Saturday, January 12, 2008

Buddy Lee will make you jump, jump: Aero Speed Jump Rope

Ok nix the old school Kris Kross music. While Buddy Lee may be the mac daddy of jump rope, his Aero Speed jump rope is a far cry from old school. It's nothing like the plastic beaded ropes or plastic cord speed ropes you remember from back in the day. If jump ropes were like cars, the plastic beaded rope would be the old family station wagon (i.e. slow, cheap, reliable and indestructible). In comparison, the Buddy Lee Aero Speed would be a high-end Porsche with its fast performance, sleek looks, and smooth handling. Assuming you get good enough to use it to full effect, you might also start turning heads with it, too.

What sets the Aero Speed apart from a regular rope is its swivel bearings. While not an invention likely to win a Nobel Peace prize, the swivel bearings do make a significant difference in how smoothly and fast the rope can turn. As far as I can tell, the Aero Speed, Rope Master, and Junior Speed ropes all use this same swivel bearing. Supposedly, the Aero Speed is optimized for maximum speed and power jumping, whereas the other ropes have longer handles which give them an advantage for freestyling and doing certain crossing tricks. I will note that buying a fancy rope with bearings is not necessary to jump rope effectively. I have no issues with using a cheap $3 speed rope. You will still get an excellent workout and be able to do impressive things with an ultra basic, cheapie rope. If you don't believe me, just check out these videos from Ross Enamit: rope training part I and part II.

So, why get a nearly $40 rope if you can get an effective workout from a cheap speed rope? If you get as addicted to jumping rope as I have, want high quality gear, and/or want to maximize your athletic performance, you'll opt to pay the extra cash for the Aero Speed. Alternatively, you might just like bling, in which case the shiny chromed finish of the Aero Speed will be right up your alley. You can also keep rope performance optimal by replacing the bearings and cord should you ever manage to wear them out. Those swivel bearings make the rope turn smoothly and fast. With a cheap speed rope, there's some frictional drag on the rope at the handle junction which slowly chews through the rope and puts a slight lag between where your hands are moving and where the rope is turning. With my ultra basic $3 speed rope, I have to put some effort into getting the rope speed up (not necessarily a bad thing if I want to work my arms harder). With the Aero Speed, I occasionally have to intentionally slow down the rope since it's so easy to get it turning fast. The Buddy Lee marketing marketing machine claims it can reach speeds of over 300 RPM. Buddy Lee might be able to get the rope turning that fast, but I sure as hell can't.

Out of the box, the rope was way too long for me, and the rope cord was pretty kinked. The rope cord straightens itself with use and after some time just hanging with the cord straightened out. I read an account of someone soaking the cord in warm water for a few minutes to facilitate cord straightening. Rumor also has it that dunking one handle in hot water and one handle in cold water results in a seriously pissed off rope owner, so don't attempt that. Adjusting the rope is quite easy. One end of the swivel bearing assembly screws into the handle, and the other end has a pointed and threaded tip which screws into the hole in the center of the plastic cord (see picture to the right). Just snip off the appropriate amount of excess cord and reattach the cord to the swivel bearing. This is unfortunately a permanent modification; it pays to be conservative when shortening the cord. You can always cut a little more off if you need to, but adding length back is pretty much impossible without buying a new cord.

The build quality of the Aero Speed is pretty good. Though the bearings and cord are replaceable, I think most people will probably lose the rope before needing to replace either. The included wrench makes replacing the swivel bearings easy, and I'm pretty sure I'll lose the wrench long before I ever get around to replacing the bearings. It should be noted that the cord is only meant to be used on smooth surfaces, so if you have aspirations of jumping outside on concrete or asphault (neither of which are good for your long-term joint health), you'll be disappointed at how quickly the cord wears out.

The handles are made from aircraft grade aluminum, which makes them really light yet resilient and impact resistant. I've dropped my handles several times with no ill effects (other than cosmetic). The USA Olympic logo and Buddy Lee's autograph are printed on the handles. Those prints are starting to fade and scratch off from my handle, as you can see from the picture to the left (graphics on the right handle are starting to fade). It's not a big deal since it is after all a piece of exercise equipment meant to accumulate some wear and tear. If you care that much about aesthetics, don't just toss the handles carelessly into your gym bag like I do. But then again, if you care that much, you're probably too fearful of damage to actually use your nice shiny new jump rope anyhow.

Supposedly, purchasing the rope helps support the U.S. Olympic team. Considering that the rope is manufactured in China, I find it sort of funny that it's financially benefitting an American interest (support America, buy Chinese!). I guess it's to be expected since almost nothing we buy nowadays is truly made in the U.S.A. anymore. Despite the made in China status, the Aero Speed is still a top-notch rope and gets two thumbs up from me.


The Word: Awesome jump rope.

Pros:
  • smooth, fast turning action
  • high quality and durable
  • supports the U.S. Olympic team
  • you can get fit enough to flaunt
  • replaceable bearings and cord
Cons:
  • pricey (~$40 shipped)
  • pretty much restricted to use on smooth indoor surfaces
  • plastic cord kinks easily if you store it carelessly
  • a fast spinning rope really stings if it hits you

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