Jun 24 2013

Review: Swix Sonic ski pole

Swix Sonic poles adjust with an over sized twist-lock.

Swix is joining the adjustable ski pole crowd with a new spin on the twist lock mechanism. Instead of twisting an internal bushing to expand and press against the inner walls of the upper shaft, they use a large diameter nut on the upper shaft to compress a plastic sleeve around the lower shaft.

Does it work? Absotively. Is it better than a cammed locking mechanism like BD’s Flick-Lock or the many variations like K2′s Lock-Jaw or Leki’s Speed Lock? No, it can’t be claimed as superior, but perhaps equal in terms of locking strength and ease of adjustment.

Though rare I have heard of Flick-Lock style clamps not holding as well as claimed. The early Lock-Jaws from K2 suffered from this a bit. In every instance where I have personally experienced failure a simple tightening of the screw on the clamp fixed the problem. Some people still prefer a twist-lock even though this style has a longer history of failure than cammed clamps. This Swix version of a twist-lock promises to restore some reliability to the tarnished image of twist-lock adjustable ski poles.

By itself that wouldn’t be a strong enough reason to consider these poles, but a few of the other features could be. While adjusting the length of a ski pole sounds marvelously practical, real world users know that adjustments tend to be rare. What tends to matter more are the comfort of the grip, the adjustability and comfort of the strap, the size of the basket, how easily the basket can be replaced, and the durability of the tip of the pole. In these areas Swix’ Sonic poles are definitely worth a closer look.

The grips are simple, comfortable, and practical.

The grip is comfortable, but doesn’t have much flare at the bottom to rest your hand on. Instead the Sonic relies on using the straps to hold your hand at the proper level when clasping the grip. That is one area the Sonic excels, with a simple webbing strap without any easy to crack plastic. It is easy to adjust the circumference of the strap thanks to a pair of metal loops that hold fast when taught, or loosen easily when pulled apart.

The top of the grip is smooth for palming, but not as rounded as many competitors grips, especially Leki’s Aergon. Unlike most of its competitors though the Sonic uses a harder plastic that provides a reliable lip at the front for hooking things like heel wires, or the front throw of an NTN binding or Dynafit toe lock.

Easy to replace baskets

The stock basket is a wire loop with two strips of hypalon to hold it in place, but it is a tad small for powder conditions. Fortunately the basket can be easily replaced by unscrewing a plastic lock nut under the basket and swapping in either a smaller diameter basket for in-bounds hardpack, or a larger diameter powder basket. The hypalon strap and loop basket may not be optimal for powder, but for most conditions its Spartan material construction, combined with a carbon fiber lower and a short aluminum upper shaft, keeps the overall weight of these poles at a minimum. It isn’t like they’re hefty, but having a long carbon lower shaft really enhances the swing weight, perhaps the feature you will appreciate the most by noticing it the least.

Sonic R1 (100% Carbon Fiber Upper & Lower shafts)
MSRP: $ 249
Sizes/Weights: 105-130cm 414g/pr • 115-140cm 424g/pr • 125-150cm 454g/pr

Sonic R2 (Carbon upper/7000 series Aluminum lower shaft)
MSRP: $ 149
Sizes/Weights: 105-130cm 468g/pr • 115-140cm 490g/pr • 125-150cm 512g/pr

Sonic R3 (7000 series Aluminum Upper & Lower Shafts)
MSRP: $ 129
Sizes/Weights: 105-130cm 568g/pr • 115-140cm 590g/pr • 125-150cm 612g/pr

Sonic R3 (6000 series Aluminum Upper & Lower Shafts)
MSRP: $ 99
Sizes/Weights: 105-130cm 568g/pr• 115-140cm 590g/pr• 125-150cm 612g/pr

© 2013