All About Strings & Stringing

June 8th, 2010 by Ben

“Strings are the Soul of a Racquet”

Strings may be the soul of racquet, but to many players they are just an afterthought. Players will spend 6 months demoing racquets and 6 minutes choosing a string. Fortunately, synthetic string technology has improved dramatically over the last 20 years and there are very few “bad” strings. However, not all strings (and string tensions) are right for all players. Every player has different needs and preferences. Here are a few guidelines to make your string and tension selection easier.

Playability

It’s very difficult to obtain consensus on what makes a string playable. Some players like a crisp, firm playing string while others equate playability with softness and comfort. Generally, a playable string is resilient, which means it snaps back quickly upon ball impact. The material, construction, and thickness of a string will all affect its playability.

Durability

As budget-minded consumers, most of us want a string that offers everything. Unfortunately, increased durability in strings is usually at the expense of playability. Thicker gauges and abrasion resistant materials will be more durable, but they are less elastic and resilient than their thinner, nylon-based counterparts. (See gauge table below.) If a player is breaking a 17-gauge multifilament string, we might suggest they switch to a 16-gauge multifilament version of that same string, if available, for more durability. Otherwise, the next step would be a monofilament string which will offer increased durability but have less playability characteristics.

String Gauge

Generally speaking, thinner strings offer improved playability while thicker strings offer enhanced durability. Racquetball string gauges range from 16 (thickest) to 18 (thinnest). Thinner strings also provide more spin potential by allowing the strings to embed into the ball more.

String Gauges and Diameters in millimeters

15

=

1.41-1.49 mm

17

=

1.20-1.24 mm

15L

=

1.34-1.40 mm

17L

=

1.16-1.20 mm

16

=

1.26-1.33 mm

18

=

1.10-1.16 mm

16L

=

1.22-1.26 mm

19

=

1.00-1.10 mm

Materials

Nylon – synthetic gut or nylon? Truth be told, synthetic gut is nylon. In fact, most of today’s “performance synthetics” are constructed of nylon, albeit a higher grade than basic nylon string. Today’s manufacturing processes produce nylon strings (or synthetic gut, if you insist) that provide a good combination of playability and durability.

Kevlar – The most durable string available. Kevlar is very stiff and strings up very tight. Therefore, it is usually combined with nylon to reduce the string bed stiffness (Kevlar main strings, nylon cross strings). Still, Kevlar hybrids are the least powerful and least comfortable strings currently available. Players trying kevlar hybrids for the first time (from nylon strings) are recommended to reduce tension by 10% to compensate for the added stiffness. Not recommended for beginners or players with arm injuries.

String Construction

Here’s a list of string constructions, general descriptions of their associated performance benefits and examples of each:

Solid Core with One Outer Wrap

scoowMost popular nylon string construction – majority of “synthetic gut” strings are solid core/single wrap. Main benefits are tension maintenance and crisp feel. Quality of nylon center core, as well as size and orientation of outer wraps can influence feel and comfort.

Solid Core with Multi Wraps

scmwProvides additional durability and cushioning.



Multifilament (no wraps)

multiBundles of micro synthetic fibers are twisted together, similar to natural gut. Nylon multifilaments are typically more comfortable than solid core strings due to the cushioning effect of hundreds or even thousands of micro fibers. Resultant effect is a soft and comfortable string, recommended for players suffering from arm problems who don’t want to pay the high price for natural gut. Normal use causes multifilament strings to fray, like gut, which can be alarming to players switching from solid core strings. With the exception of Kevlar and Zyex, multifilament strings are generally classified as “soft” strings.

Multicore with Wraps

multwSmaller multifilament core with one or more outer multifilament wraps. Offers similar comfort benefits to multifilament strings with added durability.


Composites

compA combination of different materials blended together in an attempt to bring out the best features of each material. For simplicity, strings combining different grades of nylon, which are theoretically also composite strings, aren’t included in our list.

