In 2022, LEKI stepped proactively into the post-pandemic resurgence of the trail running industry, making significant changes across their product line, as well as an updated website and even a new logo. This new brand identity is demonstrated in two models we’ve tested this summer, the Ultratrail FX.One Superlite for lightweight speed, and the Cross Trail FX Superlite for more versatility of use. Both models feature slim, foldable carbon fiber shafts and utilize updated technology in the strap system which is the primary feature where LEKI distinguishes itself from competitors. Both models have the same concave carbide tip that has excellent purchase in dirt and strong resistance on granite, as well as a protective rubber cap to prevent you from scratching your car seats.
Before getting into the specific models, a description of LEKI’s strap system is in order for those unfamiliar with the company. Rather than using traditional straps, most of LEKI’s high-performance pole models utilize a “Trail Shark” system that combines a lightweight hand strap with a notched locking system. Seen from the side, the locking system resembles a shark’s mouth. Users remove the hand strap from the pole by a press-and-release mechanism on top of the pole, but keep the hand straps on for the duration of the activity. This system maximizes the downward application of power through the pole, allowing the user to apply force without needing to maintain a firm hand grip. This helps the pole swing forward more easily than a pole that dangles from the wrist.
In our experience, the Trail Shark system is an acquired preference, but can prove a bit cumbersome or uncomfortable until you get accustomed to it. The in/out operation of the strap and the lock mechanism can be a bit clunky and makes it challenging to switch hand placement from time to time if you’re someone who likes pressing through the top of the pole. Additionally, some people find the straps to be excessively warm on hot days. Accordingly, LEKI focused sharply on revising these strap systems across the product line, with new breathable lightweight mesh hand straps, a modified quick release mechanism that is much smoother to operate, and (on some models) modification of the handle to create a second grip option. Having used LEKI products extensively in the past, the improvements were definitely noticeable in our testing.
The FX in these models stands for “foldable and exchangeable,” a new manufacturing and assembly technology from LEKI that aims to increase reliability and extend the lifespan of your poles if they are ever in need of service. The lower and middle sections of carbon FX poles can be switched out within minutes and you’ll probably never have to use this support, but it’s nice to know it’s available if needed.
Ultratrail FX.One Superlite
This model received extensive testing from mountain ultrarunner Pau Capell, and has been his pole of choice during races. It’s remarkably lightweight and is ideally suited for big vertical days or ultra-distance efforts. The Trail Shark system has been significantly updated, with air channels cut through the top of the handle that decrease the overall weight of the grip system by 30% compared to the previous shark system. The new access hook is slim and pointed and the release button has been repositioned, improving the ease of clicking the strap in and out without having to take your eyes off the trail. (For what it’s worth, our testers commented that the system now looks less like a shark and more like a rubber chicken, or maybe more like Beaker from the Muppets.)
At the base of the handle, the Ultratrail FX.One Superlite is molded with an additional nose that offers a second grip option. It’s not super prominent but it’s large enough to apply force through if you want to mix up your technique up a bit. The rest of the shaft maintains a narrow diameter, and folds down to a relatively short 13.5 inches so it doesn’t occupy excessive space in your pack if it’s stowed. This is a fixed length folding pole available in 2-inch increments from 41-53 inches.
Cross Trail FX Superlite
Coming in with a heavier but still very impressive spec weight, the Cross Trail FX Superlite is a great one-pole-does-it-all option that is adjustable with a range of 43-51 inches if you want to share them with a partner. It’s still light enough for long trail runs but has enhanced comfort and sturdiness for multi-day hikes. Adjustability is done through a Speed Lock 2 lever that is similar to the front wheel of a mountain bike: there’s a twist knob on one side to dial in the preferred position and a thumb lever that locks it down. We used these poles interchangeably between several male and female testers of different heights, and we were all able to securely lock down the positioning.
The grip system of the Cross Trail FX is called the Cross Shark. It features the same breathable mesh hand strap and updated Trail Shark mechanism as the Ultratrail pole, but the cork handle is slightly thicker and taller to improve ergonomic comfort and additional grip options while in use. The top of the handle is noticeably wider than the Ultratrail FX, making it easier to push directly down on the top surface. We found the same ease of connection and disconnection of the hand straps to the Cross Shark mechanism as we did on the running-specific poles.
LEKI’s Ultratrail FX.One Superlite poles and Cross Trail FX Superlite poles are now available at www.leki.com.
|Ultratrail FX.One Superlite||Cross Trail FX Superlite|
|Weight (single pole)||137g||203g|
|Size range and adjustability||Fixed lengths, 41-53 inches (105-135cm)||Adjustable, 43-51 inches (110-130cm)|
|Pack size||13.5 inches (35cm)||16.5 inches (42cm)|
|Grip||Trail Shark||Cross Shark|
|Diameter (top to bottom of shaft)||14-12mm||14-12mm|
|Strap||Shark Frame strap mesh||Shark Frame strap mesh|
|Tip||Carbide trail running tip||Carbide trail running tip|