2023 Nordica Speedmachine 3 120 and 130 Ski Boot Review Ski Review: Lead Image

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2023 Nordica Speedmachine 3 120 & 130 Ski Boot Review


For 2022, Nordica gave us a new version of the beloved Speedmachine, their 100 mm, mid-volume alpine boot. For 2023, these boots are back unchanged, plus the addition of a 110 flex with the same upgrades (in 2022, the Speedmachine 110 was carry-over from the previous season). In a lot of ways, it would’ve been cool to do this review before last season. New product, lots of excitement, we probably would’ve sold a bunch of them. On the other hand, this feels like much more of an actual review. I (Jeff) spent just about the entire season skiing the new Speedmachine 3 120. Bob, although swapping between multiple similar boots throughout the season, spent about 10-15 days in the Speedmachine 3 130. I’ve been skiing in Nordica boots for 5 seasons in a row now, moving around through their line from Speedmachine to Pro Machine and now back to the new Speedmachine. Fair to say both Bob and I are more than qualified to give these boots a full review.

Let’s look at some of the technology behind the Speedmachine, then we’ll break this into two sections, my experience and Bob’s experience. Let’s start with the shell. With the shell, the 120 and 130 versions are quite similar. There are some very subtle differences like the boot board and a toe dam, but those are very minor elements. Realistically, aside from the difference in flex, they utlize the same technology. The most important of which is Nordica’s 3Force. This is actually very visible when you’re looking at the boots. From the outside, on the 130 flex boot, there’s an obvious difference between the black plastic and the red plastic. The red, again, from the outside, looks like it’s a relatively small piece, but it’s actually about half of the boot. What’s hidden is the honeycomb portion that wraps around the heel, extends through the entire sole of the boot, and up along the rear cuff. This red plastic is denser, and where most of your power transfer is coming from. That allows Nordica to use softer, more comfortable, and easily heat-moldable Infrared plastic in the rest of the boot. Not only does this construction look cool, it’s effective, providing both comfort and control. In the 120 flex boot, that denser plastic is black rather than red, and doesn’t contrast as much as the 130, so it’s quite as obvious, but it’s the same build.

2023 Nordica Speedmachine 3 120 Ski Boot Review: 3 Force Honeycomb Shell Image

The liners, however, are quite a bit different. From the outside, the 130 flex liner has 3Force EVA Reinforcements, further increasing lateral energy transmission. The 120 doesn’t have these. Both boots use a black, moldable cork around the ankle bones. There’s different materials on the upper cuff. The 130 uses much denser plastic once again, giving the liner a noticeably more rigid feel through this area. On the inside of the liners, the differences continue. The 130 has a much firmer, denser feel. It’s actually a HUGE difference. The inside of the 120 liner has a very soft touch, and it’s just as noticeable when you slip your foot. Comfy, cushy, and quite a bit more forgiving, which we’ll get to. It doesn’t, however, give you quite as much precision as the 130 liner. Your body’s movements won’t transfer to the skis as quickly. For some skiers, that’s a huge issue. For others, it really won’t even be noticeable. It just comes down to how you ski and your personal preferences. A couple more differences in the liners… The 120 uses Primaloft insulation, the 130 does not. The 130 has an adjustable tongue, the 120 does not. It’s a classic scenario of comfort vs performance from the 120 to 130 in just about every part of the liner. The 130 liner also has a cool little “Made in Italy” tag on it. The 120 does not, which leads me to believe it was made elsewhere. I could be wrong, but I feel like I’m probably not. So, those are the similarities and differences in the technology in these boots from 120 to 130. The rest of this review will be split into my and Bob’s personal experiences with either boot.

AT A GLANCE


2023 Nordica Speedmachine 3 120 & 130 Ski Boots



FLEX INDEX

LAST WIDTH

SOLE TYPE

STRAP

120 vs. 130

100 mm

GripWalk

35mm Standard vs. 45mm + Power Driver

Jeff’s Review - Nordica Speedmachine 3 120:


I’ve been on quite a journey through Nordica ski boots. 5 seasons in a row leading up to this review, and even if you go a little further back, you could add another 5 years in a row sometime in my 20s. So, lots and lots of Nordica boots. Back in 2018, I skied in the Speedmachine 130. That was the previous version of the Speedmachine, or the second in the boot’s history. It was… fine. I feel perfectly comfortable saying I didn’t particularly like it. It was the classic scenario where the boot felt great for about 10 days, then I was kind of swimming in it the rest of the season. As someone who spends quite a bit of time in the terrain park, and dabbles in some recreational racing, that was tough. My foot was certainly comfortable, but it just moved around a little too much, particularly in the ankle pocket. So, the following season, I opted for the Pro Machine 130. As you may be aware, the width drops from 100 mm to 98 mm from Speedmachine to Pro Machine, the liner gets denser, the plastic is stiffer, etc. It is, hands-down, quite a lot more boot, even going from 130 flex to 130 flex.

