Our Test: EPB, Device You ( Really) Want to Have

What it is: an emergency pole back-holder, to be used primarily for ski marathons where the chance of breaking the pole at the start is, sadly, pretty high.

Short resume: A brilliant, timely idea; the device works as-is, but needs some fine-tuning. Get it when it becomes available on the market.

That’s the short version of it; read the longer version for details and pictures.

The Swedish company StaffanStaven is known primarily for their shock-absorbing ski pole inserts that are steadily gaining in popularity – especially with the rollerskiing crowd.

Staffan Larsson and Gunnar Winroth, two people behind the StaffanStaven, are obviosly thinking of expanding their offerings. Last week they kindly sent us a pre-production version of the Emergency Pole Backholder (EPB) that they have developed.

…We love ski marathons, we really do. And they are getting better and better – organization, transportation, actual trails, etcetera. One thing not to like, though – a high chance of breaking your favorite UHM Carbon poles in the first few kilometers of the race where the field is too crowded.
We sincerely hope that at some point in time a new material will be invented – as light and stiff as current carbon fiber, but not as susceptible to breaking when somebody or something is smashing into the side of the poles.

The EPB won’t ease your pain at the sight of your broken $$$ pole – but it will let you finish the marathon, for which you were preparing for so long and traveled so far.
Because now you have a back-up plan, swinging gently right behind on your back.

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The good people from Skellefteå told us the EPB “was developed very hastily a couple of months before this year’s Vasaloppet”, but “the construction turned out very well and 5-10 skiers used it in the race and they spoke to Staffan afterwards and were quite pleased“. We can believe that.

The contraption that we received looks quite a bit like a DIY project – but a very well made DIY, done by somebody who knows a thing or two about ski racing (Staffan Larsson, after whom the company is named, had actually won Vasaloppet back in 1999).

The EPB holds your spare pole firmly and securely (for the most part – more on that later) on your back.

ategically placed pieces of foam make sure that the pole does not bang against your spinal cord.

Our tester, Christina, said that the pole does not obstruct her movements – even during the simulation of that initial sprint of every marathon, when the racers try to leave the starting field as fast as they can.

She did, however, complain about the pole swinging (mildly) in a pendulum motion across the shoulder blades. We understand that StaffanStaven is planning to address it by adding some type of Velcro fastener that will create a second point of contact with a skier’s body

We had some questions, of course. Now (we think) we know the answers:

Can one run the whole marathon with the EPB?
One is meant to drop the EPB with a “member of a support team” after the initial 5-10км of the race – or whenever the crowds have thinned out. But, lacking such a “team” on the trail – we say yes, one can.

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Can it be used in everyday training? Yes – it’s not for ski marathons only. The network of dedicated bike roads (in Europe in particular) is constantly growing – and we, the rollerskiers, are happy beneficiaries of that too. There is one caveat – nobody wants to be caught with a broken pole some 25km away from a parking lot or a hotel. Better have the EPB swaying on your back, than having to rollerski without a pole for an hour or two!

In short, we think the the EPB is one device you want to have on your ski accessories shelf – you need it when you need it, and do not want to regret not having it then.

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