What’s the main difference between bicycles and skates? Size and number of wheels aside, there is one major difference in function. Bikes were adopted worldwide as a “green” conveyance. Bikes are popular among poor farmers in China (perforce) and among Wall Street businessmen (as a part of lifestyle) alike. Bikes are practical, fast, cheap in maintenance, you can bought bike for cheap and it will still get you where you need to go, and in some cities there are public bikes free to use, or for very small monthly fee.
How skates do against bikes? Of course, it should be remembered that bikes are around for much longer. But generally, skates aren’t that handy method of commuting.
If you compare inline skating to other sports, it’s still in its infancy. Public opinion do not picture skaters as enemies, rebels or vandals (anymore), but unfortunately for us, we are more of a curiosity. Rollerblading isn’t “true sport” for many. You won’t see it in TV, or in Olympics. “Skating is fun time activity”, “rollerblades are for kids”. Serious people run, swim, cycle, but never skate.
Quality of skates plays important role here. Market is flooded by low quality, cheap, fragile skates. People who aren’t in to this sport do not differentiate between trustworthy brands and cheap Chinese toys you can buy in markets. They’ll buy what’s cheaper. And that’s how skating loses not only money, but also potential skaters – people who bought these cheap blades quickly regret this purchase. Low quality skates do not offer enough ankle support, bend, crack, break easily, and there is too hot in them because of cheap, low quality materials which they are made of. These substandard skates hurt image of our sport, and worst of all – they are most popular ones. People who get one pair of those, who see other models of the same, low, quality in shops, who see skates like that on their friends feet think all skates are toys, not meant for serious applications, and either get rid of them soon, or lock them up in a closet only to use them in summer when they have free afternoon, weather is nice, and there is nothing better to do.
„Proper” skates manufacturers are to blame too, unfortunately. Their products often aren’t attractive enough, there is no such thing as solid design direction for whole skates lineup, it seems that random choice of colors still dominate. Bikes designed by famous artists exist. Major bike companies pay great attention to looks of their products. But in inline skating world, design is most often amateurish, or copied from sneakers. Good quality skates are too frequently ugly, and that’s why it’s too easy for newcomers to mistake them with cheap no-name ones.
The way skates are used creates another obstacle in using them as means of locomotion. Carrying a backpack with shoes inside isn’t very handy, especially in hot weather, and changing from skates to shoes is also too bothersome for most. You won’t get inside many objects with skates on, the same goes for public transport, if you must get to other side of town faster than on skates. And it isn’t great idea anyway if there is no place to sit. Rollerblades are vulnerable to rain – it doesn’t take much water to render your bearings useless, with no other choice to clean and grease them which is time consuming, or replacing them with new, which require a investment, small of course if you don’t go for hi-tech ones, but you could spend these money on flowers for your girl or new t-shirt instead. And wheels slip too easily on wet surface, which makes skating unpleasant and possibly dangerous. Last time when rain caught me off-guard in the city, I used my liners as makeshift shoes because I decided it’s easier to wash and dry them, than clean bearings if I would skate to a bus stop.
Bikers do not have these problems. They can chain their bicycle to a pole in front of a building. Most cities allow getting inside public transport with bikes if you need to. Bike isn’t vulnerable to rain, and tires provide enough grip even in a middle of a storm, when rivers flow down the streets. If you drink some beers with your friends and get to a bar on a bike, you can walk home with it.
In my opinion reason why people do not use skates for commuting have more to do with practical side of things, and little in common with “rollerblading image” or fashion.
Powerslide launched new sub-brand of skates, doop, and they will be soon available in shops. It seems that goal is to create functional commuting skates for mass-market. Simple, yet brilliant – instead of removing you shoes and getting skates on your feet, you put them on your shoes. Everyone who have minimal knowledge about skates will instantly recognize doops as Xsjado concept derivatives.
Concept itself isn’t new. Powerslide produced Phuzion Blade&Walk models based on similar idea. There was brief episode with Xsjado FSK in 2009. Salomon had SmartSkate models. Rollerblade had Metroblade in 90’s. There were of course Mojo skates. Hypno took different approach, they created high-cuff boots with detachable frames. Why none of these really took off?