I spent 3 seasons skiing the Pro Machine 130. It was an eye-opening experience, to be perfectly honest. I hadn’t even skied in a boot that good. Stiff, strong, precise, such an awesome boot. Probably made me ski better, too, which is always a plus. The downside, however, was comfort. Not just in the traditional sense of the fit around your foot and ankle, but also in how the boot flexes and reacts. I still ski in the park quite a bit, I still like hitting jumps and rails, and I also tend to do some somewhat silly things on skis around the rest of the mountain. Silly skiing is fun, but can be painful when you’re in a boot like the Pro Machine. Unforgiving on landings and just kind of punishing overall. Add in the fact that by the end of the season, my feet were killing me from shoving them in a narrow boot every day, and there were certainly some tough times in the Pro Machine. Don’t get me wrong, I still love the boot, it just hurts. I did some molding and stretching on it, but it never quite got to the point I had hoped.

When Nordica told us about the new Speedmachine, I was psyched. A little narrower in the heel than the previous Speedmachine, wider in the forefoot than the Pro Machine, and cool new technology. Yay! As a 24.5 size, however, it can be tough to find boots, even working in the industry. A 24.5 Speedmachine 3 130 just wasn’t available, which admittedly was a pretty big bummer for me. A 120 flex was offered as an alternative, and I figured, what the heck, why not, which brings me to my experience in these new boots.

2023 Nordica Speedmachine 3 120 Ski Boot Review: Closeup Image 1 2023 Nordica Speedmachine 3 120 Ski Boot Review: Closeup Image 4

The fit is perfect for me. Absolutely perfect, right out of the box. I’ve never put my foot in a ski boot and been so confident it would work without any custom work. That’s a nice feeling. Maybe part of that is the liner in the 120. It could be, but I give a lot of credit to the shell as well. It’s just what Nordica described. It’s much, much tighter in the heel than the old version. The heel lock really feels just like a Pro Machine, but then the forefoot of the boot actually lets my feet spread out naturally, rather than being scrunched together. I love the way they fit, and for me, it was the perfect blend of old Speedmachine and the more recent Pro Machines I had been skiing in. Of course, I can’t begin to claim this would be the same for everyone. Feet vary quite a bit in shape, but I do think Nordica nailed the overall fit for a boot of this caliber.

I also love the way they ski. Skiing a 120 flex boot for a season was somewhat refreshing. Supportive and powerful enough in most scenarios, but more forgiving, especially noticeable in the park, trees, moguls, or even just when skiing slowly. I raced in them, I skied park in them, I skied powder in them, I boot packed random things in them… I easily put 120-130 days on the Speedmachine 3 120 this season and it was a very rewarding experience. Now, they don’t feel quite like a Pro Machine. I did notice a slight loss of efficiency and precision. As a 35 year old skier who’s probably slowing down a little bit if anything, that wasn’t a huge concern. It was actually kind of nice to be in a softer boot. Were there times I missed the Pro Machine? Yes, but those were few and far between. There were, however, a handful of concerning moments. If you’ve been skiing a stiff plastic 130 flex boot and are considering dropping down to a 120 flex, you will need to be a bit more careful. I over-flexed the boot probably 5-10 times over the course of the season. Easily half of those I thought I broke my ankle, the other half I thought I was about to get launched into the trees. That’s not the boot’s fault, it’s my fault for asking or expecting too much out of a 120 flex. I ski pretty hard sometimes, so if you’re in my weight range (150-160 lbs), it might not happen to you. Even for a heavier skier, as long as you’re not crazy aggressive, I think there’s a lot to like about the 120 flex. Being comfortable all season long kind of made up for those scary moments, and if you’re not worried about over-flexing it, you might as well be comfortable.

Ultimately, as we head into the 2022/23 ski season, I’m very happy to be skiing in a Speedmachine again. I did, however, make sure to source a 130 flex. Will I be happy with that decision? I think so. Time will tell. I do, however, have a lot of experience to back up the idea that a 130 flex is better for me, so I think it’s going to be perfect. I am, however, going to keep the 120s close at hand. I’m also planning on doing some liner swapping to see what I like best. Maybe the 120 liner in the 130 shell is the key? I’m not sure. Obviously not everyone has the luxury to do something like that, and I don’t think too many skiers would want or need to, but I’m at least interested. Overall, I think the Speedmachine is a fantastic boot. I keep a pair of Pro Machine 130s kicking around my closet, but I think I skied them… 3 days last season? I feel like that says a lot right there.

