Advice on buying clubs

James Lester solicited opinions about the various brands and styles of clubs. Much of this material is from the original helpfile, so any price quotes are probably wrong, but the advice is still good.

James Lester

Dubé's, Smith's, Renegades . . .
Decisions, decisions, decisions. . . .

Deciding which clubs to buy, especially if you're a first-time buyer, is a non-trivial decision. Case in point: I'm a would-be club juggler who until last week was faced with lots of options, and discriminating among them was a tough task.

To solve this problem, I spent some time looking through the archives on piggy. These include bitter complaints, strong recommendations, and general commentary on various and sundry experiences with different kinds of clubs. Not surprisingly, there were lots of comments of the form `If only I'd bought X clubs to start with, my life would have been so much easier.' There were also lengthy diatribes like `Y clubs have made life completely miserable, and Y almost resulted in the amputation of both my hands.'

So, since a nice set of clubs is a pretty healthy investment (at least for a grad student) I decided to seek experts' advice. I selected about 10 Rec.juggling contributors whose comments seemed especially insightful, and wrote a note beseeching them to share their opinions. My question was this:

`I'm trying to decide whether to buy a set of Dubes Europeans, a set of Todd Smith's, or a set of Renegades, but can't make up my mind. These will be my first set of clubs, but I can't afford to put down $30 for a set of AirFlites or Elans, and then in a few months have to fork out $65-$80 for a `good' set. My inclination is to go with the Dube Europeans or Renegades but I'm not sure. Any recommendations?''
The result was amazing: each juggler not only responded, but did so in a wonderfully helpful manner....

George Strain

In reply to your enquiry about what clubs to by I assume you are a beginning club juggler. First of all I would recommend trying out each of the 3 major choices: Dube, Todd Smith, and Renegade. See what feels "right" to you. However if you haven't juggled clubs much at all yet you may not know what clubs would feel like. Well let me give you my advice after 5 years of serious club juggling.

Todd Smith's: These are what I have used primarily for the last 4.5 years. The standard European is quite heavy. This may be an asset if you are going to be juggling outside a lot, otherwise it is a liability. The rubber caps on the bulb ends tend to come off very easily although I have found a hot glue gun will keep them on very well. If you juggle a LOT (like I do) you will be disappointed with club life expectancy (I would say about 1 to 1.5 years for me but I'm very tough on clubs). If you just juggle casually and don't throw things very high they will last much longer. Todd also has a model called the "Holley Greeley" club or the "Sattelite" club. These are lighter than his standard European. These are actually what I use. This places them at about the same weight as a Standard Dube club. Todd is known for being good to deal with if you have trouble with your clubs.

Dube: I have been using Dube's alot in the last 6 months because that is what my partner and I have been using. The feel almost the same as Todd Smith's. The ends stay on better. We have had troubles with the dowels breaking though. Dube also carries a lighter version of his clubs. Life expectancy is similar to that of Todd Smith's. The light version of Dube's clubs are pretty good for numbers work. Dube has been known to be more difficult to deal with if problems develop.

Renegades: I have never owned any renegades. That said, I think the next set clubs I buy will be renegades. Anthony uses them, which is almost enough for me right there. I have heard from jugglers that are hard on there clubs that they will probably last longer than Dube's or Smith's. They are about the same weight as Dube's standard clubs. I have heard Renegade can be difficult to deal with and are not always prompt with sending out orders.

Henry's: This is a European import which is being sold by Semcycle. These are the lightest Europeans I know of. They have thin handles and work very well for numbers. I know some people who have been using them for several years with good results. They have only recently been sold in the US.

A few points: In general lighter is better. The clubs won't be so tough on your hands, you can juggle longer without getting tired, and they make numbers work much easier. About the only advantage to heavy clubs is they work better outside in the wind.

If you won't be juggling a LOT any of these clubs will probably last you several years, otherwise you might want to consider Renegades or possibly Henry's (an unknown quantity).

MAKE SURE to order LONG HANDLED clubs. Be sure of this point. Long handled clubs work better for everything except putting lots of spins on club (they spin slower). Some companies may only have one model.

Are you sure you want Europeans instead of Americans? This is a question you'll have to decide for yourself. This tends to be a very personal decision.

Oh well, that's all I can think of now. My final advice? Renegades or Henry's. But you may have different needs than me. Whatever you buy they will probably match well enough with anybody else's clubs for casual passing. If you have any more questions just ask!

Allen Knutson

I warn you up front that I'm a really odd person to ask, as I'm vastly more into passing balls. The only thing I can tell you with confidence is that unless you need clubs that you can pass on to your grandchildren, and turn their hands into pulp as well, don't buy Elans. My passing partner has aptly described them as "functional iron maidens".