String Tension

String tension is the final piece in the racquet-string-tension triad. It’s also the least understood by most recreational players. Let’s start with the basics – lower tensions provide more power, tighter tensions provide more control. This is a very general rule of thumb and assumes a certain level of player ability (especially the control part). A beginning player may need more control but tighter string tensions aren’t the solution. This player needs a soft, forgiving stringbed that lower tensions provide due to the frequency of off-center hits. Advanced players who swing fast and hit hard usually need more control and will, therefore, benefit from tighter tensions. There are, of course, always exceptions but these generalizations apply to the majority of players.

Each racquet has a recommended tension range determined by the manufacturer as a result of extensive playtesting by real players. If a player doesn’t have a specific need (more power, arm problems, etc.), he should start at mid-range and make any adjustments from there.

Here are some specific guidelines for selecting a string tension.

Power – As we stated above, if a player is seeking more power from his racquet, he should try dropping tension a few pounds. The stringbed will deflect more (and the ball less), returning greater energy to the ball. There is a point of diminishing returns where the stringbed turns into a butterfly net, but it’s well below any racquet’s recommended tension range.

Control – a tighter stringbed deflects less and deforms the ball more, providing less energy than looser strings. This means the ball won’t fly as far when you hit it. Beginners who are shanking the ball in every direction won’t gain any advantage by increasing tension, but intermediate and advanced players who can generate their own power will benefit from more controlled power and ball placement.

Arm Injuries – lower tensions result in a softer stringbed and a larger sweetspot, reducing the amount of shock and vibration transmitted to the hand and elbow. Higher tensions result in increased vibration and shock, usually increasing arm fatigue.

Switching Racquets – too many players are stuck on a tension (“I always string my racquet at 30 pounds”) and don’t make allowances when changing racquets. Whether changing racquet head sizes, brands, or weight, a player will need to make the corresponding tension change. If 30 pounds was mid-range on his old racquet and the new racquet’s tension range is 28-38 pounds he should start at 33 pounds with the new racquet.

Switching Strings – if a player changes from a standard nylon or synthetic gut string to a kevlar composite or hybrid, we suggest he reduce tension to compensate for the added material stiffness. If you are switching to a thinner gauge string, you should increase your tension by a few pounds to account for the increased elasticity to acquire your desired string-bed stiffness.

This is a lot of information but we hope it helps you make the best string decision for your particular game and playing style. String is very important but often overlooked and we don’t want to hear any excuses on the court! Now you know everything you need so go here to find the perfect string.

- RW Staff, 800 824 1101

info@racquetballwarehouse.com

Posted in Product Reviews | 246 Comments »

Volcanic Rock – Bringing the Perfect Feel to Racquetball

May 14th, 2010 by Ben

Wilson’s BLX technology is new to racquetball but may sound familiar to some. It was first introduced in their tennis racquets with great success and a very positive response. While some technologies do not transfer well to racquetball, this particular technology makes perfect sense.

The BL in BLX stands for Basalt, a natural volcanic rock. In manufacturing, this rock is refined into fine gold fibers that feature an incredible resistance to vibration. These fibers are woven longitudinally into the Karophite Black (Wilson’s graphite technology) creating the most advanced composite in the industry. The vibration characteristics of these fibers are key in racquetball, perhaps more so than in tennis, because racquetball racquets get lighter and stiffer every year meaning more vibration. But not anymore!

wilson_blx_non_blx_graph

In their newest line of racquets Wilson combines BLX technology with their Articulated Grommet Technology (AGT), Control Base and previous proprietary technologies to create the Perfect Feel. The AGT allows for greater string deflection to increase comfort and create explosive power. The Control Base employs innovative hoop engineering for maximum torsional stability and precise control.

What does all of this technology mumbo jumbo mean? It means Wilson has created a completely new racquet design to give you the player the best feel possible. How do you measure feel? Put it in your hand and play some games! Whether or not you have liked or even used Wilson racquets in the past, the BLX racquets are a must demo for 2010.

