The Black Series is Leki’s premium range and these folding carbon poles certainly pack a lot of high-end materials in with a very attractive specification.
Pros / Reasons to Buy
- Replacement parts are readily available
Cons / Reasons to Avoid
- Not available with anti-shock (AS) system found on other Leki poles
We’re impressed with these Leki Black Series FX Carbon Poles. If you’re after a high end folding pole that uses top quality materials, have a beautiful finish and impressive specs, these poles could be a great choice. Whilst there are other Leki poles that integrate more anti-shock technology, these poles come in at a lighter overall weight. As you might expect, they don’t come cheap, but with spares parts readily available should anything ever wear out or get damaged, you can expect that these poles will certainly last a long time indeed.
Compare to Similar Products
- Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Hiking Poles
- MSR DynaLock Ascent Foldable Carbon Backcountry Trekking Poles
- Leki Cressida FX Carbon AS
- Read our full guide: 12 Best Trekking Poles
Analysis and Test Results
Leki are one of the big names when it comes to hiking poles and you probably see more of their poles in use than any other brand. This is for good reason: they consistently deliver excellent products and back them up with widely available spare parts, so their poles just keep on working and working. This Black Series FX Carbon is one of Leki’s highest-end folding poles. It’s not cheap, but it’s a beautifully made piece of equipment, combining high-end materials such as carbon and cork with impressive specifications and it could surely last a very long time. This pole does not feature all of Leki’s anti shock/vibration dampening tech – as some of the other Leki poles we’ve assessed do, but it does offer a weight saving in return for this and we think that there are many buyers who’ll be happy to make this trade off. All in all, we think this pole is a great choice.
We’re generally a fan of the comfort of Leki poles and the Black Series FX Carbon doesn’t disappoint here. The Carbon shafts will help absorb trail vibrations and Leki’s latest ergonomic grip – which they call the ‘Aergon Air’ – promises to integrate shock-absorbing technology too. Combined with the cork upper section of the grip – which should mold to the owner’s hand shape over time, this could well be a pole that gets more comfortable with prolonged use. Other Leki poles we’ve assessed in this round up – such and the Makalu FX Carbon AS and the Cressida FX Carbon AS integrate Leki’s anti-shock system (hence the ‘AS’ in their names) which provides a further shock absorber above the pole’s tip. That feature is missing on this pole and, whilst its omission saves some weight (and probably a bit of cost too), it means we don’t have the full suite of Leki’s comfort technology on offer here. For many hikers, though, the benefits of the AS system will be subtle and perhaps even too subtle to notice in most day-to-day use. None the less, we don’t think you can describe these as uncomfortable poles and we think that most buyers would be able to hike comfortably with them all day.
The Leki Black Series FX Carbon weighs in at 468g/1lb 10z for a pair. They are not the absolute lightest poles in our round up, but none the less they come in at the lighter end of poles we have assessed. It’s also worth noting that next to the lightest poles in our round up, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ, these Leki poles have a wider adjustment range and extra reinforcement in their build – features which we think many buyers will value above absolute lowest weight.
The clue is in the name! The Leki Black Series FX Carbon make use of carbon fiber in their construction. Carbon fiber is the material of choice for most high-end poles as it’s lighter than the alternative, aluminum, and also offers better vibration dampening. On the flip side, it can be argued that carbon fiber is less durable as damage can lead to it chipping, cracking and, at worst, shattering whereas aluminum just tends to bend. That said, carbon fiber poles have now been on the market for many years and can be considered a proven and reliable technology. Those undertaking expeditions in extreme weather conditions may favor aluminum poles, but for most general hiking – and even hiking in tough conditions – carbon is a great choice. Leki have chosen to reinforce the pole sections joints with metal to help protect the areas of tubing that might be most prone to damage.
