The durability of table tennis rubbers is often discussed in table tennis forums. The opinions that can be found there often differ greatly. On the one hand, every table tennis player feels the loss of speed, spin and elasticity differently. On the other hand, a variety of influences such as playing style or performance level, but also equipment care or the individual product itself can explain the variety of experiences.
In this article, I would like to share my experiences regarding the durability of a table tennis rubber. On what does durability depend? How can I extend it? And when should I change my rubbers at the latest?
How long does a table tennis rubber last?
Basically, the durability of table tennis rubbers is highly dependent on the number of playing hours and the intensity of play. With a modern tensor rubber, the best performance can be expected for approx. 40-60 hours of use.
Classic rubbers or robust Chinese rubbers have a significantly longer durability, as classic rubbers do not have a built-in tension. Therefore, 80 playing playing hours or more are easily achieved.
For example, a amateur athlete who trains twice a week (approx. 2-3 hours each time) and participates in competitions will experience a rubber lifespan (with tensor effect) of approx. 3-4 months. I myself need two sets of rubbers, respectively four rubbers, per season. During the summer break, I usually try out different rubbers, which is why it is not necessary to change rubbers again.
Contributing factors on the lifespan of table tennis rubbers
Basically, the durability of a table tennis rubber comes to an end when it loses its grip and tension. Consequently, its catapult and dynamics decrease significantly.
The loss of tension is the most important factor in determining the lifespan of a Tensor rubber, which features a high built-in tension. As a result, the playing characteristics change to a much greater extent than you would notice with the reduction in friction.
On the other hand, a classic rubber can be played successfully for a very long time as long as the grip of the top sheet is not affected.
However, it is also a question of what expectations a table tennis player puts on his material. An experienced spin player will notice the loss of grip more quickly and perceive it as negative than a typical allround player, who compensates for the loss of grip with more control through less spin-sensitivity.
In addition to the rubber technology or your own demands, the rubber hardness, especially that of the top sheet, is a key factor. In most cases, the loss of tension can be traced back to the top sheet. If the rubber composition is designed to be relatively soft, this can be compensated by a lesser degree.
Finally, the stroke technique and your own target window on the racket play an important role. For me, the ball contact spot on the backhand side is distributed across the full width of the racket in the upper third of the hitting area.
On the other hand, I hit most soft topspins at exactly one point in the middle of the forehand side. Since all the abrasion takes place in this area, I notice the loss of spin more clearly than on the backhand or when using other forehand techniques. I quite often had rubbers that still looked good, but were useless in the hitting area.
This is annoying, but makes a change necessary if you want to retain the usual level of spin on the first topspin.
Differences in durability are noticeable from rubber to rubber. There are rubbers that basically wear out faster than others, even though they are based on the same technology. This can only be determined in a long-term testing and through the experience of several table tennis players.
Table tennis rubber: 4 phases of durability
I would like to divide the durability of table tennis rubbers into four phases. I differentiate between modern tensors and classic rubbers. The information presented in the section and the graphic refers to tensor rubbers.
For classic rubbers, a significantly longer durability can generally be assumed. In addition, the drop in performance during phase 4 is significantly slower.
Phase 1: Everything is new (1-2 training sessions)
The first phase of a table tennis rubber’s durability is from the time it is applied until the first 1-2 times of play. During this phase, the rubber is completely new. Typically, there can be a loud squeaking noise when the top sheet is brushed over.
Depending on the rubber, this squeaking also occurs with very fine topspin strokes. Furthermore, the rubbers appear somewhat less elastic and harder than normally. At the same time, the dynamics of the rubber develop noticeably stroke by stroke.
Phase 2: Knock in (3-4 weeks)
From the third practice or playing session, the table tennis rubbers enter the second phase of their durability, which can last up to four weeks. During this time, the performance of the rubbers is at its absolute best. The actual playing feel and its catapult effect begin to emerge more and more.