Bob’s Review - Nordica Speedmachine 3 130:


In the highly personalized world of ski boot fitting and performance, the Nordica Speedmachine 3 130 holds a pretty strong place in the lower side of mid-volume, and the higher side of high-performance. There’s a bunch of boots out there that fall into the 100mm forefoot width and 130-flex rating, but Nordica effectively uses a variety of techniques that make it stand out. I’ve skied in a ton of those 100/130 boots in the past, and I can say with relative ease that the Nordica is the strongest performing and most precise of the ones I’ve been in. It’s not that easy to ski in a variety of boots, because they don’t all break in at the same speed. When you have relatively sensitive/weak feet like I do, then it makes the evaluation process all the more challenging. Ski boots are all about blending fit and performance, so in that light, I’ll talk about them separately, in the hope of bringing it all together at the end.

2023 Nordica Speedmachine 3 130 Ski Boot Review: Closeup Image 1 2023 Nordica Speedmachine 3 130 Ski Boot Review: Closeup Image 4

Fit:


As far as the shell goes, I’d say it’s a narrow and low 100. I never felt like it was the narrowest 100 I’ve been in—the Rossignol takes that prize—but it certainly leans to the lower volume side of the spectrum for me and my wider forefoot. I normally have to make room for the bunion zone on the medial side, and I did that post-haste with my 130’s and the difference was fairly, although not entirely instantaneous. This is because the liner on the boot is pretty darn stiff and my foot doesn’t really have the strength and power to push past the tightness of the liner into the home of my stretch. That is something that boot purchasers are going to have to take into account in the fitting process. I could use some more room in the toe box overall, and that’s something that I work on from time to time, but it’s not a make-or-break issue at the moment. I’m in a tough spot, though, because my size and level put me in a 130 shell, but my foot really prefers the 120 liner. These 130 liners are just stitched so tight, especially in the toe area—that neoprene doesn’t do anyone any favors, I believe, and I’m kind of sad that it’s the norm in most ski boots these days—there's just not a whole lot of room for alteration other than reaming on the seams with the press. Anyone want to trade 26.5 liners? Anyway, I also found a lot of snugness over the top of the foot and instep, but once I moved the custom tongue around a bit, that tightness waned. I still suffer from slight blood loss, affirming my suspicion that these are on the tight side of mid-volume. It doesn’t seem to matter if I have a thin footbed or not, they’re pretty close on top. I love the fit through the heel, ankle, and lower leg—they wrap evenly and strongly with no movement. This gives a lot of confidence on the hill for sure, and that leads to....

Performance:


Amazing. These 130’s rip. I have other boots that are more comfortable, but I do not have others that are better performing. The transfer of energy is almost instantaneous, and that leads to an impressive amount of edge grip on firm snow. We ski in Vermont, so we have firm snow a whole lot, so it’s imperative to have a boot that responds well to those conditions. I use them in the local ski bum race when convenient—it doesn’t always work that I have these boots on my feet on Tuesdays, but when I do, I can tell a pretty big difference in the gates. The flex is consistent and not too stiff, they feel like they hinge at the right point at the right time, and provide more than adequate feedback on the tail end of the turn—fantastic rear support for sure. While we spend a lot of time in an on-piste format here at Stowe, there’s also bountiful trees, bumps, and adventure skiing to be had, and fortunately, the Speedmachine 130 is a beast there as well. They don’t feel heavy or sluggish, and in the bumps, they are more than responsive. It’s point and shoot in the trees, too. They are pretty darn good at going where they’re told with no balking or hesitation. If you’re looking for an amazing blend of on-trail carving performance and all-mountain versatility, I don’t think there’s a whole lot out there better than this. Keep in mind that I’m 6’2 and 225 pounds, so I require a boot of this caliber, while smaller or less aggressive skiers will likely be outgunned on this 130.

Bringing it all together, for me and my foot shape, there are slightly better options out there in terms of comfort, but these boots leave nothing behind when it comes to performance. For a lot of skiers, this is an acceptable tradeoff, but for others, the scale may have to be tipped a bit to the other side of the spectrum. Again, it’s difficult to say that boots will be a certain way for every skier, but for those looking for this 100/130 combination, it’s tough to say that this is the most accommodating, but equally as easy to say that it’s the strongest performer.


Written by Jeff Neagle & Bob St.Pierre on 08/18/23

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