Powerslide Phuzion Blade&Walk
It’s very simple – nobody took right approach with their products. Phuzions Blade&Walk and SmartSkates weren’t marketed enough as a way to commute, and their design lacked in visual department (especially Powerslide ones, Salomons were a bit more pleasant to the eye). They price was relatively high when compared with classic softboots with similar specs, so they never got a chance to stood out in a flood of them. Xsjado FSK was a short lived experiment that weren’t supported by any marketing, and their price was too high for mass-market. And baseplate from aggressive version was bulky and unnecessary – it took three years and Kizer PB frames to breathe life in to this setup, now reincarnated as Xsjado Skeleton PB. Metroblades were very early attempt, poorly designed, and used dedicated shoes. Mojos were more of a toys similar to plastic adjustable quad skates, than real sport equipment. Hypno weren’t widely available, quite expensive, and boots were bulky and pretty heavy. Not to mention frame fixation system that was prone to failures.
doop seems to be much more measured approach. First thing, design! Brand have clear, focused target, is pretty much independent form traditional PS skates lineup, and there is much more to it than “you can put your shoes in these, trust us, it’s awesome!”. Look is unified, clean, distinct, and there is no way to confuse doops with cheap, poor quality skates. Even people who do not know anything about skates will see difference, because doops use totally different concept. The only thing people can mistake doops with, are Xsjados – which isn’t bad thing, as they are made by the same company and are of the same quality.
Xsjado FSK 2009
doop line is much more rational, also. There are only three models (one in two color versions) and that’s it. No dozens of skates that are extremely similar in function ad differs only in terms of frame material, bearings, wheels etc. There is no confusion. Classic models are standard skate that will suit most people, Swift is for those who want to go faster and Freestyle for those who want more maneuverable skates with stronger frame for freeskating. All share simple design that is pleasant for the eye. It is wise choice to give classic model low balance frame, as it will made first steps easier for beginners in skating.
doops: proof that sometimes less means more
Skeleton is part worth taking closer look at, as it is true game-changer in case of these skates. It’s identical in all versions (colors aside) so only differences that have impact on price are frames, wheels and bearings. There is no shoe bundled, and that’s a good move – it encourages you to use doops in conjunction with your favorite everyday shoes, and also lowers price. More importantly, that means there are only TWO sizes of each doop model, based on M and L baseplates. It is great news for shop owners, as they don’t need to get all sizes range and predict which sizes will sell more. doops can be sold at every sport gear shop, or even shoe shop, by employees who don’t have knowledge about skates and how to choose proper size for a customer, and we all know that almost every brand, not to mention skate model have different sizing.
With doops, you simply choose one of two skeletons that fit better, and adjust it to your anatomy. I means there will be no problem with sizes availability, and people with “problematic” feet won’t have problems with sizing and even can use their shoes with orthopedic insoles. Two sizes of skate means lower production cost. The fact doop share most of their parts with Xsjado 2.0, and modular construction of both, means that if something breaks, warranty repairs can be done by shop, on site, without sending skates to manufacturer or distributor. Even after warranty expires, people will be able to get parts easily and repair their skates themselves. All you’ll need to do is replace broken part. And of course, more cuffs and ankle parts factory makes, the less is cost of each piece, so in longer run, doops can help to reduce price of Xsjado 2.0s!
This is true potential of Xsjado design, potential that weren’t fully used until now.
doop skates do not have shock absorber known from Xsjado. I think it’s more of a design choice, than a way to cut corner to lower price. Heel is already raised, so without s-a it should be on the same or only little higher than in Xsjados. Fitness skates doesn’t require large shock absorbers – I would say 90% of skates produced today do not have one, and not only fitness ones, but also speed skates, slalom ones, hockey, even some aggressive blades… Shoe sole should be enough for applications of these skates. Also shoe compatibility should be greater, because Xsjados do require ones with rather slim heel area – no shock absorber equals more room in skeleton. On promotional shots we can see that Nike running shoes fit inside nicely.
It’s a bit too early to judge if brand image is right or not. But it is focused, for sure. doops are advertised towards casual skaters, active people who like this sport but do not breathe skating. Skaters who see skating as part of their lifestyle, not THE lifestyle. Name sounds funny, but I don’t think that’s bad think, and in my opinion it’s actually very clever. Easy to remember, makes you start figuring out what exactly is “doop”. Caption is symmetrical, turn it around 180 degrees, and it will still say doop – ideal name to print on wheels, really!
Logo of course bears resemblance to Firefox (which isn’t bad thing – that’s very popular and reliable browser used by millions of people), but for me animal there is more of a weasel, than a fox. Weasels are fast, agile and smart. Fast, agile skates for smart people? That’s not half bad, I like it.
I wish Powerslide all luck they’ll need with this project. Very clever idea, Mr. Oli Benet! I hope entire affair will be carefully guided in to a right direction, because let’s face it: if something like that won’t attract more people to rollerblading, then I don’t know what possibly can. There is lot of potential in doop, all it needs to do is to go with the flow.
As for now, I would say: doop = up!
check out doop fanpage here: http://facebook.com/doopskates
There is also website with more technical information: http://www.powerslide.de/doop/doop-collection.html