This is a three-section folding pole. Coming in at 40cm/15.7in, the Leki Black Series FX Carbon is identical in terms of its packed size to the two other folding Leki poles we’ve assessed – the Makalu FX Carbon AS and Cressida FX Carbon AS. It is possible to buy folding poles that pack down a little smaller than this – for example, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ packs down to 37cm/15in – but this pole is also much less versatile when extended relative to the Leki Black Series FX Carbon. In our opinion, differences in packed size are less important with folding poles than they are with telescopic poles: Typically, you’ll carry poles attached to your backpack when not in use. Telescopic poles will typically extend above the top of all but the biggest backpacks when folded and here, a length difference can make an impact – as the extra height can snag more easily in branches, for instance. Generally speaking, a folding pole won’t extend above the height of your bag when collapsed, so for most purposes, a difference of a few cm or an inch or so in packed size won’t impact performance on the trail. Of course, for expedition use, where packed volume is important, the folded size (and weight) are relevant, but again, this is a scenario that isn’t relevant to most hikers.
Pole Adjustment Mechanism
The Leki Black Series FX Carbon utilises a three section folding design that’s outwardly very similar to most other folding poles, however, if you look closer, you’ll see that the method for assembling and adjusting the pole from folded is slightly different to most of its competitors. As with pretty much every other folding pole, if you want to extend the Leki Black Series FX Carbon, you start by loosely fitting each of the three sections together (they are joined by a strong cable as you’d expect from a pole like this). The next part is where this Leki takes a different design approach. With the sections joined, you open the flip lock and extend the telescopic section to its full length… and keep pulling. A click will let you know that the pole is tensioned and you can then push this section back in to set the pole to the desired height (there is, of course, a marked scale). To collapse the poles, you again release the single flip lock, pull the telescopic section out fully until it clicks again and the tension is released. This whole method is different from anything else we’ve seen, but it’s quickly learned. We’ve already mentioned that this pole makes use of a flip lock and, in common with Leki’s other poles this is well designed with a tensioning nut that can be adjusted tool-free on the trail.
The Leki Black Series FX Carbon is supplied with leki’s 45mm/1.8in Trekking 2.0 basket. This can easily be exchanged for a range of different baskets including a wider snow basket. Leki also produce a whole range of different rubber feet that can be fitted over the hardened tip.
Grip Ergonomics and Material
Leki make a big deal about their grip comfort and ergonomics in general, and the Black Series FX Carbon is no exception. It’s fitted with Leki’s latest Aergon Air ergonomic grip which also integrates shock absorbing technology. The other Leki poles we’ve assessed have foam grips, but the Black Series FX Carbon has a natural cork upper section with will mold to the user’s hand shape with time, thus promising more comfort with prolonged use. The lower section of the grip – which you might grip on a steep ascent – is made from high density foam. Whether or not your find the grips to be as comfortable as Leki’s marketing claims indicate will be down to each individuals personal preference, but we have always found Leki poles to have exceptionally comfortable grips.
At the time of writing, the Leki Black Series FX carbon costs $269.95/£174.95 at retail. There’s no escaping the fact it’s expensive and especially so in the US market. Many potential buyers may question the value of spending this kind of money on a walking pole when budget options – some of which even seem to beat more expensive poles like the Leki on paper specs alone – can be bought for considerably less. In terms of walking Poles, Leki are a well-known brand who offer premium products and the Black Series has always sat at their higher end. This is certainly a premium product – you can tell not just from the choice of materials used but also in the beautiful fit and finish of the product in-hand (indeed, you can say this about many of Leki’s products). Many of the claims Leki make about comfort enhancing features are difficult, perhaps even impossible to measure and quantify versus the competition, but we think there’s definitely some advantage there and Leki are the brand we return to time and again for our walking poles. The company offers replacement parts too, so, should something eventually wear out or suffer an accident, it’s often possible to bring the pole back into service.
Leki and Black Dimaond are probably the two brands most people will associate with hiking poles. Both offer a massive and varied range. The Black Series has always been one of Leki’s more premium offerings and this folding pole is no exception. It may be pricey, but it’s also beautifully made, well thought out, packed with design and manufacturing innovation and sure to last the buyer a very long time indeed. Leki spare parts are readily available so, should something wear out or suffer some damage, there’s a every chance these poles will be repairable – thus potentially extending the pole’s life further. We think these poles would be an excellent choice for anyone looking for a premium quality set of poles for general hiking.
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