Sunday, 31 August 2008

APACS Badminton Rackets

Apacs badminton rackets are virtually unheard of here in the UK, but have quite a cult following in the far east. It appears they are related to the Yehlex, Fleet, ProAce and HiQua family. The information on the Yehlex UK website mentions that Apacs is one of the trading names of Yehlex. I imagine that Apacs rackets have a huge following because if they are anything like Yehlex and Fleet over here, then they offer cheap, reliable and decent quality badminton rackets.

There now appears to be a new Apacs UK website, which sells just 4 rackets from different ranges. So at this present time all of us in the UK have just these four models to choose from. Now, if Apacs is part of the Yehlex family, then this site must have something to with the Yehlex UK site? I think i will email Ian Little, who runs the show and ask him if this is true.

Things start to get a little bit complicated when you visit the Apacs Sports Malaysian website, which states that Apacs began in 1978. There is also an Apacs website in Canada and in China. Apacs actually stands for Aggressive, Power, Accurate, Control and Speed, although i am not sure if that is in the correct order.

There appear to be many different badminton rackets in the Apacs range depending on which country you come from. They also sell badminton shoes, clothing, bags and many other related things, and the prices are much lower than brands like Yonex. If we take a look at the UK website, the four racquets on offer at the moment are the Edge Sabre 7, Nano 800 Power, Nano 900 Power and the Nano Fusion Classic. Do these sound familiar? Yep, they are Yonex clones, not fakes, but clones, there is a difference.

The Edge Sabre 7 is obviously based on the Yonex ArcSaber 7, although it does have different characteristics. It has a very similar paint job to the ArcSaber 7. One big difference is the flex of this Edge Sabre, which is very stiff, compared to the medium stiff rating of the Yonex ArcSaber 7. There is a big difference in price as well. This Edge Sabre 7 costs £69.99, compared to the Yonex which is around £100. For an extra £5 you can get custom stringing to your chosen tension, and this badminton racket can be strung to 30lbs, so the frame must be pretty robust to take this. The technology is GS carbon nanotube, which sounds like the CS carbon nanotube in the Yonex version, just a different name to avoid Yonex hammering Apacs for nicking their copyright names.

Apacs rackets get good reviews from their users, and the trend seems to be that they are about 90% as good as the real Yonex rackets. The only way to tell is to play with the original and the clone, and then make your own mind up. You may find you like the clone even better, in which case you will have saved yourself some money. In fact i would be happy to get a racket that was virtually the same as a more expensive model.

The Apacs Nano 800 Power is priced at just £29.99 and is described as an all round choice for intermediate players. It has a medium stiff flex and weighs 4U, so it a a light one. It has nano technology and both the 800 and 900 are based on the Yonex Armortec models. The 900 Power costs £49.99 and has a very stiff rating, and a more head heavy balance, just like the Yonex Armortec rackets. The weight is the same for both racquets, and both can take 30lbs string tension. If you can't afford a real Yonex Armortec then these could be the answer.

The Apacs Nano Fusion Classic has a much more flexible rating compared to the others, and is designed for control players. It can be strung to 28lbs tension and weighs 3U, so it's a bit heavier. The cost is £55.99.

If we take a look at the Apacs Canada website, there is a much larger choice of racquets. The first thing i have noticed is that the Edge Saber 7 is on sale at just $58 canadian dollars. The exchange rate is near enough two dollars to the pound, so the cost in UK pounds would be half, or about £29!! The price at the Apacs UK site is £69.99, can this be right? Would it not be wise to buy this racket from Canada and ship it over to the UK? I am not sure what they charge for international shipping, perhaps $20, or £10. This would up the price to £39 but you would still save around £30. You could probably buy two while your at it, and save a bit on shipping costs, and still only pay a little bit more than the price of one in the UK. I have just e-mailed Apacs Canada to see if they do ship outside of Canada. Could be onto something here.

There is also the Apacs EdgeSaber 10 badminton racket for $60, which i am guessing is a clone of the Yonex ArcSaber 10, which is not yet available in the UK. The EdgeSaber 10 has a stiff flex and weighs around 86g with an isometric head shape. It has the GS nano carbo and high modulus graphite technology along with a slim frame design to make it cut through the air better, just like an edgesaber should! You can string it to 30lbs as well. Not bad for around $60.

There is also the Armor Muscle series, which sounds like a combination of the Yonex Armortec and Muscle Power badminton rackets to me. The AM88P has a stiff flex and has nano carbon and high modulus graphite. Can be strung to 30lbs as well. Also has the isometric head shape, as most of the Apacs racquets do. Cost is $78.

