Badminton Racket Selector

Badminton Racket Selector

From Left to Right – Babolat N-Force Lite, Yonex Arcsaber Z-Slash, Prince O3 Red, Carlton Vapour Trail Tour, Head Speed Lite Pro, Wilson Carbonite Z8, Yehlex YX-66SL Nano, Ashaway Kevlar 7000SQ

There has been a lot of talk about the Badminton racket selector on DirectSports either emails or calls to us, talk on forum sites questioning why our racket specifications are different to the manufacturer specifications. So I have decided to write a little bit about it to explain why it was created, how we set the values and what we are aiming for.

Why?

We decided that there needed to be a system to compare all the rackets in an equal setting. An independent measure across all brands allowing customers and our staff (we play too) to make a more informed choice about which racket to buy and the actual way they will feel rather than having stock specifications. Each manufacturer supplies the information differently so some may not weight the racket with a grip, others do. By setting up the racket selector we have created an equal field so it is easier to compare between brands and make informed choices.

Examples:

  • Babolat seem to specify that all of their rackets are very flexible and they are compared to a Babolat Tennis racket, but in Badminton their rackets fit into the standard range.
  • Racket information supplied to us and online is normally for an unstrung frame only, I need a handle, grip and strings to play, so the weight and balance is different when they are added.

Weights

The most basic measure that we use is a simple accurate digital set of scales. I aim to take an average of 3 measures, it normally shows up the same each time as we bought some expensive scales; where available I will weigh 3 of the same rackets and take the average over the 3 to account for differences in manufacture tolerance.

We only weight the racket with strings in, without plastic handle wrap, it makes a difference of about 8g. 8g could be 10% of the total racket weight, which is just forgotten about.

Flexibility

When measuring flexibility there are two options – measure static flex using a known force and measure the distance the head moves or dynamic flexibility checking the movement of the racket during a swing on impact with the shuttle. Dynamic flexibility is a better measure of racket performance as the racket is moving when it impacts with the shuttle, but it is subject to variables such as racket movement speed and shuttle speed. Some materials manufacturers develop claim to add flexibility or harden during play and this would need to be measured dynamically. Until I find a way to keep the racket speed and shuttle speed constant to allow a fair test on all rackets I will be using the static flex method as it can provide a fair comparison.

The racket is held horizontally in a vice with a steel bar over it. A known weight is added to the top of the frame and the movement in distance from the steel bar is measured. It is repeated 3 times to enable an average to be taken.

Balance

Balance is measured as the distance from the base of the handle to the point the racket can be held horizontally without tipping in either direction. The racket should be completely parallel with the floor. I use a piece of steel tubing attached to a ruler, simple but effective. The steel tube is smooth and rounded meaning a precise balance needs to be achieved before a measure is taken. It is measured from the base of the handle to the balance point up the shaft.

A low value of 290mm would be a very headlight racket as it doesn’t take much of the handle and shaft to counterbalance the shaft head and strings. Medium balance tends to be around 300mm away from the base and head heavy 310mm.

There are ways to modify the balance of a racket which I will blog about soon in racket modifications.
Feel Free to leave comments and questions and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

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Choosing a Badminton Racket

Choosing a Badminton Racket

I know it’s hard trying to decide on what racket to buy, especially when we have 223 to choose from (19.07.2012). The aim today is to write a little guide on how to choose a racket.

A quick list of my previous and current rackets (some I sold on some died and some are current) – Yonex Muscle Power 44, Arcsaber Z-Slash, Armortec 700, 700 Ltd, 900 Power x 3, Nanospeed 8000, Carlton Fx-Ti, Head Metallix 6000 x 2, 6000 Tour x 2, 8000 x 2, Power Helix 8000 x 2, Neon 8000 x 4, Yehlex YX-Quad Power, Yehlex Training Racket, Li-Ning Flame N50, Apacs Edgesaber Z-Spark… And I have had some Forza, Ashaway, Babolat, Prince and Panda Power on demo.

Firstly set a price range, but take into account that a racket you look after could last for years; there are players with rackets from when graphite was a new racket material that still use them now because they were careful.

Before you read below try to keep thinking of your strengths and weaknesses. We all want a massive smash, but if you have a poor defence which will get worse by buying an attacking racket you will need to decide between being a better player or bigger smash.

