Fischer S Bound 98 and Madshus Epoch

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MikeK

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Fischer S Bound 98 and Madshus Epoch

Postby MikeK » Thu Nov 27, 2014 11:31 am

Before I purchased these skis I did some research to try to find a comparison between the two. Not much existed.

I'd opted for the Epochs initially because I liked Madshus and a lot of people really liked the 10th Mountains, of which these are nominally the same ski. My curiosity was getting the better of me and I found a pair of S Bound 98s for a decent price over the summer. I just got the bindings mounted up and I'm looking forward to skiing them. First off, I wanted to compare them to the Madshus on the bench.

They are remarkably similar but there are some major differences.

First off are the profiles, similar but the Fischer is noticeably wider in the tail. The specified profiles are:

Epoch: 99/68/84 (27.7m @ 185cm [161cm eff])
98: 98/69/88 (29.9m @ 189cm [169cm eff])

My eye isn't so good at distinguishing a 1mm difference in width, but 4mm is noticeable. The shape itself is different. Not sure how much this will affect the performance but it may affect the straight line striding somewhat.

So yeah they are similar, but different. Next thing I compared is the camber.

I've heard that (and thought) the Fischer was a double camber. I don't really think it is. It measures the exact same as the Epoch. Both have a max gap of 46mm when skis are put base to base. FWIW the Epochs are 185cm and the Fischers are 189cm. So yeah, they are similar, but that really doesn't tell you all about the camber does it? It's how it reacts under load as well...

Well here you'll have to trust me because I didn't measure this scientifically. I could, but I don't have any weights around to do so. So I used my calibrated hands. Base to base, when the skis are squeezed together, the flex acts the same, and not like a double camber ski. A true double camber flexes pretty easily about 3/4 of the way and the last little gap takes a lot of force to close. Neither the Epoch or the 98 act that way. They both feel fairly linear... the Fischer feels maybe slightly stiffer (this is where a force/displacement test would be useful). So for all intensive purposes, they are similar.

Next thing I looked at was how the ski flexes when it placed on a flat surface and force is applied near mid ski. I was particularly interested in this thing Fischer claims to have: Nordic Rocker. They claim the tips move up and the contact point of the tip moves back when the ski is flexed. I didn't try to measure it, but yeah it does it. Guess what? Try it with the Epoch. It does it as well. To my eye it looks pretty close. I probably should have at least measured the tip rise but if they are a mm different what's that going to amount to in the real world?

OK, so right now we have really, really similar skis. Let's look for a point of difference...

Biggest one I could find visually: The waxless pattern. Now this gets a little tricky to compare exactly but it's obvious that the 98's pattern in pushed way forward on the ski. So far forward it looks wrong to me.

Granted these skis are a little different length, from the rear of the ski, the Epoch starts at 46cm, the 98 at 54cm. The length of the patterns is different as well, the Fischer being 10cm longer (Epoch 80cm, Fischer 90cm). So the pattern is obviously way farther forward on the ski.

The next difference is not so obvious. It's the relation of the balance point to the chord center and the suggested mounting position.

Fischer recommends mounting the skis on balance point just like a xc ski. There are marks on the ski and the center mark turns out to be just about at balance. The others are what I assume to be used for compensating for short or long boots. Seen as how I have an average boot size, I mounted right at the balance. I was curious where this point lined up with respect to the chord center: it's about +1cm. So Fischer has shifted the balance of the ski forward on these.

The Epoch has has marks on it for recommended mounting based on boot size. I was curious where these were with respect to chord, so I measured. The rear most mark is chord center. This is the mark for the smallest boot. The other two are 1cm from each other. So +1cm from chord is the recommended mounting point for my boot with these skis. Because my wife uses these and she's in the small boot range, I mounted these back at chord. So anyway, both skis were recommended to be +1cm from chord for my boot size.

The difference is the balance points. When I measured balance on the Epoch is was aft of chord, which I've noticed on most other skis. It was actually about -1cm from chord. So this means the balance point of the Fischer is about 2cm forward of the Epoch in relation to the chord center. Interesting I guess but I really don't know what it will mean in terms of how the skis will perform. May not amount to anything.

I didn't weigh the skis without bindings, but with a Voile HD mountianeer binding, the weight per skis was approximately:

1340g for the Fischer
1400g for the Madshus

A couple ounces per ski difference... Not much to write home about.

Once I actually get to ski them back to back in some deep, decent snow, I'll write something else.

It would be interesting to do a blind test, because I'm guessing most people wouldn't be able to tell a difference.

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Re: Fischer S Bound 98 and Madshus Epoch

Postby MikeK » Fri Nov 28, 2014 11:39 am

Went for a quick slide on the Fischers. They slide NICE! I could notice a difference between them and the Epochs. So maybe there is something to the weird waxless pattern positioning. Tracking actually seemed better on the Fischer too which surprises me.

