Swoard Dual vs Voelkl Coal

Swoard Dual vs Voelkl Coal

posted in: Snowboard Reviews | 0

Here’s my comparison of the 2 snowboards – Swoard Dual and Voelkl Coal. Originally I posted this review on extremecarving forum. 

Part 1:

I decided to put Swoard Dual through some tests. As a reference I used Voelkl Coal – a widely available board.

For me personally Dual is a ‘soft board’. I know that it is supposed be a board you can ride in soft boots in powder and in hard boots on groomed slopes… but if you take 2 pairs of boots, then you will probably take at least 2 different snowboards. This line of thought simply does not appeal to me.

So I’ve made some assumptions:
1. Riding in soft boots only.
2. Single set-up for all conditions – this forum is full of people that spend a lot of time fiddling with the equipment. The reality is that most people set up their boards once (or the salesman at the snb shop does it for them) and don’t touch the settings until something breaks or they buy new equipment. So even change of angles for different conditions is out of question.
3. I ride one day on Voelkl Coal and the next day on Dual – for total of 6 days.

My goal is to find out if I personally could take Swoard Dual on a week holiday and not miss my hard boards (Note: this is the first time in over 12 years that I did not take hard boots with me on a trip to Alps). The secondary goal – to find out if I can recommend Swoard Dual as an ultimate snowboard for soft boot carving.
My set up is as follows:
Boots: Vans Aura (27cm) – flex 5 / 10 (according to the manufacturer). Not the stiffest of boots available, but It’s comfortable and holds the ankle well. The boot is also very short for my size. I chose rather softer boots, since most people ride medium flex boots.
Bindings: Flux SF45. Quite a stiff binding but not the stiffest available. Has a lot of adjustments that are easy and quick to make on the slope.
Angles: Decided on 33 / 18. It is a setup that allows for decent carving and still is quite enjoyable in fresh snow. I normally ride around 30/15 or even 18/0 but I needed to limit the toe overhang.
Boards: Swoard Dual 168 – demo board from Abrax and Voelkl Coal XT 168 (2011/2012 model) – demo board from Voelkl Poland ( I am part of their demo team and quite often ride Coal and Coal World Cup Edition).

Place:
Santa Caterina Valfurva, Italy. Piste ‘Deborah Compagnoni’. A very decent black run. And some red runs around the place.

Conditions:
Typical spring
– morning: icy corduroy
– afternoon: soft and wet
– the black run Deborah Compagnoni is out of the sun – perfect hard packed snow.

I normally ride the icy red runs in the morning, then move to the black run and end the day by going down the red piste all the way to the town – very wet and soft snow.

The results:
Not now. You’ll have to wait a bit for these.
All I can say for now that I am on day 4 of the trip (2nd day on the Dual) and had probably the best soft boot carving session in my life.

The ultimate gratification came, when a group of local skiers training GS on the black run started clapping and cheering when I stopped next to them. Racers don’t often do that…

Part 2:

For the impatient. The result:

Swoard Dual wins.

Why?
Because it is smoother than Coal. It lets me do everything that I do on Coal and even more at the same time keeping the ride smooth and easy.
Riding the Coal is binary – you either ride hard or you go home. Dual keeps up with Coal when the power is on, but it also allows a mellow, phlegmatic ride.

Goals ?
Primary: Yes, I’d take Dual with softboots on a week holiday without missing my hardboots (much).
Secondary: Yes, I would recommend Swoard Dual as a great board for intermediate to very advanced soft-boot carvers.

Just a few additional notes:
– I am not testing the board for you. I’m testing the board for me. With my carving style and my idea of a fun time on a black slope.
– I have limited time. I’m here on a family holiday with a very young daughter. It means I have about 2,5 – 3 hours of riding a day. It also means I did not have time to fiddle with all the possible settings (my bindings and boots are new and had to setup everything). Fortunately, I’ve managed to find settings which provided me with a lot of fun on the slope, so I think they’re close to optimal.
– there will be only a limited amount of photos/vids. Most of people, I’m with on holiday, cannot ride the black slopes so I didn’t have a photographer with me all the time. But there will be some :)
– Rider: 174cm , 87kg . I’m a bit top-heavy – life would be different without additional 10l beer fuel tank :)

Part 3:

Day 1 – Coal XT:
– I’ve set it up according to manufacturers specs. Stance 570mm (setback 35mm), angles 33/18.

