from) has special memory alloy which reduces the ageing of the racket. How it does this i do not know, perhaps this racket forgets that it has been hitting shuttles and so lasts longer. It weighs 85g and is quite stiff, designed for professional all round play.

The SOTX D-800 is slightly more flexible and costs £79.99 and is designed for attacking players. The D-700 has even more flex and is £69.99. We go all the way down to the D-100 which costs £44.99.

SOTX also have a superlight series, which weigh in at about 75g. Funnily enough, SOTX claim these rackets are the lightest in the world, which we know they are Karakal SL70? I wonder if Karakal know about this claim.

Overall i think SOTX badminton rackets are way overpriced at the moment. Time will tell if they start to sell in the UK, but at these prices i doubt they will. If they can get some stores to stock their goods they stand a chance, but the prices will almost certainly come down when this happens, that will be the time to buy.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Browning Badminton Rackets

Browning badminton rackets are a relatively unknown quantity in the badminton world, but they have a solid reputation in my eyes. As far as i am aware, they have actually stopped making racquets now, but let me tell you, there are still hundreds of them available on the internet. I did own one many years ago, and it did the job for a few years, i have no idea what model it was or how much it cost back then. Browning actually make guns, and are more famous for this. How they began making badminton rackets i have no idea, but they did, and they are like an underground brand, you have to know where to look to find them.

One of my friends uses Browning rackets, and he is very pleased with them, the main reason is that you can pick them up for next to nothing, and, having played with some of them, i would certainly recommend giving them a go, at the low prices you can find, you really have nothing to lose. I can tell you that the best place to buy Browning bats is from my old friends at Racketworld, on ebay and with Amazon. Seriously, if you want to buy rackets, not just badminton, but squash and tennis, then try Racketworld. They offer exceptional deals, and low prices, period. There is one other place i would like to give a shout out to, and that is Snowygreen sports. These guys are another hidden little gem on the internet, and they focus mainly on squash rackets. I am giving them the thumbs up because i bought myself a Head i110 squash bat from them yesterday for the lowest price on the internet. I do enjoy playing squash, and of course, as with badminton, rackets break. My old bat bit the dust the other day, i played a shot and the handle snapped in two. This was hardly suprising, as i had previously glued it back together about 6 months ago, when i threw it on the floor. Frustration is a bitch ain't it. It wasn't the rackets fault, it was my inability to play the way my mind thinks i should play.

Back to Browning, and i can tell you that Racketworld are selling about 20 of them every single day on their online store in the UK. This may not sound like much but it shows that a good few people are spending their money wisely, and not being drawn in by the big players like Yonex, who spend much more money on advertising. In fact, i have never seen Browning marketing their badminton stuff. This tells me that these people are buying them via word of mouth, the best kind of publicity any manufacturer can get. I have no problem advertising them on this blog because i personally use them, so i know you will get a good deal.

Thousands of people have bought these bats, and i bet they are laughing at the Yonex slaves, as i call them, for spending over £100 on a racket, and believing all the marketing hype that is thrown around these days. For £100 you could arm yourself with at least 4 Browning badminton rackets, and if you have got the coaching behind you and can hit the shuttle consistently well, you will be made for months if not years. The only other important factor to consider are the strings, make sure you have all these bats strung at your favourite tension, which is probably the biggest expense, and you will hardly notice any difference, apart from the huge savings you will enjoy. This is why places like Racketworld are so successful, they operate in a completely different world to the mainstream online retailers, but are just as successful. The difference in actual playing experience between a Browning racket and the top end Yonex, Forza or whatever, is minimal, if you know how to move and have good technique. Those of you who have spent money on coaching and have reached a decent level will know what i mean, the racket is the least important factor in you game.

Here is an example. If you go to google and type in "browning badminton racket", you will see that the top listings are from Amazon. Racketworld just so happen to have a store with Amazon, you are just directed to the same store. How many people visit Amazon and Ebay every single day? Millions of us do. Now can you imagine just how many visitors Racketworld are getting every day. Not only are they getting custom from word of mouth, if you look at the customer feedback comments, there is virtually no one who has had a bad experience with them. All of the customers say things like- "great racket, great service, delivered on time, good racket at a great price", etc, etc. If Racketworld were selling crap products they would not exist, but they specialise in selling cheap rackets, last years models, but these racquets are vey good indeed, good quality products at low prices. This is the kind of niche that i look for when buying anything, but especially when buying rackets. I know a good deal when i see one, i have been playing badminton for 20 years, so i like to think i know a bit about what is good and what is not. The Head i110 i bought yesterday cost me £39.99, if i didn't know where to look i could have easily spent £100 on this bat somewhere else, the price differences are massive if you do some searching.

There is not much information about the different Browning ranges anywhere on the internet. Racketworld are notoriously bad at listing their products in any kind of logical way. In fact they list different prices for the same products, you just make sure you choose the cheapest. From what i can gather from the listings there are quite a few bats to choose from, so i will start with the cheapest first.

The Browning Firepower Titanium is just £8.99, and is a one piece titanium carbon composite construction, and it comes pre strung with the factory strings, which will be crap, but they always are. However, if you are a complete beginner this will matter in the slightest, and you can have a starter racket for less than a tenner. The only problem is that Racketworld charge £7.95 for delivery, no matter what you buy, so the delivery is almost as expensive as the actual racquet. This is the only drawback with the internet.

More cheap alternatives are the Browning Nanoblade Ti, the Browning Nanotech CTi 90 and the Browning Carbotech Ti. They are all £9.99, and have wide body designs with titanium mesh in the frames. If you are a beginner i seriously recommend you try any of these out, they are great starter rackets at supid prices.

Moving up in price we have the Browning Nanopower Titanium, at a hefty £14.99. It has nano carbon and titanium mesh in it, like the others. At £19.99 there are five models to choose from. First is the Browning Graphite Ti 75, which weighs 75g hence the name. Now the description states that this is new for 2008, so perhaps Browning are still making badminton rackets, or Racketworld have made a mistake. Either way it doesn't really matter. It has a one piece powerflow frame and comes with a full length carry case. I don't know about you, but i must have about 30 of these little carry cases buried away somewhere, i think i might start my own ebay shop selling them for a penny each.

There is also the Browning ESP Ti 75 Titanium, the Oxylite Ti 75 Titanium, the ESP Ti 80 Titanium and the Nanotech CTI 85, all for £19.99. You will notice that the two ESP rackets are the same price, this often happens at Racketworld. I would suggest the 75 is lighter than the 80. Next up at £29.99 is the Browning Nanotech CTi 80, and then at £39.99 we have the Platinum Nano 75. The most expensive rackets are the Browning Plasma Nano Ti 75 at £59.99 and the Plasma Platinum 75 at £69.99, which has plasma treated nano carbon and titanium which makes it stronger. It weighs 75g and has a stiff shaft. It is also coated in chrome which apparently makes it stiffer. There is also the isometric head shape. This is new for 2008. I reckon that this racket will come down in price in a few months, or maybe next year when something else takes it's place, that would be the best time to buy one in my opinion.

I don't recommend many badminton rackets within this blog, in fact i go out of my way to urge you not to spend big money on them, just go through some of the posts. They all do the same job in the end, and it's always down to you to get the most out of them. I have stuck up the browning ads because they are a great way to enjoy your badminton without spending a lot of money, and also because Racketworld are good to deal with, i personally use them to buy my rackets. The fact that they are probably the cheapest place on the internet to buy badminton rackets is the added bonus.