Renegades are like a dream come true. The only drawbacks are the price (and the money considerations you state above are internally very strange to me, so I don't know what to suggest) and that they're a little too squishy to do club bouncing.

I own Dube somethings. They're too heavy. When they truly die I will get Renegades.

David Carlton

I've never used Renegades, so I don't know about them; I would recommend the Dube's over the Smith's, at any rate. Another possibility is to get together with four of your friends and buy 12 used Airflites ("seconds") from Dube - they're about $6 each, but you have to buy them in sets of 12, or at least that was the case a few years ago the last time that I bought them.

Gabe Evans

I have a set of Todd Smith's and a set of Dube's Europeans. Of the two, I prefer the Dube's. But I suspect you will get a different answer from whoever you ask. I think the Dube's just have a nicer feel.

Also - you are very smart to go straight to the 'good' clubs. I found that learning with one-piece clubs was a very painful and frustrating experience. The custom clubs have that bit of 'give' in the handle that take a bit of the shock out of the catch (although not the price, unfortunately!)

Jerry Peterson

Let's see if I can do this in a thousand words or less...

Dubes: I have 7 Dube europeans, 4 of which have been around for 3 years, some of which was 5-hour-a-day practice on a marble floor. You have to replace the end caps occasionally (I recommend shoe goo to glue them), but you can also change out or replace any part of the club, including the decoration, the dowel, the knobs, etc, but excluding the plastic bulbs. They are pretty consistent in weight and balance, from set-to-set, as well as within a set. (i.e. One dube is pretty similar to any other dube.) A little heavier than Renegades. Longer handles are nice for passing.

Renegades: I've juggled a little with them, and know a few people who have them. They require a little less maintenance, but pretty much everything except the knobs and ends are permanent, including the colors, which I believe are bonded into the sides. (The decorations will last a long time, but you can't change them.) They are very consistent within a set, (more so than Dubes) but more inconsistent from set to set. (This might be a problem passing if your clubs and your partner's don't match well.) They are light enough to be much more susceptible to wind than Dubes, although wind is a problem for both if you throw high stuff.

Todd Smith: I've heard they're good quality.

One more consideration: Are you planning on passing, and if so, what do your potential partners use? Might be a good idea to use the same thing.

Basically, I guess, you probably can't go wrong with any of these. It sorta depends on what you want out of your clubs. I'm a little biased toward Dubes, because I've used them so much, but I know lots of people who think it's Renegade or nothing.

I've probably just made a mess of the whole issue, and been worse than no help, but then again, I always have to tell people no to get me started talking about juggling, because I'll never shut up.

Good luck...

Lorelei Horner

I always thought that the Dube clubs were the best I have juggled. I really dislike the Renegades because I think they are hard on the hands...I have a tendency to get my left thumb clobbered by an incoming club at times, and they hurt the worst. Airflights are just nasty...incredibly light and really hard to switch to a real club from...almost like learning again... I did not find too much difference between Smith's and Dube's clubs, except that the Dube's are nicer looking and a little better balanced.

I really think the best thing I ever did was to just bite the bullet and buy the Dube's. They have lasted me for 6 years and one refit and cleaning of the decorations.

But I'm not really a good person to ask, since I am so biased toward the Dube's...

Phillip San Miguel

I own Dube Europeans and Renegade clubs. I much prefer the Renegades. Todd Smiths are very similar to Dube Europeans.

Sadly, neither are as durable as Dube Airflites. Airflites get scuffed and warped but rarely break, even under the most extreme conditions of abuse. They are hard on the hands, though.

Another possibility are Henry Clubs (sold through SemCycle). I, personally, am not keen on them but my girlfriend likes them.

Michael Hatalski

The best simple suggestion is to try and find out what other jugglers in your area are using. Eventually you'll want to get into club passing, and it'll be easier if you're not trying to mix AirFlites and europeans. It seems that groups of jugglers like to use similar clubs... Most of the Orange Jugglers use Renegades, and the people who perform a lot use Todd Smith one-piece clubs. The Stanford jugglers use mostly Dube europeans (because Martin Frost, of Happenstance Fame, likes them, and can get a group discount with Dube) I've heard of one club back east that uses AirFlites, but I think that they're and exception.

Here's my two cent's worth...

JuggleBug: Stay away from these! The only good thing about the JuggleBug clubs is price and availability. And for the price you might as well go with AirFlites.

AirFlites: good clubs, but light. Juggling outside with a breeze can be a challenge. Probably the most unbreakable of all the clubs. Jeff Damont (of cigar box fame) performs with them.

Renegades & Dube Europeans: The body of the Renegades are softer then Dubes, and maybe a bit more visual. When I first saw Renegade clubs, I thought they were too much like toys or circus props (because of the colors.) Now, that's all we use (there's probably 15 or so lying around the apartment...), but I'm not sure why we switched. One time we had a bad batch of Renegades, that seemed to fall apart much sooner then normal, but all the others seem to be ok.