Flexibility

The flexibility of a racket varies by about 25mm from the least to most flexible, from the racket selector data. In general medium and stiff rackets can be anything from head light to head heavy; flexible rackets can be head light to medium balance. Slight variations in timing are needed for the different flexibilities of racket, so be aware if you’re trying a new racket it may take a few games to adapt.

Stiff shafts will suit power players; it resists movement so follows your arm through the action and deflects less on impact with the shuttle. This transfers more power onto the shuttle for increased power. Due to the lack of flexion the rackets suit a more experienced player as the hit is generated by arm speed and not by the racket whipping through; when power is forced and not made in a relaxed way it puts more pressure on the shoulder which then develops injuries.

Flexible shafts move the most and aid with control, ideally suited to defensive players or those who struggle to generate power. The extra flex in the shaft can absorb the speed of the shuttle from a smash and aid in placement of the shuttle. During overhead shots the head of the racket follows the hand, when your timing is correct, you can use this extra whip in the racket as it catches your hand to help develop more power. Using the correct technique powerful smashes and easy clears can be performed, combined with excellent control on defensive shots makes flexible rackets a good choice for beginners and control players.

Medium flexion shafts are all round racket combining control and power. Most medium flexion shafts neither excel in offence or defence, it depends on the balance for that. The medium flex shaft would suit beginner or intermediate players.

It is important to note that across the range of professional players the shaft flexibility is varied and there is no ideal flexion. Big smashing men in singles and doubles tend to use stiffer flex rackets, Lee Chong Wei uses the very stiff Yonex Voltric Z-Force while Chen Jin opts for the more flexible Li-Ning Flame N55-II. Female players tend to use rackets with more flex to aid their power and control, Yu Yang uses the Li-Ning Windstorm N77-II while Liliyana Natsir uses the stiff Yonex Nanoray 700RP.

Balance

The racket balance point is key to deciding if a racket is designed for attack or defence. It is measured as the distance from the handle to a point at which the racket won’t tip either way off a point. A range of balance points are used by professional players meaning, as with flexibility there is no magic balance point suitable for everyone.

Head heavy rackets generate high power. When the racket is swung momentum in the head is high and pushes through the shuttle to add extra repulsion power. The benefit is that using the same swing you normally would the force passed to the shuttle is greater. The disadvantage to head heavy rackets is the weight is further from the hand making them slower to move; with increased strength this becomes less of an issue, Lee Chong Wei uses head heavy rackets like the Yonex Voltric Z-Force and Yonex Voltric 80.

Head light rackets are highly manoeuvrable making them excellent for fast rallies, deception and reacting to smashes. They carry less momentum through the swing so the power generated is less than higher balance rackets; for smaller swings more power is generated as it takes little effort to get the racket to move quickly. Net players in doubles typically use headlight rackets as they make smaller fast swings to intercept the shuttle.

Even balance gives a mix of power and movement. These rackets blend the characteristics of both head light and head heavy as explained above. The Yonex Arcsaber Z-Slash is an even balance racket and it holds the record for the fastest smash speed, showing that not all power comes from a head heavy balance. Medium balance allows faster acceleration of the racket than a head heavy providing a faster swing on contact with the shuttle, but momentum will be slightly down.

Weight

I find racket weight isn’t important when selecting a racket, as long at the racket is below 95g I am happy (The current range at DirectSports weight between 81g and 97g). A 90g racket with a head heavy balance will feel heavier than a 90g racket with a head light balance. So the two rackets with the same weight feel like they are weighted differently. Most rackets are weighed without strings or a grip so the manufacturers’ specifications are the frame weight only (not helpful when most people need strings and a handle to play).

A single PU grip added to the handle can add a few grams (when I have time I will strip my rackets and check); the plastic wrap on the handle of a new racket weighs about 1.8g and I know that some people grip over the top of the handle wrap. So these minimal things add weight to the racket and change the value that is shown.

Overview

If you are an offensive minded player, you like to play fast and resist lifting, then look for head heavy rackets with a stiff shaft.

Defensive players, looking for tight nets, high lifts and speedy net kills; aim towards a flexible headlight racket.

Balanced players that change their game depending on the opposition or are looking for an all-round racket then go for something even balanced and medium flex. You can also get rackets that can do this with a stiff shaft while being headlight (Yonex Nanospeed 9900).

 

Feel Free to leave comments and questions and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

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