Many of you might know that Lee Zii Jia had been using the Victor Thruster Ryuga 1 until the new Victor Thruster Ryuga 2 was launched. Shortly after he switched to the Ryuga 2, he went back to the Ryuga 1. I used to wonder why he made the switch back to Ryuga 1, and after testing the Ryuga 2, I think I know the reason.
Before I begin my review, I would like to thank Central Sports for providing me with a Ryuga 2 for testing. Don't forget to use the discount code “CKYEW” when you shop with Central Sports for an additional discount!
So back when I reviewed the Ryuga 1, I had a good time playing with it and certainly enjoyed it very much as a singles' racket. It certainly had good power, good head weight, a crisp hitting feeling, and incredible net shots. Obviously, characteristics like these don’t come without a price, both financially and physically. It's certainly not a racket everyone will be able to enjoy fully unless you are very strong and built like Zii Jia of course! Nonetheless, I do like the design of the Ryuga 1. Soft lilac blended with super edgy bright neon orange. Love it!
When Victor announced the Ryuga 2, and marketed it very heavily with Zii Jia, I was interested to see what Victor would do in terms of upgrades since the Ryuga 1 was already lovely. Shortly after the Ryuga 2 was released, Zii Jia surprisingly went back to playing with the Ryuga 1. At the time of writing, I believe Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo is the only top player currently playing with the Ryuga 2.
I've been wondering why this racket has not been as popular with the pros as expected. After spending a lot of time with the Ryuga 2, I think I understand why.
Let’s start with the visuals. The black Ryuga 2 continued with Victor's dragon theme, with illustrations of the eyes and whiskers of a dragon visible on the T joint of the racket. The decals on its frame and shaft have shiny dragon scale-like designs, which I really like.
The new Ryuga 2 boasts Victor’s Free Core handle technology. Essentially, instead of a traditional wooden handle, Ryuga 2 has an injection-moulded plastic handle. Measuring 17.5cm, the Free Core handle in the Ryuga 2 is also 1.5cm longer than the Ryuga 1’s handle. In fact, the Ryuga 1’s handle is the shortest racket handle I’ve ever measured (16cm long) and I have only come across one other racket that has the same handle length and that was the second-generation Yonex Astrox 88S racket.
Views about this new Free Core handle have been quite divisive, according to the comments I’ve received on my Youtube video thus far. Personally, I like the Free Core handle as I think it does make it easier to hold or grip the racket handle. However, I've also heard complaints about it being less durable than traditional wooden handles.
The Ryuga 1 and the Ryuga 2 I have are both in 3UG5. On paper, the Ryuga 2 is almost identical to the Ryuga 1 in terms of specs. Both have Power Box frame shapes, Pyrofil and Hard Cored tech. The only difference I can spot is that Ryuga 2 has been given an upgrade in its whipping effect system (WES) from 1.0 to 2.0, which Victor says allows the racket to flex faster.
In terms of measurements, the Ryuga 2 has a frame height of 23.8cm and a frame width of 18.5cm, which is very similar to the Ryuga 1. It also maintains the same frame thickness (10.1mm) and top-half frame recess as the Ryuga 1.
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Now, back to the Ryuga 2.
The Ryuga 2 has a slimmer but slightly shorter shaft at 6.9mm thick and 21.5cm long in comparison to the Ryuga 1's which is 7.1mm thick and 22cm long. However, taking into account the length of the Free Core handle, the Ryuga 2 ends up being 5mm longer than the Ryuga 1, measuring 680mm in total.
The current generation of rackets is usually 675mm long. Generally, when a manufacturer wants to increase the speed of their rackets, they would shorten the length of their rackets. For example, the Yonex Astrox 88S Pro racket is a speed machine in the world of head-heavy rackets and it's a full cm shorter, at only 670mm, compared to the Ryuga 2. I guess longer cantilevers generate better leverage.
Stringing wise, both rackets are rated up to 32 lbs in tension. I strung it with my usual Yonex Aerobite at 27 lbs by 29 lbs for testing. It was pretty solid with only a little flex around the top of the frame, but this is nothing out of the ordinary.
As soon as you start hitting a few shuttles with it, you’ll immediately find really easy power and a very nice contact feel from the Ryuga 2. In comparison to the Ryuga 1, I find the Ryuga 2 to be smoother and faster. I think the Ryuga 2 feels a tad lighter than the Ryuga 1, even though they are both 3U rackets.
The Ryuga 2 also feels softer than the Ryuga 1. This slightly softer feeling is probably due mostly to the Free Core, and perhaps, to a certain extent, the WES 2.0 and its length. The fact that the Free Core handle allows the racket shaft to flex certainly contributes significantly to Ryuga 2's softer feeling. This makes the Ryuga 2 a more pliable, forgiving, and easier-to-play power racket. I guess Victor realised that not many of us have the physicality, skill, technique and timing of Zii Jia, so they’ve tuned the racket to better suit the amateurs.
You all know that I value the playability of a racket very highly. I personally prefer rackets that are easier to play with over incredible but outright demanding rackets. Because of how badminton has evolved over the last 10 years, equipment manufacturers are now making rackets and strings that are more amateur-friendly so that it's easier for us to play the shots we like and gives us control and options during the rallies.
The evolution of the Ryuga 1 to the Ryuga 2 reminded me of when Yonex went from the second-generation Astrox 88S and Astrox 88D to the current generation Astrox 88S Pro and Astrox 88D Pros. The rackets just become easier to play with and it benefited us amateurs enormously. Victor has done the same with the Ryuga 2. In fact, during my testing, I noted at times that the Ryuga 2 felt like the Astrox 88D Pro. They are both head-heavy rackets that are very enjoyable to play with.
However, if you prefer the rock-solid, crispy feel of the original Ryuga 1, then I think you’ll be a little disappointed with the Ryuga 2 as it feels more spongy than the original. Don’t get me wrong, the Ryuga 2 isn't soft by any means but if you were to compare it to the Ryuga 1, then it is relatively softer, even though they have the same stiffness gauge on paper. This shows why you should not rely on a racket's specs on paper. Rackets that have the same specs on paper may still feel different when played.
I guess this was why Zii Jia went back to his Ryuga 1. I think he prefers a stiffer, crisper feeling from his rackets for more direct control of the shuttle. Perhaps the Ryuga 2’s increased pliability introduced that bit of flex and instability, which did not suit his needs. It's always down to personal preference, of course.
Overall, I think the Ryuga 2 is certainly an amateur-friendly racket. It is a very easy-going head-heavy power racket. If you are currently playing with a Victor Thruster F Enhanced and wanted more power, the Ryuga 2 is certainly for you. If you want the crispy feeling from a head-heavy power racket, go back to the Ryuga 1. I’ll see you in the next post!