There is also the Armor Muscle Pro 90 and 95, which have the muscle power grommet system and the power box x section frame, whatever that is. They are also isometric and have stiff flexiblity ratings. The price for all 3 is the same funnily enough.

We have the Visble Hollow series as well, with 6 rackets to choose from. This series has the visible hollow technology, an anti vibration cap and an aerodynamic wing x section frame. Wowee, must be good. There is also titanium in there as well in case you missed it. The range goes from very stiff flex to flexible, and the top of the range is the Apacs Visible Hollow 1800 which will set you back just $78, which is very affordable indeed.

The most expensive Apacs badminton bats are the Furious range, which has the Furious Pro 1000/2000 and the 767. The 767 has a zig zag grommet system, stiff flex rating and weighs about 86g. It costs $99. The 1000/2000 have a special 3 stage frame and shaft construction and the all new "super T" anti torsion system which Apacs claim makes these rackets the most stable in the world. The idea is that it will not twist or move during off centre hits on the string bed. The flex is extra stiff, and is aimed at tournament play. The price is $135, which is still a competitive price compared to Yonex.

An added bonus is that you get a padded protective carry case with the Furious Pro rackets, which i have never seen offered before. The future is now here for badminton bags. All the rackets from Apacs Canada can be strung to your favourite tension at no extra cost, which is a great idea because no one wants the crappy factory tension anymore. Other retailers take note, look after the customer and they will look after you.

The Nano Fusion rackets are the 608 Pro, 7500, 7800 and 7900. These range from medium flex for the 608 Pro and 7500, to stiff for the 7800 and 7900. Cost is between $65 to $78, so these are pretty cheap as well.

To round this up, it seems that Apacs are dirt cheap and offer good quality badminton racquets, a good combination in my eyes. The Apacs website in Malaysia has a much larger choice, with many more models and ranges that us lot in the UK can only dream about at the present time. I don't know how durable Apacs bats are, so if you own one it would be good to hear what they are like. The fact that they are so popular in the far east must mean they are decent quality, and if i ever get a reply from the e-mail i sent to Apacs Canada about the shipping, i may be tempted to give them a try. Affordable badminton rackets are good for all of us.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Yang Yang Badminton Rackets

Yang Yang badminton rackets are named after the legend that is Yang Yang, the two time world champion in 1987 and 1989. He also won the All England in 1989, and many other grand prix tournaments around the world. When he retired he and Zhao Jianhua, who in my opinion is the best badminton player ever to pick up a racket, put their names to a line of badminton racquets. They are not very well heard of here in the UK. However, in other parts of the world, especially in the US, they are very popular.

As far as a marketing exercise goes, the idea of putting a famous name to a line of rackets has always been used to help sales. The fact that Yang Yang is from China, and that most people in the west have never heard of him, unless they are keen badminton players, would no doubt account for the fact that they are not well known in the UK. Why Yang Yang rackets are popular in the US is a bit of a mystery, and i am pretty sure they would not sell huge amounts there, just enough to cater for a small niche market. Perhaps i am wrong here, i don't know, because badminton is seen as a minority sport here in the UK, yet there are still 2 million people picking up a badminton racket every week, so there are 2 million people who need a badminton racket, this is a big market, and this is just in the UK. There must be more people playing in the US than in the UK?

I have a feeling that Yang Yang will sell more racquets in Asia than over here, badminton is far more popular over there, and god only knows how many people play every week. That market is huge compared to the rest of the world. More people in Asia will have heard of Yang Yang, and so more people will buy his rackets, purely based on his reputation. Now the key here is reputation, because if you are a badminton legend, the product you are selling has to be the very best, otherwise your hard earned reputation will go down the pan. It is a big gamble in my eyes, but must be worth the risk if you get it right.

Has Yang Yang got it right? Well after doing a bit of snooping around on the internet, it appears that there is a huge selection of badminton rackets with the Yang Yang name on them, as well as shuttlecocks, clothing, shoes, bags, nets, posts and anything else you can think of. I have managed to find one stockist of Yang Yang products here in the UK, and the prices are competitive compared to other leading brands. After looking at some online badminton shops in the US, there are different models in different countries, so it gets a bit complicated, but then again, most manufacturers do this to suit various markets.