Check out the 2010-2011 Wilson line here

Some Other Notable Things:

- No covers with racquets this year. Why? To save the environment and to save you money. If you are one of the few that uses your racquet cover, they can be purchased for $10.

- There is a 175 and 185 featuring Power Strings (main strings go down the handle) and a 160 and 170 without Power Strings.

- The matching BLX bags as well as most of the Wilson product line are also environmentally friendly

- Support the Wilson Hope brand whenever you can – we all have family that has been affected by breast cancer. Also, the Hope Balls play great!

I hope this was informative and interesting for you. Please feel free to call us anytime with questions or just to talk racquetball.

- Ben, 800 824 1101

Posted in Product Reviews | 193 Comments »

Ashaway, a renewed force in string technology

January 19th, 2010 by Ben

If you are an avid player and fan of racquetball, you may have seen some professional matches last season, and if you really know your sport, you might have noticed the Bright Green string in the racquet of Jack Huczeck. As I write this article, Jack is currently ranked #2 in the world and a force to be reckoned with. This article however, is not about Jack, but about his Bright Green string – the newly released Ashaway UltraKill, to come in both 17 and 18 gauge.

Ashaway is the only United States manufacturer of racquet strings and produces strings for badminton, tennis, squash and racquetball. Why do you care? I will tell you right now. Up until recently, Ashaway produced mainly durability strings for racquetball, consisting of either kevlar, nylon or the patented Zyex material. This Zyex is no ordinary fiber, but provides previously unmatched lows in dynamic stiffness, thin durable gauging, and minimal tension loss. Still, Zyex has been a durability string, and unknown to many soft string users. This is all about to change with the  development of Zyex Multifilament the new optimal balance of power, control and durability.

Here is how one of our external playtesters, John Rack, an experienced stringer, rated the new Ashaway UltraKill 18:

I am so impressed with this string. It has incredible power with great control. Touch shots up front are a breeze and the string has great feel. After 3 weeks, there is no sign of wear whatsoever and I consider myself more of a power player. There is little to no vibration, but I am using the GB 250 170 that minimizes vibration anyway. The string is ultra thin; thinner than other 18G strings I’ve used and I can really feel the ball pull back on the strings. The string really holds its tension well and it was not pre-stretched. I strung it 2 lbs less than the GB multi 18 that I was using and the thinner diameter Ashaway string reduced the racquet weight by 3 grams even though they’re both 18G strings.  Needless to say, I highly recommend this string.

I have now concluded my test of the Ashaway 18G string and I wanted to give my final thoughts on this string. This string got better and better over time and after a month of playing 4X a week I saw very little wear.  I thought that this string was one of the best strings I’ve ever used but I started to get some arm soreness after the 4th week. Since I’ve had tendonitis before, I had to stop using this string. I’ve never  experienced any soreness when I used the GB 18G or the Prince Premier with Softflex. I didn’t think that the Ashaway was particularly stiff, but definitely not as soft as the previous strings I mentioned.  If you’re not bothered by arm soreness, I would highly recommend this string and it would be well suited to the majority of players out there.

Finally, here is the Ashaway UltraKill rated side-by-side with my previous favorite strings (out of 10):

picture-2

Posted in Product Reviews | 212 Comments »

Review: Asics Gel Sensei 3 Racquetball Shoe

January 6th, 2010 by Kyle

I’ve been playing racquetball for over 40 years and without a doubt the court shoes today are an amazing improvement from even 10 or 15 years ago. When I began playing as a teenager in the late 1960’s we all wore Converse Chuck Taylors. It might be cool to wear this retro shoe for some things, but definitely not for a tough racquetball match.