The Renegades & Dube Europeans are pretty much interchangeable in passing patterns. No real trouble mixing them up. Dube/Todd Smith one-piece: The Passing Zone (Owen Morse, John Wee) use the Todd Smith clubs. Like AirFlites, but harder plastic, and a bit bigger. Less prone to breaking then the multi-piece Renegades/Dube Europeans, but a harder on the hands when you make a bad catch.

My favorite thing about the Todd Smith one-piece club is the knob. Big and round, which makes shoulder throws much easier. I've thought about making my own knobs and putting them on the renegades...

Again, if there's any groups in your area that get together to juggle and pass, you'll probably be happiest with the same type of clubs they use. I hope all my rambling helps!

Staltus I personally use Dube European clubs, They are the club of choice in Dallas. I have had mine for close to 6 years and I am in the process of putting new handles on them for the first time. They are very durable and have soft handles. Renegade clubs from what I have seen are the choice clubs of the Austin Juggling club. They are a very nice club I like them a lot even though I did not start with them. From all reports I have gotten on them they are very durable. Either would be a good choice, Smith's europeans are not a good choice in my opinion or in several friends who have used them.

In view of where you are mailing from, Renegades would probably be a better bet if you have intentions on learning how to pass clubs. Another thought is are you planning to perform? For very large crowds the renegades or american(ick) clubs are a better bet because of the increased bulb size. For smaller crowds metallic europeans look more professional. In addition they allow for smaller tighter maneuvers that end up faster (there by looking a lot crisper).

These are my insights into clubs. I would probably suggest that you get renegades if you want a hard and fast suggestion but it mainly depends on what you plan on doing with them.

Valentyn Both troupes that I juggle with use primarily Dube clubs, the European style. I've juggled with people that use Renegades, including passing a mixture of my Dubes and their Rens, and had no problems with them. However, I still prefer Dubes for a few reasons:

Anyway, like I said, both Dube and Renegade are great equipment, I just prefer Dube (oh yes, Dube's are much easier to kick up, too!).

Jim Dorman

Glad you asked. I guess it mostly depends on what you like to do most. I'm a club passer, so I use Renegades that are 3/4" short and light. If a fair amount of club passing is in your future, I suggest Renegades, the length and weight are up to you. Renegade has a great variety of body colors and they'll mix and match decorations to your custom order without whining about it.

However, I'm not completely one-sided (well.....). Europeans do look good, especially if you do a lot of work on stage and you want to look very slick and professional.

I'd probably recommend Renegades. They hold up better than anything I've ever used, the Renegades are easy and fun to work with, and the clubs are nice and easy on your hands. Yeah, they are expensive, but you really do get what you pay for.

terry jones

hi. i'd go with renegades without a doubt.

i started on europeans, but now i find them incredibly hard (as in painful) and thin.

renegades are a bit bigger, they are softer (you can hit yourself in the head with them and the handles wont give you those REALLY painful whacks on the wrist or the killer ones to the shoulder blade), they stay clean longer (the plastic bell is different from europeans and washes easier) and renegade will replace or repair them with virtually no questions asked any time in the first year.

i find the renegade colors a bit thin (as in not rich), but that's just me. in any case, i bought white ones.

another advantage to renegades is that when you learn to catch the bell of them you can catch the bell of europeans - but not necessarily vice-versa.

i bought 9 renegades at st louis last year and i love them. so do the rest of the juggling people here who are gradually becoming renegade converts and owners. they are all still in good condition (i juggle anything from 1 to 7 hours a day) - the tip of one is starting to lift slightly, but that is all.

if you go for europeans, i guess i'd tend to avoid todd smiths. lately i have seen too many knobs falling off 2 week old clubs. tho he is a nice guy and will replace them. but it's a hassle to have to send one back etc.

Scott Seltzer

I have 8 Beard Radical Fish Clubs that are the absolute best! I bought them sight unseen based on a catalogue description and I'm glad I took the risk. Other jugglers I know use Mostly Dube but also Henry's, Spotlight, and Jugglebug. They are all much to heavy and the handles are quite hard.

The best thing about the Radical Fish Clubs is their nice long handles and their high point of balance. They spin beautifully at the top so that if you spin super-fast and stick your hand out, the butt end will miss your fingers since it is shorter and you are virtually guaranteed a catch as the longer handle end drops in your palm. Also, these clubs are extremely light. For numbers juggling this is essential. For comfort over long periods, it is helpful, too.

For all you traditionalists, don't be taken aback by the shape. At first I was surprised, but the design is essential for all these benefits. DON'T CONFORM!

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