Inverted Rubber Speed Rating


How often have we heard people arguing about the speed of a rubber? One person claims it’s the fastest rubber they’ve ever tried, only to hear from another that they find it quite slow. Although the perception of the speed of a rubber is of course quite subjective, there are other reason for the discrepancy as well. The article below discusses some of these issues.

Speed of a rubber is derived from the topsheet, the sponge and the interaction between the two. Although it’s meaningless to discuss the rubber speed without a blade, it’s useful to discuss what properties of the rubber contributes to speed, so we can add meaning to it’s speed rating.

Unfortunately rubber manufacturers do not have a standardized testing method for testing speed, nor do they even seem to define what the speed of a rubber is actually referring to (eg. speed of a loop, chop. smash, etc?). This is not likely to change either, as it ensures that you cannot compared their ratings to that of other manufacturers, which is something they do not want, as their fastest rubber, optimized for speed, should not be found to be significantly slower than a competitor’s fastest rubber.

To add to the complication, the speed of a rubber actually depend on the stroke you play, how you play this stroke, and also on the speed at which you play it. Some rubbers are very fast even on soft contact, whereas other can be very slow until you start hitting harder. Some rubber are fast on brush loops, but may feel much slower on a loop drive.

Although every rubber has it’s own little unique characteristic when it come to speed, we can generally catagorise the rubbers into 3 different types, tacky rubbers, non-tacky rubbers and ‘glue effect’ rubbers. Although most rubbers won’t fit exactly into one catagory, we can describe the basic properties with some rubber examples, and you can decide for yourself where your rubber fits in. When we talk about the speed of a rubber, from here on, we’re referring to the speed of a top-spin loop type stroke, that can be performed with any rubber.

1. Tacky rubbers
These rubbers actually have a sticky surface, and are almost predominantly Chinese made. These rubbers tend to be very slow on low impact, as the ball sticks to the rubber upon release. Although this property has a great advantage in the short game for both spin and speed, it can be detrimental for high speed strokes. This is the reason these rubber generally have a firm sponge, as this makes them rebound quicker off the sticky surface when you hit a little harder, giving it the required boost the speed. Apart from this very slow property at low impact, these rubbers tend to be very linear after that, meaning the more speed you put into it, the more you get out of it. The firm sponges generally gives it a very high top-speed as well, as it simply does not bottom out. Typical examples of these rubbers are Friendship 729FX, Hurricane 2, Globe 999.

2. Grippy rubbers
These rubbers have a very grippy surface, and the majority of these come from Europe and Japan. These rubber are significantly faster at low impact compared to the tacky rubbers, but need a little firmer contact to generate spin. The sponges on these rubbers tend to be a little softer and more lively, making them more suitable for a modern looping style game. These rubbers tend to be quite linear as well, although the more lively sponge gives it a bit more speed once the effect of the sponge kicks in. The fact that the sponges tend to be softer, means they will bottom out a little sooner, so they contribute less to the top-speed of the rubber, which is usually compensated for by the blade. Typical examples of these rubbers are Sriver, Mark V.

3. Tensor style / glue effect rubbers
These rubbers typically have a thinner and more elastic topsheet, often under some tension, and have a softer and very lively sponge. These factors tend to make the rubber a very fast at low to medium impact. Compared to the tacky and regular non-tacky rubber, much less effort is required to generate the required pace of the ball. This allows a more compact stroke, and again tend to favour the modern looper style game. The speed effect of these rubber is quite non-linear, as you get a lot of speed at low-medium impact, but do not get a lot more at medium to higher impact. The softer and very lively sponge does also tend to bottom out more quickly, giving the rubber a lower top-speed. Typical examples of these rubbers are Joola Tango, Donic F3 BS, Andro Impulse.

Speed of different rubbers

The graph above shows the different speeds that the ball comes off the rubber, depending on the effort you put into it. Note that most players may not actually be able to hit it hard enough to reach the top end of the chart.

As was mentioned before, most rubbers will not fit exactly in one of these catagories, but it’s worthwhile to discuss the basic properties. New generation rubber are being released all the time, which may address some of the short-comings of type of rubber by sacrificing something in another. There is no rubber that has it all, so there is always a compromise in choosing something that suits your own style and enhances your strengths.

Note also that these discussions refer to the speed of the rubber properties only, not including the blade. At higher impact the blade contributes more and more to the speed of the ball. However at high speed for the modern game you need a high amount of topspin as well, and the blade does not contribute to spin (it merely provides dwell time to allow the rubber to generate the spin), so a rubber that relies mostly on the blade for speed may not be viable for a looping style game.

As you can see, the choice of blade, matched with the right kind of rubber, can be a very important decision, and depends a lot on your style of game…

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