When you’ve played as many practice and tournament matches as I have, you look for a shoe that offers great shock absorption, support, grip and if they look great, that’s an added bonus. Working with Racquetball Warehouse I tried the top shoes from seven different companies. To say I’m picky is an understatement. I selected the Asics Gel-Sensei 3 Asics Gel Sensei 3 and have been extremely pleased. For years I’ve used the flat 1/8” Spenco neoprene insole under the stock insole in my shoes to give me a little more cushioning. After over 25 hours on the court with the ASICS Forefoot and Rearfoot GEL Cushioning System I haven’t had to add the extra cushioning and my knees and legs feel great after a tough match. The ASICS system strategically adds a silicone based gel at high impact areas for shock absorption. It works.

I found my normal 11.5 shoe size was what fit with the Gel-Sensei 3. Wearing two pairs of socks I want the fit to be snug so that I’m not experiencing lateral movement within the shoe. This shoe offers outstanding fit with tremendous support. I don’t normally pay much attention to why a shoe fits so well, but ASICS takes this very seriously. PHR (Personal Heel Fit) is a memory foam lined heel collar that molds to your foot, creating a personal fit. Also, the Biomorphic Fit Upper provides superior fit and function. Add this to the Solytec Midsole Material which is lighter than ASICS standard material for improved cushioning and durability, and you now have the best racquetball shoe that I’ve ever worn. This shoe was actually designed for volleyball, so you can understand why it works so well on the racquetball court.

Another feature you might be interested in is the Impact Guidance System. This enhances the foot’s natural gait from heal strike to toe-off. Also, you players who are tough on your shoes, you’ll like the PGuard that enhances toe durability. As I noted earlier looking great is a bonus and, in my opinion, the Gel-Sensei 3 look great!

Racquetball Warehouse has a rating system on a 1-5 scale to compare shoes in a few different categories. Here’s my rating for the ASICS Gel-Sensei 3:

Comfort – 5

Arch Support – 4.5

Foot Support/Stability – 5

Traction – 5

Looks – 5

Overal Rating – 4.9

Bill Schultz
E-Force Wisconsin Team Leader
Member – Wisconsin Racquetball Hall-of-Fame

Posted in Product Reviews | 274 Comments »

Super Shoes with Superfeet

November 16th, 2009 by Ben

My feet have never felt so good, and I have never felt so confident.

When I started playing racquetball, I mean really started playing racquetball, my only concern was putting the racquet on the ball and getting the ball to the front wall (remember your first time on the court before you pass judgment here). As my game progressed, my next concern became eyewear, then racquets, then gloves and so on. My point? Shoes were not a top concern until much later.

I now realize this was backwards thinking as my feet and footwork are the foundation of my game, and you need a strong, stable foundation. Within the last year I have switched shoes several times, from Ektelon to Wilson to Adidas to Asics and finally, to Hi-Tec. While I wasn’t unhappy or disappointed with any of those shoes, my feet have never been happier than they are in Hi-Tec shoes.

Just when I thought I had the perfect shoe, Hi-Tec did it again with the H700.

hth700With improved breathability, a heel locking system and the same incredible support of 4:SYS technology, my shoes have never felt so much like an extension of my body. Though I have suffered from a bit of separation anxiety since switching from my Lime Green 4:SYS shoes, I have found the perfect solution! Lime Green Superfeet Performance Insoles.

sfpiHaving completed the Gait Analysis at our sister company Running Warehouse, I know that I over-pronate (I lean more heavily on the inside of my foot). I have never worn insoles before, but with the Superfeet insoles and 4:SYS shoes combined, I felt more stable than I knew was possible. My feet didn’t hurt and my legs weren’t as sore at the end.

My point to all this? If you are unhappy with your shoes, go Hi-Tec. If you are happy with your shoes but want support, take a look at some insoles, Superfeet are the right fit for me.

- Ben

Posted in Product Reviews | 203 Comments »

Racquetball bags; where style meets function meets $$

August 26th, 2009 by Ben

So, in my opinion, we just received the best racquetball bags ever made into stock. Now, I can’t say for sure that there wasn’t a better bag made 20, or even 10 years ago, but I am going to continue under the assumption that materials, manufacturing processes and style in sports have all improved over time, and are currently at their best.