Going off what is available in the US i will take a little look at one of the many Yang Yang ranges, the Nano Sensation range. The top racquet is the 110 which is made from nano carbon and titanium. It weighs 85-90g and has a stiff flex rating, as does almost every other top end badminton racket. The balance is slightly head heavy with an isometric head shape. It is aimed at advanced players and will set you back around $140, although the UK website i found for Yang Yang rackets sold it for about £60. The US website would only string this racquet up to 24lbs tension, which kind of defeats the object of stiff rated bats.

Next is the Yang Yang Sensation 900,which has Kevlar in it, so i guess this badminton racquet is bulletproof. The difference between this and the 110 is the balance, with the 900 being more head heavy, and so is aimed at advanced offensive players, the idea being you can generate more head speed on impact, and thus create more power. Refer back to the previous post on badminton rackets and injuries for the low down on using head heavy, lightweight rackets. Anyway, the 900 costs the same as the 110.

In fact, this type of racquet would be good for my experiment, i would just add perhaps 5g of weight to the handle and make it head light balanced, but it would still have a fair amount of weight at the top. I am also now thinking of what would happen if i did this with a medium flex, or flexible badminton racket, with a head heavy balance to begin with? I reckon this would give a fair amount of power, with even less work from me. I would need control, so the strings would be strung at 25-26lbs tension, but not too tight that it will start to make my shoulder ache. I believe that this could well be the perfect compromise between control and ease of use. Hmmmm.

I am going off track a bit here, so back to Yang Yang. Next in the Sensation range is the 800, which is very similar to the other two racquets, with a stiff flex, isometric head, head heavy balance, but the 800 is slightly lighter, at 84g. Now what gets me, is that the marketing talk on this particular online store i am getting this info from states that this racket is easy to swing. A head heavy racket will feel cumbersome, and from my previous posts, you now know that a head heavy balanced bat is not easy to swing at all, in fact is a very "high work" racquet, so you have to put all the effort in to get the swing speed and power. Head heavy balance will always feel sluggish, so this marketing talk is just plain wrong. The 800 costs $129.95.

Next in price is the Yang Yang Nano Sensation 100 badminton racket. This costs $129.95 and is combines Kevlar with nano technology. Now this 100 has an even balance and a stiff flex rating, so it is aimed at all round play because it should be easier to swing around.

The Nano Sensation 90 is the same as the 100, but does not have Kevlar in it, so it costs $119.95. From this we can conclude that Kevlar costs an extra $10! The Sensation 400 has a medium stiff flex rating and head heavy balance. Again the marketing talk says this racket will create massive power and yet is also easier to manoeuver in defensive play. Cost is $109.95.

At $89.95 we have the Yang Yang Aplha One, with an even balance and medium flex. It is lighter than the other rackets, at 80-84g, and is aimed at all round play. I have also seen on sale the Yang Yang Woven Titanium Fighter racket at $99.99. This has the muscle wave string technology, and has a medium stiff flex with very head heavy balance. The weight is 84-89g (3U-) this has proved to be a popular seller as it has sold out at this shop.

There are many other ranges from Yang Yang, such as the Tactic series and the Woven series, it is just proving difficult to find information on them. A bit more snooping around is needed, so when i find out i will post it in the future. Yang Yang seems to be actively involved in sponsoring grass roots badminton, which is good news, and his badminton rackets are competitively priced, so if you can find them, maybe you can try one out yourself.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

The Badminton Racket Experiment

Well i have finally tested the lead tape theory on my badminton rackets, and i can tell you that it does work. The racquet feels more head light than before, and it feels easier to swing as well. This is what i was hoping for, so it is good news. All that badminton racket research appears to have been worth it, although i expect that time will tell with this, remember the main aim is to help my shoulder. I think i will also experiment with more weight on the handle in the future. I also have a feeling that these modified Carlton Airblades will not last too long. The familiar Carlton handle problems are bound to appear with more weight there, ie, the part where the shaft meets the handle tends to come loose and twist on Carlton badminton rackets.

A bit of glue usually does the trick, so i better get some ready. Come on Carlton, get your act together and start sorting this problem out once and for all. For anyone else who has shoulder problems i seriously suggest you give the lead tape a try, and even if you don't it will make your racket easier to swing. In fact it would be interesting to do this experiment with a head heavy bat, and make it head light. I was messing around with a Yonex Armortec 700 yesterday which is very head heavy to start off with. This is why Yonex tell you it will give you more power, and it will, but it is a very high work model and this head heavy balance makes it more difficult to swing, you have to do all the work. Now what would happen if you were to add 10g of lead tape to the handle? You would then have a low work badminton racquet which would be easier to swing and gain better performance because it would now have a head light balance.