Personally, I play my best table tennis during this phase: offensively, riskily and successfully. The level of rotation is also at its absolute maximum. The initial squeaking no longer occurs and the ball contact is ideal.
|Pro tip: In order to be able to move on to phase two as quickly as possible and to make the transition between phase 2 and 3 as smooth as possible, the new table tennis rubber should not be applied immediately after unpacking; instead, I recommend allowing the rubber to air out for one to two days before attaching it. This makes the rubber feel softer and more sensitive right from the start. In other words, more like the way it feels most of the time.|
Still, there remains more power and dynamics than in phase 3. Except for the first few strokes, the squeaking and slipping is significantly reduced during phase 1.
Phase 3: Real performance (3-6 months)
By the third phase, the rubbers exceed their absolute maximum performance and stabilize at a very high performance level, which is more or less maintained until the rubbers are worn out.
Depending on the intensity of play, the first signs of abrasion on the rubber surface become apparent, but these have no influence on the playing characteristics. The rubbers are slightly slower than in phase two, but have much better control. The spin sensitivity usually decreases slightly.
As quite described above, the exact length of this phase is difficult to define and depends on the individual circumstances.
Phase 4: Wear off (6+ months)
The entry into phase 4 for the durability of table tennis rubbers is often abrupt and a significant drop in playing performance is noticeable. In most cases, this is triggered by a loss of tension from the rubber, which causes even perfectly hit balls to starve, be harmless, become inaccurate or simply react significantly differently than before.
For some players, however, the rubbers are simply worn out and offer significantly less spin, while speed and control are still more than enough. You can therefore continue to play with the rubber.
However, if a rubber is changed too late, the player’s own game, which has adapted to the used rubber, needs to be changed once again. People are then all too happy to complain about the changed playing characteristics of the new rubber, even though they have simply become too accustomed to the old one.
How to increase the longevity of table tennis rubbers
Taking proper care of table tennis rubbers is an important cornerstone when it comes to the durability of rubbers. This is because the rubber surfaces are sensitive to dust, dirt, moisture and sunlight.
It is best to clean the table tennis racket after every game and put it safely away inside a racket case. Opinions differ on the subject of rubber foils.
I recommend using a non-adhesive rubber foil or a thin cardboard or paper to protect the top sheet. I don’t know whether it is necessary to clean the racket before every game. In any case, for many players it is a kind of ritual to take the racket out of the case when it is still clean and clean it again 😉
In my opinion, the use of glue also matters in terms of durability. If you apply your rubbers, especially tensor rubbers, with solvent-based VOC glues, you expose them to additional tension. This can have a negative impact on durability.
A latex glue is probably better. And apply gentle pressure when applying the rubber. This means that the rubber does not shrink as much when it is removed later.
I have one more tip for used rubbers. If they are still grippy but have noticeably lost tension, re-gluing often helps to extend the playing time. As a result, a rubber usually lasts 2-3 weeks longer before it needs to be replaced.
If you use a VOC glue when applying a re-glue, you gain about a week, i.e. the duration of the “speed glueing effect”. After that, the rubber quickly loses tension again and either has to be applied again or you have to get a new one.
Long-lasting table tennis rubbers
I would like to show you a few examples of long-lasting table tennis rubbers. I have either played most of these rubbers myself or have at least been able to observe them for a long time.
Butterfly Tenergy 05 / Tenergy o5 FX
The great success of the Butterfly Tenergy 05, its FX version and perhaps even the entire Tenergy rubber series is not only due to the excellent playing characteristics of the rubbers, but also because of their long durability.
After many months of play, the robust 05 top sheet still offers a lot of rotation and spin elasticity. A comparison between a new Tenergy 05 and a well-worn one shows that the characteristics are largely retained.
I know a player who took the old Tenergys from me and other club colleagues for a certain period and played successfully with them for quite a while. His replacement model only failed because nobody played with Tenergys any more 😀
But even for youth players who may not yet be able to handle a new Tenergy, the used 05 rubbers offer sufficient playing characteristics.
In the course of the price increases of the other brands, I consider the Tenergy prices to be very fair, taking into account the extraordinary durability compared to modern Tensor rubbers.
Yasaka Mark V / GPS
Among the classic rubbers, I would like to emphasize the durability of the Yasaka Mark V and its soft version Mark V GPS. Even compared to the robust Butterfly Sriver, you can count on a longer durability.