With that said, I would like to tell a brief story, purely for your entertainment. This story takes place around the time of the WOR Nationals in July of this year. Being a large retailer, we have the privilege of seeing a lot of the product early, and this was the case with Gearbox in early summer. Yes, this post is about Gearbox Bags. The Gearbox crew, a very fun and genuine group of guys,  came to do videos and clinics. When they left, they left their new bags with us for website imaging. Excited about a great product, and in need of a new bag, I decided to use their new Club Bag at the WOR Outdoor Nationals. I stuffed as much equipment as humanly possible into it (10 racquets on the sides and still a main compartment for shoes, apparel, balls etc) and freely threw it around as I traveled about the courts watching matches and warming up for my own. I soon found out, however, from none other than #3 IRT Tour player Alvaro Beltran, that I was using 1 of 3 bags in existence. Not even Alvaro had this bag yet but here I was, a C level player, rocking it proudly… Needless to say I didn’t hear the end of it all weekend.

As a result of my misplaced assumption, I have had plenty of time to beat on this impressive bag and test it to the fullest. Gearbox did not hold back with the features on this bag, there is a reason it is higher priced than all the others. The Gearbox Club Bag features extra thick nylon, reinforced zippers and pockets, an abundance of useable space and, in my opinion, is the best looking racquetball bag on the market. gbbagcb-thumbThe Gearbox Back Pack is just as stylish, has lighter weight nylon (though still durable), lots of pockets and extra padding on the back for comfort. Their back pack could easily double as a school pack and still have enough space for your racquetball gear – I’m thinking 2 racquets, 2 books, 1 binder, gloves, eyewear, pens/pencils and so on – you get the picture.gbbagbp-thumb

Basically, if you want the best bag out there, and you’re willing to spend a little more – Go Gearbox! I hope this was helpful as well as entertaining, as always, feel free to call us at Racquetball Warehouse anytime with questions or comments.

- Ben , 800 824 1101

Posted in Product Reviews | 251 Comments »

SS & XS grip sizes, what to use & how to choose…..

August 18th, 2009 by Kyle

Let me start this post with an interesting background story I heard recently.  Have you ever wondered who the moron is that came up with the super-small (SS) & extra-small (XS) grip sizes for racquetball racquets?  I was told that when racquetball began, racquets were available with large and medium grips which were originally modeled after tennis grips.  After a while, racquetball manufacturers ditched the large grip because it was too big and far less popular.  The medium grip size stayed and a small grip size was added.  Well as you can imagine, the medium grip size was soon too big for players and the Extra Small (XS) was added along with the small grip.  Finally, the small grip was too big and less popular so the Super Small (SS) grip size was added. This is how we have come to the current SS and XS grip sizes today.

And when you finally figure out which grip size is best for you, you then realize that sizing between manufacturers differs.  Some manufacturers have the SS grip as 3 5/8″ and others have it as 3 11/16″.  Ektelon & ProKennex grips are rectangular while Gearbox, Head, Wilson & E-Force all have smaller, rounder grips.  So what are you to make of all this nonsense?  First off, let me start off by giving you a general rule of thumb to decide which grip size is best for you and the logic behind it.  If you fall in the size small-large glove category, you generally will use a SS racquet grip size. If you wear a large-extra large glove, you should consider using the XS racquet grip size.  If you’re wondering why I mention the large glove size twice, it’s because large glove users are kind of on the bubble and should use what feels most comfortable.  I found a great article from Bell Racquet Sports that explains grip sizing perfectly:

Racquetball racquets are typically available in two grip sizes:

Size:               Sometimes Called:

3-5/8                Super Small*
3-7/8                Extra Small or 3-15/16″

*For the 2010 season, Ektelon has added a Super Small Rounded (SSR) grip size. It
is still the smaller grip size, but with a more rounded feel in the hand.

