Towards the end of the season my rubbers were losing grip and fraying at the edges. And then I cracked my blade on the table whilst attempting a backhand backspin serve.
Time to buy a new bat!
But what to buy? Should I just replace what I already have? Should I try something faster? Something with more control? Change brands completely? Aahhhh, too much to think about!
I have faced this dilemma many times over the past 10 years, so I thought I’d share some useful tips.
Table tennis bats for beginners
If you’re a beginner, you do not need to worry too much about all the different rubber and blade options available. You just want to get a ready made bat which has good allround control. Something not too fast, but not too slow either.
These bats will have a larger sweet spot, which will give more success in getting the ball over the net and on to your opponent’s side of the table. They will also help you control the ball when learning the core table tennis strokes.
Avoid the really cheap bats (less than £10). They’re cheap for a reason – they’re not very good! They have poor control, you’ll find it difficult to spin the ball and they won’t help you develop good technique.
But you don’t need to spend loads either. You can get some very good starter bats for £20-£40 on Amazon. And because it’s Amazon, you can read lots of user reviews too. Below are some recommendations, but do your own research too. There are lots of online table tennis shops and all will have starter bats for sale. On their websites look for ‘pre-assembled’, ‘ready-made’ or ‘complete’ bats.
Recommended bats (UK)
- BRIBAR Winning Loop Table Tennis Bat + Case
- Palio Expert Table Tennis Bat
- FireBlade ‘Shinai’ – Allwood Table Tennis Bat
Recommended bats (USA)
BEST-SELLERS: Take a look at my list of the most popular table tennis bats purchased by readers of my website.
Table tennis bats for improvers
As you progress from beginner to intermediate, you probably need to start thinking about buying your first custom made bat. You need to buy a rubber for your forehand, a rubber for your backhand and a blade.
This can be very daunting as there is just so much choice available. Some rubbers are spinny, some have lots of control, some fast, some slow, most have pimples facing in, but some have pimples facing out.
Then there’s the blade. There’s different types of wood to choose from, some heavier, some lighter, some are defensive, some offensive and others are somewhere in between.
Choosing the right combination can be quite a dilemma! But don’t panic…
For intermediate players, I would recommend getting rubbers and a blade with good control, but a little faster than beginner bats. Don’t worry too much about the brand. Anything from reputable brands, such as Butterfly, Andro, Stiga, Joola, Donic, Tibhar, Double Happiness and Yasaka will be high quality and suitable for intermediate players.
As your technique is still developing, don’t get tempted to buy anything too fast. The really fast rubbers and blades require very good technique to control the ball. The risk is that you’ll make too many unforced errors with a very fast bat.
To get a custom made bat, you’ll need to buy from a table tennis shop. Look out for ‘All round’ blades, and rubbers with a high control rating. If in doubt give the company a call. Explain your playing style, what bat you’re currently playing with and how you want your game to develop. They will be able to make recommendations.
If you find the whole process too baffling, you can find some good ready assembled all round bats suitable for intermediate players on Amazon.
Recommended bats (UK)
- BRIBAR Allround Professional Table Tennis Bat
- Tibhar Powercarbon XT Table Tennis Bat
- Stiga Allround Classic Table Tennis Bat
Recommended bats (USA & Canada)
For more advice and recommendations, take a look at my blog post Best table tennis bats for intermediate players.
BEST-SELLERS: Also, take a look at my list of the most popular table tennis bats purchased by readers of my website.
Table tennis bats for advanced players
Choosing the right bat can often be a difficult decision for advanced players too. As an advanced player, you probably have a much better idea of what you’re looking for and will have used numerous other rubbers and blades in the past.
But if you’re looking to change your rubbers or blade, you’re faced with a new problem. All the manufacturers claim that their best rubbers are super-fast and super-spinny, with super-control and super-durable. They claim their best blades will elevate your game to ever higher levels. If you buy this, then you’re going to play like Ma Long.
Hmm, maybe not.
So, how do you differentiate between all the available options? Assuming you don’t have access to bat testing facilities (which the vast majority of players don’t), here are three suggestions:
1. Practice with other players’ bats. This is a great way testing a range of different rubbers without spending any money. Practice a range of strokes (drives, topspins, pushes, flicks, service, receiving etc) and pay attention to how much spin you can generate and how much you can control the ball. Does it make your strengths stronger? Or does it make your weaknesses weaker? Make some notes and then go a practice with someone else’s bat.
2. Read online reviews. Two of the best review sites are Table Tennis Database and Table Tennis Daily. These sites include reviews by other players of most rubbers and blades. They have been an invaluable source of information for me when I have been deciding what to buy. Be aware that all reviews are subjective. A bad review doesn’t necessary mean it’s a bad rubber / blade. It just means it may be a bad rubber / blade for that particular reviewer’s playing style or ability level. Pay more attention to the reviews from players who describe a similar playing style and ability level to your own.
3. If in doubt, stick with what you have! If you’re happy with how you are playing, just get new versions of the same rubbers and glue them onto your existing blade. There’s not much point changing for the sake of changing. Only change your rubbers and blade if you actually need to.
For more advice and recommendations, take a look at my article Best table tennis bats for advanced players.
A good bat is certainly no substitute for good technique. I’m sure Ma Long would beat me 11-0,11-0,11-0 using any old rubbish! But the right rubbers / blade combination matched to the right technique is worth extra points in every set against players of a similar standard.
There is a bit of trial and error involved, so it’s likely at some point in your table tennis career you’ll end up with a bat you’re not entirely happy with. But with some proper research and advice from other players and coaches you will hopefully limit expensive mistakes.