These might be my new go-to ski. I thought maybe I'd still favor my skinny Glittertinds but for 5 min of sliding on 1.5" of snow and grass, they felt just as good. Can't wait to see how they handle some climbing and descending.

If it's the case my wife likes them better too, then I may have a pair of 185 Epochs for sale. I'm worried she won't be able to keep up on them ;)

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Re: Fischer S Bound 98 and Madshus Epoch

Postby CTMaher » Sat Nov 29, 2014 2:28 am

Thanks for doing this comparison, there certainly is a dearth of real review of this breed of ski. I got a pair of Epochs (mounted with releasable Voile 3 pin cable bindings) late last season and absolutely love them. I had my eye on the Fischers too, but I got a much better deal on the Epochs in the end. I'm excited to hear more about the Fischers as the season progresses!

By the way, I'm new to this board and new to telemark. The XCD style is definitely my flavor, so I love that you guys are out there keeping it alive!

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Re: Fischer S Bound 98 and Madshus Epoch

Postby MikeK » Sat Nov 29, 2014 11:35 am

Welcome CT.

I think the Epoch is a tried and true ski... can't go wrong with it. Generally it's easier to find the Madshus cheaper, so I thing they sell better.

FWIW I paid $255 for the Fischers, and I think less than $200 for the Epoch (I can't find that receipt but I seem to remember it was a pretty good deal). So yeah, the Fischers tend to be more expensive (retail is $320!).

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Re: Fischer S Bound 98 and Madshus Epoch

Postby Johnny » Sun Nov 30, 2014 10:09 am

Woah, thanks Mike. That is a GREAT review!

You're right, I think this is why more people are buying Madshus skis, because they are the cheapest on the market. I got brand new Glitters and Epochs for respectively 160$ and 199$. But I'm sure the overall quality of the Fishers must be better, am I right?
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Re: Fischer S Bound 98 and Madshus Epoch

Postby MikeK » Sun Nov 30, 2014 10:44 am

I think I paid exactly the same for the my Glittertinds and Epochs. Made in China :roll:

Got lucky on the E99s though. NOS from eBay for $100. I should have bought another set.

It's tough to say on the quality, first impression says the Fischer S bound is better, but I can't find any fault in my Epochs.

There is a definite difference in the E99 vs the Glittertind. Bases are wayyyyyy better on the Fischer. Glide is better on the Fischer. To me the dh performance is the same and no real difference in the waxless pattern performance.

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Re: Fischer S Bound 98 and Madshus Epoch

Postby MikeK » Thu Dec 11, 2014 8:58 am

Skied the Fischers this morning in about 10-12" of fairly high water content powder. They did great!

Tracking while breaking trail was great... a little squirrely in their own tracks but part of that may have been the snow... it was really slick once compacted.

The camber is really weird on these. I can definitely feel some spring that isn't on the Epochs. It isn't even the same on my Glittertinds. On a plus note I could actually glide while trail breaking... I wasn't just pushing the snow. Back in their own tracks they were wicked fast gliding.

Turn initiation is AWESOME! I was only tele arcing them xcd style and I didn't have enough hills to really do many turns but even with my poor technique they swing right around and carve.

I didn't have time to do a back to back with the Epochs, but so far I really love these skis.

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Re: Fischer S Bound 98 and Madshus Epoch

Postby MikeK » Fri Dec 12, 2014 10:34 am

2nd real day on the Fischers.

I did some 'real world' touring this time. WTF does that mean? I mean I skied 4 miles of snowshoe rut, ski tracks and post holes that one is likely to encounter on an ungroomed multi-use trail.

First and foremost I am wicked impressed with the glide on these. Over the 4 mile tour I was about 10 min slower than I usually ski it with my Glittertinds. Conditions were not ideal either.

They did pretty well on the rougher parts of the trail that had been posted out... they kept stable, and I could glide really well still. I only rolled my ski inadvertently a few times and I still do this on snow like this even with the skinny ski. This is where a laterally stiff boot cuff is nice but really it's just paying attention and weighting the ski right. Slide slipping was minimal but was dependent on what I had the ski on. The more packed the surface the more likely they are to side skid or wander. I did whack the tips together a couple times due to this. Due to their extra glidiness I think they are bit harder to control in this aspect. A beginner skier would hate this. Any wider ski is going to be more likely to do this too (the Epochs and Glittertinds will do it) but these you really have to pay attention.

I did find some slight weaknesses. They are a little skittery on hills where you aren't in powder. Just bombing or snowplowing down post-holed ruts takes some effort as there is more force feedback to the soft boot, every little rut or hole gets amplified... It's not terrible, it's just actually easier to ski with a skinnier ski.

