|Start Grip Tape instructions from the Start web site|
This past week in Sweden I had a good opportunity to give START Grip Tape a try and I thought I'd let you know my reaction. Grip Tape is applied like Scotch Tape to the kick zone of your classic skis. According to Start, it's "one product for all conditions from +5° to -20°C, Start Grip Tape gives excellent grip, which lasts 250 km or even more."
First of all, it was the "hot product" in the Intersport and Fliesbergs ski shops in Mora. Lots of buzz about it, people crowding around the servicemen who were applying it to skis, many questions and comments. Most centered around "will it work on Sunday." Before I tell you about my experiences here is a short primer.
It comes in a container that looks like an oversized, enclosed Scotch tape dispenser. You need to put this on inside on a warm ski. Your kick zone needs to be completely free of wax or wax remover residue. Start contends that all wax removers have some oils in them that can leave the base to "greasy" for a strong adherence...not being a chemist I can't speak to that claim. To that end they sell a wax remover, base prep liquid that is oil free. I did not buy or use that due to the difficulties in bringing any kind of solvent back on the plane. I used some Swix wax remover that I had obtained to clean the klister off my skis after the race and then used the hair dryer in the hotel to try to evaporate any remaining solvent.
The top of the container has a strip of abrasive that you use to aggressively rough up your kick zone, their instructions suggest this or 100 grit sandpaper. The recommended kick zone is considerably shorter than normal. I went from the back of the ball of my foot forwards to about 3-4cm short of my normal wax pocket. The next time I use it I will make it even a little shorter in the front.
Holding the front of the tape on the ski with your finger you drag the dispenser down the ski (it is recessed so you use the ridges to insure a very straight application) and tilt it up and press a cutter button to snip the tape off at the back end of your zone. Using another part of the dispenser you push the tape onto the base trying to eliminate any air bubbles or crimps in the application. With a single, smooth pull you remove the tape. Using some of the tape covering you then re-rub the front and back sections to "bevel" the open ends. When you're done, it looks like a thin layer of red klister applied perfectly smooth and straight. Put your skis out in the cold for a while and you are ready to go.
Each container contains about 5 ft of tape, enough for two pairs of skis and cost 120 Kroner or about $18 US. The suggested temp range on the package is from -4F to 41F. Kind of covers it doesn't it?
I skied for 4 days in conditions ranging from -3F to 28F. Snow was old, aggressive, heavily transformed, glazed at many times and groomed nightly. The effect was remarkably consistent. Exceptional kick and decent glide: inside the hard tracks, on fresh groomed corduroy right after the groomer had passed, in the shade, in the bright sun, in the loose granular much later in the day. All the same, great kick and decent glide. I think my glide would have been improved if I would have been a little shorter in front. I did about 115K with no degradation in kick or glide at all. START claims that you can get up to 300K on a single application....but that was a Marketing guy talking.
When I removed (so I could put clothes in the bag) the tape using Swix wax remover and a klister paddle it looked like the same amount came off as went on. The ski shop guy that I talked to said it is not as effective in falling snow but then the solution is to cover the tape with a tar based hard wax...he was very insistent that it had to be a tar based wax. Could be a chemical reaction issue or that START sells tar based kick waxes, who knows?
I'm think that this is about an 85% solution. It was not as good as a perfectly waxed ski in terms of glide but the kick was perfect. Having one grip wax for all conditions presents some nice options. I can see using it for training and my instinct tells me that it would be great for man-made snow as that sometimes seems very hard to get decent kick for and to keep wax on the ski. I also think it would be a great bailout position if you get to a race and the conditions are rapidly changing or are expecting a wide range of temps.
I thought I was being cutting edge here as I bought three containers to bring back home and be the only guy on the bloc with the stuff. Greg Fangel told me last night he was in Finn Sisu in St. Paul and they just got a shipment in. So I was cutting edge for about three days, story of my life :).
Hope this helps.