Note: Coal 168 has 4 inserts more (1 row in front and 1 row at the back) allowing for even wider stance

– spend most of the day adjusting boots and bindings and just checking out the slopes and conditions
– Coal performed as usual – it was quite heavy into the turns but held the edge well all the time. Not a lot of pop, so carving the flat is not great fun.
– I absolutely hated riding it down to the bottom in the afternoon wet snow.

Day 2 – Swoard Dual:

– the worst day by far
– since I did not read any articles regarding Dual (I did it on purpose so I would not be biased), I’ve set it up like most people do when they get a snowboard. Like this:

This resulted in quite a narrow stance – 510 mm.
– riding on the flat was quite OK but on the steep was a disaster – the board would loose edge every single time.
– I made my stance wider – moved the front binding forward and back binding backward, like this (stance 550mm):


– it made carving slightly better, but on the steep was very difficult to hold edge. The board would shake almost every time – the only thing good was that it was possible to recover heel-side 9/10 times
– I decided to change the high-back angles in my bindings- make them lower – changing them from 7 to 3 made a huge difference – carving the steep was possible, although it was not as aggressive as I would like it. The board would hold edge very well in all conditions. But it was not that much fun.

At the end of 2 days Coal definitely seemed better of the two boards.

Day 3 – Coal XT:

– changed my stance, by moving back the front binding by one insert (550mm stance)
– a lot of fun
– a rode a lot on the icy morning slopes, the black run and did not bother with a run to the bottom – took the gondola down.
– pictures above are from this day.

Day 4 – Dual:

– after disaster on the 2nd day I took some time to closely compare the boards: they are the same length, got similar camber, almost the same nose and tail length – resulting in almost identical running edge, the same position of the front inserts. The only 2 things that you can spot straight away is the almost wobbly softness of the Dual and the position of the back inserts. They are 6cm more forward than on Coal.
– so I decided to copy my Coal setup, which looked like this (550mm stance):

– I went back to my standard high-back setting.
– it mage HUUUUUGE difference. Unexpectedly Dual became a superb snowboard. Not only was it great on the ice and the flat but it was superb on the steep. I would never guess that such a small change in setting would make such a huge impact on the performance.
– what I really liked about it was the very wide ‘entry point’ into the carve. By entry point I mean body position: forward or back. On a Dual I could enter a carve with definitely more weight in the front, resulting in a very short radius turn, or just hang back and enjoy a ride around the corner. It obviously is the result of soft flex and high torsional stiffness. Dual could be regarded as a very forgiving board – but my experience shows that forgiveness comes with a performance loss. Here we have a more forgiving board without performance loss.
– I also like the slightly bigger pop than Coal – it makes carving the flat a lot more fun. The pop is just exactly the right amount – it does not influence carving on steep. It’s there when you need it
– riding the wet snow down to the bottom was OK. Not great, cause riding in wet snow is never great but it was enough fun to not want to take the gondola down.

The above video is from this day.
As I said earlier it was one of my best experiences on softboard ever (excluding powder).

Day 5 – Coal XT: 

– the only weird thing that happened was that I had to get used to riding Coal again. Only after 2 runs I was back to having fun on it. I even considered changing assumptions and riding Dual again.

Day 6 – Dual: 

– getting on Dual in the morning was a great pleasure. Another fun day.

Summary:

I feel a bit like I just reinvented the wheel. Yesterday (3 days after the trip was finished) I read some of the reviews of Dual on this forum. So what I wrote above is probably not very surprising.

My thoughts on Dual:
– the soft flex combined with high torsional stiffness works great – it carves by itself from a very tight to long GS style turns
– it has a perfect pop for soft-boot carving
– I know that the recommended stance is symmetrical with respect to inserts, but increasing the setback has made a huge impact for me and changed the performance from average to outstanding. I might be worthwhile to mention it specifically to soft-boot riders wanting to try out the board.
– smooth. Not as hard on my back. After riding Coal – my lower back hurt a bit. With Dual the ride seems much smoother
– fun, fun, fun

Obviously I am a bit over the weight (87kg) for that board (168) – that could also have quite an influence on my riding.
Some men just have that ‘pregnancy syndrome’: The moment their wife gets pregnant, they also start to get rounded around the belly. And the extra weight stays. I’m one of them.
For next season I need to weigh about 10kg less…

That’s all folks!

Any questions? Please ask.

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