I am thinking that you would get even more performance from this because the racket head will already be fairly heavy, it just that it is now easier to swing around. On impact you will still have the same weight hitting the shuttlecock. In my opinion you would have the best chance of generating power without having to swing as fast. I am going to try this out in the near future and it will mean me buying some new racquets, but what the hell, i am intrigued by this.

There are a few more badminton racket manufacturers i have not looked at yet, so the next few posts will take care of these as i want to go through every single one of them, to give a comprehensive list of what is out there.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Badminton Rackets and Lead Tape

Ok, i am in the process of adding some lead tape to the bottom of my badminton racket, specifically to the bottom of the handle, to see if this will help to make the racquet easier to swing, and hopefully save my shoulder from more pain. The tape i ordered from ebay arrived after about one week, and cost me £3.25 delivered. It was a little bit smaller than i thought it would be, but for some reason i was sent an identical roll of tape two days later. There must have been some mix up, but i am not complaining.

This tape is approx 36 inches long and about as wide as your little finger, and i reckon it weighs about 10 grams per roll. When added to my badminton racket it should give me an extra 10 grams in weight, so it will take my carlton airblade tour up to about 88-90 grams, and also make it more head light than before. Remember, more weight and head light balance will give the best performance, and also have a lower swing weight, making it easier to get power with less effort, which is the main aim of this whole experiment. And the fact that it will make things easier on the shoulder joints.

I added the tape around the base of the racket handle and upwards to about one third of the way up, then i put the grip back on over this. Because the lead tape is very thin, it has not made a noticeable bulge on the handle, so it does not feel much different to normal. I have three airblade tour badminton rackets, but i only have enough tape to do two of them, so the third racquet will do as a reference to see if there is a difference. At the time of posting this, i am about to go off and play an hour of singles with these racquets and put this experiment to the test. I will post the outcome in my next post.

On a different note, it was good to see the badminton at the olympics. Once again Yonex badminton rackets dominated the tournament, and i think i am right in saying every single medal winner used yonex racquets. Asia won all the medals, and most of the asian players are sponsored by Yonex, hence the domination. I saw quite a few ArcSabers on display, and many Armortec 900's as well. There was only one ArcSaber 10 on show, unless the models used had different paint jobs. I know that Lin Dan had a special edition badminton racket just for the olympics.

That men's singles gold medal match was good to watch, in fact it was a career defining match for Lin Dan, and more than made up for his first round exit four years ago. It is the ultimate goal for any athlete to play the best they can when it matters most, and he totally destroyed Lee Chong Wei with his best ever performance on a badminton court. He was a yard faster than i have seen him before, and the shuttle seemed to make a different sound as it left his badminton racket. In my opinion, that performance was the second best i have ever seen, behind Zhao Jianhua in the All England final against Joko Suprianto in the early 1990's. That match was as close to badminton perfection as you will ever see, and is why i rate Zhao as the best player of all time. I would put Lin Dan second now, after that olympic final performance.

One thing that got on my nerves was the way the chinese intimidated the line judges, it smacked of desperation to me, and should not have been allowed, especially when the coaches get involved as well. It is not good for the game. On a happier note, it was good to see Lee Yong Dae win an olympic gold medal at only 19. It looks like we have another potential Korean legend on our hands, in the same mold as Park Joo Bong and Kim Dong Moon. The future looks bright for him. Well that's it for now, so keep swinging that badminton racket and enjoy this great game of our's.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Badminton Rackets and Shuttles

I am still waiting for the lead tape to arrive so i can start customising my badminton racket, it should be here any day now, i hope. In the meantime i want to talk about shuttlecocks. Your badminton racket has to hit something, and it has to be a shuttle, unless you use yours to kill flies with, which they are very good at as well. When i first started playing, i used plastic shuttles, mainly from Yonex and Carlton. The Yonex Mavis series was, and still is the most popular plastic shuttle around. They are cheap, and last a long time, and the flight is very consistent. When i began playing virtually every club used Yonex Mavis shuttles, there as not a lot of choice, and to use feather shuttles was unheard of. The only feather shuttle manufacturer around then in the UK, was RSL, or to give them their full name, reinforced shuttlecocks limited.

As time went by, more and more badminton leagues began to use feathers, and the overwhelming choice was RSL, because quite simply, they made the best shuttles, and they were the dominant brand in the UK at that time. The difference between feather and plastic is like chalk and cheese, there is no comparison, absolutely none. Plastic shuttles do not even come close to the flight quality and feeling you get off the badminton racket with feather shuttlecocks. Once you have tried feathers you will know what i mean.