When you hold a racquetball racquet, you want your fingertips to wrap around the grip and be touching your palm.
Remember:
The SMALLEST grip size you can comfortably hold will facilitate the best racquetball wrist snap!

Wrist snap is absolutely necessary to achieve optimum power in your swing and will help you tremendously in your matches.  Another tip to get the best wrist snap is to hold your pinky finger off the end of the handle.  You’ll see baseball players do this when batting sometimes to give their wrists a little extra range as well.  Doing this in combination with a small grip, will generate maximum power.  Of course technique is obviously the main factor but these grip tips will definitely help your game.

-Kyle

Posted in Product Reviews | 162 Comments »

Wilson RX Racquets

June 12th, 2009 by Ben

wrx175

I started hitting with the new Wilson RX racquets yesterday. I started with the RX 175, which comes in a Royal Purple, and features their new A-Symmetrical throat design as well as the updated Power Channels, allowing the string to go all the way down the handle which maximizes the sweet spot and power. I was having some issues with control, especially on ceiling balls, but this can probably be attributed to my lack of court time recently. My first thought is that I would like this racquet better at a higher tension. With the long strings and wide head shape, it felt a little loose and unwieldy. Hit the sweet spot and the power is definitely there.

wrx170

Today I hit with the RX 170 which does not have the Power Channels, giving it a more traditional and flat string pattern. There was a world of difference between the two racquets. Their weights and balances are very close but the feel you get from each racquet is much different. The RX 170 had less feel than the 175 but I felt more controlled in my shots. With identical headshapes, these two frames differ mainly in the string pattern and it was clear to me in my time on the court.

Don’t take my word for it though! I suppose right now you don’t have a choice but in August we will have these racquets available for demo and you can try them yourself. Until then we will continue to post as we have more time on the court.

Check out the racquets here: http://bit.ly/Adzh

- Ben

Posted in Product Reviews | 361 Comments »

For those in the market for shoes…

May 11th, 2009 by Ben

We just received some shoe shipments that you may be interested in. First, take a look at the new offerings from Adidas:

http://www.racquetballwarehouse.com/appspage.html?ccode=ARBS&cat=shoes

The Stabil S is going to provide oustanding performance and stability while coming in a full ounce lighter than last year’s Stabil 7. The adiCORE will give superior breathability and comfort  without sacrificing support and is one of the lightest shoes available.

We also restocked on Asics shoes:

http://www.racquetballwarehouse.com/appspage.html?ccode=ARBS&cat=shoes

The Gel Domain is a favorite of mine for fit and comfort. It fits like a glove, breathes great and has fantastic grip on the court. Also, for you ladies out there, we now have 3 women’s shoes available in Asics.

Last, a shoutout to the Lime Green Hi-Tec 4:SYS.

http://www.racquetballwarehouse.com/descpage.html?PCODE=HT4SLIM

If you want to stand out on the court then your search is over. Not only that but the 4:SYS is an amazing shoe and since switching to it I don’t think I will be able to go back to anything else. Check out the video on the shoe page; you will not be disappointed with these shoes!

Thats all for now, check back soon!

- Ben

Posted in General, Product Reviews | 133 Comments »

New Head Racquet Specs

May 5th, 2009 by Ben

We updated our specs on the new Head racquets today (Problem Child, Meanstreak, Dirty Deed). Our initial specs were from the playtest samples we received. Now that we got the racquets into stock we took the specs as an average from a 3 racquet sample.

They did not change much. They all came out a little bit less head heavy but overall they were consistent between racquets which is always nice – thank you Head. We made sure to bring in extra demos because we knew these would be a hit so try yours today!!

http://www.racquetballwarehouse.com/racspage.html?ccode=HeadRBR&cat=rac

- Ben

Posted in Product Reviews | 193 Comments »

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