In a track that was set by a smaller ski (I did find some) they are able to punch it out but will wander if you are lazy. First couple strides may catch you by surprise but it's easy to adjust to.

Overall Positives:
- Turn awesome in deep snow
- Fast glide in powder or ruts
- Can easily be skied with a light leather boot

Negatives:
- heavier than skinnies
- wont fit in groomed tracks
- skittery on packed snow

Both the Epoch and the S Bound are great overall skis, but my guess right now is if you tour more, the Fischer would be the choice. Compared to a skinny, the tiny bit of touring speed it gives up is more than made up by how easy it arcs. The springy camber, width and sidecut make it a little skittery but it just takes a bit of finesse and it rewards you with great glide. If I had to choose one ski to conquer them all and I didn't ever want to see groomed terrain, it would probably be this ski.

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Re: Fischer S Bound 98 and Madshus Epoch

Postby lilcliffy » Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:28 pm

I have significant experience with both of these skis as well. (I have also done some rigorous comparisons of the smaller and bigger brothers; Eon/S-Bound 78/88; Annum/S-Bound 112). (I have an old friend in Northwestern NB who between the two of us- I have managed to test and compare both of these lineups).

Nowadays my everyday skiing is off-trail, backcountry-xcountry: rolling moderate terrain- with only the occasional steep climb and descent. (In recent years (young family) I have only gotten my tele gear out in the mountains of NB/QC a few times per winter) So- my primary everyday performance test is touring efficiency- with burly NNNBC boots/bindings (currently settled on the Alpina Alaska NNNBC). When I am skiing in the mtns I am using 3pin/cable bindings and stiffer boots (T4s)- although I am considering the Alaska 75mm. Regardless- even when I ski in the mountains- I typically am on a backcountry tour- as opposed to an endless search for downhill runs.

These tele-xcountry hybrid (XCD) skis are often not even considered for xcountry skiing by traditionalists (the exception being perhaps the Eon/XCD GT). But- IME classic, stiff, double-cambered off-trail xcountry skis do not perform well in deep, soft snow. I regularly use the Annum (XCD Guide) as a xcountry ski in deep, soft powder.

First of all- your comparison of the dimensions and camber ...I too discovered this immediately. As a note- my understanding is that the S-Bound line in general has soft single camber (Fischer's Backcountry line has double camber). (continued below...)
Last edited by lilcliffy on Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fischer S Bound 98 and Madshus Epoch

Postby lilcliffy » Thu Jan 15, 2015 9:56 pm

(continued...) The Karhu/Madshus XCD line begins with the 1.5 camber of the Eon/XCD GT- the Epoch and Annum have soft single cambers- just like the S-Bounds. Another note- our experience is the same as yours- despite Fischer's claim of the "Nordic rocker"- we find that the Epoch and Annum have the same camber-flex-slight early tip rise as the S-Bounds. I honestly believe this is more the product of the soft single camber- than predetermined design. In other words- Fischer just decided to give it a fancy name in order to set their skis apart.

Where I find the most significant difference between the S-Bounds and the Karhu/Madshus XCDs is in the profile. The S-Bounds (as you mentioned) have much more of a true parabolic shape than the Karhu/Madshus. My experience is that S-Bounds offer more efficient downhill performance because they turn more efficiently- with a smaller turning radius (due to the parabolic shape). However- parabolic sidecut reduces tracking efficiency because they do not track straight. The Karhu/Madshus XCDs have quite straight tails- IME this causes theses skis to track straighter than the S-Bounds- offering better classic kick and glide performance. I have tested this back to back in different snow and temperature conditions- IME the Karhu/Madshus' track more efficiently. (I have since communicated with a Rep from Madshus who has confirmed that Karhu purposely designed their XCD line to offer some downhill performance without sacrificing tracking efficiency). The trade-off is that the Madshus/Karhu XCDs offer less inherent downhill turning performance than the S-Bounds.

So I offer this- both of these lineups are well designed xcountry-telemark hybrid (i.e. XCD) skis. If you want the balance of performance for tracking efficiency in the kick and glide- choose the Karhu/Madshus XCDs. If you want the balance of performance for downhill turning efficiency- choose the S-Bounds.

In recent years Fischer seems to be adding parabolic sidecut to more and more of its skis. Check out the Fischer E109 some time. The E109 is the widest ski in Fischer's classic double-cambered backcountry-xcountry line up. Despite how stiff the E109 is- it has even more of a true parabolic shape than the softer, single-cambered S-Bound 78. Why would a ski designed for xcountry-backcountry trekking, with double camber, have a downhill-oriented profile? Go figure...
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