I know a player who has had a Yasaka Mark V on his backhand for over 10 years. The rubber still looks good and plays like it’s still new 😉
Of course, this is partly due to the fact that he doesn’t practise regularly and perhaps doesn’t produce the best topspin with his backhand. But his backspin and the many blocked strokes that deflect the opponent’s spin should actually generate enough friction.
There are certainly other classics and China rubbers that can be played for a long time. But in my experience, the Mark V stands out even more.
Tibhar Aurus / Aurus Soft / Aurus Sound
When it comes to looking for a particularly robust Tensor rubber with very good durability, the Tibhar Aurus is the first rubber to be mentioned. As the rubber is extremely compact and direct to play, the gradual loss of tension is not so noticeable.
The surface of the rubber still has a good grip, even if there are clear signs of abrasion. In combination, the Aurus can be played noticeably longer without experiencing a complete loss of the original playing characteristics.
Within certain limits, this can also be applied to the softer rubber versions Aurus Soft and even Aurus Sound. My Aurus Soft (see cover picture, together with a Xiom Omega V Euro) only deteriorated noticeably after six months of intensive use.
In comparison, I had to replace the Omega V Euro, which also has a good durability, quite 6 weeks earlier. The rubber simply lost its tension earlier. There was still enough grip though.
Donic Baracuda / Baracuda Big Slam
As one of the few real Tenergy 05 alternatives, the Donic Baracuda can convince with similar playing characteristics. Meanwhile, the durability of the rubber must also be emphasized positively, although I would put a T05 or Tibhar Aurus on a higher level.
With the softer version Baracuda Big Slam, long play is equally possible. Unfortunately, during my short intermezzo with the rubber, I noticed that it becomes significantly more catapulting after phase 2 ended, which I personally don’t like.
Compared to an Aurus Soft, which is of course also becomes smoother, the effect is quite distinctive. The knock-in simply works too well with the Big Slam 😉
I have played with the Tibhar Genius for a very long time and can therefore provide the most accurate impressions. The durability of the rubber is exceptionally good. The top sheet is slightly more flexible compared to the Tenergy 05, Aurus or Baracuda.
This only has a limited negative effect. On the contrary, I had very good experiences with the Genius when it came to re-gluing. Afterwards, the rubber played well again for several weeks.
I was also able to repeat this several times, so that even a completely worn off Genius could be played for another 1-2 weeks. I even once had one whose top sheet was still good after eight months and I only had to reactivate the sponge.
Nittaku Fastarc G-1 / Fastarc C-1
Perhaps the best Tenergy 05 alternative can shine with a very pronounced durability. The Nittaku Fastarc G-1 hardly loses any tension. The low-catapult and at the same time elastic feel is maintained for a very long time.
Only when the top sheet has been used up completely does the G-1 requires a rubber change.
The Nittaku Fastarc C-1 offers similar durability. Due to the softer sponge, however, the elasticity plays a somewhat greater role, which makes a change necessary sooner.
andro Hexer Duro
Over the years, I have observed an interesting phenomenon with the andro Hexer Duro. The more used the rubber becomes, the more control there is. Can’t that be said about all rubbers?
No, because for me precision is a key factor when assessing control. The possibility of creating rotation and therefore being a threat to my opponent must also be taken into account.
It’s always amazing to see how worn out the rubber can be and it still delivers. The rubber really is the embodiment of the “egg-laying wool-milk sow” (“Eierlegende Wollmilchsau” in german. Meaning something that meets every need and every requirement). It’s a shame that the do-it-all rubber is generally too harmless for me. Being able to do everything doesn’t mean being able to do everything perfectly.
Conclusion on the 4 phases of the durability of a table tennis rubber
There are certainly other experiences with the durability of table tennis rubbers. For me, the four phases of durability are noticeable with every table tennis rubber. With some rubbers, however, the impressions sometimes overlap.
However, the most important thing is that you are aware that a table tennis rubber does not last forever and that you should think about changing it in advance. I have experienced quite often that replacing the rubber too late had negative consequences for their playing technique.
In contrast, I would like to mention the example of the Yasaka Mark V again. There are certainly cases that allow a significantly longer lifespan than usual. It’s just not the norm.
So take a close look at your rubber and make the right decision. Your game will say ‘Thank you’ for it.