Choosing a BOLT
Choosing a BOLT racquet to fit your game is easy! Fundamentally it's the same as choosing a conventional racquet. As with any new racquet selection, it's important that a player starts with a solid understanding of their own game style and playing abilities. The better handle a player has on their game, the more precise they can be in finding the best fit of racquet and strings.
For players that own a racquet already, determining a replacement is certainly simpler than starting from scratch. A player's current racquet is an easy starting point for making a new choice. If you play with a thin-beam racquet like a Pro Staff, Blade, Pure Strike, Prestige or Speed frame, you should try the BOLT 98 Series racquets. The BOLT 98s are thin-beam frames. 98 refers to the head size of 98 square inches which is, like most other thin-beam frames, less than 100 square inches. If you play with a wide-beam racquet like a Pure Drive, Pure Aero or Ultra, you should try the BOLT 100 Series racquets. The BOLT 100 Series racquets are wide-beam frames. 100 refers to the head frame size of 100 square inches, which is a similar size to most other wide-beam frames in the category.
As noted above, beam size and shape, and head size, are great starting points for determining a good fit of player and racquet. Beam size and shape affect racquet performance in two important ways. Generally, the size and shape of the beam will determine how powerful a racquet is. "Beam" refers to the length of the frame from the top of the handle to the top of the head frame, and the "beam width" refers to its side edge dimension. The width of the beam is a critical indicator of the strength of a racquet frame and its ability to resist bending. Relative to one another, a wide-beam frame is stronger than a thin-beam frame and its superior resistance to bending makes it therefore more powerful in striking a ball. Typically in a conventional racquet, a thin-beam design is intended to bend and absorb ball impact energy.
The beam size and shape also have a direct impact on how a racquet will "feel". In a racquet we could say that the feel is the tangible sense of contacting the ball directly with the hand through the racquet. Beam size and shape impact this tangible sense of contact directly in a simple way. A smaller beam is made of less material than a bigger beam. This means that there is more or less material between the hand and ball in one or the other. In a smaller beam frame there is simply less interference in the communication between hand and ball. Obviously in a larger beam, being made of more material, there is more to interfere with the communication between hand and ball and likely less of a tangible sense of contact.
Head size is important for obvious reasons. A larger head size makes for a larger string area and that can make hitting the ball on the strings easier, that's for sure. There's a balance to be found however because a racquet with a larger head can be more difficult to swing around than one with a smaller head size. A 110 square inch head size may sound great with all of that string surface but if it's too unwieldy to swing, it probably doesn't help much. Another advantage of a larger head over a smaller one is generally more power. The larger head will usually have longer strings which makes them more elastic than shorter ones, and more elasticity translates into more launch.
In the case of the BOLTs which are designed primarily for intermediate to advanced tournament players, the available head sizes are 98 and 100 square inches, and though the size difference may be small, they have unique performance characteristics. 100 square inches has become accepted roughly in the current market as the maximum head size for competitive play. There certainly are many tournament players using something larger, but overall it's 100 and below. The size difference between 98 and 100 is small but relative to the general performance of the racquet, it's big. It's big because the strength of thin-beam frames seems to reach its maximum at about 100. It's very rare to see a 100-plus square inch racquet with a thin-beam frame profile. It's not an accident. At the 100 mark, the head frame becomes unstable and requires a larger, stronger frame profile to perform so the 100s generally are wide-beam frames. This is changing as material science evolves, but instability and lack of strength are simply inherent in the shear size and geometry of a 100 square inch racquet frame and the tendency for the 100-plus head size to be made of a larger "power profile" will remain for some time ahead. BOLT racquets are organized around this structural inflection point as are most racquet product lines in the market today.
Weight and balance are the next critical considerations for selecting a racquet. Start with the Coach's Rule: Play with as heavy a racquet as you're comfortable with. In general, lightest is not always best so it's important to consider some different weight options. For our discussion the obvious is stated here: a racquet with more weight in the head than in the handle is referred to as "head-heavy", and a racquet with less weight in the head than in the handle is referred to as "head-light". A general rule of thumb for balance choice is that head-heavy is well suited for all-court play including volleys, and head-light is suited more for groundstroke spin production and less for all-court play. There certainly are exceptions to these guidelines and in the end the most critical aspect is how it plays and feels in a player's hand. There's no substitute for play-testing a racquet so be sure to take advantage of the BOLT demo program!
BOLT 98 Series
The BOLT 98 Series racquets are defined by a 98 square inch head size and a touch-profile (beam size: 22-23.5 mm) frame. The head size and the touch-profile combine for exceptional frame maneuverability and tremendous feel for ball contact. The 98s are designed with a 16 x 19 string pattern for great access to spin and to accentuate the feel.
The B98v2 is the heavier of the two 98 models. It's designed for an advanced all-court player. At 325 g and 6 pts HL it's hefty but easy to swing, and the extra weight makes it well suited for a big hitter who plays the entire court. The 98Lv2 is designed for advanced aggressive baseliners. It's lighter than the B98v2 and in particular it's more head-light, making it more suited for big spin production on the baseline but not quite the equal of its sibling for all-court play.
BOLT 100 Series
The BOLT 100 Series racquets are defined by a 100 square inch head size and a power-profile (beam size: 23.5-25.5 mm) frame. The head size and the power-profile combine for exceptional power. The 100s are designed with a 16 x 19 string pattern for great access to spin and to enhance the feel of the power frame.
The B100v2 is the heavier of the two 100 Series models. It's designed for intermediate to advanced all-court play. At 312 g and 4 pts HL it's not heavy and it swings easy, but it's heavy enough to be well suited for all-court play including volleys. The 100Lv2 is designed for intermediate to advanced aggressive baseliners. In spite of its lighter weight, it's great on the volley too, which makes it well-suited for intermediate to advanced doubles play. It's lighter than the B100v2 and in particular it's more head-light, making it well suited for big spin production on the baseline but not quite the equal of its sibling for all-court play generally.
The selection of a racquet based on comfort or control apart from power, does not apply to a BOLT. When a player selects a conventional racquet, a decision has to be made whether or not to choose a comfort or a control racquet, or a power racquet. Oddly enough, you can't have them all together. That's not the case with BOLT racquets. For the first time ever in a tennis racquet, a player does not have to choose between control and comfort over power, the BOLTs provide it all together. Every BOLT is powerful, every BOLT is comfortable and every BOLT has great control. There's no equal in the market today. www.boltadvance.com/demos
Footnote: This is a discussion of high-performance racquet selection based on technical features and performance. It's a performance analysis. Other factors such as price point, playing level and playing frequency to name a few, may certainly impact a racquet selection, but that is not within the scope of this discussion.