The problem with feathers is the cost and the durability, they are more expensive and do not last as long as plastic shuttles. However, they are worth it. I have only played with feathers for the last 20 years. In fact, i had not hit a single shot with a plastic shuttle for all those years, until a few weeks ago, when i found one lying around in the sports centre. Good grief, if you can hit hard enough those plastic shuttles just close up on impact and turn into bullets. I know when i used to use them, we would fold the skirt back on itself to slow them down, this is just like "tipping" a feather shuttlecock to slow it down.

I have played with many different brands of feathers, from Yonex, RSL, Carlton, Head, Inflight, Magnum, DSS, Yehlex and so on. RSL had the market cornered until a few years back, when Yonex decided to start making shuttles. In my opinion, there are only two brands that stand out, RSL and Yonex. RSL Tourney number 1, and the Yonex Aerosensa range. At number 3 i would include Inflight, as my club uses these, and they are a pretty close third. Always get the best grade though, they may be more expensive but crap quality shuttles will spoil your game of badminton, and will be less durable and inconsistent in flight.

Head have recently entered the UK market and so i tried their shuttles. What a massive let down they were. Complete crap in my opinion. They started off fast and then after a few rallies they slowed down to virtually nothing, totally unplayable. Come on Head, get your act together. RSL have great flight and consistency and are pretty durable. Yonex are also top notch, but they can get expensive. An example of this is that the top of the range Aerosensa 50 costs £17.50 per dozen at central sports, and then you can add on £2.25 for delivery. You will be paying almost £20 for one tube of shuttles.

The cost of one dozen RSL Tourney 1's is £13.95, with the £2.25 delivery charge on top of that. If you buy in bulk you can get them cheaper, which is what many badminton clubs will do. My club pays around £10 per dozen, for the Inflight Premium shuttles. But what if you don't play in a club? You will probably not want to go out and buy 50 dozen shuttles in one go. During the summer, i play a lot of singles with a few friends, but we don't play at the club, we go to a sports centre and book our own courts. A few times i have bought shuttles from the club for the £10 they pay for them, but i don't like asking all the time, as they are for club use.

The alternative is to buy my own, perhaps from one of the many online retailers. The real answer is to save yourself a lot of money and buy your shuttles from ebay. Here is an example. I have just bought 6 dozen RSL Tourney number 1's for £54 delivered. If i were to buy the same amount from central sports, who are the most popular online retailer for badminton equipment in the UK, it would have cost me £87.95 delivered. I will give a shout out to the ebay seller i got these shuttles from- iooho. No idea why they are called that, but what i do know is that they just happen to be the largest authorised Yonex dealer in Hong Kong, so all their products are genuine.

They are the real deal, and the only ebay seller from the far east that you can trust. There are many fake items on ebay, especially Yonex products, but these are not one of them. The RSL Tourneys i got are 100% genuine, i know this because i have played with them for years, i know exactly how they play, and i know that the one's i got are exactly the same as the one's from the UK. In fact, the one's from the UK are imported anyway, they probably came from the same place. 6 dozen tubes at £54 works out at £9 per tube, which is cheaper than anywhere in the UK, and yet they have come all the way from Hong Kong. It just shows how much we get ripped off in the UK.

In the UK there are 3 speeds of feather shuttle, 77, 78 and 79. In Hong Kong there appear to be 2 speeds, 49 and 50. 49 is equivelant to 77 and 50 to 78. The speed i went for was 50 (78) and they were a little bit quick, although i did play on the hottest day of the year in the UK, so the next time i play they will be ok for speed.

Call me a badminton snob, but i can't stand playing badminton with crap shuttles, even when i am practising. It just feels wrong. I have been there before, you know the secenario, scrapping around after matches, looking for half decent shuttles that you could use the next time you play. It ain't no fun, and the one's that looked ok end up disintegrating after a few rallies. Your shiny badminton racket is worthless when this happens, as are your strings, you have no control over anything, all because the shuttle is shit.

Honestly, save yourself some money and get some from Hong Kong. Go to ebay and type in "rsl shuttles" and look for the listings and the "buy it now" offers from Hong Kong, and look for the "iooho" name. They also sell Yonex shuttles at much cheaper prices than in the UK. I am happy to use RSL shuttles, i don't want to spend any more on Yonex, the difference in quality is negligable. Your badminton racket will thank you for it, as well as your wallet.