Overall: Five Stars for a race skin with a typical race-style tip attachment system, good glue, the usual 100% mohair plush, a relatively stiff laminate that allows for clean deskinning, and a smooth plastic section in the shovel that seems to enhance glide noticeably on flatter terrain.
Background on product familiarity: I’ve used a pair of the 2014-15 skins for some initial training to break them in, and then for five races. I’ve also used half a dozen or so other pairs of mohair race skins, mainly various close-out models or black unidentifiable mohair of somewhat mysterious origins, but also the current Dynafit race skin.
First, the first impressions out of the box: If you’ve never seen a race-style bungee tip attachment, then you’ll be amazed at its brilliant simplicity, although the Atomic version of it is fairly standard for anyone already familiar with this.
The glue tack seems typical for a race skin. For a pure mohair skin, the laminate is relatively stiff. The plush fibers seem be the typical length. (Even though some other skins used by a buddy have felt more luxurious because of longer fibers, they seemed to be slower, at least at first.)
The tail sensibly lacks any tail clip that would just go to waste when you cut it off for racing. The dimensions are stated at 62mm by 163cm, so a bit wide and long: I cut them back (and rounded off the corners to avoid right angle prone to peeling) eight inches from the tail on my 163cm Hagan X-Race, and then also had to trim them slightly in the waist to expose the edges on my older 160cm x 64mm version of the same. Compared to a 2013-14 Dynafit 59mm race skin cut to the same length, only 0.1 oz lighter per pair.
Second impressions, in use: The tip attachment is fine -- the Dynafit rubber version is still my favorite, but the Atomic bungee is a bit stiffer and easier to grasp than any of my homemade version, so not that much different than the Dynafit rubber tip.
The glue has performed very well overall. At a race around 0F, for one transition I had to spend several more seconds pressing it on firmly, but it then held well. (For another race that was forecast to be far more brutally cold, I used a different pair instead.)
The relatively stiff laminate enhances clean and fast “rips” at transitions. Probably helps to prevent tail curling/unfurling too.
Grip seems typical for a straight mohair race skin. For a race with a very steep section where skinning straight up was pretty much impossible with race skins, I was resorting to the same mini-switchbacks etc. as the other dozen or so racers in sight. (For another race that I knew would have a far more extended steep section with very tricky snow conditions, I used a different pair instead.)
So now for the big issues: just how fast are they? I have trouble trying to distinguish among different models of mohair race skins. Three of us have previously tried some tests swapping our various skins back and forth, with one skin on one ski and one on another. Typically we come up with three different opinions, i.e., one faster, the other faster, and can’t tell. Add to that the potential variances in a natural product across different batches of the same model, plus the potential variances across different temperature and snow conditions, and I have even more excuses for ducking the central question …
But of the three other people who tried my skins in a side-by-side test, one thought the Atomic glide was noticeably better, and two couldn’t tell the difference. Personally, I’ve found them to be about the same on moderate pitches, but on very flat terrain I feel they have a noticeable advantage. Especially on totally flat or slightly downhill terrain, I’ve been able to double-pole like a nordic classic racer and get some real speed going.
If Atomic made this skin in a 59mm width instead of 62mm, I think it would be even faster. But since it isn’t any *slower* than the competition, Atomic has a big winner here, even if it isn’t the proverbial game changer.
Third impressions, for long-term durability: All pure mohair skins are expendable, eventually shedding their plush fibers to past the optimal glide stage in their life to becoming too slow as you’re trying to glide on large sections of bare laminate. But no problems so far. (As for the other reviewer’s problem with the connection between the plastic and mohair, on my pair this is very low profile yet very secured stitched together, so ripping this apart would seem to be almost impossible.)
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